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Colin Challen: It was remiss of me not to congratulate the hon. Gentleman also on signing up to the 25-5 challenge, by which he aims to reduce his personal carbon emissions by the year 2010.

Norman Baker: I thank the hon. Gentleman. I have taken drastic action in that respect, although it is proving difficult to make further cuts. However, I shall do my best to live up to the challenge.

The empowerment of individuals generally is important. Personal carbon allowances are one option, but the personal production of energy is another. Why do we have to have an energy system based on huge units—nuclear or coal-fired power stations, or even wind farms—that are situated miles away from centres of population? Why not have decentralised energy, so that people can have a say about what they use? That was the burden of the private Member's Bill introduced last year by the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen). Such a system would allow people to sell excess energy to the grid and it would also offer security of supply, as people with wind turbines on their houses are not liable to be cut off.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman say who would distribute the personal carbon allowances? What would be the penalties for failure to comply?

Norman Baker: The honest answer is that there is a lot more work to do on the proposal. We are moving towards taking radical measures to tackle climate change. A number of economists have suggested the carbon allowances approach: implementing the allowances could be achieved in a variety of ways, but none of them is particularly easy. My suggestion is that we could start with
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the transport sector, which is self-contained and could be ring-fenced. However, if the hon. Gentleman is asking whether we have solutions that we can distribute around the House, the answer is no, we have not.

Another reason why too little is being done about climate change is that it is not high enough up the political agenda. By our actions, we are trying to correct that. We could do with some help from the media—a point that I regularly make—which insist on treating climate change, if they deal with it at all, as a purely scientific matter. They give the impression that no politicians of any party, including those in the Government, have anything to say about it. I, for one, am fed up with reports on the "Today" programme or stories in the broadsheets that go into great detail about horrendous and apocalyptic things going on in the world but which contain no comment from any politician. That means that no Minister is put on the spot and asked what is being done about the subject of the story, and the opinions of Members of Parliament are not sought either. Such stories and reports exist in a vacuum, outside the political process, so it is not surprising that politicians do not make progress on environmental matters. I hope that the media will reform their approach to these things.

What should we do about policies that, collectively, are failing to deliver domestically the reaction to climate change that we need? The motion has been tabled by both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members, and follows on from earlier debates and initiatives undertaken by myself and the right hon. Member for West Dorset. It wants to deal with the problem of climate change by putting it higher on the agenda, and telling the media that the story is political as well as simply scientific. It is designed to make it easier for the Minister and the good guys in government to argue with people who are perhaps less enlightened in other Departments, such as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. I hope that it will also help the Government to take difficult decisions in the knowledge that they will not be exploited for narrow party reasons.

That is how the motion attempts to help the Government. I want action on climate change, and I want the problem to be tackled. That is one of the reasons why I am in politics. I am trying to make it easier for the Government to take the right decisions. That is what we are collectively trying to do.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): Only one Opposition Member has mentioned the biggest contribution we could make on climate change—nuclear power. The Liberals have a principled opposition to nuclear power, but countries such as China and South Africa are going nuclear, even though they have massive coal stocks, because they realise that nuclear is the cleanest form of power.

Norman Baker: I do not agree that it is the cleanest source, and we could have a long debate about nuclear energy—as we doubtless will in due course. It is not for this country to dictate to others the choices they make in energy supply, but I am convinced that we can deliver security of supply and meet our energy demands through renewable sources, energy efficiency and cleaned up fossil fuel.
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We will have the argument about nuclear power later, but that subject brings me to the issue of consensus. Last time we had a debate on climate change, I was asked how I could possibly want to do business with the Conservatives when their position on the climate change levy is so dreadful. Indeed, the Minister mentioned that today. Let me make it plain. I do not share all the Conservatives' views on the environment, and they do not share mine or those of my colleagues. That is not a requirement. We are not entering a coalition or seeking to agree every dot and comma for a joint Administration. We are setting off down the road and seeing how far we can get with a common policy. At some point, we will fork off and go in different directions—[Interruption.] I said, "Fork off"! However, it makes sense to go as far down the road together as we can—and I include the Government—instead of picking on differences and saying, "Well, you're in a different party so we are going to find a reason to disagree with you. We will pick some council that has done something unhelpful and make an issue of that, instead of trying to address the issues of climate change." That is not the response that members of the public want to hear. They want a proper, concerted response that proves that MPs are taking climate change seriously. That requires a different approach from us.

The Government should not be defensive on this matter. They should not feel that they always have to engage in normal, adversarial politics. They should not feel that they would be weakened by engaging with Opposition parties to find a consensus on climate change. The Minister, who cares about these matters, will find that liberating.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. There is a 10-minute limit on speeches from now on, but several hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, many of whom are likely to be disappointed. It would be helpful if some Members could take less than their allotted span.

8.43 pm

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I hope to reduce my emissions this evening as much as possible. I shall start by reiterating two requests. The first is that we do not have a Division this evening. It would not serve any useful purpose and most of us agree with most of what is on the Order Paper without sending the wrong signal to people outside. The issue is the subject of intense debate and we are seriously looking for consensus. Much common ground has been covered this evening, and that is welcome.

I chair the all-party group on climate change, which has members from both sides of the House, including the smaller parties. I have referred to the 25–5 challenge, and if any Members who have not signed up would like to do so, they can see me afterwards. The challenge involves trying to reduce one's personal carbon emissions by 25 per cent. in five years—by 2010. That will send out a signal to our constituents, and other people who may be role models in society, that we are doing something and not simply making speeches and asking others to do things that we are not prepared to do. Although there has been much common ground, the
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all-party group is about to launch an inquiry into whether cross-party consensus is possible or desirable—a suggestion that, coincidentally, appears in the motion.

