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I accept that phase 1 of the European emissions trading scheme is in its infancy, but there have already been difficulties. I suspect that phase 2, which we are working towards, will be much more robust. It is important that it is transparent, open and honest, and does not lead to anti-competitive behaviour across
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Europe. We must move towards a fair auctioning system, rather than the calculations that have been part of phase 1, in which vested interests and a “business as usual” approach have been prevalent.

The real prize will be phase 3 of the European emissions trading scheme. The discussions of that phase have to be linked to the post-Kyoto discussions. We have to extend the European emissions trading scheme to aviation and other transport and industries that hon. Members have mentioned, and we must also extend it from Europe internationally. That is an amazing challenge.

Unless we can achieve a firm, stable and high price for carbon, the new investment—in new plant and equipment—that we need alongside the change in behaviour, will not happen. Let us rally the consensus around carbon pricing. It will have real effects on the aviation industry. Members on both sides of the House have talked strongly about the threat of aviation, but a true trading system could help us to make progress on that.

I am keen to achieve consensus, but let me strike a discordant note. It is easy to have a consensus about not very much. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have a consensus on climate change, but it is on the headline and the principle. When it comes to the mechanics of the necessary policies, it is hard to build consensus. For example, where does the Conservative party stand on wind farms? Are they giant bird blenders? Does the Conservative party want a moratorium? It should make its position clear.

The Conservatives should also make their position clear on the renewables obligation. We have had some discussion of that this afternoon and it has been a useful mechanism for encouraging new technologies. We do need a more sophisticated system, and the energy review acknowledges that. The consultation on the issue has just started. I think that there is a place for nuclear, and a strong argument to support replacing nuclear with nuclear. However, if we argue that nuclear is the last resort, it is clear that that replacement will never happen.

It is never easy to build consensus, but the climate change Bill that many hon. Members have mentioned in the debate would serve as a vehicle for a discussion and give us an opportunity to talk about consensus. There are merits in introducing year-on-year reductions, and the discussion about the Bill has, at the very least, raised the profile of the argument. Even so, difficulties remain, as any such Bill would involve domestic rather than international targets. It would introduce year-on-year changes, rather than the lengthy planning period— 15 years at least, or perhaps even longer—needed for the introduction of a trading scheme. To that extent, it would deal in aspirations rather than mechanisms.

I listened very carefully to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about carbon budgeting. I hope that the Government will introduce relevant measures in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech. Even if a Bill on carbon budgeting is not announced then, I hope that the possibility of introducing an overarching scheme to that end will be discussed further.

When the Labour party renews itself—hopefully next spring—I hope that a policy initiative will be produced that will make a break with the Labour party of the
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past, and drive us on to becoming a new Labour party that is environmentally sensitive and in touch with people’s aspirations for the future.

My final point is more parochial. I come from a coal mining area, and coal has been facing a difficult time. Many people have said that we met our Kyoto targets because of the dash for gas, although I think that our success in that regard is due to the coal industry’s decline. However, I was pleased that the energy review spoke strongly about coal having a place in the future.

Real problems exist at the moment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) noted, UK Coal, our biggest producer, is arguing about price with generators such as EDF. We can sort out difficulties like that, but the challenge for coal has to do with the environment rather than economics.

The question of how we burn coal—whether we use supercritical boilers or go down the gasification route—is immaterial, as the market will decide that. More important just now is the fact that people like Richard Budge and his company called Powerfuel, together with Powergen and RWE, are looking to bring new, cleaner coal plants on stream. The problem that they face is that the carbon allowance offered to new entrants to the market is only 40 per cent. of the benchmark level for a new gas plant. Therefore, people who want to bring in cleaner coal technology are left at a competitive disadvantage. It cannot be sensible policy to prohibit or restrict new entrants to the market who will be cleaner producers of energy from coal when the comparators for them are plants that are more polluting. The Government must look at that problem, as a matter of urgency.

In addition, we must move away from the notion of carbon capture and sequestration, even though the concept is a good one and I am pleased that experiments are taking place, such as at the new Powergen plant on the north Norfolk coast and at the proposed RWE plant on the Thames. Carbon capture has plenty of potential, and it could be used to enhance our oilfields, but it is not a silver bullet. The technology is at a rudimentary stage. One of the things that I want from the Stern review, which will be published shortly, is an acknowledgement that carbon capture and storage will be good for the UK and that investing money now will save money in the long run.

We want new coal plant in the UK, but that is as nothing compared with the demand for coal in India and China. In this country and in Europe, we must demonstrate that we can burn coal more cleanly and deal with the consequences of carbon emissions. Saving a tonne of carbon in India or China has equal consequences for us in the west; we live in a global world.

