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Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who is an expert on transport matters and particularly the railways. As I listened to her experiences on the Korean railways, I reflected that my experience this morning was somewhat different. I benefited from what might be called heritage rolling stock on the way from Lewes to Victoriaslam-door speciality trains that are probably good for the environment in the sense that they were completely unheated and many of the lights were not working. To be fair to the rail industry and the Government, new rolling stock is coming along but some trains that are still running on our tracks should clearly have been phased out a long time ago.
This debate is one of the rarities in which we can talk on the Floor of the House about the environment. I am sorry to say that there are too few such debates because they are often shared with transport. Environment and transport are inextricably linked and that is one reason why I was disappointed that the Government broke up the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, which was a useful innovation in bringing together interconnected parts of government. After the election, I hope that the Government will reflect on this issue and consider whether a department of energy, environment and transport would make more sense in tackling climate change in a co-ordinated and joined-up fashion. I have a lot of time for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but it is a minor Department. Although it has much expertise, if the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry decide that they do not want to go along with DEFRA, they will win. That is not always in the interests of the environment.
The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality looks quizzical but, if he wants a list of examples in which DEFRA has been outvoted by the DTI, I am happy to provide him with one. The European Union emissions trading scheme is the most recent example. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs put out a press release welcoming the fact, on behalf of the environment, that we would increase the carbon emissions covered by the scheme.
There have been only two substantive debates about the environment on the Floor of the Commons this Parliament, and both have taken place in the very few
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Liberal Democrat Opposition days. That is a very sad state of affairs. We were to have such a debate on one of the Tories' Opposition days but, at the last moment, they changed the subject from climate change to opposing wind farms, so we were not able to have a proper debate on that occasion.
As Sir David King has said, climate change is the most serious threat that we face. Indeed, the Prime Minister has endorsed that view. As Sir David pointed out, it is more serious than terrorism. However, the Queen's Speech contains many Bills that purport to deal with terrorismI agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich that some of them, such as that on identity cards, do not deal with itbut it contains nothing at all to do with climate change unless one takes the view that the Bill on Crossrail will do that. The Government seem to be creating a climate of fear rather than dealing with climate change.
Carbon emissions are up since 1997. The Government are clearly going to miss their 20 per cent. reduction target by 2010, and I say that in sorrow rather than anything else. There is still time, if they were to adopt radical policies, for the target to be met, but it is looking less and less likely. Indeed, the indicators for carbon emissions are going in the wrong direction.
The Prime Minister has said that he wants to make tackling climate change a priority in the British presidencies of the European Union and the G8. I very much welcome that statement, but it is important that it is followed up by specific proposals. The presidencies are not simply an international platform to make positive-sounding speeches about climate change let alone to lecture the rest of the world. Action must be taken at home to underpin the Prime Minister's statements on the international stage and the Government must have specific proposals for the EU and G8.
The Government have not stated publicly what their specific aims for climate change will be in the EU and G8 presidencies. I understand that they will be subject to negotiation; it would not bode well for the Government to say that other countries must come up with these outcomes. Nevertheless, some indication as to where they are going would be helpful. Perhaps the Minister in his reply will say something about that broad picture.
It would be useful to know whether the Government feel that they have to go back to square one because they feel that they have to get the Americans on board and accept the science of climate change. God help us. Everyone else accepts it; the Bush Administration do not. Or do the Government work on the basis that the US Administration have accepted the science even if they have not articulated that fact and that we move to reach outcomes from that? What outcome on climate change do the Government want from the EU and G8 presidencies? That is my most important question. The Minister is scribbling furiously. I hope that he is writing that down so that he can respond to it.
The sad fact is that we have a problem with the US Administration in particular. It is not sufficient to rely on a bottom-up approach to solve that. A great deal is happening in the US. I do not want to diminish that. Nine north-eastern states are coming together to consider emissions trading. They have been in touch with DEFRA for advice on how that can be carried out.
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That is an encouraging sign. A great deal of innovation is going on in the US with the hydrogen economy and so on. It is not the resistance of the US per se, but the resistance of the US Administration. The Prime Minister should make more of his so-called special relationship to make progress on climate change. If he does not, we will conclude that the relationship is special because we give everything and get nothing in return from President Bush.
Either the Prime Minister has not been raising climate change with President Bush, which would be a gross dereliction of duty, or he has been raising it constantly and has been rebuffed every time. Which of those is true? I fear it is the latter, which does not say much for the Prime Minister's influence with the American Administration on this key issue.
Sir Sydney Chapman: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary to get the United States on board in meeting the Kyoto protocol if only because it has 5 per cent. of the world's population and is responsible for 25 per cent. of harmful emissions?
Norman Baker: Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. The US is key to any long-term international solution. Whether we like it or not, we cannot have a solution internationally unless the US is part of it. That is why the negotiations in the G8 and EU will be so important.
One of the ways forward is based on the principle of contraction and convergencein other words, reducing overall greenhouse emissions while moving towards a situation in which there is parity per head of population across the world over a longer period of time. That is not only equitable but has the advantage of possibly bringing the US on board.
The US had two objections to Kyoto. One was that it might damage the US economy. The Government could make a fair case to the US that we can decouple emissions from gross domestic product. In fact, this Government over the past few years and, to be fair, the Tory Government in their last few years in power have demonstrated that it is not necessary to have an increase in energy or emissions to move forward economically. That link has been broken. The second objection was that some countries were left out. The principle of contraction and convergence has the benefit of getting around that as well. I hope that that will be part of the Government's negotiations in the months ahead in the G8 and directly with the US Administration.
The Government's record on the environment is patchy. I do not want to pretend that it is all bad; it is not. I might get into trouble for saying this, but if I were a fair and neutral observer I would judge that that record is preferable to the one that they inherited from the Conservative Government. However, there is one major way in which they are failing on the environment, as linked to climate change, and that is in the Department for Transport. Even more than the Treasury and the DTI, the Department for Transport has the capacity to deliver real progress on the environment and has singularly failed to do so.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are up 47 per cent. since 1990. That is simply unacceptable and intolerable if we are to tackle climate
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change. We need reductions, not an increase of 47 per cent. Emissions from road transport are up 13 per cent. since 1990. Emissions from aviation are up enormously. The Government predict that between 2002 and 2010, there will be a further 33 per cent. increase in carbon emissions from aviation and an 83 per cent. increase by 2020. We simply cannot go on with that or with the Department for Transport's predict-and-provide approach to aviation. That has been discredited in other forms of transport and in, for example, waste management. Why do the Government not have a policy to limit aviation expansion rather than simply provide for what the industry says it thinks it needs in the years ahead?
We need a modal shift in transport, for example from air to rail. Short-haul flights cause more damage per mile to the environment than long-haul flights because of the fuel and so on used in taking off and landing and the increasing need for planes to circle over London waiting for spaces to land. We also need a modal shift from road to rail. We do not get that by unlimited expansions of the road network, to pick up a point made by, I think, the Secretary of State.
Under his Government, the report in the early 1990s of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment demonstrated conclusively that expanding the road network encourages more vehicles to go more miles and therefore consume more resources and emit more pollution. During the Opposition day debate on wind farms, I challenged the hon. Gentleman on what he said at the conference. He replied:
To some extent, I agree that technology has a major role to play in reducing emissions. That is right, but there is no point making gains from technology on the one hand while on the other making matters worse by encouraging more vehicle movements by what seems to be an unlimited expansion of the road network.
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