|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
If climate change could be tackled by setting up a committee, successive Governments would have solved the problem long ago. As my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary again pointed out, many of us who are currently sitting on the Front Bench last week attended a Cabinet committee on energy and the environment, chaired by the Prime Minister, on our international climate change strategy. I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not the be all and end all, although I am grateful for his support for that Government initiative.
Let me tackle the hon. Gentlemans serious point about annual targets. I know of no economic model that makes allowances for the weather. I have not seen Treasury expenditure plans that make such allowances. That is why annual targets do not make sense and why the Kyoto protocol specifically rejected them in favour of its five-year targets. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman says much about reductions at homeas does the Conservative partybut it is vital to realise that a tonne of carbon dioxide emitted in Bangalore is as dangerous as a tonne of carbon dioxide emitted in Birmingham. That is why buying our emissions reductions abroad is a perfectly ethical and important way forward, which is not captured in a debate about targets in the UK.
However, monitoring annuallyreporting on, to use the hon. Gentlemans wordsour progress towards those targets is a completely different matter. The Government have been committed to that for at least nine monthspossibly longerand it was put into statute last year under the Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) promoted. I therefore assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be plenty of chances to debate the matter, more often than annually, but that is not an argument for annual targets.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the carbon committee. I said that I would set out the details when the climate change Bill is introduced. As he intimated, there are difficult issues to get right, including the balance between an independent committee and its responsibilities and Government responsibilities. We will present proposals to ensure the transparency and clarity that he seeks.
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): I greatly welcome my right hon. Friends statement. In the light of the Stern report, does he accept that the Government have four key responsibilities: first, to ratchet up the contribution of renewables to electricity generation in this country from the current pathetic4 per cent. to at least 25 per cent. in 10 to 15 years; secondly, to require industry to report on its environmental impact year after year; thirdly, to provide for a carbon budget for individual households to assist them in reducing emissions year by year; and, fourthly, to require an overall aggregate reduction throughout the country of3 per cent. a year as the only way to achieve the target of a 60 per cent. reduction by 2050? Does he also accept that the Government should reportevery year, I hope, but at least every five yearson success, and, if we have not been successful, on what needs to be done to get back on track?
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend has raised four points. On renewables, I am not sure that he will be satisfied, but we are committed to generating 20 per cent. of our electricity supply from renewables by 2020. I know that my right hon. Friend would like that figure to be 25 per cent. by 2025, but we propose to increase that contribution from 4 per cent. to 20 per cent. within 14 years. In respect of the Companies Bill, I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not venture into an already crowded terrain. On individual accounts, he emphasised the importance of offering clarity to people about the consequences of their household decisions. When energy prices are high, there is not only an environmental but an economic win as people improve their energy efficiency. I am certainly committed to that. Finally, as I said to the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), measures to deal with reporting arrangements are now in statute as a result of the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith. I look forward to successive debates on those issues.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): In welcoming Sir Nicholass report and conclusions, may I tell the Secretary of State that it might have been more helpful if the documents to which he referred had been available in the Vote Office ahead of his statement? That would have been better than having them relayed to us by the BBC, which reported that its correspondents had read all 38 pages of the summary while Members were simply referred to a website.
The Secretary of State will be aware that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee recommended more work on the development of green aviation fuel through bio-energy work. In his statement, he referred to the creation of a group in southern Africa to deal with that issue, but given that South Africa already produces half of its aviation fuel by a process that can produce green aviation fuel, will the group take that work on? Secondly, at the domestic level, what measures will the right hon. Gentleman take to encourage individuals to invest more in energy-saving methods? Many of them, like windmills and photovoltaics, currently have a poor rate of return, so what can he do to improve that?
David Miliband: I apologise to the House as I should have explained the problem about the documentation earlier. It was not an environmental matter, but there was an administrative problem with the printing of the 711-page report. The right hon. Gentleman is right about the 38-page summary and I am sure that the Stern team would want me to explain to the House that no offence was intended. I have checked and I know that it is trying to remedy the problem as soon as possible.
In respect of what the right hon. Gentleman called green aviation, I see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is in his place. Not only in southern Africa, but in Europe and
north America, it is important to pursue energy efficiency and technological innovation in respect of aviation as well as surface transport. I know that that is on the right hon. Gentlemans agenda. As to energy saving, I referred earlier to the importance of information when I answered my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher). The Government are investing significant sums of public money in all our constituencies on insulation and other energy-efficiency measures. They are important because they enable families, especially poorer families, to benefit from energy efficiency. I look forward to the right hon. Gentlemans support for those efforts.
Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will convince the House that the ensuing Bill will contain some imaginative measures on personal transporta difficult issue for the whole world to deal with. Can he assure me that some vision will be applied to that issue so that as we move forward on the route towards a possible hydrogen-based economy in the long run, people are carried with us and buy cars such as a British-made Vauxhall Astra, which is considerably cleaner than even a hybrid Lexus?
