Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) (Lab): May I say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that once again you have proved your timing to be immaculate? You arrived just in time for the clock to change and for this debate to start.
Before I present my argument, I wish to pay tribute to and to thank staff in the Commons Library and in the Council of Europe environment secretariat and others, including my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington), my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Syd Rapson), who is here today, and my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis), who have helped me to prepare for the debate today. The subject is global warming, climate change and, of course, the Kyoto protocol.
Threats to our world posed by the effects of global warming are currently levitating politically in a haze of contradiction and confusion. Indeed, the issue needs a thorough de-coke if it is to stand any chance of capturing the hearts and minds of today's world leaders, who, like all politicians, are regularly reminded that they were charged with their responsibilities primarily because of their constituents' interests. UnsurprisinglyRussia is probably the best example of thisit will take a well orchestrated campaign to convince them that their public fully understand the nature and seriousness of the current situation. High degrees of clarity and understanding will have to be achieved to win over sceptical audiences into accepting the many fundamental changes that will have to be made in their everyday lives to tackle global warming and climate change.
How do we start to approach such a difficult task? My opinion, for what it is worth, is that things will begin to become clearer only once the many sections of informed expertise start to act much less competitively towards one another, taking a back seat rather than vying for pilot status. Removing such players from the central narration will not be simple. Prophets of the apocalypse have never been the easiest of hecklers.
The reality, however, is that a high degree of calm and unison, rather than competitive international trading and production nightmares, largely highlighting individual nations' concerns about such things as finite resources, need to be introduced into the public arena, so that ordinary people can absorb the facts and then grasp some understanding of the clear and urgent need to find ways of quickly and safely solving the many man-made problems causing global warming.
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At the outset of the debate, I feel obliged to point out that, amazingly, some people still argue that global warming is not actually occurring. Probably the most well known of those is the Dane Bjorn Lomborg, who expressed the view in his book "The Sceptical Environmentalist" that global warming is a conspiracy and a mere cyclical mathematical formula devised mainly as an academic concept by theoreticians to gain both stature and ongoing research funding. That is, to say the least, a ridiculous scenario.
To be fair, Bjorn Lomborg is not the only one. A small number of other sceptics also argue against scientific data, for a variety or reasons, including research methodology. One cited the use of seawater rather than freshwater in calculations. Another contradicted research because of the time of year used for statistical breakdowns of thinning ice sheets, and yet another because of measurements devised from felled tree stumps in north America.
Stranger still is the narrow intellectual thesis espoused by top thriller writer Michael Crichton, most famous for his far-fetched tale "Jurassic Park", the plot of which had at its heart the return of dinosaurs via the use of ancient DNA acquired from mosquitoes trapped for thousands of years in precious amber gemstones. To say the least, that was a novel plot. Disappointingly, his latest scribble, "State of Fear", is much less rigorous. It is about eco-terrorism and has a plot that unfortunately allows him the opportunity to rant against science and, in particular, to state his view that the dangers of global warming are little more than
I hope that most people, ordinary or otherwise, will dismiss such idle polemic as dangerous nonsense, invented mostly to bolster book sales or, at the very least, as alternative script material for Hollywood movie moguls. As Mr. Crichton is well aware, commercially, they want nothing more than to produce more sci-fi blockbusters to equal the recent box office success of the film "The Day After Tomorrow", which he did not write, but which had a more realistic scenario.
The Minister may be wondering why I am discussing a man who deals in imagination. It is important that we burst Mr. Crichton's bubble. He is appearing on platforms around the world espousing those views, which are dangerous because they confuse the public. Ignored he must be, especially his logic. Again, he said:
Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are others who deny global warming and present themselves as scientists, who sometimes end up writing articles in the daily papers? When they are tracked down, they turn out to be members of or supported by institutes in America that are funded by the oil industry.
Mr. Meale : It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should say that, as I am about to name another one. His analysis is right. Unfortunately, as I said, Mr. Crichton is not the only one. There are many such people.
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Stranger still is the opinion purveyed by Myron Ebell, director of the business-sponsored Competitive Enterprise Institute, based in Washington DC, who recently outstripped previous first world critics when arguing that describing climate change as "a crisis for humanity" was based on
He forgetfully, and rather conveniently, put aside the reality that most European member countries signed up for the Kyoto protocol at considerably higher levels than those proposed for the United States. He also failed to mention in his illogical analysis that leading American scientists have recently established that concentrations of carbon dioxide gases have risen to the unprecedented level of 375 parts per million. That is especially worrying, as the level was only 280 parts per million at the time of the industrial revolution.
In order to discuss such detailed and complex substance, or, in the case of the examples previously mentioned, the lack of it, let us examine the facts. Hon. Members must realise from the outset that it is freely accepted in today's scientific community that CO 2 and other gases play a crucial role in global climates and that, without them, global temperatures would be much lower. Similarly, it is crucial to understand that global warming statistics have not been recently discovered and are not mere theorised academic opinions. They have been well documented over many decades by eminent scientists and institutes the world over.
The role of gases in the environment, in trapping heat close to the earth, was first recognised as far back as 1827 by Jean Baptiste Fourier. The phenomenon was then observed and proved in 1861 by John Tyndall, using the then novel technique of quantitative spectroscopy. In 1896, the Swedish chemist, Sven Arrhenius, promoted the idea that CO 2 emissions from the combustion of coal could enhance the greenhouse effect and thus lead to global warming, a subsequently proven theory.
Since those times, the broad consensus of scientific opinion is that there has been an anthropogenic effect in our atmosphere. That is to say, changes stemming directly from human activities have taken place, which have consequently increased the amount of trapped heat close to the planet's surface, a view supported by work undertaken by United Kingdom scientist G.S. Callendar in 1949, when he directly linked the estimated 10 per cent. increase in CO 2 in the Earth's atmosphere from 1850 to 1940 with the warming of northern Europe and north America, which he calculated had begun as early as the 1880s.
As importantly, further studies carried out as recently as the 1970s identified that other gases, including chlorofluorocarbons, methane and nitrous oxides, were greenhouse gases. They also identified that global surface air temperatures had increased by between 0.3° C and 0.6° C since the late 19th century, and that between 0.2° C and 0.3° C of that increase had occurred in the last 40 years. That warming had already led to considerable loss of snow coverage and noticeable weather variations.
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From those scientific discoveries emerged a series of converted academic programmes, which predicted that a doubling of CO 2 levels could eventually warm the Earth further, by anywhere from 1.4° C to 5.8° C. Bearing it in mind that a shift of less than 6° C caused the end of the ice age, international climate programmes were rapidly established to enhance individual nations' ability to respond to climate variability, including improved forecasting techniques, international co-operation, research and assessment.
