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David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman may be confusing the question of whether we have an emissions trading scheme with the question of what the scheme includes. At present aviation is not included, but the Government are committed to ensuring that it is. If there are rising levels of air travel, they must be offset elsewhere. That strikes me as a more sensible way of putting a cap on emissions and tackling the problems. If the hon. Gentleman wants to tell his constituents that they are not allowed to fly he can do so, but I think it is better to say that if more people are flying, emissions must be offset and reduced elsewhere.
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Mr. Simon: According to 2004 figures, 30 per cent. of total UK energy use comes from the domestic sector, as do 27 per cent. of total carbon emissions. What more can the Government do to convince people that individual action in aggregate accounts for a massive percentage of the overall problem?

David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Let me say two things to him. First, by 2050 30 per cent. of houses will have been built since the introduction of the new building regulations, which represents a 40 per cent. improvement in energy efficiency in new housing. Secondly, I believe that there should be cross-party support for the home information packs that will be introduced next year. They will include an energy rating of every household, which has never been available before. They will also tell householders how they can cut energy emissions, and how they can save themselves money. [Interruption.] If the Conservative party opposes a measure that is both green and economic, it needs to re-examine its policies.

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk) (Con): Given that the Government have now admitted that they are missing their own targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and given that transport is one of the largest sources—and an increasing source—of carbon dioxide, why are the incentives for motorists to drive low-emission cars so utterly feeble? Will the Secretary of State undertake, as one of his first acts, to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to widen substantially the differentials relating to vehicle excise duty, so that those who choose to drive low-emission cars receive a proper financial reward for doing so?

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman spent three productive hours debating these issues in Committee with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

I feel that, as a relatively new Secretary of State, I should congratulate the Chancellor on introducing different levels of car tax for different fuels. The hon. Gentleman has made an important point, however, and I am sure that, along with other representations, it will be taken into account when the Chancellor considers how to implement his proposals.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the reduction in carbon emissions and control of the carbon footprint in Government offices, but will he now go further? Will he launch a campaign for every child in every school to know its carbon footprint on our planet, and for every institution in the country—every school and every business, small and large—to know its carbon footprint and have a target to reduce it?

David Miliband: That, too, is an important point. I think that I am right in saying that more or less every citizen is responsible for an average emission of about 3 tonnes of carbon a year. If we are to meet our 2050 targets, we will have to reduce that to 1 tonne, which means thinking about our own footprint. I have the impression, from my constituency and elsewhere, that the younger generation—those at school—are ahead of
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the game when it comes to thinking about their carbon footprint, but we must do as much as we can nevertheless, and I will certainly explore my hon. Friend’s ideas.

Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): Six months ago, the Government launched a climate change communication fund with about £12 million of funding. Having heard what Al Gore said yesterday afternoon, does the Secretary of State think that that funding is adequate? How much of the money has been spent?

David Miliband: I am pleased to confirm to the House that that programme of £12 million is being allocated to organisations such as the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, which was mentioned earlier, and the Scout Association. We think that it is better for organisations such as that to spread the message about climate change than it is for the Government to spend money on Government advertising showing the Government wagging their fingers at people. What I took away from the vice-president’s speech and presentation—

Mr. Hurd: Former vice-president.

David Miliband: In fact, he retains his title, but let us not get into that. Vice-President Gore’s argument is that there are major challenges, for all industrialised countries and for the developing world, in meeting the problems of climate change. As he said, this country should be proud of the progress that has been made and of the fact that we are one of only three countries meeting our Kyoto commitments. However, we must go further, and I am committed to doing so.

Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab): I praise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for attending yesterday’s presentation by Vice-President Gore. I am sure that he will recall that the vice-president made it clear that we must persuade his own Government to do much more on climate change. What is my right hon. Friend doing to answer that call? Achieving more American effort in this regard would reflect great credit on him as Secretary of State.

David Miliband: In fact, the vice-president painted quite an optimistic picture of the changes in American politics—or at least of the ones that may take place after 2008. My hon. Friend raises an important point. A year and a half ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister launched the drive for the presidencies of the G8 and the EU that the UK held. I think that the debate about the scientific evidence is now conclusively over. Vice-President Gore referred to 928 articles that showed absolute consensus about climate change and its causes. We need to move on to a debate about the level at which we should stabilise emissions, and how we can do so. I believe that the continuing G8 commitment and the UN process for after 2012 mean that we can get the Americans involved for the first time.

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Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): The latest environmental accounts from the Office for National Statistics show that there has been an increase in carbon emissions since the Government came to power in 1997, and a corresponding reduction in fossil fuel and other green taxes. Overall, green taxes fell again last year to 2.9 per cent. of GDP—the lowest level since 1990. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that green taxes are the only area in which the Labour Government should follow the Conservative policy of reducing taxation as a share of GDP. Does the Secretary of State agree?

