Bishop of Salisbury welcomes new Carbon Budget Orders

On 19th July 2016 the House of Lords debated the approval of the Government’s draft Carbon Budget Order 2016 and Climate Change Act 2008 (Credit Limit) Order 2016. The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtham, spoke in the debate, welcoming the Orders, which were approved by Peers at the conclusion of the debate: 

Bp Salisbury 2The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I welcome both orders and welcome the Minister in her new role with its important responsibilities to further our progress in the care of our common home. I particularly welcome her as somebody who lives in the diocese of Salisbury, and I look forward to working with her in this new context.

The Committee on Climate Change’s Meeting Carbon Budgets—2016 Progress Report to Parliament says that it,

“comes at a critical point in the development of climate policy in the UK … against the backdrop of the Paris Agreement in December last year”.

The political circumstances could not be more significant. I was grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, for his eloquent speech in favour of international agreements, which gave me a sense of urgency in relation to the implementation of the Paris agreement. I have taken on a preaching engagement in the autumn, about which I have been feeling some trepidation. It is to preach at the annual service for the Worshipful Company of Fuellers. I am now looking forward to that event and to trying to engage with that group of people on these issues.

In 2015, carbon emissions in the UK fell by 3%, mostly in the power sector, where the development of renewable energy has been a big success. It is now much reduced by changes in the regulatory framework. It will therefore be even more necessary to make progress in other sectors, and I hope the Minister’s business background will help innovate in relation to the major areas of buildings, industry, transport, agriculture and land use, and in waste management, where there is much as yet unrealised potential.

I draw the attention of the House to point 7.4 in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Carbon Budget Order that:

“Emissions from international aviation and shipping are not included in the targets and budgets set out in the Act. In December 2012 the UK Government met its obligation”,

by stating that,

‘“we are deferring a firm decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions within the net carbon account at this time”’.

I can see why, particularly after the speeches from the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. It is a very difficult problem needing international agreement if we are not to disadvantage UK industry but, given the significance of aviation fuel to our total carbon emissions, it is odd that it is exempt from fuel duty and is zero-rated for VAT, alongside children’s clothing and disability aids. The lack of tax amounts to an effective subsidy of £11.4 billion per year. The Committee on Climate Change noted that total domestic and international aviation emissions remained broadly the same in 2014 as in 2013. Domestic emissions decreased by 7%. International emissions increased by 0.7%, but international aviation represents 95% of total aviation emissions. There are some energy efficiencies that have resulted in a 4.4% increase in passengers. The report represents greater efficiency, but it ought to be possible to get greater reductions without compromising business efficiency.

Per capita, the British fly more air miles than anyone else each year, yet half of us do not fly at all each year. Only 15% of UK residents flew three or more times last year, and that 15% takes 70% of the flights. In this holiday season I understand why politicians will not end cheap air travel, but when will the Government consider scrapping air passenger duty and replacing it with a frequent flyer levy, by which tax would become payable only on a passenger’s second and subsequent flights in each 12-month period? That is a very obvious thing to do, and it has the benefit of avoiding the pitfall that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, point out: it would tax not the poor but the 15% who fly 70% of all flights.

That is just one example in an area that looks like a significant anomaly in relation to our responsibilities under the carbon budget. The bigger question that I hope the Government will address in the coming year is: how will a decision be made about the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions within the net carbon account?


Baroness Neville-Rolfe {Minister) [extract]: I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, my noble friend Lord Ridley, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, my noble friend Lord Lawson, my neighbour the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury, the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, because they were united in their kindness to me, even though there is clearly a lively difference on this important area of policy, which I look forward to discussing on a number of occasions. This is actually my first day because, some noble Lords may be glad to know, I was in Slovakia at the Competitiveness Council until last night, engaging, as we should, with the EU while we remain….

….The proposed fifth carbon budget is in line with the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change and has been widely welcomed by the business community. I am from business, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury reminded us. Indeed, I used to run a carbon reduction programme across the world when I was at the Tesco supermarket chain. It actually saved us money. I also know from being in business that we need a certain amount of consistency and ambition on climate change if we are to support investment. The carbon budgets provide this….

…We have been working with other government departments to identify potential policy proposals from across homes, businesses, transport, land use, waste, agriculture and industry, all mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury. As I have already said, the machinery of government changes give us a new opportunity to be joined up. To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, Defra is, indeed, an important participant on climate change and industrial policy, and I will certainly be engaging with it.