On 7th June 2021 the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, made his final speech in the House of Lords before retirement, in the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Environment Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, I have not been in the House in person since the first week of February. Sitting on the Front Bench earlier with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, I found myself wondering whether both of us had misjudged the timing of our retirements. I have led on the environment for the Church of England for seven years and have been a Member of the House for six. It has been a privilege as well as a responsibility and I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken kindly of what has been achieved; of course, it could never be enough.
With an eye towards retirement, I had thought that last year, 2020, would have provided a good conclusion, with the Lambeth Conference of Bishops from the Anglican Communion, COP 26 and this Environment Bill. All were postponed, so I find myself standing for the last time in this House without the prospect of being able to engage in the detailed scrutiny and revision that will make what is, in many ways, a good Bill better. Of course, my colleagues will contribute, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has already. I thank the Minister for meeting the Bishops in preparation for this debate.
On 25th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question about finding energy saving solutions for historic and educational buildings.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful for the Question and the Minister’s response. My question is about the outcome for the many heritage buildings and schools in this country, where the challenge is often the greatest. Will the Government do anything to make them part of the solution rather than the problem?
On 17th May 2021 the Bishop of Bristol spoke during the third day of debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s Speech. She focused on the environment and the Government’s Environment Bill.
“My Lords, along with others in this House, I welcome the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Morse. I remember making my own maiden speech in the debate on the Humble Address in 2019, though of course in rather different circumstances. When I gave that speech, we were looking ahead to 2020 as the year of climate action. Instead, the impact of Covid-19 has understandably been the focus of global activity. However, the situation for our planet is becoming more urgent, not less. With another year of action now lost because of Covid-19, we need meaningful global, national and local agreements on the climate and biodiversity issues more than ever before.
On 16th December the Bishop of Salisbury responded to a Government statement in the Lords about the Energy White Paper:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury [V]: My Lords, I very much welcome the energy White Paper.
One thing we have learned during this pandemic is the importance of the local. What assessment have the Government made of the further potential of local solar, wind and micro hydro energy schemes and of what finance might be needed to facilitate their collectively enormous potential?
Given the comments in the other place about the lack of rural infrastructure for energy, might the Minister find it helpful to consider the possibility of churches being places for siting bidirectional charging points for electric vehicles?
On 14th December during exchanges in the House of Lords on work of the Committee on Climate Change, the Bishop of Salisbury asked about tree planting targets:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury [V]: My Lords, the Government have made a number of statements, which, with the 10-point plan and the upping of the nationally defined contributions to the Paris Agreement, are very welcome. The Government’s manifesto commits to planting 30,000 hectares of trees per year. That is a really key target to aim for in relation to the climate change committee’s report, but it is one that we have missed by 71% in the last year and consistently over previous years. I much admire the Prime Minister’s ambition, but how are the Government to ensure that performance exceeds or matches that ambition?
On 19th November the Bishop of Salisbury asked a question he had tabled to Government, on fuel intensive businesses moving to net zero carbon emission. The exchanges are below, along with the follow-up questions from other Members:
Fossil Fuels: Business
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Transition Pathway Initiative Management Quality and Carbon Performance of Energy Companies: September 2020, published on 7 October, what steps they plan to take to encourage fossil fuel intensive businesses to accelerate their move to net zero carbon emissions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con): My Lords, the Government have schemes worth nearly £2 billion operating or in development to support our vital energy-intensive industries to decarbonise. These schemes include the industrial energy transformation fund to help companies to reduce their fuel bills and transition to low-carbon technologies, and the industrial decarbonisation challenge to support industry with the development of low-carbon technologies in industrial clusters.
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: I thank the Minister for his Answer. There have been some welcome and notable commitments, particularly by European oil and gas companies, but overall, the sector is not moving fast enough to align with the Paris agreement. How does the Minister see the Government supporting companies to move faster and have consistent standards for reporting all emissions from scopes 1, 2 and 3 so companies demonstrate alignment clearly in their reporting?
On 18th November Baroness Boycott asked the Government, “further to the response by Lord Callanan on 20 October (HL Deb, col 1414), what plans they have for the campaigns taking place before COP 26 relating to behaviour change and the environment.” The Bishop of Salisbury asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, Ban Ki-moon, then General Secretary of the UN, said that the Paris climate change talks were the largest and most complex talks he had ever been part of. Some 12,000 people were in the discussions, with another nearly 50,000 gathered around them.
On 6th October 2020 Baroness Boycott asked the Government “what progress they have made towards identifying sponsors for COP 26; and what criteria are used in the appointment of any such sponsors.” The Bishop of Rochester asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, while I understand that the focus of formal sponsorship is on businesses, is the Minister able to confirm that Her Majesty’s Government are also keen to engage in similarly deliberate ways with other bodies, including faith communities? These communities are highly motivated—indeed mandated—to care for God’s creation, locally and globally, and many, including the Church of England’s General Synod, have already committed to challenging targets for carbon reduction. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester asks Government to engage with faith communities on future climate goals”
On 1st October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Trade Bill in Committee. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in support of amendments to the Bill to ensure that future trade agreements are fully compliant with international environmental obligations, and meet standards on animal welfare and food safety.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: I plan to speak mainly on Amendment 12, but I also support Amendment 40 and, particularly, Amendment 69 in this group [texts below]. Leaving the European Union should not mean leaving our international obligations. Recognition of those conventions mentioned under Amendment 12 is, one would imagine, already accounted for in the existing trade agreements due to be transposed into UK law as a result of this Bill. However, without this amendment, these remain an expectation not an assurance.
On 20th July the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, received a written answer to a question on the green homes grant.
Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL6798 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the green homes grant on 8 July (HC Deb, col 976), whether (1) clergy housing, and (2) buildings open to the public and run by charities, such as churches, are eligible for that grant.