Lord Lea of Crondall debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 12th Jan 2022
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Wed 15th Sep 2021
Wed 14th Jul 2021

Eswatini

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, democracy is one way, and all power to the people.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to hear the Minister’s agreement to meeting the TUC and the international TUC because this is an excellent report. Does the Minister agree that, given our long history of close association with the people of what people of my generation used to call Swaziland—that is where we are talking about—this would be a good opportunity to encourage local participation in dialogue which could be the main road to a positive outcome?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as it is the preference of the country, I will continue to refer to it as Eswatini. The engagement and the proposal that SADC has put forward are to ensure that all communities are represented. There is a tinkhundla system of government within Eswatini and we need to ensure that local representative voices are leveraged.

Russia

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Monday 10th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, on the subject of Crimea as a casus belli for the United Kingdom, did I hear the Minister correctly when he twice referred to Crimea in that way? Of course, that is history, going back well over 10 years, is it not? There is a long history. As we know, Sebastopol, the Russian naval base, is not the same as the issue of Crimea generally, but it is surely a question distinct from what we might call future threats. Will the Minister comment? Have I understood him correctly?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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If I have understood the noble Lord correctly, Crimea is occupied. It is sovereign territory of Ukraine—

Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Thursday 16th December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I apologise. I am speaking in the gap—but my apology concerns being two minutes late at the start of this debate. I thank everybody who was consulted for allowing me nevertheless to speak a few words. I shall not take too long.

I agree with all the remarks about urgency—but urgency to do what? I tend to be 100% in the line of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I remember, in the period before the tragedy, that I was in a meeting at Wilton Park—he may have been there himself—where all the parties were looking so dismayed that nothing could be done. But in the corridors they said, “Bring back Tito; all is forgiven”. One thing about Tito, of course, although it is not exactly news to say this, is that he was not a tool of Moscow. The idea that someone is the tool of somebody else has to be kept out. I am not even sure about how we play the card vis-à-vis NATO, the EU and so on, but it is very important that this is decided in a west Balkans context, even though the politics is not clean politics. Greater Albania could be given as an example vis-à-vis Kosovo, and Belgrade sees some of those things in those terms.

What can one do without giving way to blackmailing Belgrade? Obviously, we do not know whether there is a settled view in Belgrade about a European Union accession initiative, but it is the only card game in town, even though this may be exactly the wrong moment to take practical action. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that. We cannot say, “This is what we would do in theory, but this is what we can’t do in practice”.

Some of us have been able to put ourselves in the shoes of Princip, who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand—but people did not think it was a big deal at the time. We do not know what people in Moscow think would be a useful tool—along with other things going on in Moscow at the moment. We have to see how these great powers can be engaged without them playing the game of proxy. I do not know the answers but those are some of the questions.

Environment Bill

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Wednesday 15th September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Moved by
119: After Clause 136, insert the following new Clause—
“Economic and environmental goals
Within six months of the day on which this Act is passed the Secretary of State must publish plans to incorporate a metric for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a coefficient of GDP growth.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish plans on a metric for greenhouse gas emissions as a coefficient of GDP growth (i.e. the degree to which greenhouse gas emissions are growing more or less than GDP). The metric could be published alongside regular GDP updates with the intention that the coefficient should, over time, reduce.
Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, it is obvious that in the international system there is a bit of a crisis in knowing how to take the world consensus forward. We are looking forward to Britain making an active contribution leading up to Glasgow. I say this because the international system has at some point got to agree specific concrete parameters so that we do not have an endless debate about China, India, Indonesia, Russia or Brazil, as it were, not playing by the same rules as other people. There has to be an understanding, which I think is to be supported, and an acknowledgement that the third world will have different rules from the second and first world. You can imagine the difficulty of agreeing internationally how to define those ideas.

I have great sympathy with the Government for trying to put together a leadership role for the meeting in a month or so in Glasgow, but this is very relevant to what is in this amendment. In practice, it is narrowing down to the question of how we in this country decide how to set targets for greenhouse gas emissions. One very important way of doing it is to define those targets or metrics in relation to the growth of national income. Everybody knows that there is some connection between the growth of national income and the growth of greenhouse gases. If people say that it is not possible to have a reduction in greenhouse gases without doing something to reduce the growth of national income, I say that the fact is that one can do that. We are doing it in this country already, partly because of the accelerated reduction in emissions arising from the use of coal to generate electricity.

We have to come to some conclusions about what exactly it is that we are concretely proposing. In this amendment, we have an idea that a 1% increase in the national income should be associated with a 1% reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. That is a very crude example, but it is impossible to make progress on the short-term link to the long-term aspiration of zero emissions without trying to find some way in which people can go forward—ideally with international agreement—on how we are going to change this coefficient. That is what is in this amendment.

I am very pleased to have had the chance of an initial talk with the Minister of State last week about how these propositions can be taken forward. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. I am encouraged that some constructive thinking is emerging from the proposition in this amendment.

This also means that there has to be quite a big change in how Whitehall and government generally set targets. We do not have short-term targets at the moment. We have excellent reports from the Committee on Climate Change and associated budget work, but we have reached the point where we have to bite the bullet and look seriously at trying to acknowledge that we have to reduce the coefficient around the world, where climate change is a risk because carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are growing at greater speed than national income. We have to reverse that.