Thankfully, and contrary to the views espoused by the likes of Lomborg, Crichton and Ebell, so successful was the evidence gathering that, by the mid-1980s, a major conference was held, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Council of Scientific Unions. That conference recommended that a global treaty addressing climate change should be promoted urgently.
As we are all aware, the conference resulted in the establishment in 1988 of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, led by Government scientists, but also involving several hundred independent, academic scientists and researchers throughout the world. In 1990, that body calculated that a 60 per cent. reduction in CO 2 emissions could, if applied, halt the build up of global warming. So seriously were its predictions taken that 116 countries took part in a second conference in 1990. By the time of the Rio summit in 1992, the panel's climate change convention had been signed by 155 nations and, by 1993, 50 had ratified its proposals and some had put them into effect.
Inevitably, with so much evidence and concern, by 1997, there was general consensus that climate change was occurring because of human activity. That view ultimately led to international recognition of the Kyoto protocolan agreement to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Smaller targets than the 60 per cent. calculated as necessary in 1990 were set, but the protocol was an avenue that was thought necessary by industrial, first world nations as the first step in a long process of providing good faith to the lesser developed world.
As well as recognising the magnificent efforts of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and especially the Minister present today, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. Everybody knows that it was his steady chairmanship that went a long way towards delivering the essential landmark of the Kyoto protocol. I mention that because, contrary to some Fleet street cynics who seem at times interested only in his love of a certain type of motor car, it needs stating that he forced the pace to achieve that admirable and necessary objective. So strong was his determination to achieve an agreement that he and others, particularly the support team from the UK, tasted the success of their endeavours almost on the departure runway of the airport at the end of the conference.
As we all know, President Putin and the Russian Duma recently signed the protocol, undoubtedly influenced by the predicted world shortage of oil and gas and their nation's ownership of at least 23 per cent. of remaining reserves. In February 2005, it will come into force legally in those countries that are signatories to it, with its targets binding upon all of them. The delivery of the protocol has been a vital stage in the global strategy
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for dealing with climate change and the planet's warming, not least because it represents, as I stated earlier, acceptance of its being caused by human activities.
Of course, there will still be the doubtersthose whom I mentioned earliertogether with a small number of others who continue to argue that "measurements were incorrect" and "calculations wrongly based". However, the truth is that even President Bush has finally accepted that climate change is occurring. The debate has moved on, despite the doubters. Now the question is no longer whether we respond, but how we respond. In America's case, that has been settled by the White House. The President has decided to use taxpayers' dollars over the next 25 years to fund the American energy industry's research into cleaner technologies, and in particular into hydrogen and fuel cell technological development.
Only time will tell whether we have 25 years and whether such a decision is correct. Perhaps chance, ingenuity and/or discovery will produce something that will halt or even reverse current worsening situations. However, if one looks at what is happening to our world, the signs are not good. For instance, the United Nations has recently compiled clear evidence of further worrying trends, which indicate that, despite the major collective efforts made by countries to counter world poverty, climate change that results directly from global warming continues to cause more consequential weather-related disastersdroughts and floodsand in doing so forces even more people into poverty and destitution.
In relation to droughts alone, according to the United Nations, between the mid-1990s and 2000, almost 300 sq km of land were turned into desert each year. The same study estimated that, at the present rate, by 2025, two thirds of arable land in Africa will have disappeared, along with one third of such areas in Asia and one fifth in south America. As a result, 135 million people are being put at risk of displacement. Most of those affected are likely to be from the edges of existing desertsin particular, poor farmers currently barely able to achieve sustainability or even basic subsistence levels. There will also be others from areas where people do not at the moment struggle to eke out a living, thus adding to the numbers suffering. Many of them will be least able to help themselves. What the immediate future holds for them is crop failure, followed by loss of quality, fuelled by soil degradation and subsequent further demise.
That is borne out by another recent United Nations study, which predicts that the proportion of people living in countries suffering significant water stress will double by 2025, proving conclusively that global warming is, as it has been described on the international stage,
It is not just desert areas that will be affected by global warming. At the other end of the spectrum, changes are already taking place. For example, in the past few years, major areas of the earth's ice mass have already been lost. The Arctic and Antarctic continents regularly
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report big losses of ice shelves and major recessions of ice. In that respect, another recent reportone prepared for the eight-nation Arctic Councilreported a 10 per cent. loss of ice in the past 10 years. Worse still, it predicted that, if that continued, even at a slower pace, not only would it threaten present ecosystems, but another outcome could be the cooling of the gulf stream. If that occurred, according to the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, it would have devastating consequences, especially for northern Europe.
I mention that because, according to other expert opinion, it has been calculated that such combinations of cooling and melting could ultimately lead to a partial thawing of the Siberian tundra. If that occurred, it would subsequently release vast amounts of methane, the highest burning gas, which is eight times more volatile than CO 2 , into the Earth's atmosphere, thereby seriously spiralling the warming of our planet.
Mr. Meale : That is a good point. The Opposition should reflect on their policy on the use of HFCs in firefighting. It has been calculated that, by 2010, the use of HFCs to combat fire will make up less than .0005 per cent. of total emissions. If one puts that against what I shall say a little later in relation to fires, it is more than balanced by how they will combat a range of fires.
Is that alarmist nonsense? The reality is that we dismiss such warnings at our peril. Let us consider other likely outcomes if the problems of global warming and climate change are not tackled urgently. Many delicate indigenous native plants and wildlife eco-systems would disappear as temperatures rise or fall. Many marine species would either be lost or would migrate from their traditional breeding grounds. For example, according to recent reports by the British Antarctic Survey, climate change is already causing serious problems for aquatic life such as krill, the tiny shrimp-like life forms that flourish in their billions in cold waters, which are the staple diet of such species as penguins, seals, whales and others. In winter periods, those important life forms depend upon thick mats of green algae that flourish on the undersides of ice shelves. However, because of global warming, that foodstuff is either seriously retreating or is vanishing, leaving those species and many others without their necessary food supplies.
On another front, large areas of forest would either die or be destroyed by fire caused directly by the change in heat patterns. Last but not least, vast amounts of property and infrastructure investment would either be lost or put at risk by rising sea levels, flooding, coastal erosion and ground subsidence. I cite as evidence what has already occurred on the roof of our world. Some scientists have recently calculated that the Earth's highest ice fields could completely disappear within the next 200 years unless urgent action is taken to combat global warming. In a recent study, "The Glacier Inventory", produced by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, we were warned that, unless urgent measures are taken to stop further deterioration, those fields may be lost for ever. Proof for such claims are contained in the worrying statistics of that report, which reveal that
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at least 5.5 per cent. of the ice volume in China's 46,298 glaciers, representing 15 per cent. of the Earth's total, has already melted. That is equal to at least 3,000 sq km of ice.
