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Mr. Harper: My right hon. Friend may be aware of the discussions about the economic impact of changes in the UK compared with the effects of climate change on the development of the Chinese and Indian economies. Will he bear that in mind as he continues his remarks?

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will not be surprised to learn that I intend to touch on that point somewhat later in my remarks; it is an important element in what we should be considering. Rather than looking at the narrow perspective that Bills such as this inevitably force us to take, we must bear in mind—must we not?—how far it will be effective in the context of global warming and global climate change for us as a country to introduce such measures. They may disadvantageously prejudice our people's standard of living or affect our economic growth, but how far is that likely to affect global emissions and global warming, given the huge developmental prospects of, in particular, China, south-east Asia and India? I may return to that point later.

I want to quote further from the excellent letter from the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment. He said:

the persuasion of others to act is key to the point that my hon. Friend has just made—

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I shall refer to adaptation later. The Minister continues:

very much the subject of the Bill and, indeed, the next one, should we come to it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which will require extremely close scrutiny given its implications—

"International development"—I give the Government all credit for acknowledging both the scope and scale of the problems that the Bill addresses and the international context in which it inevitably should be considered.

That is why I felt that this letter was very timely. Indeed, it is absolutely hot off the press; it is dated 7 November. It even says "Dear Eric" at the top, so although I cannot claim to be quite as close to the Minister of State as is the Minister with us today, I am obviously on pretty intimate terms with him. He has written to me very warmly, and he has even signed it "Yours, Elliot". So he and I are obviously very much at one in all of this, and I am most grateful to him for writing to me just in time for today's debate. It has been very timely and very useful.

Because I do not want to sound at all negative today, Mr. Deputy Speaker—you know that that would be completely uncharacteristic of me on a Friday—I want to continue to be warm and positive about the Government. The Minister is starting to look slightly uncomfortable, but I shall ladle on a bit more praise just to rub it in. The hon. Gentleman then goes on—this is the other Minister, my friend Elliot—to say:

I could not have put it better myself. That is the sort of approach that we should be encouraging, not the heavy-handed approach that we get so often—bring in a Bill, pass a law, introduce targets, make regulations, introduce penalties—which is an approach apparently so much beloved of everybody, including, I am really sorry to say, my own friends on the Front Bench. I am sorry that they should reach so readily for this sort of approach to a problem so widely perceived, instead of the imaginative and positive approach that the Government adopted in 1997, which talks about encouraging the public and private sectors to plan their own strategies. That strikes me as reflecting much more of modern Conservatism than the heavy-handed legislative approach that we have before us today.

My next text, having skimmed lightly over the Minister's letter, is the House of Lords report. So that there is no doubt anywhere, it is the Select Committee on Economic Affairs second report of Session 2005–06, entitled "The Economics of Climate Change". I recommend it most highly to Members of the House and people beyond.
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I should like to offer to the House a number of key passages in the report because they bear very much on the thrust of the Bill. The first is from paragraph 45, which says that

In today's debate we have heard the cosy unanimity of people no doubt wound up by single-interest groups and postcards from certain organisations—there is nothing wrong with that at all, provided we put them very much in context. But the debate we should be having today is about mitigation versus adaptation, particularly with regard to the developing world.

The excellent Professor Lomborg made a point on this very effectively. He has argued at great length—I am tempted, but I probably will not quote too much from him, you may be relieved to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that attempts at mitigation, in other words controlled emissions and all that go with that, are at best a very long-term strategy and may or may not be effective, whereas adaptation can be done much more quickly and much more efficaciously, certainly in terms of, for example, flood protection. He says, as did the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment in his letter, although I did not quote that bit, that we are used to adaptation in this country. One only has to ask the good people of the Netherlands about adaptation; they have been doing it for centuries. That makes the point that it is often much more effective to seek to adapt to the effects, claimed or actual, of climate change over a long period than it is to mitigate through the sort of Kyoto approach that we are all supposed to have signed up to. So there is the first very important contribution that the House of Lords report makes.

Then, because most of what their lordships talk about is the link between economic activity and emissions, they point out at paragraph 51 that any analysis of that has to encompass all the following factors:

that is, whether heavy industry or service-based—

That is a formidable array of variables, which we should take into account when making our analysis. I have heard nothing of that today. All that we have heard today is the suggestion that we should make a glib assumption about the source of emissions and their alleged causal effect on global warming and nothing of the required analysis of the vital links that their lordships point out.

Their lordships go on to tell us something even more worrying. Paragraph 72 states:

Again, that takes us into the important area of considering which of the very sophisticated computer models and analyses we choose to believe or should believe. Those things are important because the range of variation is considerable. For example, estimates of the
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increase in sea level can range from 1.5 cm to 4.5 cm. That very wide range of possibilities can lead to all sorts of different conclusions, depending on which estimate one chooses to believe.

Their lordships return to that theme over and again. For example, I return to paragraph 13, where they say:

They go on to say that some of the scientists suggest that the models on which the predictions are based "are biased upwards" and

So there is an important difference of opinion among the scientific community about what is the reality of the predications of global warming that results from emissions.

In all those important ways, we have considerable work to do in establishing beyond doubt exactly what is the cause of global warming and what its extent will be, and, crucially, what our reaction to it should be. In that context, I have grave doubts about the Bill because I am not convinced that it necessarily addresses the right problem or that it does so in the right way. We are entitled to be somewhat sceptical about it. That deals with mitigation versus adaptation.

I want briefly to touch on the other very obvious fact that we must take into account: multilateral versus unilateral action. As has been said already, it is assumed that although we are a small country in the global context, if we do all sorts of sexy, interesting, exciting, good and heat-warming things about emissions, we will surely have either an effect on global warming itself or some sort of influence on other countries to do the same. Sadly, there is not much evidence to that effect so far.

I share the scepticism that has been expressed about the Kyoto arrangements in any case. However, the fact that countries as important as the United States and Australia have not signed up to those arrangements anyway and given that it is almost certain that the bulk of emissions in the foreseeable and distant future will be caused by economic growth and development in China, south-east Asia, India and, probably, Africa as well, it should give one pause for thought about how effective what we are doing in this country is likely to be.

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