David Miliband: I admire my hon. Friend's support and tenacity on behalf of his constituents. I am not sure that the climate change Bill is the obvious place to pursue the matters to which he refers, but I know that those issues are being considered at both European and domestic level. I assure him that we recognise the need to tackle transport issues as part of the wider approach to the issue.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): To ensure that the climate change Bill is as effective as possible, will the Secretary of State have urgent discussions with the Leader of the House, so that the Bill has exhaustive pre-legislative scrutiny and careful post-legislative scrutiny and monitoring?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that I have already spoken to the Leader of the House about the statement that I made earlier today and about the need for extensive discussion of the Bill in the House and outside. Quite what procedure we use is still to be determined, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we want the Bill to be as widely debated and scrutinised as possible.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): May I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend? Nick Sterns work will have international significance in taking forward the debate on climate change, and it underlines the lead that this country has given on the issue. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the logic behind Nick Sterns report is that we need a fundamental cultural shift towards a carbon-accounting economy? Some of those measuresfiscal measures and regulationcould be introduced quite quickly, but others may require more detailed analysis. We should not have any boundaries, but rather look at the whole concept of carbon accounting, including personal carbon accounting. We need some good-quality analysis and work to be done on that, so will he press his friends in the Treasury for that?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend, as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher), is a distinguished former environment Minister. There is a fundamental challenge in the Stern report and it can be simply expressed. For 150 years, we have pumped carbon and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as if it had no environmental or economic cost. We have known for some time that it has an environmental cost, but today, the economic cost has been dramatised. Simply put, we need to ensure that, as we move forward, that cost is incorporated into the economic and social decisions that we take. The accounting issues that my hon. Friend raises are important. A range of groups, including the Royal Society of Arts, are looking at personal carbon allowances. That can only be a good thing as we think about how Government, business and individuals play their part in this global challenge.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Even before the report was published, spokesmen were claiming that it would require more green taxes. Will the Secretary of State comment on the claim that the report will be used as an excuse for increasing the tax burden on an already over-taxed public? Will he comment on claims that that will result in more expensive consumer goods, less access to foreign travel and a greater imposition for people living in rural areas?
David Miliband: I am sure of one thing: failure to act will lead to the sort of tax increases and costs to individuals that the hon. Gentleman fears. The Government's position in respect of green taxes was first set out in 1997, when we came to office, and it was developed in a 2002 Treasury paper that I commend to him. At every stage, we have pursued the principle of fairness at the heart of our taxation and spending policy and I assure him that that will continue.
Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): While looking at personal accountability for individual carbon cost, can my right hon. Friend look at the two sides of the equation? As well as people being taxed for carbon-rich behaviour, can he encourage people to reduce carbon in the atmosphere by rewarding good behaviour and by giving grants, for example, to firms such as the one in my constituency that produces heat exchange systems, which are extremely effective in reducing carbon emissions and the heating costs of poorer families? That could be a win-win for everyone.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. The greatest win for an individual is that they will have a lower energy bill as a result of the energy-efficiency measures that she describes. That prospect seems to offer incentives in exactly the right place. If we can support companies such as those in her constituency, all the better.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con):
I know that people in my constituency will want to play their part in any common-sense measures that will come forward, but I hope that, in the Secretary of States rush to tax 4x4s, he remembers that, while they may be a fashion accessory in Chelsea and Westminster, they are working farming vehicles in rural areas. Can he say something about what he will do to bring China, the
United States, Russia and India on board? China has a new power plant opening every week and in India growth is such that 200,000 mobile phones are sold every day.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. As the Chancellor and the Prime Minister made clear this morning, there must be international action as well as domestic action. I have tried to refer to that in my statement. China, India, the United States and Australia all need to be part of a global agreement, but I hope that, in his discussions with legislators in the countries he mentioned, the hon. Gentleman will pursue the fact that every one of those countries is a signatory to the 1992 UN convention on climate change. That convention committed those countries to seek to avoid dangerous climate change. It is important that we say to legislators in those countries that their Governments and Executives need to live up to those commitments.
Premier Wen from China and Prime Minister Singh from India have been in this country over the past four or five weeks and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I met them. I think that we have the opportunity, if the industrialised world sets itself hard targetsas we have done and as the European Union has doneto bring China and India on board, but we also need to ensure that important steps forward at state and city level in the United States, and by American businesses, are translated into action by the US Government.
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): As someone who has worked on these issues for more than a decade, I congratulate my right hon. Friends on the commissioning of the report and their responses to it. If we embrace everything that Nicholas Stern has said, history will see that today was a turning point in the global treatment of climate change. In setting an example at home, will my right hon. Friend take a look at the grants for householders to install low-carbon equipment? I understand that the grants have been so popular that they have almost run out. I hope that he will address that issue very soon.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend has a long and distinguished record in this area. I am happy to inform her and the House that the Government have brought forward some spending that was previously planned for next year to help the low-carbon buildings fund, which I agree has proved to be a tremendous success.
Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk) (Con):
There can be no more important subject debated by this House in this Parliament than the one addressed by Sir Nicholas Stern and I hope that hon. Members will have a chance to debate his report once they have had a chance to read it. I warmly welcome the message that early action to tackle climate change will be more effective and less painful than delayed action. In that context, does the Secretary of State agree that there could be no more timely moment for his intervention to recommend tax changes to increase the incentives for greener choices by businesses and consumers; that Britains influence abroad would be enhanced if we were willing to take bold and perhaps unpopular action at home; and that
an early litmus test of how seriously the Government continue to take the issue of climate change will be seen in the pre-Budget report?
David Miliband: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right that domestic and international action must be linked. I am sure that he is also right that there are a range of opportunities to take the debate forward. The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) and I were smiling at each other across the Dispatch Box because we had a debate in the Chamber two weeks ago about climate change issues, but I am happy to debate it as often as possible.
John McFall (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): May I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Chancellor on the report? I note that it was commissioned before the present Leader of the Opposition was elected to his post. I urge my right hon. Friend to inject some realism into the debate. There will be no pain-free choices, for individuals and their future lifestyle or for the Government and their policies. The issue is too important to leave to party politics, so will my right hon. Friend ensure a national debate between politicians and in every community and school so that we may leave a safe planet for our children and their children?
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. I tried to refer in my statement to the need for the climate change Bill to be something that can be taken out to businesses, schools and communities around the country, because he is right about the need for action by Government and businesses, and also individual action. In respect of his first point, some people always find change painful, but when the failure to change would be even more painful, the case for action is proven. That is the case in this area and I will be seeking to prosecute it.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that action on climate change is vital at the international and national level, and also at the local level. Will he join me in congratulating Richmond council on introducing a parking charge scheme based on emissions, despite vociferous opposition from all the local Tory councillors
Susan Kramer: Yes, indeed. Will the Secretary of State use the opportunity of the climate change Bill to give local councils greater flexibility to switch from council tax to green taxes at that level of government?
David Miliband: In an interview yesterday, I was asked about the Richmond council decision and I could almost feel the interviewer fall off his chair when I said that although it was a Lib Dem council and a Lib Dem idea, it seemed like a good one to me. I am happy to say that.
Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab):
May I draw my right hon. Friends attention to a geothermal heating project in Midlothian, which has been on the go for some time and would reintroduce an old industry that can contribute to the future of the country? The project
is 3,000 ft down in old mine workings at Monktonhall, and if it works, with 1 million gallons of hot water produced every minute, it could be replicated 200 times in Scotland alone and thousands of times throughout the United Kingdom.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are certainly committed to ensuring not just that renewable energy sources that have been developed and are close to the market are increasingly available but that we pursue sources further away from the market, through the research and development to which he referred. There is often discussion of carbon capture and storage, in which I know that my hon. Friend is interested, given his background, but we are interested in all ways of pursuing low-carbon energy sources.
Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I welcome the announcement that there will be a climate change Bill in the Queens Speech. Indeed, by pure coincidence, after the statement I shall be presenting my fourth climate change Billthe texts of all my Bills are freely available if my right hon. Friend wants to incorporate them in his Bill in a couple of weeks time. May I draw his attention to the statement in Sir Nick Sterns executive summary in the second paragraph on page 23 and ask him to comment about equity? In a world where there has been such long delay in delivering the 0.7 per cent. United Nations aid targets and the millennium development goals will be so long delayed, according to the Chancellor, what hope do we have of reaching the 1 per cent. of gross domestic product expenditure that Sir Nick talks about, and that it will be equitably spent?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner on the issue. In respect of sharing out global burdens, the 1992 UN convention to which I referred earlier includes the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: common responsibilities in which every country must play a part but differentiated because countries with better capacity, greater wealth and greater ability to contribute to tackling the climate change challenge must do so. That means that the industrialised countries must take on an equitable burden that reflects their development. I shall certainly look at the Bill that my hon. Friend introduces, but the principle of burden-sharing as enunciated by the UN is the right one.
Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I think that we are all agreed on the seriousness of the problem, and the debate is shifting to some difficult questions about what one does about it. The Secretary of State has acknowledged that the problem is global, which means that nothing we do in this countryalthough it may make us feel goodwill actually solve the problem if others do not act. That leads to many conclusions, but two of them are, first, that it is important to develop technologies that help solve the problem, as he said, and to make them available in the developing world on terms that it can afford; and, secondly, that whatever we do domestically it makes no sense to impose costs on British business that make it uncompetitive internationally if other countries do not do the same thing.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|