Changes are taking place not only on the tops of Chinese mountains or in far-off continents. The UK Government chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, recently stated that even the most ambitious targets may not be enough to avert the worst effects of global warming. He warned that by 2050 carbon dioxide emissions may have to be cut by as much as 80 per cent. to avoid such catastrophic effects as the melting of the Greenland ice sheets, which would raise sea levels by as much as 20 ft, putting a number of cities in northern Europe under water as a consequence, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
At the same time, on the other side of the globe, because of similar ice loss, many small, poorer, vulnerable nations,for example, small islands such as the Maldives, Mauritius and Tuvaloucould disappear entirely. Other countries would face horrendous and more regular flooding, especially such nations as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesiaas if they have not suffered enough already.
Finally, we need to consider what the financial effect would be if global warming continued unabated. The reality is almost incalculable and certainly unaffordable. In the UK alone, the cost has been initially estimated to be as high as £26 billion at today's prices. To my mind, that is a surprisingly conservative figure when one considers the likely heavier and more frequent rainfalls, especially in winter periods. There will a further rise in sea levels, followed by more consequential flooding. On a much wider scale, the immediate causal effect world wide would be that public bodies and private property owners had to invest massively in flood protection, especially in urban areas and areas that house important but delicate structures such as nuclear power stations, chemical plants and transport infrastructure, especially underground railway networks.
As the Minister is aware, some direct effects of global warming and consequential climate change have already been experienced around the globe, most recently on the home front in Cumbria. Carlisle was recently devastated by 100 mph winds and extreme flooding. In such an unlikely place as Florida, home of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, inhabitants witnessed the awful, frightening and confusing reality of climate change when preparing for their fourth hurricane of the season. They experienced that traumatic event at the same time as the United States Congress debated and voted down some moderate and modest amendments to alter America's stance on the problem of climate change and global warming. That represents a lesson for all politicians at home and abroad, and particularly those in the United States Congress and Senate, who on that occasion let their people down badly, having been fooled, or should I say blinded, by misinformation readily supplied to them by industrial and commercial interests.
Unsurprisingly, and no doubt because of Congress and Senate inaction at that time and since, it is the unlikely allies of corporate USA who are now calling for change. American companies large and small suddenly
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realise that they are trapped inside an environment creaking on its very foundations because of what modernisation and a lack of Government action have createdan environment with a polluted atmosphere that suicidally destroys its own safety by continuously depleting for naked profit whatever rain forests remain. It is a world whose very future is put at risk by the short-term combination of industrial power and financial greed, set against people's needs, welfare and aspirations.
How do we combat the problem? Can we discover another way? Is choice dead? Can we trust business, or is it yet again performing corporate tricks to expand or just to keep its market share? Unfortunately, the truth is not as simple as that, as it is not only Government or business who are to blame, but all of us. Due to our selfish appetites, energy consumption is at its highest ever level and rising, with the numbers of individual electrical devices dramatically increasing year on year. Walkmans, iPods, mobile phones, and digital radios and TVs are standard tools for modern living.
It is not just electronic gadgetry but our style of living that is making things worse. The worst example is that, while the use of public transport world wide diminishes, 26 per cent. of all harmful carbon emissions are linked to the cars we drive. If that were not enough, because of our insatiable appetite for fresh, "exotic" and even ordinary "out of season" food, we are responsible for flying such nutrients in the least fuel-efficient way. Planes produce 19 times the greenhouse gas emissions of trains and 190 times that of ships. We conveniently erase from our intellect the simple fact that it takes 66 calories of fuel to airfreight one calorie of carrot or no calories of orchid to London from South Africa or Singapore. Selfishly and stupidly, we daily develop collective economic amnesia and instead consider the immediate short-termism of taste, price and availability.
Not purchasing modern energy eaters, using public transport more and altering our eating habits are only some of the many ingredients necessary for a solution. Things have already gone too far for the tempering of lifestyles alone to be the leading factor in achieving the necessary change. The urgent development of a series of concise, clear and coherent choices, which are understood and supported by everybody, is also required. That said, I accept, and suspect that the Minister will agree, that it will not be easy for politicians or Governments, but then again representation and responsibility rarely are.
As I stated earlier, being positive is vital. We must not express the view that there are no solutions. Answers are there. It is simply a matter of best managing the present while trying to find them. To that end, we should all try to keep a clear head and to accept the scale of the problems connected with global warming, while at the same time not losing sight of the facts. For example, the natural cycling of carbon in the natural environment is 30 times greater than that released by human activities, and nature's main toolplant lifeis the most efficient, continuously converting solar energy into chemical energy and then releasing it back as oxygen into our atmosphere. Even if atmospheric particulate pollution is taken into accountit was recently identified as being responsible for the strange phenomenon of global dimmingheat from the sun, which touches our planet, is 15,000 times greater than the world's annual use of fossil burn and nuclear energy.
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Solutions may be found in any of those avenues of knowledge. In the meantime, a number of practical ways exist to help to ease the current situation. For example, using the knowledge outlined, we should, at the very least, consider why we are today producing more energy than we use and why we fail to conserve as well as we should. We should also establish whether it can be stored safely for longer periods and examine the extent to which alternative methods of creating it can play a role in future energy use and production.
Before examining such questions, it is necessary to consider some of the many different energy options that are currently available, including solar energy, radiant energy from thermonuclear reaction, mechanical energy produced by machines, potential energy from water, chemical energy from molecule reaction, incineration, electrical energy produced by charged atoms, nuclear energy from the splitting of atoms and thermal energy from heated matter.
In our modern environment, most of those energy converters are in operation every day, lighting, heating or cooling our homes and buildings, propelling vehicles and helping mankind to survive and to communicate. Mankind's problem is the maintenance of such energy supplies safely, efficiently and in sufficient quantity. There lies the nub.
At present, most of the available energy production capable of providing the required scale of power either has low efficiency and causes pollution or has other faults such as high costs and safety worries. Improving the efficiency of such energy converters will help, but it will not solve our problems completely; it will merely move them on. For example, obliging car manufacturers to fit vehicles with catalysts substantially decreases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide in the environment, but the subsequent release of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, affects the environment on a larger scale in the consequential greenhouse effect and what follows is global warming.