I hope the Minister will accept that work should be taken forward on the idea of these metrics to reduce that coefficient and give a positive response to the principle involved. I look forward to his response. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I added my name to my noble friend’s amendment. When he first proposed it to me I was not quite clear what the intention was, but it is quite clear what it requires. It gives us a metric —a figure—to display to the public what is a central matter of political dispute in this and many other countries, namely the claim that to achieve green growth and a reduction of greenhouse gases is in direct conflict with the ability to grow and become more prosperous. This country is one of the few countries that has managed to resolve that over the past 20-odd years. In most years we have grown the economy and reduced our greenhouse gases. That will be more difficult in the future and it is more difficult around the world.

All the amendment is asking is that the Government, the Treasury and the Bank of England in particular adopt some metric as an objective of economic policy and turn the ratio between growth and the reduction in greenhouse gases into a forward-looking metric that reduces our dependency on fossil fuels while assuring the public that we are still increasing prosperity. It is possible that the econometricians, statisticians and everybody else can work out a more complex or a simpler figure, but we need one figure that on a rolling basis measures the past and gives us a target and a tool for the future, so that we can counter a very insidious position where the climate pessimists say it cannot be done.

Of course, the polemicists in this argument on social media and more broadly not only emphasise that position in this country; it is making life difficult in many other countries. It defined Trump’s America and to a degree still hamstrings the American Government. It means that, however sophisticated their regimes, the oil producers still trot out the conflict as an excuse for not doing anything that will lead to a meaningful delivery of either the Kyoto or the Paris commitments. Of course, the conflict and the political argument are at their most acute in the poorest countries, where constraints on fossil fuel-based energy are seen as a barrier to raising the living standards of the poorest and most wretched on the earth.

That is why having a clear metric might help us in international negotiations as well. At present, the post-Paris commitments of each signatory are expressed in different terms. Most of them are absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, some are reductions in what they call energy intensity, and others are just lists of particular measures. It is quite difficult to determine the relativity between these different commitments and impossible to compare the level of their commitment with what are supposedly the Paris objectives.

If we started here and the Government committed to getting the Office for National Statistics and the other relevant bodies to address this issue and to come up with a single, clear measure—one that carries at least the broad range of political opinions in this country —we could then move on to convince the OECD and the rest of the world. We can start here. Whether in this Bill or in some other context, the Government really need to commit themselves to having a clear metric here, and I hope the Minister can give some encouragement to that view tonight.

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I will address Amendment 119, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall. I thank him for his time last week and also briefly earlier today. There is a lot of crossover in this debate between what we are discussing now and the debate led by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in Committee, where we talked about GDP and its uses, weaknesses and shortcomings.

We agree that domestic accountability is important. As the noble Lord knows, the Climate Change Act 2008 already commits us to reaching net zero by 2050 and the forthcoming net-zero strategy will set out our plans for transitioning to a net-zero economy across all departments of government. We are considering the most appropriate way to monitor the delivery of the decarbonisation measures set out in the strategy. We are also encouraging private firms to disclose their climate impacts to investors and the public and to set out how they will achieve net zero by 2050 or before. It is at a much earlier stage, but we are doing what we can to accelerate moves by the private sector to identify, with a view to disclosing and then minimising, the risk to environmental harm generally, not just carbon.

Bringing other countries with us is obviously vital. In 2019, the Prime Minister committed to doubling our international climate finance to £11.6 billion until 2025. That will help developing countries to make the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient development and more nature-positive economies.

The proposed statistic in the amendment can, I am told, already be computed using publicly available ONS data and OBR forecasts of economic activity, together with the data published in the Government’s greenhouse gas inventory. The noble Lord made the point very well that a simple relationship between economic growth and emissions is, in itself, insufficient to assess progress towards emissions targets and is not necessarily the best metric by which to compare every nation’s progress towards decarbonisation. Ultimately, we need to break the link between GDP and emissions, the use of scarce resources and extraction generally. To some extent the UK’s record in recent years demonstrates that that is possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, pointed out, but in a narrow sense relating purely to emissions. We have not yet demonstrated that in relation to use of natural resources and our wider impacts on the natural environment, but we must.

I assure noble Lords that we are carefully considering the links between economic growth and the environment. The independent Dasgupta review highlights how economic growth and activity has damaged nature and will continue to do so unless there is a substantial change, one that involves ensuring that we learn properly to value essential things such as natural systems—nature—and those things we depend on, and attach a cost to waste, pollution and plunder. The Government agree with the Dasgupta review’s central conclusion: nature and the biodiversity that underpins it is profoundly important to all of us and sustains our economies, livelihoods and well-being. We are actively supporting and developing tools to drive sustainability in the finance sector, including as part of our response to the Dasgupta review. Over the past three decades, we have driven down emissions by 44%, which is the fastest reduction of any G7 country—I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, provided the figure, but he was hinting at it. At the same time, we saw economic growth and set some of the most ambitious targets in the world for the future, while driving forward net zero globally through our COP 26 presidency and associated diplomacy. We have an enormous amount more to do. The noble Lord makes an important point: we need to be able to measure and understand. I hope he accepts that that work is under way and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister in particular for acknowledging the importance of understanding how we can set targets. It is very easy to accept the case for saying that GDP or some other measure should not be mentioned, but we live in a world where international agreements have to be made using consistent units. The OECD or the UN is not the place to argue that we can suddenly revisit the national income accounting methods created by John Maynard Keynes and others in Cambridge in, I think, 1944-45. There has to be some international agreement about how you measure the economy.

