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Malcolm Bruce: I know how long the hon. Gentleman has been waiting so I will give way, but I would be grateful if he could be quick.
Mr. Lazarowicz: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. What he says about people being consistent must also apply to transport. As he knows, his party in Edinburgh is campaigning against the congestion charge, which is supported by environmental organisations, in that city. That is why Friends of the Earth said today:
"The Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh campaigning against a Yes vote are besmirching the national party's much-vaunted green credentials for the sake of short-term political opportunism."
I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman too much, but will he give a lead to his party in Edinburgh and tell it to stop opposing the congestion charge in that city?
It was a serious mistake to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene. The fact is that our party in Edinburgh is critical of the scheme, not the principle, as he knows perfectly well. At the end of the day, with
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some debate and argument, we might come up with a scheme that we can both support. That is what debate is about.
We have had our differences with the Government on some of the central issues on the climate change agenda. Sometimes we do not think that the Government are radical enough or that their schemes will work, but our debates are about how to come up with mechanisms that will deliver results. There are many aspects of what the Government are doingtheir commitment and the mechanismsthat we can and do support, but we need more mechanisms to bring on some of the alternative schemes that are not delivering at present. That is not a criticism of what the Government are doing, but a recognition that if there are too many schemes, things become too complicated and people do not respond.
I urge the Minister to consider other aspects of renewables, such as timber. Our forestry industry could make a substantial contribution, yet it is being frustrated because a time horizon on co-firing could lead to a sudden drop in the market unless there is a recognition that we need both coppicing and off-cuts to become a long-term part of that process. Schemes that involve not electricity generation but space heating using renewable energy and more efficient systems must be encouraged.
The Minister will be familiar with the fact that, with the right mechanisms to increase the promotion of energy efficiency, we could also produce a mechanism that could deliver the expansion of combined heat and power that we all want yet are failing to achieve. In fact, combined heat and power can do more than anything else to help us to meet our 2010 targets, yet its development has come to a complete halt. I urge the Government to think about such mechanisms.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State spoke and engaged with us very seriously on this matter. It is important to make it clear that criticisms of the United States Administration's policies, particularly their hostility to the Kyoto protocol, should not blind anyone to the fact that the US has an enormous contribution to make towards solving the problem, both by changing its own behaviour and by providing the technology that it has the capacity to contribute. One of the encouraging things about the US is that it will make a substantial contribution to that technology regardless of the US Administration's policy.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) rightly highlighted the problems of countries such as China and India and the need for us to balance their development with the contribution that we can make. That is another reason why I believe strongly that we must recognise the fact that nuclear power is not the solution. Anyone who tries to reactivate nuclear power is blocking the solution, as our past experience shows. The best way that I can describe the nuclear power industry is as a cuckoo in the nest: it sucks all the resources from every other aspect of energy to the point where no other innovation takes place.
We have an overhang of nuclear waste clean-up costs estimated at £50 billion or more. We also have an overhang in that producing electricity with nuclear power costs us more than most other forms of electricity production. Those people who complain that the introduction of renewable energy costs a little more
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should recognise that the sums involved are a fraction of the extra costs that we have already paid for the nuclear industry, which never delivered any of its early promise. It is a question not of being anti-nuclear, but of acknowledging that the resources that nuclear power devours displace everything else. We simply cannot afford to be taken down that track.
The Secretary of State also rightly made a pleaanother challenge to the Conservative party to come on board in this respectto stop talking about the science, about which we all agree, and to agree about the radical measures that we need to take together to deal with the fundamental problem. All political parties have had difficulties with high fuel costsa policy intended to discourage car use, or at least to try to connect the car with its environmental impact. That has caused considerable tensionsthe blockades embarrassed us allbut we have sustained that policy.
The solution depends on all the major parties being prepared to stand together. The Conservative party's answer to congestion charging is to build more roads, but it exploits the difficulties of making such decisions. The reality is that strong cross-party support is required, particularly in the earlier stages. As the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) put it, the problem is so serious and severe that those radical measures, which may not appear popular, are so important that we should all be prepared to stand together to defend and justify them because bigger issues are at stake. So long as a significant political party is playing party politics in that scenario, it will undermine what we can achieve andas the hon. Member for Nottingham, South sayswe may have passed the point of no return by 2015. In 10 years' time, there may not be the capacity to introduce policies that can turn the tide.