At the heart of any solutions, whether in the short term or otherwise, lies the reality that the environment and energy sectors cannot be separated because they are intrinsically linked. Nowhere is that seen more starkly than in the coal sector, which produces more of the world's electrical power than is produced collectively from oil and gasone third of our power in the United Kingdom, half of the power in Germany and the USA and, frighteningly, three quarters of the power in China.
Contrary to its image, the reality is that that fossil fuel need not be as filthy a fuel as currently portrayed. Modern combustion techniques can both clean emissions and use less coal to reach energy production targets. Indeed, fluidised bed combustionburning coal on a bed of particulates suspended in flowing aircan capture most emissions. Similarly, pulverised coal used with high temperature burn techniques can greatly increase productivity, while coal burnt with oxygen rather than air can be gassified and transferred to power gas turbines with surplus heat to supply conventional steam heating.
Those cleaner methods are relevant to any solution to global warming, especially when the likely scale of future use of coal by countries such as China and India is considered. At present, such countries are relatively
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undeveloped compared with other first world nations, but they are beginning to achieve rapid periods of growth for their billions of citizens.
The choice of oil and gas as Earth's long-term alternative fuels is not a realistic option. That will be starkly exposed to United Kingdom citizens next year, when, 40 years after the discovery of gas in the North sea, Britain will become a net importer of gas.
The truth, as I am sure that the Minister will agree, is that today's large-scale world reserves of both oil and gas are estimated, based on current levels, to be sufficient only for the next 40 to 50 years. Many believe those predictions to be generous, particularly as they conservatively give major credit to as yet non-negotiated, non-developed conservation measures. Moreover, they take little account of the fact that such gains would be more than offset by rapid population, production and service growth. What is more, with such finite reserves, it is only a matter of time before huge price hikes occur, especially once fierce competition for them develops in the chemical, agricultural and other sectors. In such circumstances, it is almost certain that oil and gas will no longer be readily available as a primary energy production source, simply because of market economics. In time, that is also likely to be the case with related by-products, such as liquefied petroleum.
I turn to the question of nuclear energy. In addition to the safety worries connected with that source of energy, together with its long-term, ongoing cost, there is, again, a problem with the availability of scarce chemicals. In that case, the chemical concerned is uranium 235, a rare isotope found only in certain types of ore. Based on present usage rates, its estimated lifespan is also less than 100 years. That factor, for the time being, bursts the bubble of the long-term availability of nuclear energy, as expounded by the pro-nuclear lobby.
I accept that there are ongoing research programmes into ways of producing huge quantities of energy from fusion. I am advised, however, that, as yet, the scientific community is unsure about whether that is, or will be, safely possible.
Therefore, there remain only two areas in which solutions might be found to provide sufficient energy production for the future. The first is renewablesthe use of energy from biomass, geothermal hydropower, solar, wind and tidal flows. The second is the as yet undeveloped hybrid technologies such as methane hydrate extraction, although leading scientists predict that there will not be much immediate practical progress in that area for some time to come.
As the Minister will be aware, our planet has an abundance of natural resources capable of generating energy via the use of renewable sourceswind, hydro, co-firing biomass schemes, tidal technologies and incineration. However, the reality is that, as we attempt to drive forwards a low-carbon economy, the current energy production technologies in those areas dictate that those sectors are not collectively capable of delivering the majority of our energy needs. The role of those sources will remain, for the foreseeable future, as a secondary, although important, part of a balanced, diverse energy mix.
Cleaner energy is vital to any strategy that aims to combat global warming, and should be included, especially when one realises the amount of electricity
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that even comparatively small hydropower stations, offshore wind farms and co-firing biomass plants can contribute. Solar power, influenced especially by architectural and spatial planning processes, can also be an important contributor, as can tidal flow technologies.
Last but not least, the vexed question of waste incineration offers a great deal, especially in relation to recycling and the problems of generations of landfilled waste, which is leaching gases into the atmosphere. However, before large-scale development of that sector can take place, there will have to be major development of purification processes.
Based on such knowledge, we can clearly identify the problems facing mankind. First, the reality is that global warming is occurring due to human activities. Secondly, most current sources of energy are likely to be finite. Thirdly, the world's biggest polluters seem intent on not pursuing a collective approach and, fourthly, the Kyoto protocol represents only one small step in the right direction.
As I have indicated, many as yet undeveloped hybrid technologies and structural theories are currently in their early experimental and/or theoretical stagesthere are far too many of them to discuss today. However, even those in today's scientific community who are most optimistic are generally of the opinion that any major energy discoveryenough to take the place of what we are running out of at presentis too far ahead for future generations to rely on. We therefore have no alternative. We must discover new sources while at the same time conserving present reserves and using them in a way that will not worsen the damage that has already been done.
Such aims lay at the heart of the IPCC process, so the question must be asked as to whether the latest conference of the parties, which was held in Buenos Aires in December, was a success. Being honest, I must admit that it represented a mere tap dance on the international dance floor rather than the vigorous south American tango for which all of us attending had hoped. Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs nor the Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment should find any personal criticism in what I am saying. I know how hard they worked to get an agreement. For instance, both of them were involved in achieving agreement to allow the negotiations to continue. Compromises were reached only after lengthy discussions36 hours after the conference had finished and following two all-night negotiating sessions.
Of course, particularly troublesome were the representatives of the United States and several major oil-producing nations, which tried extremely hard to scupper progress. That factor bodes ill for the international community, as it flies in the face of President Bush's promises in 2001. He said that, although America was withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol, he personally would not obstruct other countries trying to reach agreements. Clearly, the United States has been jolted by its miscalculation of global energy economics and, in particular, by Russia's decision to ratify. Because of that, it has decided actively to adopt a significantly different and more aggressive
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strategy that is geared mainly to the sabotage of any further development of international measures, at least until such time as it can guarantee its vast energy needs.
I do not make such criticism lightly. Examples of the USA's attitude at the conference of the parties were many. For instance, Chairman Raul Estrada Oyuela's proposals to hold a series of meetings in the next year to prepare the ground for talks were vigorously opposed at every turn by the USA contingent, which argued that there could be only one meeting and that no ideas that examined future scenarios should be tabled at such a conference. It even objected to a mention in the proposed conference description of the need to tackle global warming and argued instead for the phrase "adapting to it".
