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Dr. Turner: My hon. Friend is right, but I would also point out that onshore wind farms are a stop-gap. Offshore wind farms are much more publicly acceptable than their onshore counterparts and have better wind opportunities. We will get more electricity out of the offshore wind turbines than out of those on land. But wind power is only a stop-gap. We can only go so far with it, partly because of its unpredictability. We cannot rely on it for baseline load. It is also intrinsically expensive because its load factor is so poor, at 30 per cent. or less. We have, however, the most magnificent energy resources round our coasts in the form of wave and tide power, which has the raw energy potential to provide double the amount of electricity that we currently generate in a year.

Mr. Carmichael: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the flaw in the Conservatives' argument is that tidal and wave resources are, by their very nature, in the more remote, peripheral communities that do not have proper grid connections and that they would get that connection only if they were allowed to develop the intermediate technology, namely wind power?

Dr. Turner: I do not disagree with that. I would not for a moment wish to inhibit the development of wind power. The Government have agreed that the grid has to be rewired and we intend to do that. Yes, that is where the resources are, and we should use them. The Government are already putting resources into wave and tidal technology, through the DTI. I want to see more resources going into it, and I think that they inevitably will.

I agree with Opposition Members' comments about the importance of fiscal measures. We have heard some chat about that today. We need to look carefully at fiscal measures because, in a market economy such as the one that we have to work in, they are the key to driving behaviour and making things work. We have an opportunity, as part of the climate change review, to overhaul those fiscal measures.

The hon. Member for Lewes mentioned the carbon tax. I have long been an advocate of carbon taxation, not simply as a tax being used to take money, but as part of a continuum involving a carbon credit that could be invested in the development of renewables. That has
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been expanded on by the most recent report from the Science and Technology Committee, which I recommend to hon. Members. Ministers have already read it and I hope that they will look at it again as part of the climate change review.

The main message is that there are many things that we can and absolutely must do. We must do them together because we cannot afford to waste time squabbling unnecessarily. We must agree that, for the sake of the future of the human race, we have to act quickly and with determination. Even if it costs a bit now, the payback in the years to come will be well worth it.

2.46 pm

Sue Doughty (Guildford) (LD): I want to look at a number of issues relating to the need for a co-ordinated approach to mitigating the effects of climate change. The first is the security implications of climate change. During the past 12 months, we have been developing a greater understanding of the impact of climate change on the security of countries across the globe, and of the potential for climate change to increase the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots, with the consequential insecurity that that would bring.

I have taken quite an interest in this matter, and it worries me that we still need greater Government co-ordination in this regard. The Minister will recall that, in March 2004, I asked the Secretary of State what assessment she had made of the national security implications of climate change. The Minister responded on her behalf, saying that the Government were

I followed that up by asking when we were going to see the report, and the Minister replied that it would be "later in 2004", and that copies would be placed in both Libraries. I asked a member of the Library staff about this yesterday, and, having consulted DEFRA, they told me that the information would not be available until April or May this year. I believe that the Minister and the Secretary of State are concentrating on climate change, and I certainly would not suggest that they and their Department are not putting an enormous amount of effort into the matter. We know, however, that climate change is not only the responsibility of the Department that deals with the environment. It is a shared responsibility right across the Cabinet.

When I asked how many people in the Ministry of Defence were working on identifying the national security implications of climate change, I was told:

Is anyone working on it? Are enough people working on it? In times of instability, this is becoming an increasingly important issue. It will perform a key function in supporting the Prime Minister's leadership role on climate change. In the war against terrorism,
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climate change cannot be ignored. I hope that that information will be provided so that when he and the Secretary of State are negotiating with the United States—as we know they are doing—we are able to give them more information to push that point.

We must understand that we need adaptation strategies in the face of climate change, and I hope that those strategies will not include increased spending on defence, but will focus on dealing with climate change. We have a choice to make about how much we spend on defence because we have failed to deal with climate change. Other areas of defence are outside the scope of this debate and I will not comment on those.

Malcolm Bruce: Is it not an interesting fact that at the heart of the conflict between Palestine and Israel the single biggest issue to be resolved is who controls the water supply? It is predicted that the main wars of this century are likely to be fought over water because of the pressures of climate change.

Sue Doughty: I thank my hon. Friend for that very helpful contribution. Only this week, we heard about the potential for conflict over the Nile waters and the sources of that river.

We are aware that Sagarmatha national park in the Himalayas is at risk. Glacial lakes are melting, which has an impact on local communities because the water flows down on to the low-lying flood plains. Communities there rely partially on tourism and partially on their normal way of life, which includes the glaciers and the natural beauty of the Himalayas that so many people go to see. That impact threatens their whole way of life and there is a real fear in lakeside communities that those lakes will burst. That would be a catastrophe.

