Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Paddy Tipping : Is not the Minister being too modest? Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister has recently had discussions with China and India, and that he has talked to the Russians about this? Is it not also the case that the next G8 summit, in St. Petersburg, is going to consider climate change? Finally, will my hon. Friend comment on the efforts that he and the Prime Minister have made to persuade the Russians to sign the Kyoto treaty? Those are strong arguments that counter the siren voices from the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Morley: As part of our commitments, the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have met our Russian, Chinese and Indian counterparts. In fact, we have been advocating international action and trying to build international consensus for many years. I shall return to these points in a moment.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley: I should like to make some progress.

It would be for the benefit of the House if I outlined what measures the Government have put in place to deal with climate change. First, in regard to our domestic commitments, the Government introduced the climate change levy, which will have saved 3.7 million tonnes of carbon by 2010. The climate change agreements that go with the levy have already saved 4.6 million tonnes of carbon up to 2002. This Government introduced the world's first national carbon trading scheme. We also introduced company car tax reforms in 2004 that changed the whole focus on company cars, which account for the biggest share of the new car market. Instead of giving tax discounts on the number of miles travelled, we now give them according to a car's emissions. That represents a big change and it has had a big impact on sales.

It was this Government who introduced a lower rate of vehicle excise duty for low-carbon vehicles, and who established the Carbon Trust to work with business to help it to reduce carbon emissions. We also established a target of obtaining 10 per cent. of our energy from renewable sources by 2010, and introduced the renewable energy obligation certificates. We introduced the energy efficiency commitments—we are now moving into their third phase—which involve the energy companies helping their customers to achieve energy
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1450
efficiency. We have also recently announced that we are to introduce a renewable transport fuel obligation, which is designed to save more than 1 million tonnes of carbon a year. That proposal has been warmly welcomed.

We are one of the few major industrial countries that is on track to meet its Kyoto targets, and we have now achieved a 12.5 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We are, I understand, the first Government in the world to take a decision to offset all Government air travel from April next year. We have already offset all the air travel involved in travelling to our G8 conferences, and we have used the money from that to invest in a clean development mechanism scheme in Cape Town in South Africa. I believe that we are unique among Governments internationally in that regard.

This Government have also set up a review of the economics of climate change, which is important in regard to dealing with its impact on gross domestic product, the potential benefits, and the cost of doing nothing about climate change. We have also brought forward proposals from the Commission under our EU presidency to include aviation in the European carbon trading scheme.

Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley: Those are just the domestic issues, and I want to go on to the international issues, but I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hurd: One of the stated ambitions of this Government's presidency was to advance the inclusion of aviation into the next round of emissions trading. Will the Minister update the House on exactly what progress they have made, as of the end of this month?

Mr. Morley: As of the end of this month, the proposals have come forward from the Commission and they are on the agenda of the December Environment Council, at which we hope to reach agreement with the Council to take the necessary steps to include aviation in the EU scheme post-2008. That is the earliest that it could be done because of the procedures that have to be followed in the European Parliament.

Mr. Weir : The Minister missed out the Energy Act 2004 from his long list. It introduced measures relating to renewable energy and to the capping charges for renewable transmission from Scotland. That has largely been undermined by the transmission charging regime recommended by Ofgem. I know that the Minister's colleague in the Department of Trade and Industry, the Minister for Energy, the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Malcolm Wicks), has announced a change for the island areas, but no change has been made in the highland areas of Scotland. Will the Minister tell us whether such a change is under consideration?

Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman should be aware that measures have been put in place to support hydro energy in the Scottish highlands. That would also have the effect of reducing transmission costs because of a small increase across the whole of the national grid,
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1451
which would benefit the people in remote Scottish areas. I am sure that he will appreciate the Government's taking those measures.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): In the Minister's long list of the Government's efforts—[Hon Members: "And achievements."] Well, some achievements. The point that the Minister made was that the Government had succeeded in mitigating what would otherwise have been a bigger problem. However, in the spirit of co-operation that we are trying to achieve this evening, I should like to say that I believe that the Government are trying hard on this issue. The fact that they are not succeeding as fast or as much as we would like is due to the fact that this is a really difficult problem to solve, domestically and internationally. The Minister has accepted the need for international co-operation, through which all of us on the planet can make progress. It is sad, however, that he saw fit to table his amendment to the Opposition's motion, and I would like him to explain why he felt that that was necessary. Does he not think that it sends out the wrong message to people who are seriously looking for political consensus and leadership on this crucial issue?

Mr. Morley: As always, the hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point, and I intend to address it. I understand the argument for consensus. However, just as he wished to ask a number of questions about the Prime Minister's view, I need to ask a number of questions about where the Opposition stand on certain issues. If we are to explore these issues, we must also explore the disagreements. I would ask him to read the amendment carefully—he will see that it is written in a way that leaves open the option of working together and of treating the proposals on this serious international problem in serious and mature manner.

Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I accept that the Government are earnestly and genuinely trying to make achievements on climate change. May I ask the Minister, however, what the special relationship between our Prime Minister and President Bush has achieved in regard to making significant changes in the American stance on climate change?

Mr. Morley: I believe that there have been changes in the American stance—an example is the outcome of the Gleneagles agreement. A bottom-up approach is being taken in parts of the United States, involving certain states, cities and even major American companies such as General Electric and DuPont, arguing for a framework of emissions reduction. That there are changes taking place was also reflected in a recent vote in the Senate. To be honest, I would not have expected to see such a vote even two years ago. Some of the changes have been as a result of our engagement—although not only that of the UK—with the Americans at all levels, not just with the federal Government, but with individual states. I recently attended a conference promoted by the Climate Group, which is a voluntary group consisting of American and Australian states, British companies and a range of international companies, all of which want to go further and faster
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1452
than their Governments are doing. We have encouraged and supported them because we want to work at all levels.

Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley: I should like to make some progress.

At this point, it is worth saying a few words about what we have done in relation to our international engagement. Just as we are proud of the progress that we have made domestically, we are proud of what we have done in terms of global leadership. Making climate change one of the two key themes for the G8 focused attention on it, and the Gleneagles summit agreed on a package of measures to combat the problem, together with a new dialogue between G8 countries and emerging economies such as China and India and a statement on the importance of climate change.

The first meeting on the dialogue was held in London on 1 November. Significantly, it was attended not just by the G8 countries, but by the five big emerging economies: India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. That is an example of the use of our facilities and influence to build an international consensus and to establish how we can work together to deal with some of the requirements of countries such as China and India.

The round table for G8 Energy and Environment Ministers was the first of its kind and was very successful. We hosted a major international science conference at the Hadley centre in February, which informed some of the sceptics—who, I am glad to say, are becoming fewer and fewer—about the science of climate change. Under our EU presidency, we held an informal Agriculture and Environment Ministers' council on climate change. Such a council had never been convened before. Under our presidency, an EU-China summit was held that led to an agreement with China on the pioneering and developing of clean coal technology. Of course, the Chinese will use their coal because they have huge coal reserves. Then there was the EU-India agreement. We talked to India about renewables and about the possibility of co-operating with India on, in particular, the clean development mechanism. There was also an EU-Russia agreement, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping). It was agreed that Russia should become the next president of the G8 and that energy efficiency would become one of its key themes. We have been involved in important international work.

Next Section IndexHome Page