Even more stark and very worrying indeed was the delegation's support for the demand from Saudi Arabia that oil-producing nations should receive billions of dollars of compensation from the rest of the world if they sold less oil. That was an astonishing proposal, especially when one recalls the "good faith" purpose contained in the Kyoto protocol agreement by first world nations and the substances that have been found to be largely responsible for the need for such a protocol. Those of us who care about the environment know about the destruction, poverty, famine, death and misery that have been caused by global warming and climate change, the worst effects of which are felt most by those least able to cope with them. I mentioned some of those earlier. I was pleased that the Secretary of State gave assurances last week during Environment questions that the Government had no truck with deals such as that which I have just described.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Government and the Minister on the work that they are doing to deliver our commitmentsand moreon Kyoto, in particular the decision to launch an extensive and open consultation on the nation's climate change programme and to build towards the Government's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010. I also congratulate them on their support for the Carbon Trust, their agreement to give financial and other support to environmental improvements in our society and their encouragement of the EU emissions trading scheme, which is an important step towards a co-ordinated approach to tackling climate change. I hope that it will one day be extended beyond the 45 per cent. of industry that it currently covers and will move from being an EU-only scheme to a global one. I say that because it is important that we bring other industrial sectors into the emissions trading scheme, in particular the transport sector.
I also welcome the Government's leadership in Europe in pressing to include aviation emissions in the scheme from 2008, as I welcomed the UK aviation industry's pressure on all airports and airlines across the EU to support emissions trading for aircraft emissions. Last but not least, I praise the Prime Minister's own commitment, shown by his decision to put the Kyoto agreement, global warming and consequential climate change at the heart of his chairmanship of the G8.
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Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) secured a debate on global warming and climate change, but I am disappointed that so few Members are here. Given that, according to Sir David King, the issue is the most important of all, including terrorism, one would have thought that the turnout would be better. I know that the debate was arranged late; nevertheless we in the House need to take a more serious and consistent approach to the matter across all parties than sometimes appears to be the case.
I agree with most of the hon. Gentleman's analysis on the science of climate change. There is no doubt that climate change is with us. Those of us who saw the excellent "Horizon" programme on global dimming last week will be even more depressed than we were when we started watching the programme. In terms of the effects of climate change kicking in, it may be early days, but it seems to me that, as far as we can tell, the projections of its consequences tend to be understated by scientists. There must be a real danger that we will reach a runaway situation in which it is impossible to retrieve the position. That is why radical action is needed early by, in particular, all countries in the industrialised world. Action must also involve developing countries and as I will explain shortly, that can be done.
I concur with the analysis of the WWF and others that there is a 2° tipping point: we must not allow average temperatures to rise more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels. I ask the Minister whether he shares that analysis or whether, as has been suggested, the Government are adopting a policy of a 2° C barrier above 1990 levels. Does he agree that we need to measure that variance from pre-industrial levels?
As this is such a serious issue, I will not indulge in party politics, except to say that I have concerns about the tactics being adopted by the Government in their diplomatic discussions with EU partners, the US and others. I do not dissent from the analysis that the Prime Minister has made in his speeches on climate change. I welcome the fact that the Government have adopted climate change and Africa as the key issues on which to make progress during our G8 and EU presidencies. That position is absolutely right and nobody can dissent from it.
I wonder, however, whether the tactics that the Prime Minister is adopting, in particular towards the US, are right. I want to explore that issue in the time available. I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 2 December. It was a joint letter with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the Liberal Democrat shadow spokesman on foreign affairs. I am pleased to say that we received a long, detailed reply on the matter from the Foreign Secretary. In our letter we said:
"One is to assume that the US still needs to have the science proved and to spend much of our capital getting them to sign up to the science, but then probably little else. That of course would be a step forward, but a limited one if it were not accompanied by a commitment on the part of the US to cut emissions.
The second strategy is to assume that the US does privately accept the reality of climate change, and to spend our capital on trying to bring them in principle into negotiations for a post-Kyoto arrangement, perhaps based on contraction and convergence, which meets at least one of their objections, namely that the Kyoto excluded developing countries. This would provide a greater sense of urgency, which is badly needed, but is it too far for the US? Does the FCO believe that contraction and convergence is the way forward?"
It is clear that we have a problem with the Bush Administration on climate change; everyone accepts that. It is also clear, however, that other parts of the US are making good progress, whether it is the north-eastern states that want to engage in emissions trading and have consulted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for advice, what Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing in California or what US business itself recognises to be in its own interest. Clearly, there are progressive elements in the US that can be mobilised and will eventually lead to a change in response from the White House Administration, whatever that Administration are. However, that may not happen for some time.
What should be our response to the Bush Administration's intransigence? One response, the one that I favour, is to say that Kyoto is now in place. We have finally got the Russians on board and the treaty takes effect in February, in the teeth of US opposition and determined efforts by the US to scupper it before it comes into force. The US has failed and we have won on that: Kyoto is coming into force. Given that, we must now ensure that Kyoto works, build on it and build around us a coalition of willing partners, including not only the EU but Russia and others, who are prepared to take forward the Kyoto process, based on emission cuts and targets. Targets are essential in that process. We cannot survive without targets and a system for measuring what we are doing to find out whether we are on track. Aspirations, good wishes and voluntary agreements are not sufficient in the face of the challenge that the hon. Member for Mansfield set out and the changes to our world, which are taking place at a rate of knots. I want to see firm direction.
The way to bring the US on board is for us to make Kyoto work, for the industrialised world to go ahead without America, and for America to learn that it has to catch up and join the process. That is what needs to happen: the firm and effective introduction and implementation of Kyoto by willing partners. That is the message to the US. That is not to say that we should not talk to the US; of course we should. We should also encourage the US where we can do so. There are technological developments that the US Administration support. Of course we must work with them on that and see what we can gain from technological advances.
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What we must not do is bring the US on board at any cost, and I fear that that is what the Prime Minister is trying to do. I am making a serious point to the Minister. I am not trying to score a party point; this issue is too serious. I understand why the Prime Minister wants to bring the US on board. How wonderful it would be if he could produce an agreement during our presidency of the EU and the G8 and say, "I have got the Americans to agree to this. I moved them forward. Here is a piece of paper that we have both signed." It would be great if he could get such a piece of paper, but it must not be a Chamberlain piece of paper that he and President Bush have signed.
I fear that the US is giving nothing but is using the Prime Minister cynically to try to wreck Kyoto from the inside by trying to have the targets abandoned. It is giving the Prime Minister the message that if only the targets could be got rid of and things could be watered down a bit, it might come on board. I think that the Prime Minister is undermining Kyoto, not deliberately of course, but, in effect, that is what is happening in his negotiations with the Americans. I do not say this with any pleasure, but I think that he is showing dangerous naivety in his diplomacy with the US. All the lessons from Iraq and everything else in recent years show that the Prime Minister gives a great deal in this one-way street of a special relationship and gets very little back from President Bush. President Bush does not negotiate as other people do; he gives nothing back. The Prime Minister is a decent person; he expects a bit of give and take. He is giving a lot and getting nothing back, and he needs to understand that. Unpleasant as it may be, the way to get the US on board is to show that Kyoto is working and to proceed on that basis. Eventually, the US will come back.
