Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): May I strongly support my right hon. Friends in their hard and sustained work on addressing these difficult problems? Could something more be said about the Carbon Trust and the recycling of £100 million of climate change levy receipts? Does my right hon. Friend have any sympathy with the view that targets will not be met without Sizewell C, Hunterston C and possibly Hinkley C?
Margaret Beckett: First, the Carbon Trust is doing interesting work with the business community. My hon. Friend may be aware that it believes that increased energy efficiency can make a massive contribution to meeting our targets, even without totally new technological developments of a kind that we cannot yet foresee. Indeed, it believes that we can meet our targets without further substantial change, although we all hope that innovation and new technology will come. There may be a misunderstanding. Although the performance and innovation unit energy review indicated that we should not close our minds to the future use of nuclear power, we do not require the fresh use and development of nuclear power to meet by 2012 the targets to which we signed up in the Kyoto protocol.
Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): I thank the Secretary of State for her courtesy in giving me early sight of her statement. The Liberal Democrats welcome the decision to ratify the Kyoto protocol. It is, in association with our European Union partners, an important symbolic step across the world that shows our determination to tackle climate change.
I was also very pleased by the positive way in which the Secretary of State set out her statement, and by her acknowledgment of the work done on both sides of the House over a long period. She seems to accept that Kyoto can only be a first and comparatively small step in a long-term operation to slow down and stop global climate change. Liberal Democrats share that view. Will she agree that behind the words and the bold statement there are some gaps and fudges? I want to press her on some of those points.
The reality is that the United Kingdom's Kyoto targets will be met more or less by accident, or willy-nilly. It was interesting to hear the shadow Secretary of State claim the credit for putting in place the policies that would achieve Kyoto. In fact, those policies were not put in place to achieve Kyoto but for entirely different reasons, and without regard for carbon dioxide emissions at the time. Does the Secretary of State agree that setting longer-term targets beyond Kyoto will be the test of United Kingdom policy for the future? Little progress has been made by the Government in setting those longer-term targets.
Later today, the House will be asked to approve the renewables obligation that was debated in Committee yesterday. As the Secretary of State will agree, that obligation is for only 10 per cent. of the energy available to the electricity sector, even in 2027. Therefore, although it sets targets for 2010, it does not advance them beyond that. What targets and policies do the Government have to achieve energy saving and energy conservation? Her statement is short on that, as, I would submit, is Government policy.
I am sure that the Secretary of State is only too well aware that the development of a carbon-free economy provides many opportunities for exports and growth in jobs in the United Kingdom. Will she confirm that those exports and jobs must be based on a strong home market? How will the United Kingdom develop that strong market?
The Secretary of State's report referred to the energy review, and the Minister for the Environment said at Question Time that the Government were neither for nor against nuclear power. When will she give the House a clear commitment to move forward with renewable energy and abandon the nuclear option?
We welcome the Secretary of State's words about engaging the United States in the fight against climate change. Clearly, its participation is vital to the long-term project. Will she assure the House that the Government will remain robust in their dialogue with the United States to try to persuade the world's largest contributor to man-made global climate change to mend its ways?
Finally, I assure the Secretary of State that Liberal Democrats are strongly in favour of the Kyoto protocol being brought into effect across the world. We look forward eagerly to the steps beyond Kyoto, and we will encourage the Government to take those steps.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether there were gaps in the scheme and whether it had been met by accident. I note that the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), claimed credit for the reductions that resulted from the devastation of the coal mining industry. However, he did not mention the fact that that did not occur cost free. Indeed, Conservative Members have been critical of the Government's handling of the coal industry since 1997. However, it is our estimate that the "dash for gas" will be responsible for only about 30 per cent. of the reductions that we anticipate will take place by 2010. Although that is not an insignificant contribution, it certainly does not mean, in the phrase of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell), that we have met our targets by accident. The course of action that the Government have pursued will lead us to meet the targets.
The hon. Gentleman pressed me on setting longer-term targets, but it is a little premature to do that. Certainly, work is beginning on the next Kyoto period and on what are practical and sensible targets for people to aim for in making a contribution to tackling global warming. The targets will have to be assessed against the new information that is becoming available over a steady period from the scientific work on the impact of climate change. It is a little bit of a moving feast in that respect. However, we shall come forwardperhaps in response to the PIU energy review and certainly over timewith further proposals and longer-term targets.
The hon. Gentleman also asked me specifically about the renewables obligation and about whether we should set a more demanding target for that. It is important that we have the right balance between setting demanding targets and setting targets that we have practical means of meeting. One of the things that I found most encouraging from my exchange with the Father of the House, my hon.
Mr. David Miliband (South Shields): I am delighted to welcome my right hon. Friend's strong efforts to take forward this important agenda. Kyoto is the key test for those of us who think that an interdependent world requires multilateral engagement.
Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the technical and political work that is being done inside her Department on the so-called contraction and conversion approach to global pollution reduction? Many people believe that it is an innovative and equitable approach to tackling global climate change, and I would very much welcome her thoughts on its potential contribution.
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. There is no question but that the contraction and convergence model is a serious proposal. My Department is considering it along with a range of other models. There is a strong case to be made for such a proposal, and it has a certain appealing, simple logic. However, it has serious implications for what is required of different nations so, in that sense, it must be weighed against the wish to get everyone moving in the same direction.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): I congratulate the Secretary of State on the achievement of a process that has gone on for a long time under both Governments. Both sides of the House should emphasise the commonality of interest in achieving these ends.
Does the Secretary of State not agree that one of the highlights of the process was the agreement, under the previous Government, and its support, under this Government, of the European bubble and the European bubble principle in which those nations most able to do more achieve more so that the least-able nations do not have to reach the targets that would otherwise be set for them? Does that not set an admirable example to the rest of the world and, particularly, in respect of the future incorporation of developing countries? Should we not say that the European Union has proved its worth enormously on this issue as on so many others?
Margaret Beckett: I am happy to pay tribute to the decision to establish the EU "bubble". The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct; it was key to agreement within the EU. He is also right to say that the role that the EU played as a united group in the negotiations was absolutely key. There is no question about that.
The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) accused me earlier of self-praise, but this is not self-praise. Other Ministers who participated in the negotiations in Bonn and Marrakesh have said forcefully that the united role that the EU played enabled us to act as broker to agreement, first, politically in Bonn and then to the legal text in Marrakesh. That was crucial.
The right hon. Gentleman has heard me say this on a public platform recently, but I freely say again, as someone who campaigned against our remaining in the European Community as it was in 1975, that the behaviour of the EU as a group in the negotiations has been a model of everything everyone ever hoped for from that agreement.