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Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab):
In the course of the discussions at Gleneagles, can my
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hon. Friend examine closely new environmental technologies? In terms of the further research that is needed and the action plan, will he examine what opportunities might exist for collaboration between companies and Government in this country and in China and India? For example, new kilns in the ceramics industry, which are currently being fitted, do not receive full tax concessions, but a collaborative exercise could make a huge difference in terms of combating global warming.
Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is scope not just for collaboration with some of the emerging economies, which will reduce emissions, but for collaboration that will be beneficial to our industries, improve innovation and help companies that have new technologies and new ideas. We should not forget that environmental technologies will create jobs, and that dealing with climate change also provides opportunitiesit is not all about restrictions and costs. I shall make that point as well.
Mr. Hurd : On the subject of partnership with emerging economies, the Minister will be well aware of the importance of rain forest and forest vegetation in terms of storing carbon. He will also be aware that Brazil is the major steward in the world of such forest vegetation, and that forest stripping has returned to 1995 levels, despite the best efforts of President Lula. Does he expect that the G8 agenda will include discussions on the role that the international community can play in helping Brazil combat that problem, possibly by giving it some financial credit for the assets on which it sits?
Mr. Morley: I am sure that those issues will be discussed. They have already been discussed in the United Nations forum on climate change and the United Nations forestry forum. There are serious questions to be asked about how forests can be used as carbon sinks, and the possibility of carbon credits. I think that the appropriate forum is the climate change forum, because this is a global, international issue. Some people believe that the G8 should set targets, but it would be very arrogant for just eight of the world's richest countries to decide what everyone else in the world must do. The G8 countries must give a lead and give encouragement, but the commitments must involve the international community as a whole, and that must take place in the UN framework. The G8 cannot short-circuit the process.
Mr. Chaytor : My hon. Friend speaks of costs and opportunities. When the price of oil was $30 a barrel, it was understandable that business should think costs were involved in adapting to climate change. As the oil price reaches $60 a barrel and moves inexorably to $100 a barrel, thatmore than anything that we could dowill concentrate minds on the opportunities and benefits.
That is a good point. Moreover, with prices at those levels, some technologies and developments that were not viable when the price was $30 a barrel are viable now, when the price is unlikely to return to the lower levels of the past. There are many reasons for seeking non-fossil fuel alternatives, but now there is that additional incentive.
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We expect economic development to continue in the developing countries, which means an increase in greenhouse gases. We in the G8 have a role in helping emerging economies to move towards a low-carbon future. That means thinking about clean coal technology, energy efficiency, renewable energy and what we can provide in terms of capacity-building, technical assistance and extra finance. We have been keen to involve the developing countries and key emerging economies in discussing the possibilities.
As well as those emerging economiesBrazil, Mexico and South Africawe should consider the vulnerable developing countries. We must help them respond to the challenges of climate variability and climate change in the context of our overseas development budgets and the aid that we provide, not least in the context of the UN millennium goals. We are off track with those, particularly in relation to water and sanitation, and the impact of climate change does not help.
We must ensure that developing countries have adequate regional and national data, and the capacity to interpret them. That will involve our role in engaging with the United States. I accept that, as has been said, the United Statesas the biggest single emitterneeds to do more, but many states, cities and companies want to do more than the current Government allow, and we are engaging with them as well. I attended a meeting of the climate group in Canada, where a number of American states were represented, including California. It is necessary to move faster and further with the coalition of the willing, and we intend to do that. In the G8, however, we must look for common commitment to energy security, local air quality and efficiency savings, as well as to tackling climate change. We expect a robust debate on climate change with our G8 partners at Gleneagles.
The hon. Member for Lewes loves to read what is written in newspapers, but he should reserve his judgment until the final outcome of the G8. A great deal of negotiation is going on, and it will continue to the final minute of the G8 meeting.
The Prime Minister is looking for a meaningful outcome. He did not have to do that; he could have gone for the traditional, well-meaning statement that comes out of the G8. Following such a statement, everyone slaps each other on the back, returns to their respective countries and nothing happens. The Prime Minister wants more than that, but of course, there is a risk involved. We might not be able to persuade people to go as far and as fast as we would like, and we have to accept that. But I ask the hon. Member for Lewes and the House, is it better to go for the soft option or to take a risk, even though there is the possibility of failure? I think that we should go as far and as fast as the agreement that we get will allow us.
We are already going with a coalition of the willing. As I pointed out to the hon. Gentleman, the action that we are taking domestically is unilateral, and in that respect we are going far beyond any international
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agreement. The climate group, to which I have already referred, is also going beyond any international agreement and, of course, what has been agreed by the G8. We want to find a consensus and to make progress where we can, but that does not mean that we will not go further in other areas; nor does it mean that Gleneagles is the end of the story, a point to which I shall return.
As I have said, we want the actions taken at Gleneagles to complement the United Nations framework convention on climate change. That is the proper forum for such matters and we must work with it. This process also involves looking at new international frameworks. The hon. Member for Lewes referred to contraction and convergence, and I want to make it clear that the UK remains open to any new international framework, so long as it is realistic, relevant to countries with different national circumstances, robust, capable of being adjusted in the light of experience, and durable. Such a framework should not become irrelevant within a few years.
I am quite interested in contraction and convergence, particularly the social equity aspect, which is its great strength. There are potential problems, however. For countries with very large populationsor for those that have done little to empower women on issues such as birth-control choices or school educationsuch an approach could involve some negatives. It could give certain countries a huge carbon allocation, which would remove any incentive for carbon efficiency. I recommend to the hon. Member for Lewes an extremely good pamphlet on global climate change, produced by the Pew Centre, which lists more than 40 different approaches, including contraction and convergence. They are all worth looking at, and we have an open mind on this issue.
We are also engaging with international businesses in order to hear their views. The views expressed in the poll in The Observer were very interesting and we should take note of them. That said, nearly a third of those questioned felt that businesses should take the lead in tackling climate change. It is clear that the business community has a critical role to play, and many individual businesses have already taken major steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I hope that the rural economy, farming and their relationship with the environment will be discussed at the summit. I should be interested to hear the Minister's views on bioethanol production and sugar beet production, particularly in my Shropshire constituency.
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