The hon. Gentleman did not mention the support that we can give to partners adjacent to the US, especially Canada and Mexico, which have been very helpful. Does he think that we should concentrate much more effort on giving them the support that they need at this sorry time?
Norman Baker : I certainly do. We should also support those elements within the US, whether business or individual states, that show a willingness to understand the need to take urgent action to deal with the appalling reality that we now face.
I raised the issue of diplomacy because it is clear from the minutes releasedor leakedfrom the Council of Ministers that the British Government supported amendments in the Council to remove references to the EU cutting 50 per cent. of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. I have been handed a copy of the minutes. There is no doubt that the Government supported those amendments
Yet when I asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the matter in the House she said that she was absolutely committed to the 50 per cent. target; there was no question of watering it down, abandoning it or resiling from it. That seems to be at odds with the Council minutes.
Mr. Morley : It is not. There is a firm commitment to targets in those minutes. The only issue is the actual figure, and we want, first, to encourage those EU members who have doubts and worries about signing up to challenging targets; secondly, we want proper scientific evaluation and cost-benefit implications, so that people can make informed choices. The Commission is working on that and does not report until the end of this month. I made a speech in the Council on behalf of the UK making it clear that it was essential to have challenging targets to which members of the EU must sign up.
Although the hon. Gentleman is right about the need to encourage the US and to demonstrate that Kyoto can work, he has no evidence from those minutes. Greenpeace, about which I will say more later, knows very well about tactics. I assure the hon. Gentleman that our commitment is firm and unwavering; there is no evidence to the contrary. We want to work with, and encourage, the US. As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, when we can co-operate in technology and science we will do so, and when we can go further in relation to American states we will do that, too.
Norman Baker : We must work with the US, but we must not do so by watering down our position. That is what I fear the Government are doing to get the US on board, which is a fundamental diplomatic error.
Mr. Morley : I want to make it absolutely clear that the decision on targets has not yet been taken. The discussion in the committee of officials was not about determining a target, but about the future in relation to agreement within the Environment Council, which will take place in the spring. It is not removing the figures; it is part of a process, a matter of when we put in the figures and what the figures are. In relation to scientific assessment of the 2°, the figure may be more than 50 per cent.
Norman Baker : Time will tell. If the Minister achieves that figure, I will be happy. I can only tell him that it was proposed that the phrase be removed, which shows the Government's attitude. The Government also proposed that the commitment to between 60 and 80 per cent. reductions be replaced with the phrase "significantly enhanced reduction efforts." That is not very detailed.
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Greenpeace is aware of the Government's negotiating skills and their approach. Since we released the minutes, Stephen Tindale has said of the Prime Minister:
"He thinks that getting the US to sign-up at any cost can be spun as an historic achievement, but it's classic Blairappearance trumping substance. He's undermining the progressive position of the EU and reneging on promises he simultaneously boasts about."
Mr. Morley : I want to address this point because it is complete and utter nonsense, and Stephen Tindale knows that. What shred of evidence is there that the UK wants the US to sign up at any cost? It is the UK that has driven forward the Kyoto agreement and worked ceaselessly to get Russian ratification. It is the UK that has been arguing for binding and meaningful targets, not empty gestures and rhetoric.
Norman Baker : Time is limited, but I can say that it is the UK that has proposed these amendments to the minutes and negotiated with President Bush over Iraq, giving everything and getting nothing. With respect it is not the Prime Minister who has been dealing centrally with this issue but other Ministers, such as the Foreign Secretary and the Environment Secretary, who perhaps understand diplomacy better. I fear that the Prime Minister, having now put his fingers into this, does not understand how best to approach the matter diplomatically. That is the issue.
Now, if the Minister tells us that all will become fine during the spring Councilthat there will be splendid targets, that the position will not be watered down and that the US will be brought on boardI shall be very happy, but the Prime Minister must not make the historic mistake of getting the US to come on board at any cost. That is the message that I want to give the Minister today.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): This Government have spent eight years pandering to popular prejudice and patronising the public. The more they have established citizens' juries, focus groups, stakeholder forums or consensus conferences, the more we have seen the public disengaging from the real processes of democratic policies. The Government may think that that is participative democracy, but it has allowed them to say one thing and do another. Therefore, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) for his tour d'horizon, which gives us the opportunity to look both at the record and to the future.
Speaking of saying one thing and doing another, what the Minister has just told the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) will not wash. It is as clear as mud. Although the Minister said that the Government were not removing the figures, that is precisely what they were doing. When they sought to delete from the draft spring 2005 European Council conclusions 21 words that would secretly change policy on global warming and climate changein the UK and throughout the EUthey were tampering with 21 words that could literally change the world. I hope the Minister will explain to an astonished world what on earth the Government were up to in Brussels. The explanation that he has given so far is completely inadequate.
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Labour has been all talk on the environment. The Prime Minister personally committed himself and his Government to leading the march towards a more sustainable world. In the 1997 Labour election manifesto, he promised to go beyond the Kyoto commitment of a 12.5 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and set a target of a 20 per cent. reduction in CO 2 emissions by 2010. A further goal was set: a 60 per cent. reduction in CO 2 emissions by 2050. In 2004, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to
However, in December 2004, the Government admitted that, based on current policies alone, the UK will not achieve the 20 per cent. reduction target by 2010. Instead, current policies are likely to lead to a reduction of around 14 per cent.
Therefore, since coming to power in 1997, Labour has failed to deliver any measurable reduction in carbon emissions. In fact emissions rose in four of the first six years that Labour was in power. Interestingly, Conservative policies achieved a 7.3 per cent. reduction between 1990 and 1997. Carbon emissions in the transport and household sectors, which account for around 40 per cent. of the UK's emissions, are expected to grow.
Labour has let the country down on sustainable development. Even the green movementat least 5 million citizens in the United Kingdomhas now declared war on the Government. The executive director of Greenpeace, Stephen Tindale, declared in November:
The Government have failed to resolve the energy crisis resulting from the decline of indigenous energy supplies and increasing reliance on imported gas. Energy production from coal-fired power stations has increased since 2000 and now represents about one third of electricity production. Between 1997 and 2000, Labour blocked the construction of 15 gas-fired stations, which would have cut CO 2 emissions by 5.5 million tonnes a year.
