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Mr. Simon Thomas : The right hon. Lady is right about the global figures, but surely she is concerned that emissions from transport have gone up and, as I said earlier, aviation emissions have risen significantly. Aviation is covered by international agreements, but we can do something about transport in this country. Does she accept that motoring overall has become cheaper and that the cost of public transport has significantly risen? If so, what will she and the Treasury do to ensure that we encourage motorists to take the cheapest and least environmentally damaging form of transport, saving on carbon emissions? Surely there must be a strategy for dealing with that aspect of emissions.
Margaret Beckett: I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that transport emissions are a very important factor. He referred to the issue of aviation emissions and he is right that they can only be tackled internationally. I hope that he is aware that one of the Government's goals during our EU presidency is to move towards bringing aviation emissions into the second phase of the EU emissions trading scheme. There are many technical problems to solve before that can be done, but it would certainly be a worthwhile and constructive outcome.
The hon. Gentleman is unduly harsh on the Department for Transport and on the Government's overall record on transport emissions. First, the Department for Transport has joined my Department and the DTI in our climate change goals and public service agreements. Secondly, if he looks back at the structure of company car taxation that we inherited, he will see that substantial changes have been made to that, as well as the changes to the taxation structure that the Chancellor made to encourage the use of more environmentally friendly fuel. So it is not the case that steps have not been taken, but I accept that there is a great deal more to do on that, as on other fronts. That is part of the purpose of our climate change programme review.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth
: The Secretary of State will be aware that among organisations engaged in education
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on sustainable development there is considerable anxiety about funding, the end of the landfill tax credit funding scheme and the transfer of responsibilities to the Department for Education and Skills. Does she accept that very much part of the solution to all the great difficulties that we face when dealing with climate change is better education? What reassurance can she offer those organisations that they will continue to receive such Government funding?
Margaret Beckett: Obviously, I cannot give an assurance that every programme will be supported in quite the same way, but we looked very carefully at the programmes that were supported under previous schemes to try to achieve the maximum value for money, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be the first to seek and to applaud. Although I entirely share his view that it is through education that many of the problems can be tackled, I have little doubt that the Department for Education and Skills is as committed to that as my Department. The previous Secretary of State certainly took the issue very seriously and I have no cause whatever to doubt that his successor takes it no less seriously.
I have talked about the way in which these issues are handled and how we seek to make 2005 a year of international leadership. We will use our EU presidency to encourage EU colleagues to meet their Kyoto targets; to set out a medium and long-term strategy for the EU beyond Kyoto, working towards the guideline of limiting global temperature increase to no more than 2o C, which is an existing EU guideline; and above all to engage the EU in a debate about further action with the wider international community.
I do not want to be diverted, but perhaps this is the point at which to say to the hon. Member for Lewes, who raised the story in The Observer, that there has been a genuine misunderstanding. We all understand that it is always a problem when journalists get hold of a document that they believe to be exclusive, as they often become rather more excited than the content justifies. The European Commission is undertaking on behalf of the whole Community exactly the analysis of the scientific and economic impact of measures that might be taken that we undertook before we drew up our energy White Paper and agreed to our 60 per cent. target. We expect the publication of that analysis this month. It will be considered in the March Council, which will discuss its implications for any medium and long-term targets or goals that the EU might set. The Environment Council was unanimous in resisting attempts to get member states to commit themselves to a number the month before the analysis was published, rather than wait until the month after. That never struck us as a good way to make policy, but I concede that there have been misunderstandings.
In the past few months, there have been some encouraging signals in the international dialogue. It was inevitably becalmed while people wondered whether the Kyoto protocol would come into force, or whether we needed to build on the consensus behind it by some alternative means, but Russia's welcome decision to ratify has been accompanied by two other recent developments. First, everyone has begun to focus more
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on how we can adapt to the climate changes already built in by human activity in the past century: focusing on adaptation, especially on supporting and assisting the most vulnerable, heightens awareness of the need to find ways to avert even greater dangers and to mitigate our impact on the environment. Secondly, recognition has grown of the fact that, especially in economies such as ours, with increased challenges come increased opportunities. The most obvious are the opportunities to save money while saving carbonopportunities highlighted by the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trustbut, while welcome, they are a small part of the potential economic benefits of tackling climate change. New jobseven new industriesare growing up around us: four years ago, 170,000 people were employed in environmental industries, which had a turnover of some £16 billion; today, there are 400,000 such jobs and turnover has reached £25 billion.
Despite those real opportunities, which we must seize, as the world's top scientists recently reconfirmed, climate change remains a serious threat to our worldnot in some far distant future, but in our own and our children's and grandchildren's lifetimes. It is a problem crying out for leadership. The Prime Minister has committed the Government to providing that leadership and I hope that the House will agree to support us in doing so by giving its support to the motion.
Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk) (Con): I warmly congratulate the Liberal Democrats on choosing the subject of today's debate, and I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. Although I am not sure who wrote her speech, I strongly advise her to sack them. I profoundly deplore the fact that, in relation to such an important subject on which there is so much consensus across the House, she has continued in this debate to display the bad habits that she recently displayed on Radio 4 by making assertions that have no basis in fact. I shall deal with her Radio 4 remarks later in my speech, but on the specific matter of emissions trading, let me point out that everyone knows that the Conservative party has always, without reservation, supported the principle. It is both ignorant and outrageous of her to suggest otherwise, and she does herself and the Government no good in the eyes of those who take an interest in the subject, including many distinguished non-governmental organisations, by making wholly unfounded allegations about the Conservative party, its record and its policy.
This is an unusual Opposition day. No Government amendment to the motion has been tabled, because the Liberal Democrats' motion does not criticise the Government at all but merely attacks the Conservatives. That might give a clue to the Liberal Democrats' intentions, but I have to say, in a spirit of co-operation, that given the last Conservative Government's excellent record on climate change, it is regrettable that the motion only attacks the Conservative party, especially as all the progress made by Britain in cutting carbon dioxide emissions was achieved when the Conservative Government were in power, and since Labour came to office no further progress has been made. I therefore find it rather extraordinary that the Liberal Democrats have included the section in question in their motion, although, to be
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fair to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), he scarcely referred to it in his speech. Perhaps he realised that it did not fit well with the general tone of his speech, with much of which I agree.
Let me deal briefly with the rather silly attack on the Conservative party in the motion by making it clear that when the next Conservative Government have reached the happy stage of being able to abolish the climate change levya clumsy and crude tax, which has not achieved most of the benefits claimed for it and whose main purpose, as my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) pointed out, is removed once an emissions trading scheme is operating effectivelywe shall continue to fund the Carbon Trust, the national insurance contributions concessions, the enhanced capital allowances and the other measures that the levy has paid for out of general taxation.
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