The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw):
An estimated 81 million tonnes of waste was sent to landfill in England in the last year for which we have figures. That is 45 per cent. of the waste stream, compared with 50 per cent. in 199899.
15 Dec 2005 : Column 1430
Tim Loughton: We are running out of landfill sites, and the Minister will be aware that some 90 per cent. of household electrical goods are dumped into landfill. The future is unclear because of the complete Horlicks that the Government are making over the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive. In the meantime, however, charitable organisations such as the GreenHouse project in Worthing, of which I am a patron, are doing great work to promote the reuse of electrical goods and household furniture, which is restored and sold on at a discount to families on benefits to help them to kit out their homes. These are fantastic projects. What is the Minister doing to promote that kind of innovative reuse?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am very interested in the project to which the hon. Gentleman refers. He is welcome to write to me about it, because it is the kind of project that the Government are doing a great deal to support. We have an excellent record on recycling, compared with the miserable record that we inherited from the previous Conservative Government. We have trebled the rate of recycling in eight years. His question about the WEEE directive needs to be referred to my colleagues at the DTI.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that we still have far too heavy a dependence on landfill in this country? Is he aware that a European framework agreement that is expected to be finished early in the new year states that no European nation will have any landfill after 2010? We could not possibly meet that target. Representatives of the industry are universally saying that they have not been consulted on this matter or called in to talk to the Minister's Department. Is it not time that the Department got moving?
Mr. Bradshaw: No, I do not accept that. My hon. Friend is talking about something that is not a legally binding directive; it is a discussion document. Our landfill targets are certainly challenging, and we will have to do a lot better than we are at the moment if we are to meet them. However, I would point out to my hon. Friend that we are not doing badly. As I said, we have trebled our recycling rates in the past eight years. We are also reviewing our waste strategy to see whether we need to set even more ambitious targets. However, we are improving from a very low base. We had the worst record in Europe on landfill under the previous Conservative Government.
Mr. Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): Given that one of the significant waste streams that could be diverted from landfill is organic matter, when will the Government define when compost ceases to be waste and can be classified as a product? The lack of that qualification is hampering the development of markets for the output of sustainable waste management.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. He will be aware that this matter is being discussed at European level. However, that does not mean that we should take our foot off the accelerator in regard to composting. Composting rates in this country are showing encouraging increases, as are our recycling rates.
15 Dec 2005 : Column 1431
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I am sure that my hon. Friend, like me, will welcome the increase in the landfill levy escalator that will take place next year. Is his Department considering ways in which a fraction of the percentage increase in that escalator could be returned to business for the purpose of recycling and reuse of materials, as has already been done this year?
Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend will be aware that the landfill tax escalator is not intended only to incentivise local authorities to divert waste away from landfill, in which it has been successful, but to recycle the money raised through schemes such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme. That scheme advises business and helps local authorities to increase their recycling and waste minimisation and to improve and find better markets for recycled goods, as certain materials pose a number of challenges.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): The Minister and the Environment Agency followed up effectively my question to the Prime Minister about the designation of pet cemeteries as landfill. I know that the Environment Agency has recommended that his Department adopt a new position. When will he make a decision on that recommendation?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman was happy with the response elicited by his question. My understanding was that we had already made a decision in principle, along lines that would have met his wishes, and that the matter was now resting with the Environment Agency. I pledge to check up on that and I will write to him about it.
The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): The developing countries played a positive role in the Montreal climate change talks. They supported a process that will consider further commitments of developed countries under the Kyoto protocol as well as dialogue among all parties on long-term co-operative action to address climate change by enhancing implementation of the United Nations framework convention on climate change.
Ben Chapman: Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the fact that China, despite being driven by the need to cater economically for its growing 1.3 billion population, has been a key supporter of the Kyoto process, and that, as the world's second largest producer of greenhouse gases, it will, along with other developing countries, play a key role in future climate change talks?
Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. I found the atmosphere at Montreal, in relation to the views and co-operation of developing countries, much better than at Buenos Aires last year. One reason for that was the successful Gleneagles process involving China and India. The Gleneagles dialogue, which came out of that
15 Dec 2005 : Column 1432
process, with the first meeting on 1 November, helped to build confidence and pave the way for the successful outcome in Montreal. China played a positive role in that, as did other major emerging economies.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): Welcome as the Minister's comments about the new co-operative atmosphere with China are, China builds each year the equivalent of the United Kingdom's entire power output, predominantly using coal. What has China committed itself specifically to do to engage in the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, along with India? How will the Government persuade the United States to participate fully in that whole programme? Without that, China and India will carry on saying comfortable things but not contributing positively to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Morley: It is true that China and India are not annexe 1 countries and are not therefore obliged to take targets. It is also true that what the United States does has an influence on all countries. I do not dispute that. China is engaging positively, however. In the EU-China summit, we agreed co-operation with China for a near-zero coal-burning power station as a demonstration project to develop that technology. China is moving ahead on a range of technologies, including renewables, as is India, and both those countries are keen to engage in the clean development mechanism, which also transfers technology and investment from developed countries to developing counties. All those framework issues were agreed at Montreal.
As far as the United States is concerned, what struck me at Montreal was that a number of American companies, American organisations, American states, American mayors and, not least, a former American President attended to say that their Government should do more. I am sure that that bottom-up pressure will have an effect on the attitude of the Administration in due course.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend may be aware of a report produced recently by the all-party group on the Niger delta. According to the report, the development of that part of the world has been held back by absolute corruption at every level of government. Will he read the report, especially the part dealing with the role of oil companies, which are using gas flares, destroying the environment and choking to death the poor people in the community surrounding the oilfields?
The oil companies are drawing up agreements on reducing gas flaring and taking action. I hope that we shall soon see a range of improvements in environmental quality and an engagement in social issues in all parts of the world including the region mentioned by my hon. Friend.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)
(Con): Developing countries stand to be among the hardest and first hit by climate change. In combating climate change,
15 Dec 2005 : Column 1433
it is essential that we are not seen, particularly in the poorest developing countries, as a brake on their drive for greater prosperity. While much progress is needed on a number of fronts, does the Minister agree that improving the efficiency of the energy sector in the developing world, especially electricity supply, is an important way of cutting the growth in emissions without hindering economic advance? What are the Government doing internationally to promote carbon reduction through energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency is a key issue in the developing countries. One of the main ways of achieving it is the application of the clean development mechanism. Under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the European Union has pledged significant sums to the board of the clean development mechanism to be invested in clean energy, energy efficiency and similar programmes. The Gleneagles conference itself was carbon-offset by the Government, and the offset funds have been invested in a clean development mechanism in Cape Town.