The Government have also failed to deliver on renewable energy. They set a target for 10 per cent. of overall energy use to be renewable by 2010, but it now stands at 3 per cent. They have put all their eggs in the wind farms basket and alienated many local communities, which have been bypassed in the planning process. They have neglected to stimulate the growth of other renewable technologies, such as tidal and wave power, in which Britain should have an obvious natural advantage. Even the Prime Minister revealed his own nimby instincts when he opposed a wind farm in Sedgefield.
Labour has failed the combined heat and power industry miserably. The target of producing 5 GW of energy by 2000, which was set by the Conservative Government in 1993, has only just been reached. Combined heat and power output fell between 2000 and 2003, and 64 CHP plants have been mothballed.
The Government have broken their pledge to assist the most vulnerable in eliminating the blight of fuel poverty. They have even reduced insulation standards in social housing, causing extra CO 2 emissions and leaving nearly 2 million people in cold homes and fuel poverty.
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The Government have piled unnecessary tax burdens and regulations on business, while failing to provide incentives to improve environmental performance. According to the CBI, environmental regulation costs business £4 billion a year in compliance. The CBI has also criticised too much environmental regulation as being
The Government have alienated the business community by failing to provide certainty and a secure framework of targets and objectives for long-term investment. The business community does not deny that it has a role to play but, if the targets and objectives are not clear, it is bad for everybody. Industry has looked for transparency, long-term certainty and fairness but has suffered from delay, vacillation, incoherence and short-termism.
The Government's notion of a green transport strategy is also called into question, because it seems to consist of trying to tax people out of their cars. Fiscal support for alternative fuels and cleaner cars has been so limited that the greenest fuels and cars still have less than 0.2 per cent. of their respective markets. Meanwhile, aviation emissions have risen by 85 per cent. since 1990 and are set to double again by 2020.
The Prime Minister has committed his Government and himself personally to lead the march towards a more sustainable world. He played a leading part at the United Nations Rio plus 5 conference in 1997, which led to the Kyoto agreement, and again at the world summit on sustainable development in 2002. Last April, he reaffirmed his commitment to, in his own words,
In a speech on climate change last September, he said that timely action to cut carbon dioxide emissions was essential to "avert disaster." During the speech, he cited the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's report and the need to reduce emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050, and stated:
However, the latest prediction from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is for a reduction of about 14 per cent. in CO 2 emissions by 2010 on the basis of current policies. According to DEFRA's estimated emissions and removals of greenhouses gases on an IPCC basis, carbon emissions have risen for four years out of Labour's six years in power from 1997 to 2003, and emissions are 100,000 tonnes of carbon higher for the latest period for which figures are available than when Labour came to power. That is largely due to the continuing increase in the use of coal for electricity generation. Last February, the Government revealed that carbon dioxide levels had jumped by 1.5 per cent. over the previous year.
Then we have seen the spectacle of a feud between DEFRA and the Department of Trade and Industry, involving the intervention of the Prime Minister, which has caused an unnecessary delay in the submission of our national allocation plan for the European emissions trading scheme, which started on 1 January 2005. A new plan was submitted requesting a more generous
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allowance in October 2004, but then the Prime Minister stepped in on the side of the DTI, which argued for a more generous base allocation. Meanwhile, the Commission has approved allocations for 9,108 installations in 21 member states, representing 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the period 200507. The Government have thus subjected business to delay and uncertainty. Will the Minister please explain to us what on earth they are up to in this row between DEFRA and the DTI over the national allocation plan?
On 16 January, The Observer revealed that the Government were secretly trying to have key commitments to long-term targets deleted from European documents. We have discussed those already. There is no doubtI have the document in my handthat the Government sought to delete the words:
For the Minister to say "It is not removing the figures", which were his exact words, is frankly absurd. Will he take this opportunity to own up to that blunder and stop trying to pretend that Greenpeace knew all along exactly what the Government were doing and understood the Government's tactics? He must do better than that.
So say all of us. However, it is notable that climate change or global warming did not feature in the Prime Minister's 2004 Labour party conference speech, and domestic measures to tackle this global problem did not form any part of his 10 priorities for a third term of Labour Government.
The Minister has implied that he did not think there was much in my comment about the environmental groups declaring war on the Government. That is certainly not true of Greenpeace, because Mr. Tindale said in The Independent in November 2004 that Mr. Blair's reheated, tub-thumping speeches on the world stage were undermined by his failed record in Britain.
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Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, pointed out that there was a gaping gap between the Prime Minister's rhetoric and leadership on the world stage and his record in the UK:
"Blair thinks he can get away with boosting his green credentials by making a big speech every year on climate change. It's always about the grand scenario and when it comes to putting his own house in order it is always business as usual."
I pay tribute to the Government's chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, who will be retiring far too soon for our liking. In a recent interview, he talked about the imperatives for action and warned that measurements of atmospheric CO 2 taken at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii and published earlier this year showed that, while carbon levels had increased in recent years by an average of 1.5 parts per million annually, in 200203 the increase was more than 2 parts per million. Levels have risen so much that, according to Sir David:
Anyone who is sceptical about the concept of climate change should listen to Sir David King. They do not need to look further than the Thames barrier. It was built to protect London from catastrophic floods and was used six times a year, not once every three to five years as planned. Sir David said:
What would we do instead? Where are we coming from on this? We believe fundamentally in conservation of the past and preservation for the future. We have always supported the dual concepts of citizenship and duty as related to environmental stewardship and protection of the environment and countryside. Environmental goods and services are a common advantage and present generations should save and enhance such benefits for the good and security of future ones.
Conservatives do not see environmental protection and economic growth as mutually incompatible. We believe that market mechanisms can achieve sustainable development. We believe that excessive regulation may be bad for business but that targeted taxation and fiscal measures that provide industry with a long-term framework for investment are more likely to deliver environmental benefits. We support the proximity principle, which encourages localised decision making and local procurement. Local sustainable communities require and deserve more local empowerment and more local autonomy in decision making, such as over planning decisions.
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We uphold the polluter pays principle. We acknowledge that pollution costs and hence we support life cycle costingthe internalisation of environmental costs in design, production, construction and operation. If products included the cost of pollution in their production, the marginal social cost would be higher. Thus, if all goods and services had to internalise their external environmental costs, only those most environmentally sensitive should succeed within the free marketplace. We would devise a policy framework to incentivise responsible consumption or the purchasing of environmental goods rather than environmental bads. The consumer should be able to make environmentally sensitive choices. Therefore, we support clear and coherent labelling of products to indicate the environmental consequences of design, production and distribution.
Conservatives are fully committed to the Kyoto process and the 2050 target for a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions. We will pursue policies in government to achieve a 21st century world of resource efficiency and sustainable consumption in order to achieve climate stability.