David Miliband: I agree with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Like me, he fought last year’s election on a manifesto that promised to ensure that taxation is based on the needs of the economy, the environment and families. That is what we are committed to doing.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): There are two sides to the climate change equation—causes and effects. In today’s answers to questions, all sorts of positive statements have been made about the causes, and the Government have an excellent record in respect of emissions controls. Yet again, however, nothing has been said about the effects of climate change or about what the Government are doing, by means of sea defences or new building designs, for example, to deal with rising sea levels or to control river flooding. Will my right hon. Friend say what on earth the Government are doing to deal with the inevitable effects of climate change?

David Miliband: I should be very happy to do that, and could give my hon. Friend a voluminous list of Government actions in that regard. However, he mentioned flooding, and it is important that I pick up on that. The Environment Agency now has a budget of £500 million a year for flood defences. That is a significant improvement: I stand to be corrected, but I think that it represents a tripling of the investment in flood defences. I am happy to engage with him and the rest of the House at great length on many other things that the Government are doing, but I fear that I may trespass on Mr. Speaker’s patience if I go too far.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): Does the Secretary of State consider it acceptable that bickering between his Department and the Department of Trade and Industry has left the Government unable to make up their mind about the amount of carbon that we need to cut under phase two of the EU emissions trading scheme? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that such dithering helps the UK to be a credible provider of leadership in the international fight against climate change, or that it helps responsible industry to make the necessary investment to ensure a clean, green future?

David Miliband: One thing that certainly would undermine our leadership is opposition to the climate change levy, which has cut 7 million tonnes of carbon every year. In respect of the emissions trading scheme, I look forward to debating the Government’s conclusions with the hon. Gentleman and I can assure him that there will be one Government conclusion
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about the level of the phase 2 cap under the scheme. I can also assure him that it will make a significant contribution to the progress that we, along with the rest of Europe, need to make. Our Government was one of only three in Europe that set the emissions trading cap below the level of emissions. I am working very hard with my European partners and also with the European Commission to ensure that every country in Europe sets a cap at the right level so that we drive down the level of emissions right across Europe.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): In the foreword to the energy White Paper 2003, the Government set out the four pillars: the environment, energy security, affordable energy for the poorest and competitive markets for industry, business and households. In pursuing the nuclear energy route in such a pell-mell fashion, do we not risk abandoning all four pillars and having the whole structure crumbling in on us?

David Miliband: I can say that there is nothing pell-mell about the way in which the energy review has been conducted and that we are absolutely committed to the four pillars of our energy policy, which my hon. Friend has rightly mentioned. The test for any policies considered under the review—whether it be for nuclear, renewables, micro-generation or energy efficiency and energy reduction—will be how they contribute to the strengthening of those four policy pillars. I look forward to seeing what I believe will be a strong package that meets all four tests when the energy review is published.

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

5. Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): What assessment he has made of the impact on environmental research of proposals for restructuring the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. [79346]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Barry Gardiner): All of the centre’s six current areas of research activity will continue after the restructuring, and the centre will continue to deliver its contractual commitments to DEFRA and other Government Departments and agencies.

Sandra Gidley: The Minister will be aware that four laboratories and 200 scientists will be lost in freshwater research and monitoring. The Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust, among others, has raised concerns about the lack of commitment to the conservation of the freshwater environment. How will the Minister ensure that we fund adequate research into the potential impact of global warming on vulnerable aquatic ecosystems, particularly on Atlantic salmon, which is an endangered species?

Barry Gardiner: The hon. Lady will understand that the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is wholly owned by the Natural Environment Research Council and that it is its job to decide on the appropriate allocation of resources to ensure that the very best research programmes
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are carried out. Indeed, as part of the whole rationale driving the process forward, an additional £5 million a year will be made available for front-line quality scientific research—the result of savings made from the amalgamation.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): It is hard to understand how £5 million a year will be saved when the total cost of the reorganisation is about £45 million and the centre’s total budget is £30 million a year. How on earth the Minister has come up with £5 million worth of savings, I do not know. To set our minds at rest, rather than simply saying, “It is not our problem”—the Government’s response on most things—will the Government give us an absolute assurance that all the scientific research currently undertaken in these vital biodiversity centres will continue after the reorganisation?

Barry Gardiner: First, let me answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions about the mathematics. It is very simple. The restructuring will take £43 million—not £45 million—and over a period of six years, the £7 million a year saving from that restructuring will by year six achieve an additional £5 million going into front-line research. That deals with the mathematics. I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not suggesting in the latter part of his question that, in deciding what are the best programmes of research, he and I should substitute our scientific expertise for that of the Natural Environment Research Council, which has far greater expertise in this area than we do. It is not a matter of shuffling off the problem, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, but of making sure that we continue to have, as we do now, the best qualified people to judge the quality of research undertaken and to decide which research is most vital for British interests.