My message to our Government is that although they have achieved a lot, they must continue to hit their targets. Unless they do so, we will lose the moral high ground—the leadership that could take us to a greener, cleaner environment in the future.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Many Members still want to make a contribution to this important debate. Time is limited so I ask them to put some limitation on their contributions.

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4.11 pm

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): I shall try to keep my comments as brief as possible, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. I should like a more substantial debate in the future, based on a Bill similar to the one proposed by Friends of the Earth.

I am proud to be a member of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has been conducting a timely inquiry into various elements of climate change. Last month, we reported on renewable energy and biofuels. We are currently taking evidence about what individual citizens can do, and we will shortly be looking at the longer-term policy agenda.

We recently visited China, which was incredibly insightful. We went to a car factory, where we were told of the rather worrying aspiration to give every Chinese family a car. Several politicians spoke to us frankly about climate change; they shared their distrust of capitalism and what the west is saying. One of them summarised their views well when he said, “Look, you’ve had your industrial revolution, you’ve had your chance to develop. Now it’s our turn.” But if they develop as we have done, it will kill off the planet.

It is essential that the international community works together, but the impact of China and India does not mean that we should not act as individual citizens. That Chinese politician said, “We want to see you suffer as well”, and asked why we did not all have photovoltaic cells and solar power. If we expect the Chinese to change, we need to change even more.

We must take climate change even more seriously than we do already. At Cabinet level there is already a precedent for cross-cutting Ministers. There should be a Minister solely responsible for climate change, not with a full Department but with a team that cuts across Departments. It is not enough just to have a climate change office, although it is a step in the right direction.

Flooding and housing are significant issues in my constituency and, more generally, in the adaptation and mitigation debates. In my constituency, the Environment Agency is consulting about flood defences in the Great Wakering area, where there is an enormous risk of flooding, as there is throughout south Essex. This morning, I met Charles Beardall, the very good manager of the Environment Agency’s eastern region. He told me an astonishing fact—I had to make him repeat it three times because I thought he had got it wrong: a house built this year with only a one in 1,000 chance of flooding every year will have a one in eight chance by 2080. I have a newborn son, and those houses could flood within his lifetime. Building in the Thames Gateway—let alone in a number of other areas—makes no sense to me when we are subject to those risks. In fact, we are considering building more than 120,000 houses in the Thames Gateway by 2016. That makes no sense to me whatsoever.

We must do more about the standard of the houses that are built. It is quite criminal that we let houses be built to such a low standard. I am not one of those people who say that we should compel companies to include solar panels, photovoltaic cells, water butts or insulation. We need to set overall standards, and
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companies can innovate as a result of them. For example, we could say that half the water consumed by the house must be collected locally, or that the house must produce half the energy that it consumes, and it does not matter whether a wind farm or photovoltaic heating is used to do so. If we are prescriptive, we will stifle innovation, and it is important that we do not do that.

Action on new housing will also pump-prime the marketplace. The Chinese were very entrepreneurial in many ways. They were saying, “We want you to have photovoltaic cells. In fact, we can produce them very cheaply if you buy in volume.” Joking apart, such things will be beneficial, and high-profile environmental activities help to educate people. Certainly, when the Select Committee went to Leicester to see eco-houses and wind farms in schools, we could see that that was helping to educate children.

We have done an awful lot to date, but there is so much more to do. We need a climate change Bill. I hope that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs misread his speech earlier on, because I was diametrically opposed to what he seemed to say. I think that he said that he believed that we would be judged not by results, but by how we get there. I think that he probably got that the wrong way around—we will be judged by results—and the Friends of the Earth Bill would put down a base point that all future Governments could aim for and achieve. That would overcome some of the electoral resistance to some of the very difficult and tough decisions that we must take.

4.17 pm

Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): I speak as a sponsor of the Climate Change Bill, and I urge the Government to consider incorporating such a Bill into the Queen’s Speech. I have listened with great interest to what the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said about carbon budgets, and I hope that there will be some creative discussion in the short time between now and the Queen’s Speech. It may well be that, in the end, some of the aspirations of those who support the Climate Change Bill can be covered by a proposed carbon budget.

I came into politics, as I am sure everyone else did, to change the world, not necessarily to save it, but we must begin by saving it. We have a responsibility, to our children and to our children’s children, to ensure that we properly look after the world, which we are only given on trust, so that we can pass it on to our children in a fit state. We are failing to do that at the moment, and we must take that seriously. Of course the biggest challenge is climate change, and the question is what on earth do we do.

