My Lords, on first reading the Committee on Climate Change’s latest progress report, I found it an impressive document. It was broad in scope and very detailed. But the more I dug into it the more troubled I became. Below the surface there are serious questions about the foundations on which it has been constructed. There are questions in four areas-the framework created by the Climate Change Act 2008, the policy responses at EU and UK level, the estimate of costs and finally the scientific basis on which the whole scheme of things rests. I will consider each in turn.
Unlike many of those involved in the climate change field, I have no pecuniary interest to declare, but I am a founder trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which seeks to bring rationality, objectivity and, above all, tolerance to the debate.
I have long been in the camp of what might be called the semi-sceptics. I have taken the science on trust, while becoming increasingly critical of the policy responses being made to achieve a given CO2 or global warming constraint. First, let us look at the Climate Change Act, which has been highly praised, even today, as the most comprehensive and ambitious framework anywhere in the world-a real pioneering first for the UK. However, it has serious flaws. It starts by imposing a completely unworkable duty on the Secretary of State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, even though many of the actions required lie outside his control. It would have been better, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and I argued, for the duty to be connected to what the Secretary of State can control, such as his own actions and policies, and not the outcome, which he cannot.
Thirdly, there is the issue of cost. All we had to go on at the time when the target was set more ambitiously was the estimate by the noble Lord, Lord Stern, of 1 per cent of GDP. Many people were sceptical at the time and probably even more are now, including, it seems, the noble Lord, Lord Stern, himself. It was reported in the press last week that he now thinks that it might be 2 per cent, but could rise to 5 per cent. I hope he will clarify this when he speaks to us shortly.
In the document that we have before us, the committee says that it previously estimated that costs in 2020 would be about 1 per cent of GDP. That is consistent with its view that it might get to 2 per cent by 2050. In the new report it simply reaffirms the 1 per cent figure in just one paragraph in 250 pages.
The noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord May, and their eminent colleagues on the CCC have a choice. They can take the policy framework as given, the policy responses as given, the costs as given, and the science as given, and then proceed to churn out more and more sophisticated projections, or-as I hope-they can apply the formidable intellectual firepower they command and start to find answers to many of the unsolved questions.