Climate Change Talks

6. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): What the outcomes were of the Bonn climate change talks in May. [79347]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): The talks held in Bonn in May provided a successful start to the two-track process launched at the UN climate conference in Montreal on future international action to tackle climate change. Parties agreed that those discussions would continue at the November conference in Nairobi. Work also continued on developing a plan of action to further the understanding of how to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Colin Challen: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the answer. There is a climate change framework, which has widespread support on both sides of the House, which has been praised by the Prime Minister and which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has described as a beautiful model. It is supported by the Kenyan Government, who will be chairing the talks in Nairobi. It is called “Contraction and Convergence”. Will my hon. Friend ensure that our negotiating team gives that model all the support that it requires and what, I hope, the Kenyans will require in pushing it forward?

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Ian Pearson: As a Government, we are certainly aware that a number of different models are being discussed—the Kenyans’ proposal on contraction and convergence is one and there are proposals from Brazil and others—and we need to have a full debate to explore the advantages and disadvantages of all the options. However, the contraction and convergence model is certainly favoured by a number of African countries, and we certainly want to look at it, as part of the process of building the international consensus on climate change that we need if we are to agree a stabilisation target and an effective package of measures to tackle climate change in the future.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): When Ministers were in Bonn in May, did they take the opportunity to talk to their German counterparts about why efforts in Germany with the Renewable Energy Sources Act have been so much more successful than Labour’s efforts in the United Kingdom in promoting a range of renewable technologies? What do they learn from that? How do they plan to address the failure of our framework to give the lead in promoting renewables that we need if we are to meet our climate change targets?

Ian Pearson: As a new Minister, I have not yet had an opportunity to discuss issues with my German counterpart, but I reject the suggestion that we are not taking action on renewables. Under the renewables obligation—the targets that we have set for renewable energy—we want to generate 15 per cent. of energy from renewables by 2015, and with the renewable transport fuel obligation, we want 5 per cent. of our fuels to come from renewable sources by 2010. That clearly demonstrates that the Government are taking action on renewables, and we will continue to do so in the future. Indeed, that is a significant part of the work that has been undertaken by the energy review.

Carbon Capture

10. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What discussions he has had within the EU and with China on climate change, with particular reference to the development of carbon capture and storage technology. [79351]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): As a key element of the EU-China partnership, the UK is leading the first phase of a three-year feasibility study for a near-zero emissions coal with carbon capture and storage demonstration plant in China, and supporting it with £3.5 million of funding. We are also working closely under the EU climate change programme to establish a regulatory framework on carbon capture and storage within the EU, including a recognition of CCS projects in the EU emissions trading scheme.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his extensive answer, and I am sure that he will agree that there is no better example of the UK Government’s efforts than the agreement on carbon capture that was signed by Sir David King with the Chinese in Beijing.
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However, will my hon. Friend look further afield and take a look at the American systems of dealing with carbon capture and come to an agreement with the Americans, so that we can start to reduce in greater volumes the carbon emissions that come particularly from that country? Will he also look at the benefits that that will create for the workers and business in the United Kingdom?

Ian Pearson: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of carbon capture and storage technology. I am pleased that it is recognised as such by the European Commission, and he will be aware of what Commissioner Dimas said recently about carbon capture and storage. We are very interested in talking to the Americans about CCS technology. Along with a number of colleagues, I visited Canada recently and was very interested to hear about the Canadians’ plans and proposals for CCS technology. It is an important technology for the future, and it is right that the UK is involved at its leading edge.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): How much confidence does the Minister have that the European Union can carry through this project, given that it could not even open up the gas market in continental Europe? That led to people in this country having to pay £186 extra last year, because of the failure of the Government and the EU.

Ian Pearson: Across Europe, there is a wide interest in carbon capture and storage technology, not least because of the coal reserves that exist in Europe and issues to do with security of energy supply. I am optimistic about progress over the coming months and years in respect of CCS technology, and about ensuring its inclusion in the EU emissions trading scheme. That will be an important benefit: it is the kind of advantage that we need to provide to incentivise CCS technologies to come on stream.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): As well as pressing for carbon capture and storage in China, should we not be working to demonstrate it here, so that, with clean-coal technology, our indigenous British coal industry can have a future? Will the Minister press for that during the energy review?

Ian Pearson: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and that matter is indeed being looked at as part of the energy review. Carbon capture and storage is an important technology, and it will be essential for our future internationally. CCS is part of a package of measures that we will need if we are to achieve our target of a 60 per cent. reduction in CO2 by 2050.

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