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Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I have concerns about my hon. Friend's suggestion that David King advocates bad science. Perhaps a more realistic proposition is that he has no confidence that the necessary investment will go into ensuring that our energy consumption is reduced by investment in energy conservation and the sort of measures that he advocates. Perhaps that is why he advocates nuclear power.

Alan Simpson: I understand that point but I will not budge from my initial contention, which is that nuclear power was never economic. We have not worked out who should pay the £56 billion to £80 billion of clean-up costs from the last generation of nuclear power before we work out who will pick up the costs of another generation of nuclear energy.

Lynne Jones: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that   the Government appear prepared to advocate investment in nuclear technology but not in energy conservation. David King probably finds himself having to deal with that.

Alan Simpson: I understand that point, but let me draw the House's attention to a completely different approach. If we step outside this country, we see that 50 per cent. of Denmark's energy is generated by local energy systems; in the Netherlands, 60 per cent. is
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generated by decentralised energy systems. When motorways are built in the Netherlands, the hot-road sub-surface of the motorway is harnessed to provide energy and heating for houses. Every kilometre of road that is built provides the energy and heating for 100 houses. In this country, we are not even beginning to look at local energy networks, although they are infinitely more efficient than our national energy system, which leaks like a sieve.

We need to make that shift in thinking, to catch up with what is going on in other countries and to follow the lead being taken by some of our major cities. I have said before in the House that the Mayor of London has committed the capital city of this country, which currently consumes more energy than the whole of Portugal, to being energy self-sufficient within a decade. The international agreement that he is trying to broker with other major cities is that 20 of the world's biggest cities will all be energy self-sufficient using sustainable and renewable resources by 2020. That draws on the thinking of how to do things differently, which is already practised in other parts of the world.

We need a shift in market rules, a shift to thinking about decentralised energy and a shift in the requirements that we have for our buildings. In Berlin today, 80 per cent. of new buildings are required to generate their own energy. We make no such requirements of own built environment. Some of the architects and property developers here should be in prison for the buildings they are throwing up. Those buildings are the gas guzzlers of the built environment, yet they pass for modern buildings. They are a massive source of carbon consumption and they are profligate in the way in which they are constructed.

Mark Pritchard : We have heard about the Government taking international leadership. Do they not also need to take domestic leadership? Is not the public sector, across the parties, the worst user of energy and the poorest performer from an energy efficiency point of view?

Alan Simpson: I would be happy for the Government to set targets for their own Departments, but Members should also set targets for their own lives. We are dead good at blaming other people for failing to take a lead, but do we take that lead ourselves? Do we heck as like! We are all on the line on this. We need to create new approaches to ethical and sustainable markets in relation to the way we live, treading lightly on the environment of the future. We need to create markets in conservation rather than consumption, markets that reward what we put back rather than what we take out. If we look at what is happening in the world outside this House, we can see a new consensus forming in civil society around the principles of sustainability. The problem is that the House is not part of that consensus.

9.37 pm

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Many interesting comments have been made during this debate, which confirm that we have all come to see climate change as a real and dangerous threat. The debate started with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset
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(Mr. Letwin), and I take my hat off to him for his efforts to achieve consensus. I am not a particularly good consensus person, which is why a lot of my speeches are made in here. My right hon. Friend, however, could not have done more or gone further to encourage the consensus that he so rightly believes in. I pay tribute to the way in which he explained the purpose of this debate, and the fact that the Prime Minister's mixed messages mean that we need to find out from the Government where we are going to get to. I also pay tribute to the way in which he explained the difficulty involved in striking a balance between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions, and between adopting UK-centric or global policies. His efforts were humbling to me; even when he talked about Liberal Democrat campaigning techniques, he was exceptionally generous. He concluded with a particularly clear understanding of what consensus would enable, and the various layers and targets that it involved.

I felt, however, that the Minister was less than charitable—uncharacteristically for him. He listed the Government's achievements, although he seemed to recognise the growing concern about climate change throughout the House following the numerous interventions. He made six points about Conservative policy. He said that he needed to know where we stood on wind energy, scrapping the climate change levy and fuel protestors. He also mentioned the Prime Minister's comments. He ended by saying that he had left the door open.

At that point, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) explained consensus in what I considered to be a helpful and constructive manner, until he spoke of "forking off". I forgave him for that immediately, because I realised that he was trying to say that while we would not agree on every part of the way forward, we did agree that a way forward was essential.

My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) talked about photovoltaic roofs and planning permission. He made the immortal comment that "the Minister for whatever it is" should acknowledge the importance of the subject. I submit that there could be no finer advocate of solar panels on behalf of his constituent. My hon. Friend had a single, practical policy, he made his case vociferously and eloquently, and I am sure that his constituent will sing his praises from her rooftop in years to come.

The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) delivered all the parts of my speech that I have now abandoned. He made an important and, perhaps, a rather harsh attack on the Government, citing the lack of speed and progress on this vital issue. His was an interesting and valuable speech. He said that we did not seem to be doing enough of the right things, which is obviously a worry for all of us.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) also spoke of real worries about progress on climate change. He said, perhaps a little unfairly, that Rio and Kyoto had failed, but went on to talk about   why policies were up for review and about the    disappointment felt by non-governmental organisations. I agreed with what he said about carbon emissions from China, India and Brazil. I also agreed when he said that the solution was technological. He put his case very eloquently, especially when describing Britain as a role model for the rest of the world, and
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suggesting that economic growth along with carbon reduction was the most important progress that we had achieved. He rightly pointed out that the duty of the House was constructing market frameworks rather than picking winners. He made an excellent speech.

Last time we debated this subject, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) described himself as a heretic. Like me, he sought no vote on the motion, which I considered helpful. He also spoke of the four apocalyptic crises that would befall us, affecting food security, water security, energy security and insurability. That tied in helpfully with an e-mail that I received today from the Association of British Insurers, which stated:

The ABI believes that there will be a major crisis in insurability. So the heresy of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South has become apocalyptic. I always enjoy listening to his speeches. He also made a number of constructive suggestions to help us to catch up with the rest of the world.

I think that the scientific evidence on climate change is conclusive. In the past 30 years alone, the average temperature in August has risen by 0.3° C in a decade. The subsequent warming of our planet has caused sea levels to rise by an average of 20 cm in the last century. As we have seen repeatedly and with great loss of life this summer, extreme weather events such as the hurricanes which have tormented the Gulf of Mexico are becoming far more frequent. Our ecosystems are being transformed at an unprecedented pace, and increases in ocean acidity and temperature threaten the world's diverse sea life.

Governments across the world have recognised the problems associated with climate change, and over the past two decades concerted efforts have been made to take action. There have been high-profile discussions at Kyoto and Rio, in which many Conservative Members past and present have been involved. We in the UK, however, cannot afford to be complacent. We should not only do more to save our own environment, but take a lead on the international stage to show countries how changes can be made successfully without slowing economic growth.

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