Julian Hunt addresses UK House of Lords on Complexity and Policy Making

June 2 2010 

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I will comment on the points made in the Queen’s Speech about manmade climate change and economic recovery. The rise in global temperatures during this century is a very serious matter. Several climate centres, including the Met Office, the Danish met office and the Chinese met office are predicting that the result at the end of the century will be nearer 4 degrees than the 2-degree target agreed at Copenhagen. It would be possible to keep to the last figure only if worldwide carbon emissions stopped growing. Because of the complexity of climate change science and policy we must have more open discussion. Scientific and engineering aspects must be considered. The Royal Society and others now advocate that.

Policies to deal with the situation must be international and realistic. However, they probably cannot be based on a Kyoto-style global agreement, as we saw at Copenhagen. One might compare the UK’s ambitious plan to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 with China, which has stated in many public remarks that while its energy may be more efficient it will double emissions by 2050. Nevertheless, the UK must collaborate and trade with all countries of the world, particularly those which are rapidly industrialising. One way in which we can do that is through our development of nuclear power, and through R&D into future technology. I part company slightly with the interesting remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool in believing that future nuclear technology will enable us to eliminate waste. An article in the New Scientist explains this.

As the EEC Commissioner for Climate Change recently commented when she came to London, carbon trading is now operating as an important aspect of making industry more efficient and stimulating energy emission reduction. In China, there are about five or six centres. There are others in the north-east states of America, and on its west coast. This may be one way in which we will find practical methods for reducing emissions. These should also be complemented by policies in the cities of the world. They are the areas where there is a maximum usage of energy, and policies have begun in London and around the world. We heard last night from the mayor of Mexico City, who was visiting London, about its remarkable policies, working with other cities. Policies to reduce carbon emissions can be similar to those for reducing air pollution, which is a major issue for people living in the cities of the world.

The Government should also, in the most cost-effective way, not only negotiate with other Governments and encourage cities, but work with United Nations specialised agencies, which are continuing. They were given leave to continue by the Copenhagen meeting. The World Meteorological Organisation is monitoring the climate. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is working on forestry. The International Maritime Organisation, the other side of the Thames, is working on reducing pollution from shipping. This is very cost effective, but gets little publicity in Parliament.

I will also comment on the work of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which we have been discussing this afternoon. These three strands come together in government policies for research in industry. High-tech companies in the UK have made many comments about the importance of maintaining the taxation policies of the previous Labour Government, to provide tax relief for research in industry. Again I declare an interest as director of such a company. For example, a professor of chemistry at Cambridge explained how this had been essential for the establishment of several companies.