Some people say, “Let us measure the value of forests”, and I have very great sympathy with that, or the destruction of habitats and the elimination of species—the lion, the tiger and so on. We need a practical way to see how far—and this leads up to the Glasgow debate—there can be any agreed view around the world on how we break the link that we all know exists between economic growth and emissions, which are becoming a very dangerous trend in relation to extreme temperatures, to mention only one point.

In light what the Minister has said, there should be something more specific for people in the next few years. It has not been mentioned but it is important that the people of the country as a whole understand the answer to a widely stated nostrum that we cannot do anything about climate change or we will get poorer. We have to have a narrative, with the Government behind it, so that we can actually do something about it. Changing the coefficient is a technical way of saying it, but we must get to a position where the people of this country can ask, “How are we doing on this?” and the answer is that we are doing something here and now and helping it to become part of the standard world metric. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 119 withdrawn.

Environment Bill

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Earl of Dundee Portrait The Earl of Dundee (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I support these amendments in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Jones, and will refer to three aspects.

The first is how the pursuit of new economic goals, as here indicated, can be consistent with or complementary to the pursuit of previous and different economic goals.

The second is the need for greater clarity about what they actually are, not least as communicated between government and local authorities.

Thirdly, promoting the joint interest of humans and the natural environment together is not a vague aspiration but instead a concrete aim which deserves to be represented by very specific plans and particular called-for action dates—such as, in the second amendment, net-zero emissions by 2030, an achievement which, of course, benefits not just the environment but, in the context of the first amendment, humans and the environment together.

In the latter terms, these useful and coherent amendments thus assist the Bill’s purposes, including initiatives for producing our own food, fuel and housing, and with restoring biodiversity and capturing carbon, while at the same time avoiding negative international impacts, whether in general or from our own exports to others overseas.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to see the relationship with the economy being brought to the fore here for two reasons: one is its inherent importance; the second is the query lurking around somewhere about whether the Bill should have anything to do with the economy. Before Glasgow, that query will be blown out of the water. We cannot just go on saying that we are doing things about greenhouse gases, and about what we might call the coefficient between the growth of greenhouse gases relative to the growth of GDP, and thinking everything in the garden is lovely. It is not; the opposite, I am afraid, is true. We have until Glasgow to make sure we are not blown out of the water when it comes to our credentials.

I have raised both in Grand Committee and here, in different contexts, how we are going to make sure that we have a relevant metric—that is what the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, called it—to measure the development of greenhouse gases, the growth of the economy and, above all, the desired change in the coefficient so that greenhouse gases are going downwards, relative to the growth of the economy, rather than upwards.

Whitehall government is falling between some stools here, and I would like the Minister to take on board the fact that we need to get our act together with some statistical compatibility between the things we think we are talking about. There is no point repeating mantras such as “net zero” and looking at many decades if we cannot even get our quarterly data to make sense. We need to have quarterly data that puts together the recent change in the gross national product on the one hand and the greenhouse gas data on the other. The work done by the Committee on Climate Change leaves open to discussion an alarming divergence, in the wrong direction, of these two metrics.

I am not coming from the same place, politically, as Members from the Green Party. However, some clarity about how our economy, in the short to medium term, should be developing in terms of greenhouse gases, and how this can be made into a more credible picture before Glasgow, is—for the Labour Party and others taking a serious interest in this matter, I am sure—a hugely important requirement. We hear very little about it, and it is partly because of the environment being in a different silo in Whitehall from the economic silos in the department of business and the Treasury. We have some experience of those sorts of arguments; I recognise one when I see one.

I will table an amendment on Report on precisely these questions. This is a good moment, I hope, to flag up the importance of getting something into the Bill which will be an opportunity to make some progress before Glasgow, so that we do not look like the emperor with no clothes.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I support the green grouping, as it has been classed; as we are in coalition with a Green group in my local borough of Waverley, I am keen to do some cross-party supporting of this. It goes slightly broader than the Bill, but there is nothing wrong with that to me. I would not wish to suggest what was in the minds of the two noble Baronesses, but I have a strong sense of the frustration that we are facing this ecological crisis and getting to the end of the Bill, but are we using every single tool in the toolbox to make sure that we address this issue? I commend the ambition, and I am grateful to them for bringing this forward.

The noble Baronesses are right that the first amendment, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, focuses on economics. As we all know, it is always a case of “follow the money,” and it is right that we should put on more pressure to ensure that the Treasury embeds the climate and environmental goals into our future national accounting structures. It would be fantastic if we were standing here today and by now had seen the net-zero strategy and had an idea of the Government’s thinking on this.