Having thought about the subject, I think that such consensus is both possible and desirable, although some people may say that it is not possible and we have heard a few of the reasons this evening.

John Barrett : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we are well on the way to all-party consensus, as those parties that have already agreed to it represented about 65 per cent. of the electorate at the last election?

Colin Challen: That is possible. But when I wake up in the morning and listen to John Humphrys interviewing different Front-Bench spokespeople, I often want to go back to sleep again. Sometimes I would rather that the Front-Bench spokespeople agreed with each other and that John Humphrys found somebody else to intimidate.

Is cross-party consensus desirable? We should consider what that means for collective responsibility. We may not agree on nuclear power as a solution—that is quite possible, as we shall probably soon find out. However, if we appear to disagree on climate change, that sends out damaging signals. People might say that the Opposition wanted consensus because they wanted to get their hands on the decision-making process without collective responsibility.

In Denmark, after a long consensual process, all the parties, both in and outside government, signed up in July to about eight measures to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency. I realise that the Danish electoral system is different from ours, which produces different results, but at least the Danes were able to agree positively on those measures. We should consider emulating that approach.

Another example, although not one that I particularly favour, is offered by Finland, which recently agreed to go ahead with its fifth nuclear reactor. In the 1990s, the Finnish Parliament rejected that option, but a couple of years ago a free vote was marginally in favour of the nuclear option. However, despite cross-party consensus and a free vote, the Greens left the Government.

The "stop climate chaos" initiative is building consensus between development and environmental non-governmental organisations. I hope that shortly there will be an initiative in the House so that all the party groups can work together to parallel and reflect what is happening outside in civil society. Perhaps we could develop the same sort of consensus that produced "Make Poverty History". Indeed, it is crucial that we do    so. "Make Poverty History" is marginally less important as an all-embracing issue than climate change, although they have an impact on one another.

Earlier this autumn, I was looking for consensus between the party leaders. What better place to start than their conference speeches? Members may recall that this year we heard nine leadership speeches at three party conferences. If anyone wants to read the efforts of all the leadership contenders, they are available in the handy little publication that I have produced, entitled "Carbon 2 Share".
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Sadly, climate change was completely absent from the speeches of some of the leadership contenders of one party. I am pleased that one of the leading contenders for the Conservative party crown has now come out with some sensible ideas, such as independent carbon accounting and auditing—described as a model based on the Monetary Policy Committee. A question was put earlier about whether domestic tradable quotas would require penalties. An independent source of information on carbon counting and how the system works would have more credibility and engage people much more.

I hope that the inquiry of the all-party group on climate change will take place early in the new year. It will pose serious questions about how we should proceed, and about the obstacles. A few years ago, the Prime Minister and leading individuals from the other parties came together to form a cross-party consensus on the euro, and it was a fiasco. It went nowhere. That is an example of consensus going wrong. In Sweden, there was cross-party consensus on that subject, and consensus among the media, including broadcasters, and the people rejected it. In fact it was anticipated that they would reject it, despite the great sense that the establishment supported it. We must ask profound questions, such as whether people might feel that this consensus was a politicians' artifice, created to hoodwink them into actions that they did not agree with. It is possible that domestic tradable quotas could be such a thing.

I want to finish by saying that I am not getting Bill crazy, but tomorrow I shall present a Bill. It will be launched officially on Thursday in Committee Room 6 at 1 o'clock, and Aubrey Meyer, director of the Global Commons Institute, will be present. The Bill will be called the Climate Change (Contraction and Convergence) Bill, and it is the other half of the Domestic Tradable Quotas (Carbon Emissions) Bill. This is the international framework that has been proposed to frame all of our considerations, and consensus, and negotiations. It is what is called a full-term framework because it covers the entire process. It is not just about setting one target for next year and one for 10 years' time, and keeping our fingers crossed that we shall be able to deliver, perhaps as a result of a piece of technology. Instead, we shall be able to benchmark what we do against the contraction and convergence model. It will demand of us all quite an effort to achieve that kind of thing in the international negotiations that we face.

There is an analogy with early Christendom. What would have happened if the early Christians had gone to Rome and said, "We are not going to bring down the Roman empire, or even change the views of the emperor"—I think we know who the emperor is in the present-day world—"so let's just give up. Let's pack it in, because we cannot change their opinions; we shall just get tossed to the lions"? They did not stop because of that argument.

John Smith said that even if a country cannot achieve its international consensus, it should lead by example. I think that we should lead by example because if we do not, personally, nationally and internationally, nobody will believe that we mean what we say. Contraction and convergence is the only workable model. I have looked
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at all 40 of the models that the Minister mentioned in a recent debate—40 models that were provided by the Pew centre in its report. Some of those are simply a reading of the literature, extracted from an academic journal, and are not really models at all.

Contraction and convergence is fully worked out. It is comprehensive. It has the flexibilities—it allows for trading. It also meets the objections that the Byrd-Hagel resolution posed, back in the time when Kyoto was being negotiated, for any President—Clinton or Bush and any successor. The Byrd-Hagel resolution in the Senate said that the United States should not enter into an agreement that did not involve all countries. That was the sense of it. It was an agreement not simply for the developing world, but for all countries, including the   developing ones. More recently, the McCain-Lieberman state of the Senate resolution has moved the debate on, albeit with less of a majority than the Byrd-Hagel resolution.

Contraction and convergence can meet the objections. It is a logic that we are not really seeking to avoid. "Contraction" means that we shall reduce our carbon emissions to the recommended levels: a 60 per cent. reduction on today's emissions by 2050. In fact—

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