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"welcomes the leadership shown by the UK Government internationally on climate change, and the important progress made at the July Summit and at the recent meeting of the Dialogue on Climate Energy, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development; further welcomes the recent announcement of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation and looks forward to the publication of the climate change programme review; recognises the importance of building greater understanding and support among all sectors of society for action on climate change; and further welcomes new ideas and contributions from all quarters that help to reduce carbon emissions."
I thank the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) for initiating the debate on climate change. It is an important issue and the discussion gives me an opportunity to outline the Government's policy progress and tackle some issues that have confused the debate. Some of them are based on misunderstanding, but others are based on malice. However, I shall deal with those matters later.
Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge that the world faces. I therefore welcome the fact that, at least in this country, there is a general political consensus about the need for action and the threat that climate change poses. The debate is about how far we go, what we do and the sort of mechanisms that we put in place. I explained that to a Conservative Canadian Member of Parliament. The Conservatives in Canada stated in their manifesto that if they won the election, they would withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. I explained that that was not the position in this country, where there is general political consensus. I hope that he took that message back.
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The Prime Minister has taken a strong international lead on the matter. Even his detractors would accept that he has put climate change at the top of the political agenda, especially this year, given our G8 and EU presidencies. That is why we are also committed to implementing our ambitious domestic programme. I emphasise that 2005 has been a milestone year in relation to climate change. In February, the historic Kyoto protocol entered into force after its ratification by Russia. That ratification owed a great deal to lobbying by the Prime Minister and our actions to encourage Russia to do that.
The UK's G8 and EU presidencies have focused the international community's attention on climate change. In December, 10,000 people will meet in Montreal for the United Nations forum on climate change convention. That will be a crucial meeting, not least because we have to begin the process of looking to Kyoto's second commitment period, which is 2012.
There appeared to be confusion among some hon. Members who intervened earlier. We have a binding commitment under the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gases in the UK by 12.5 per cent. by 2012. We are on a reduction of 12.5 per cent. now. Figures are likely to go up and down because of the different sorts of pressures on emissions. However, we have no doubt that we are well on target not only to fulfil our goal by 2012, but to doing better than that.
We have another targeta voluntary, domestic, national target of reducing CO 2 by 20 per cent. by 2010 and by 60 per cent. by 2050. That is a self-imposed national target, not a legally binding agreement. It is a commitment by the Government to go beyond our obligations under the Kyoto treaty.
Colin Challen : I congratulate my hon. Friend on accepting another voluntary target. He has agreed to accept the 25-5 challenge to reduce his personal carbon emissions by 25 per cent. in five years, and no later than 2010. Several other Members who have accepted that challenge are present. I am not allowed to name them, but they are here and they are making that personal effort. Does my hon. Friend agree that the one way that we can establish a consensus is by acting on our words, not simply spouting all the time, thereby demonstrating that we mean what we say, take the matter seriously and are prepared to take action ourselves?
Mr. Morley: I accept that. Taking action on climate change is important globally, nationally, regionally and individually. All of us can do a great deal about our lifestyles. That is why I have made such a commitment. Like many hon. Members, I consider my impact on the environment and try to reduce it.
: I think that the Minister was looking at me when he made his remarks about Kyoto. I accept that he may well hit his Kyoto targets. He may or may not hit his other domestic targets and we can argue about that. However, it all pales into insignificance if countries such as India, China and the United States do not hit their targets. Cutting our
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emissions by 1 or 2 per cent. is nothing compared with the output of the Chinese economy, which is growing at 3 or 4 per cent. a year.
Mr. Morley: In all fairness, that argument is advanced often and there is some truth in it. When the United States alone accounts for 25 per cent. of global emissions, it is essential to engage with it and get it to take action. It is also true that while India and China do not have to have legally binding targets under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the Kyoto protocol, they are enormous emitters. Their emissions have been increasing year after year. It is precisely for those reasons that the Prime Minister has been considering the way in which we can engage countries such as India, China and the United States, and especially how we can get India and China to do more when they will not accept binding targets.
Mr. Gummer : I understand the Minister's problems and he knows that I generally support what he is trying to do. However, let me bring him back to the 20 per cent. figure. The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) gave me some hell in the Chamber because the Labour party made that commitment in opposition. When it came to power, it reiterated it. If the Minister is now telling me that achieving the 20 per cent. is not possibleI warned him that it would be difficultwill he understand that we shall keep him to it? It may be a voluntary target, but if this country does not manage to meet it, the rest of the world will believe that we have let it down on the most important issue that confronts us. The Government will not stand up and say, "We're going to do it. This is how we're going to do it. These are the tests that we'll use. We'll have independent checks every year." That undermines our belief in the Government's integrity and intelligence on the matter.
Mr. Morley: It is true that the 20 per cent. target was a manifesto commitmentwe were the only party to do that. It is a difficult target and we knew that when we made the commitment; I do not want to be dishonest about it. However, I believe that we can fulfil the target. We are attempting to do that. It is why we have the climate change review, which we will publish in due course. That will give some indication of the additional steps that we intend to take to move us towards the 20 per cent. target. Although it is true that, in common with every major industrial country, emissions have risen in the UK, if it were not for the steps that we have taken since 1997 there would be an additional 8 per cent. increase in CO 2 . I freely acknowledge that we need to do more. That is the point of the review. As the amendment makes clear, we welcome contributions from other organisations and, indeed, other parties to our approach and the sort of measures that we should take.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con):
Let me follow the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) on Kyoto. All the efforts that we make in this country pale into insignificance when China, India and the United States create 2.7 billion tonnes of carbon emissions compared with the 483 million tonnes that all the Kyoto countries put together produce. What exactly is the Minister
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doing to get those countries on board? If he cannot do that, all our efforts, whether they are bicycles or wind farms, are a complete joke.
Mr. Morley: Yes, I shall be very glad to do that. In fact, I intend to cover those points in my speech, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen carefully to what I have to say. I have just acknowledged that the UK accounts for 2 per cent. of global emissions. The EU, of which we are a member, accounts for about 24 per cent. However, if every country took the attitude that this problem is too difficult to tackle because the Americans are not doing anything and because China and India are producing huge emissions, we would never make any progress at all. This country is trying to take the lead in this area, and I am proud of that.
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