What on earth do we do, particularly when we as a country are responsible only for 2 per cent. of emissions? Although people are persuaded that we need to do something, they are not persuaded about what they can do to make a real difference. The context in the UK is that about a third of end-user carbon emissions comes from industry, about a third comes from households and about a third from transport. So what individual
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people do in Britain is important, and it is really important that we change people’s behaviour, but the question is how.

Everyone has been talking about the importance of consensus. Of course, I am entirely in favour of that in principle, but what I really think is that we can only tackle something like climate change if we stick to fundamental Labour values. We have to stick to the values of internationalism, radicalism and collectivism. I hear what the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) says about the beauty of regulation and I agree with him, but I am not entirely sure that some of the people sitting behind him—the colour drained from their faces as he spoke—necessarily do so. Nevertheless, if we talk in terms of those fundamental values, we can get somewhere.

Obviously, we have to begin with a real commitment to internationalism and an understanding that Britain can play a leading role. It has done so in the development of Kyoto and the European emissions trading scheme. That is fantastic, but we can continue to play a leading role only if we have the moral authority of being able to show that we, as a country—as the first industrialised country—can tackle this issue head on and continue to grow our industries and be all right, and be carbon neutral. We have to be able to show a lead on that. In turn, we can get all sorts of benefits. However, unfortunately, we are not leading in any of the 10 main green industries. Why not? As a country, we are potentially the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. Why do we not have a flourishing wind industry? Of course, I could make all sorts of cheap points about the Liberal Democrats and their planning controls and stranglehold on wind energy in Scotland, but I will not do that because we are talking about consensus.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Does the hon. Lady not accept that, in fact, the Liberal Democrats in Scotland who hold the positions of the Minister for Environment and Rural Development and the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, my colleagues Ross Finnie and Nicol Stephen, have put Scotland at the leading edge of renewable energy—certainly far ahead of England and Wales, where Labour is governing on its own?

Emily Thornberry: As a Government, the most important thing that we have to take on board is that people know that they must do something, but they do not know what. Enlightened self-interest is not sufficient. Putting a wind turbine up on a roof is not by itself sufficient. Nor is it by itself sufficient for people to change their cars. We have to do that as part of a structure. I would deign to suggest that, as a Government, it is our responsibility to show that there is a structure. We have to say, “Internationally, we are doing a certain thing. Nationally, the Government are doing a certain thing. We are expecting industry and business to do certain things, and, if they do not, we will force them to do so through fiscal measures, regulation and other means. Individually, your responsibility is to do a certain thing.” We have to have a clear structure, so that people know that, when they play a role, they are doing so within a wider structure. We have to be centralist and regulatory.

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We should not be afraid to govern, to lead and to be radical, because, in the end, the people who will suffer most from climate change are the poor. Two thirds of Bangladesh will disappear. What will happen to the families of many of my constituents? Sub-Saharan Africa will not be sub-Saharan any more. The Sahara will simply expand. Will we look into the eyes of Africans and tell them that they cannot come here, even though the rest of their family may have died and they may not have an agriculture any more? How can we do that? We will not be able to. Poor constituents will not be able to afford the ramped up costs of fuel. We have been able to tackle fuel poverty effectively in many ways so far, but what will happen in the future, when fuel prices go up?

There are times when the Labour Government do such good things and we do not even realise what we have done and how what we have done comes out of Labour values. For example, there was talk earlier about households and the importance of changing things within them, such as insulation. Certain sneery comments were made about the Warm Front scheme. We should remember the decent homes standard. Half my constituents live in social housing and they are all having their houses done up at the moment. As far as the constituents—the punters—are concerned, they are getting new kitchens and bathrooms. That is great and that is what they celebrate—thanks to a Labour Government. However, they are also getting new boilers and insulation. When fuel prices go up, as they will, half my constituents will be literally insulated from those prices, because we have put our traditional values into a modern setting and are not only looking after our constituents, but tackling climate change with radical action. We should do more of that. That is what the Labour party is about and what our Labour Government should be about.

Mr. Hunt: Is the hon. Lady worried that those same Labour values that are leading to hospitals being closed will mean that people will have to drive further to go to hospital? Would she support that reflection of her Government’s achievements?

Emily Thornberry: The fact that the majority of people have their health conditions dealt with in the community is important. Keeping people in hospitals for less time is an important part of tackling climate change, as is making sure that Labour values are put into action. There are many ways in which we have to move ahead for policy reasons, but, as a Labour MP, I would say that we always have to keep an eye on traditional Labour values and the importance of tackling the radical problem of climate change. We should take heart, because although we might be coming to this at the eleventh hour, we have a Labour Government. I am confident that we will tackle the problem properly with the new leadership at the Department. We must not be afraid and we have to be radical.

4.25 pm

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