This is an important debate. I challenge the Government to recognise the fact that if they are seriouswe believe that they areabout their priorities for the G8 and the EU, they must have regular debates during the presidency to report back and give the House an opportunity to inform them and, indeed, perhaps back them up in their negotiations in those important forums. If things really are as serious as the Government say, they should take Parliament with them and not act simply as an Executive. Plenty of hon. Members are willing to support the Government in those difficult decisions, and they should give us the chance to tell them so.
The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): We have had a good debate in which hon. Members have made excellent contributions. I agreed with a great deal of what was said, and the Government will support the motion because its thrust is exactly right.
The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) made a good case and highlighted the political aspects of climate change that we must all address. I also accept the points made by the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce). It would not be unreasonable for the Government to offer an opportunity to debate the G8 process and the Prime Minister's priorities, so I shall certainly discuss that with the business managers.
The hon. Member for Gordon also made a good critique of the situation and raised important points about such matters as co-firing. Co-firing has excellent
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potential in relation to biomass and the timber industry, so we are keen to encourage it. Indeed, we are keen to encourage all forms of renewables and technologies, which include combined heat and power. The Government are examining the barriers to the development of CHP to find out how we can assist the situation. I accept the points that he made about nuclear power. The costs are enormous, so perhaps money could be better spent on other renewables at this stage of energy development. However, some of the problems with nuclear energy might be resolved down the line, which could lead to a different argument and changed priorities. We keep an open mind on the pros and cons of all technologies.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) made several excellent points about climate change and talked about the importance of fiscal measures. I accept his point and shall return to it. The hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) mentioned housing standards, which are important. We plan to raise housing standards and to apply and develop the new code that was produced by the sustainable buildings task group. I understand her point about the report on adaptation and apologise for its having slipped. That is partly due to the work that must be done across government, but it will be available in May.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) talked powerfully about the international dimensions of the situation and mentioned building regulations. I am interested in the concept of white certificates when considering energy efficiency. We have a successful system of carbon trading and I look forward to the EU scheme. Of course, that is the trade in what are known as black certificates, because carbon is being sold. There is a suggestion that bodies that meet standards of energy efficiency and carbon reduction could receive white certificates, and I think that such a scheme would address the points that my hon. Friend made.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) was right to talk about the realities of wind because wind is crucial if we are serious about meeting renewable targets. Given market preferences and the establishment of necessary technology, it is thought that wind will make up about 70 per cent. of renewables. If we turn our back on wind, we are turning our back on renewable targets. I do not know whether the Conservative party is turning its back on renewable targets, but that is the end result of rejecting wind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen) said that industry predictions are often exaggeratedwe know of examples of that. He also talked about contraction and convergence. Such concepts have a considerable following, so we must examine them carefully, even though, like all such matters, they have pros and cons.
There was, however, some misinformation in the debate. I am genuinely interested in some of the Conservative party's positions, but find them a little confusing. Since 1997, CO 2 has risen overall by about 0.4 per cent. It has gone up and down over the years. Other greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrogen oxide, sulphur hexaflouride, hydrofluorocarbons and
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perfluorocarbons, have all decreased by about 6 per cent. since 1997. The UK and Denmark are the only two countries in the EU that are meeting their Kyoto targets. We have a good record on Kyoto, but if I were asked whether that was good enough, I would say no of course it is not, and that we have to do more to reduce greenhouse gases and CO 2 That is the whole point of the ongoing climate change review.
On our commitment to a 20 per cent. reduction in CO 2 by 2010, the modelling is predicting that we will achieve a 14 per cent. dropfirst an increase and then a falling away. However, that does not take into account the impact of the European emissions trading scheme, which will be significant, or other measures that we may bring forward as a result of the climate change review. I think that we can get on track to achieve a 20 per cent. reduction by 2010, and it is our intention to do so.
I am genuinely confused by some of the points that have been made in the debate, such as the Conservative proposal to abolish the climate change levy. The levy is revenue-neutral in the sector, because companies that are part of the scheme receive a reduction in employer's national insurance, and money goes to the Carbon Trust. The hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) gave an assurance that a future Conservative Administration would maintain the funding that goes into the Carbon Trust, which currently comes from the climate change levy. On that logic, the Conservatives are suggesting moving away from making the polluters pay to putting the burden on the taxpayer. That does not strike me as a good sensible green fiscal tax.
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