Any Government must have the courage to consider all the options. They must look at scientific evidence, not scaremongering, for their policies. They cannot afford to resort to easy attention-grabbing fixes. To deal with climate change, Britain must become a low-carbon economy. It is the only option and we are committed to achieving that goal.
The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley) : If the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) wants to bandy quotes, I can give him a few of my own, but that will not take us very far. I will come back to his points.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), who attended COP 10 and made a useful contribution to the discussions organised by the EU in the pavilion. I am glad to say that they were extremely well attended.
I also welcome my hon. Friend's incisive dissection of the climate change sceptics, who have done much damage by arguing against the whole concept of climate change without the slightest analysis of the evidence. They should know better. Michael Crichton is a very good writer, but I am not aware of his qualifications in climate science. Those sceptics do not seem to take into account the international consensus of the international panel on climate change, which involves large numbers of scientists from all over the world. Those sceptics really are the flat earth tendency and are becoming increasingly isolated as our knowledge and understanding of climate change science increases.
My hon. Friend is right: there is a role for clean coal technology. He is right to point out that the UK receives a third of its power from coal, and we cannot simply wipe out coal burning power stations through the use of gas. We must have a balance of energy. We also cannot deny the fact that emerging economies such as China
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and India will utilise their coal reserves. There has to be development of the science of clean fuel technology. There is a role for biomass, energy from waste and biogas.
I agree that the Kyoto process is very much the first step and there is much more to be done. We need to look beyond Kyoto, particularly for the second commitment period. That is why my hon. Friend was absolutely right to say that the outcome of COP 10 was very important. It was bitterly contested. It is certainly true that there were countries there that did not want to have the seminars. They did not want to start considering future commitments or even to talk about them. The seminars are intended not to create binding agreements or as a place to conduct negotiations, but to allow us to start to examine the steps that we need to take concerning the work that needs to be done.
The opposition from countries such as the oil-producing states led by Saudi Arabia was a complete and utter disgrace. There are few countries as well placed as Saudi Arabia to adapt to the sort of changes that will come with a low-carbon economy. With the best will in the world and the fastest technological advances, there will still be enormous demand for oil. That country is extremely well placed and its position was completely destructive, negative and irrational. I was also disappointed with the position of India, which has a good grasp of the implications and the science of climate change. We are working closely with India, but it must recognise that no one will escape the consequences of climate change, rich or poor, large or small. We must deal with it.
Regarding the comments of the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), I can say straight away that we recognise that the 2° C figure being discussed is in relation to the pre-industrial level. There are scientific issues that must be examined. We need to discover whether 2° C is the tipping pointthat is not absolutely certain. We believe, however, that 2° C is a useful target to work with, even though there may be some doubts and there may be some acceleration of carbon intensity in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, it is an important commitment and the science conference that the UK is sponsoring in February will consider stabilisation of greenhouse gases and the long-term consequences of that. It is a helpful way of using proper scientific analysis in determining the right way forward.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of tactics in dealing with the US and the December Council. I want to make something absolutely clear to him and to the hon. Member for Salisbury about the leaked minutes It has been ignored that, within them, there was a clear commitment to targetsthis is the problem when people leak bits of minutes. The commitment was written in the minutes. What was under discussion was whether a figure should be put to the December Council or the March Council. It is as simple as that. There was no intention of removing any figure because a figure will have to be agreed. The UK understands that, and one of the reasons that we are acknowledged as a world leader on climate change is the quality of our science: we approach things in a
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methodical way. Incidentally, that also means that sometimes we may have to adjust our figures in the light of new findings and new understanding.
We want to encourage some EU member states that have just gone through the national allocation plan process and feel rather bruised by it. The last thing that they wanted to do in the December Council was start talking about major new commitments. We want to prepare the ground for that by reassuring people that we can have challenging targets without destroying our economy. That is our belief and what we have signed up to, and we are keen to have challenging targets for the whole EU.
Norman Baker : The Government amendment to delay the targets was not carried, so the majority of the European Union does not take their view. The DEFRA spokesman who responded to the leaked minutes said that they did not want to use a figure "plucked out of nowhere". Why is a figure of 60 per cent. for the EU "plucked out of nowhere"? The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs apparently said last week that she would not resile from a 60 per cent. figure in any circumstances.
Mr. Morley : That is absolutely right. We are committed to our figure. We have made the decision in relation to our own circumstances, and we are keen to see figures of that order in relation to long-term commitments for the European Union. The figures may need to be greater, given what we know about carbon intensities and the link with that, but what the hon. Member for Lewes said is wrong. The UK position was accepted in the December Council and supported by countries such as Germany. Is he saying that the Germans are trying to do some sort of deal with the US? Is that his argument? The Germans were wholeheartedly in support of what the UK was saying at the Council. In fact, there were no dissenting voices from any country to what the UK was saying in the December Council. Does that mean that the whole EU is signed up to do some deal with the Americans? What the hon. Gentleman is saying does not make sense.
With the greatest respect to Stephen TindaleI have a great deal of admiration for what he has donehe is ignoring reality. I met the non-governmental organisations at COP 10 to explain exactly what the UK position is. We have been open about it. I cannot remember whether Greenpeace was in that NGO delegation, but there is no sense in what the hon. Members for Salisbury and for Lewes are saying or in the allegations from Greenpeace. I simply say that we are committed to challenging and binding EU targets. He will have to wait for the outcome of the spring Council, but we shall seek to ensure that those targets are based on firm science and meet the objectives that we want, and we shall seek to convince people who may have doubts about that.
I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Salisbury was reading his central office brief, because I have a bit more respect for him than thatit was utter fantasy. It was in the same category as a party that claims that it can cut taxes and increase public spending. The idea that we have not spent money on renewables other than wind is complete nonsense. We have committed £50 million to developing marine
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renewables, for example, which is £50 million more than the Conservative Government committed. Where does the idea that the Conservatives did brilliantly by reducing greenhouses gases by 7.3 per cent. come from? They have reduced by 14 per cent. under this Governmenta far greater increase.
It is claimed that renewables are only at 3 per cent., but we have a commitment to 10 per cent., and renewables were at less than 1 per cent. under the previous Government, with no commitment and no programme to take them forward. I shall take no lessons from the hon. Gentleman, given the record of the Conservative party, which inhabits a fantasy world in terms of what can and cannot be done and which cannot demonstrate anything apart from reducing greenhouse gases by wrecking the economy. We have reduced greenhouse gases by 14 per cent., with 35 per cent. economic growth. When he can demonstrate a similar record, I may take seriously some of the nonsense that he stated this morning.
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