Major changes to the Arctic and the way of life of the Inuit people have been reported by the WWF, and the British Antarctic Survey has commented on the thinning of the icecaps and its implication for sea levels. The WWF website has a very useful half-minute summary: global temperatures have risen by 2oC in the past 150 years; 228 million people are now at risk from malaria; starvation affects 12 million people; 2 million people are short of fresh water; millions are forced to move inland due to coastal flooding; and thousands of species have become extinct in the past 50 years and we know that many more will do so in the next 50. This is not a criticism of current Ministers at all, but the website comments on the fact that Ministers did not take action 50 years ago. I do not know the source for that information.

We are experiencing extreme weather conditions: since Christmas there have been floods in Carlisle and in Scotland. There were hurricanes in Florida last year, which do not just damage properties and cause loss of life, but have a huge financial cost that must be recognised. Insurance claims after the hurricanes in Florida could reach $20 billion. That is a huge sum, and an example of the sums we mean when we talk about investing to save.

Closer to home there is more that we could do. On housing, we agree that we need more homes for people to live in. There are massive increases in the house
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building programme in the south-east, but we could improve the environmental quality of that programme. Members of Parliament in many parts of the south-east disagree with the Government's calculations on the number of homes needed, their location and how the cake will be divided up. Local authorities have to deal with that problem here and now, and they are already defining guidelines for development that must be sustainable and have Government support, because there are huge opportunities to make sustainable improvements through the housing that we are planning and designing for the future.

If we are talking about sustainable communities, we must ask what that means. It is very curious that we are unable to find out how the Government define sustainable communities. Everyone in the Chamber today would agree about definitions of sustainability and environmental sustainability, but we do not see the word "environment" flowing through into the definition of sustainable communities. Those house-building programmes bring huge beneficial opportunities such as district heating schemes and combined heat and power. However, after Christmas, the Environmental Audit Committee pointed out in its review of housing:

There are opportunities, however. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has a draft planning policy statement, PPS1, but it does not recognise the need to ensure that development occurs within environmental limits, as well as other sustainability measures. It does not recognise the need for the precautionary principle for environmental sustainability. Does that matter? Of course it does, because emissions from the housing sector are significant: current levels of such emissions are about 40 megatons of carbon a year. Current plans could reduce that to 30 megatons a year, which is an improvement, but when one looks at Government emission reduction targets for the UK as a whole—from 153.2 megatons of carbon a year in 2000 to 65 megatons in 2050—one sees that a reduction of 10 megatons will not be enough.

The houses we are planning to build now will be in place in 2050. It is important to note that housing does not go away. The foundations that we lay now, and their environmental impact, will be with us in 2050. That makes it sound as though we have a lot of time to get our act together, but melting icecaps and glaciers show that that problem is here now. We think of 2050 as the end of the line, but we have to seize the opportunity now. Considering what we could be facing, poor environmental performance in buildings will be a major contributor to carbon emissions in 2050, and the sector, as the Environmental Audit Committee report pointed out, could contribute more than 55 per cent. of UK carbon emissions—nearly double the current contribution.

In combination with aviation, that will substantially undermine the Government's ability to meet their reduction targets. We need to ensure that we stay on target, and set tougher targets, if we are to make the difference that will call a halt to climate change, which is desperately important.

Some areas that the Government are working on, and their change of heart on aviation emissions, are very welcome, but the "predict and provide" approach must
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be managed alongside what we can do about aviation emissions. Combined with the effects of building, they will cause a major difficulty. We need to conduct an urgent review now of sustainable construction methods to make an impact on not only the finished buildings and their carbon emissions, but the pollution that will arise as part of the building process.

I touched on flooding earlier. To return to the macro aspect, there are plans to build across the south-east. A village in my constituency has a road with a number of bungalows; it is on a wide flood plain. There is no big river, but we know that each of those properties is being expanded into a house, and such things as conservatories are being built. As the water runs down the hills into the village, instead of it being soaked up by the clay, people sometimes find 2 in of water lying on their lawn. In fact, people are giving up lawns in this village and growing vegetables because of the impact of the water. That is a very small example, but it shows how we are not getting to grips with this increased and sudden rainfall that we are experiencing so often.

How much worse will the impact be on the Thames gateway as we build on it and there is a displacement of water? We have no plan; we have no clarity about what is the purpose of Thames gateway development. On the one side, we are told that it is providing housing for a regenerated community, but Sir John Egan said to the Environmental Audit Committee that the development is intended to house people commuting into London. Are we therefore building a development with no clear idea about how people will commute into London? Will the railway infrastructure be in place or will they get into their cars? Although the Conservatives are saying that cleaner cars are good—we all agree with that, and cars have their place, but not every place—stationary cars in a traffic jam are no solution to climate change problems. We must do much more. It is sad that the Conservatives, who presided over the undermining of the railways, are now trying to claim the moral high ground. I wish that they had done something about it at the time.

When we examine the potential for flooding in the Thames gateway, on which many people have commented, we must ask who will insure the properties. For how long will the Association of British Insurers bail people out when things go wrong, or do the Government plan to be the insurer of last resort? I know that that is not currently part of their plans.

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