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Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I understand that one of the objections of the Bush Administration to Kyoto is that it does not cover the emerging economies of China and India. Given that it will be necessary to deal with them as part of any overall attack on climate change, will agreement among the G8 be enough? Surely we need a wider agreement over and above the G8 to deal with the problem. Will not the Prime Minister have to move the matter forward in other spheres after the G8 summit?
Norman Baker: Absolutely. The G8 is only a start, but it is an important start. We will also be able to use the EU presidency, but ultimately we need a system that is seen to be fair and equitable throughout the world, which means that we must get not only the US but developing countries on board. Perhaps a system based on contraction and convergence, which would be attractive to all countries due to its fairness, is the way in which we will get agreement in the longer term. However, China and India will not come on board if the biggest polluter in the world is outside any agreement, which is another reason why it is important to sign up the US. The sad reality is that President Bush will not even accept the science, so there is no likelihood of him accepting Kyoto or its successor. The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment said on 27 June:
We need to find out what we can get from the US. We might be able to make progress on technology, but we will not be able to get an agreement on Kyoto and we may not get an agreement to have something after Kyoto. Under those circumstances, the Prime Minister and other G8 members will have a difficult decision to make. Will they water down the agreement available to such a degree that the US signs up to it, in which case the agreement will not be worth having because it will be so weak, or will an agreement be signed among willing partners to allow them to plough ahead, even though the US is not on board at that stage? I make it clear that my preference is the second of those options because that is what we have done already by going ahead with Kyoto without the US Administration.
We cannot wait for the US Administration to catch up because we need action now to cut carbon emissions. Signing a robust agreement with other willing countries would strengthen the hand of those in the USmayors, states, individuals and scientistswho want the country to join in. If, however, an agreement is signed that is not worth having in the end, where will that leave Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and others who think that drastic action is needed? I hope that the Prime Minister will reflect on my message that we need a robust agreement and that the Americans cannot be allowed to veto that agreement. However, I also make it clear that the US must be part of the long-term solution.
We need a target-based, country-based successor to Kyoto and we need support for such a successor regime from the G8. Ideally, we would base the scheme on the principle of contraction and convergence. We need to engage the participation of both developed and developing nations, so I am pleased with the progress that has been made in China and the seriousness with which it is approaching the issue. However, it will not be worth having an agreement if it is a lowest common denominator agreement.
I understand that representatives of China and India are to attend the Gleneagles G8 summit, which is an encouraging step. The message needs to be heard that climate change will affect developing countries first and that taking action on the environment is not a cost, but a benefit to the economy, because the cost of doing nothing in this country and elsewhere will be greater than the cost of doing something. There are good reasons for China and India to be present at the summit. We need to find a way to bring them on board that is not threatening and that ensures that we, as developed countries, acknowledge our role in creating the carbon emissions mess on our planet.
The Prime Minister needs to do one more thing: put his own house in order. With respect to the Prime Minister, it is not sufficient to make grandiose speeches on the world stage while carbon emissions increase at home and our chances of winning the battle against climate change are slipping away from us on our own doorstep. Stephen Tindale said:
The public are crying out for action and are ready to take action. A poll published in The Observer on Sunday showed that 90 per cent. of the population believe that the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, 79 per cent. believe that humans are responsible, and 48 per cent. say that Governments should take responsibility. The public are prepared to accept some pretty radical policy choices to move matters forward.
Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me and with the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wantage that one of the measures to combat climate change on which the Government have to make a rapid decision is nuclear power and whether to go ahead with the building of new nuclear power stations?
Norman Baker: I believe that a decision is needed, but not for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman implies. A decisiona decision to say nois needed quickly because while the debate and therefore the uncertainty continue, people are not investing in renewables and energy efficiency. While they are waiting to see what the Government will do, that investment, which is certain to bring benefits in terms of tackling climate change, is not happening.
Colin Challen: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that, because I do not want it to be turned into a nuclear debate either. He referred to the recent ICM poll that showed that a great number of people are aware of climate change and that almost as great a number think that human activity is to blame. However, somewhat fewer think that the Government are omnipotent and can sort everything out themselves. Does he not think that that shifts some of the blame from our shoulders? Does he agree that we should all accept a personal challenge and will he sign up to reducing his own carbon emissions by 25 per cent. by no later than 2010?
Norman Baker: Yes, I will, although I have already taken action in the past few years, so that is a tougher target for me than it might be for some others. None the less, I am happy to sign up and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his initiative. I have never regarded the Government as omnipotent. We have to take responsibility for our own actions.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): I welcome the hon. Gentleman's personal commitment to setting targets and taking action. Why, in their manifesto, did the Liberal Democrats not match the Government's commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent. by 2020?
That is our policy. As I recall, it appeared in the environment mini-manifesto and it remains our policy. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to state that firmly this afternoon.
29 Jun 2005 : Column 1367
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government must revisit their plans for growth in air travel? A second runway proposed for Birmingham airport in my constituency is blighting many residents of Sheldon, but the runway is necessary only because the Government think that air transport will increase by more than a factor of three. Does he agree that it is not possible both to manage climate change and to have massive growth in air transport?
Norman Baker: I agree. We cannot continue with the predict-and-provide aviation policy pursued by the Department for Transport. The aviation White Paper should be binned and the Government should make a rapid start on something far more sustainable.
That is a big problem, but the Government are not paying any attention to it. It is the elephant in the room. They need to get to grips with transport policy and do something with it. The SDC report also said:
"Carbon emissions from road transport account for 24 per cent. of the total emissions, and are expected to rise by a further 9 per cent. by 2010. The SDC believes this sector needs radical solutions, and must be tackled urgently."
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