Bishop of Salisbury calls for substantial determined and transformative response to climate challenges

On 5th June 2019 Lord Cameron of Dillington led a debate on a motion “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to (1) harness the potential of tidal ranges to generate renewable energy, and (2) encourage the private sector to invest in this area.” The Lord Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, spoke in the debate:


The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, this debate has already become something of a no-brainer. Quite a lot of what I wanted to say has been said, so there is no point in repeating it, but I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for asking the Question which has generated the debate.

The context is one in which we see a climate emergency, an increasing number of councils across the country responding to it and the other place in Parliament recognising that. Whatever we think of Extinction Rebellion, it has raised the public profile and urgency of the climate change debate and the environmental awareness of what is required of us as legislators. It cannot be business as usual.

We need new thinking and new ways of doing things to meet the challenge of being carbon neutral or carbon zero by 2050 or sooner.

For obvious reasons, this country is a great maritime nation. We have been reminded of this today, with the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings in which many of our fathers would have taken part. Earlier today, I was at the annual service for Trinity House. It was founded in the early 16th century as a guild of mariners to bring good order where there were inexperienced and unregulated seamen endangering life and cargo. It was probably also a good move for defence and profitability.

Sometimes, people behave badly and need good governance. It is increasingly clear that our continuing dependence on fossil fuels is people behaving badly. Good law and good governance also encourage good behaviour, and in this case we need to encourage new thinking and a change in behaviour. We know the rich resources that are around the UK; they have already been rehearsed. The task for government is to create a stable and predictable framework for investment, and to move from experimental to developmental to commercial, so that the UK can make the most of its innovative marine technologies and grow opportunity and business in a global market.

Christiana Figueres, who chaired the Paris climate change talks, said at the conference in San Francisco in September that we are moving faster than we could have predicted, and what is making the difference is climate leadership, market forces and digital technology. However, this is not just a technical problem, whether scientific, economic or political. We need to make space and opportunity for the best minds, the biggest hearts and the greatest souls to exercise leadership. That is partly about vision and spirit, but also about regulation and investment. There is growing concern about our slipping back and accepting a rather modest pace of change in relation to renewable energy. It is an area that needs investment—private and public partnership—which will pay dividends in jobs and the economy, and realise the potential of energy that will be renewable and is sustainable.

The question for Her Majesty’s Government, asked by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, is a no-brainer. The response needs to be substantial, determined and transformative.

Lord Grantchester (Lab): . . .The Government can address that today and, in the forthcoming energy White Paper, set out clearly their intentions by introducing new policy support mechanisms for wave and tidal stream technologies and embrace the new thinking proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, set out the challenge of meeting the new IPCC parameters and the decarbonisation targets. Against the background of the challenges to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, accelerating climate change, the challenge to meet zero net carbon emissions by 2050 and diminishing biodiversity, the Government are clearly missing the target.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Henley) (Con): . . . I make clear in the presence of my noble friend Lord Deben that we will be responding to his committee’s report, with its challenging targets, in due course. My noble friend and other noble Lords would not expect me to presume on my right honourable friend the Secretary of State by responding at this stage. We have been set challenging targets. We will want to make progress towards them. We will want to continue to provide leadership for the world, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, who talked about the failings of Brazil and America to acknowledge that there is any problem at all. Again, I remind the House that we are anxious that we should get the opportunity to host COP26 next year, and support from all sides of the House would create a very positive approach. . . .


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