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I am sorry to say that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government produced bland words and the action that is to follow is very shallow. There is a failure to tackle environmental sustainability, to tackle climate change vigorously and to deliver
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affordable and accessible housing. We urge the Government to make more effort in the coming Session to match their actions to their words.

4.6 pm

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I want to focus on the climate change Bill, but it is appropriate to say a few words about the communities and local government legislation, because there are some important overlaps. I welcome some aspects, such as giving the Mayor of London more powers, which is important. For example, there is incoherence in London in relation to such things as the waste collection authorities and the waste disposal authorities. There is a role for the Mayor to have a much more co-ordinated approach—he has shown some really good leadership in trying to promote low-carbon economies and houses in London. That is a good example of what local government can do. It has been reflected in local councils across the country. The Nottingham declaration on climate change has been signed by a great many local councils, of all political control, across the country.

I would like to say to my right hon. and hon. Friends from the Department for Communities and Local Government that, among my locally elected representatives, there is sometimes a view that the Government judge local councils on the criteria of the worst. There are some good examples of what local councils do across the country. Where local councils are performing well, they should be given not just support, but additional responsibilities and powers. The Bill goes some way towards that, which I welcome because it is important.

I want to focus on climate change. First, I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on securing the parliamentary time to bring the Bill forward and on getting it in included in the Queen’s Speech. I know how difficult that is, with all the conflicting demands and priorities. It demonstrates real commitment from the Government to tackling climate change and taking these issues forward. However, I also hope that he is successful in bringing forward a marine Bill, even if it is only in draft form. That would enable us to start the discussion on that Bill. I know that the fact that Bills are not included in the Queen’s Speech does not necessarily mean that they will not be introduced, so I still think that there is an opportunity for the Bill. I want to put on record my support for that. I know that a great many organisations warmly welcome the idea of a marine Bill and look forward to its introduction.

On Kyoto, the Government have a record that they can be proud of in terms of what has been done. I must correct the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) about the Kyoto targets. The Government have already met their Kyoto target and are projected to more than double their Kyoto target to about 23 per cent. by 2010. The hon. Gentleman might have been mixing up that target and the Government’s domestic target on carbon dioxide.

On that domestic target, it is projected that the UK will be about 16.5 per cent. below its 1990 CO2 levels by 2010. The manifesto commitment was a figure
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of 20 per cent.—Labour was the only party to make such a commitment—and I still hope that there is every chance that we can achieve that target. Changes in the energy sector will make a big difference, and we still need to concentrate on the matter. However, our record is better than that of any other industrial country, although I am not saying that it is enough—I do not think that it is. The climate change Bill will allow us to focus on what the Government and the country need to do so that we do not just meet our Kyoto targets.

In the end, the Kyoto targets were agreed through horse-trading. They were based not on any kind of scientific assessment, but on negotiations. It is a tragedy that many countries have come nowhere near meeting their Kyoto targets. The US and Canada are about 30 per cent. above their 1990 levels, although an active debate is taking place in Canada about the measures that are needed to get things back on track. There is also enormous bottom-up pressure for action in the US. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), who is in the Chamber, is a notable member of the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment—GLOBE. I appreciate that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the work of GLOBE, which is made up of members of all parties. The cross-party group is engaging with legislators from the G8 plus 5 countries to try to move the debate forward. The debate is moving forward in countries such as the US. The results of the recent mid-term elections provide an opportunity for change, so I hope that we will be able to capitalise on them in a conference that GLOBE is organising in February. The conference will be addressed by Sir Nicholas Stern, among others, and I look forward to it.

The Kyoto process itself is moving at a snail’s pace. I am afraid that the outcome of the Nairobi conference was sadly predictable. There is no real agreement or focus. There will be a real risk of failure with the UN process unless there is a step change in action and some countries take on more responsibility for their actions. For example, it is incredible that Saudi Arabia is part of the G77 group. The country is richer and has a bigger gross domestic product than many members of the European Union, so it should be an annexe 1 country. It certainly should not be arguing that because taking action to reduce hydrocarbons will affect its economy, it should receive compensation. The country should be investing its wealth in alternative technologies and it is well placed to do so.

I welcome the establishment of the carbon committee, which will provide independent assessments and will work with the Government to give independent advice. In reality, reporting has always been independent because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has had to report to the United Nations framework convention on climate change. In addition, independent consultants have carried out an analysis on each year’s emissions. However, the process should be made more open and transparent. It should be seen as independent, so I welcome the step forward in the climate change Bill. Several hon. Members and organisations have called for such a measure. The Bill itself has received a warm welcome from non-governmental organisations, which should take a great deal of credit for the way in which
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they have mobilised public opinion. The Stop Climate Chaos coalition, especially, has been extremely successful.

There will be—and should be—a debate about targets. However, we should not get ourselves so wrapped up in, and focused on, a specific target that we lose sight of outcomes. Outcomes are important, rather than a particular target. I welcome the enabling powers in the Bill that will help to achieve those outcomes. Such powers are essential because they will be needed across the whole economy. The Bill will have to create a step change in the way in which we consider fiscal measures, taxation, transport policy, planning and regulation. We must take a holistic approach, and every Department should play its part. We must use every lever at our disposal to reduce emissions, because the challenge is great, and we need to take industry with us.

We must make the case that there are real opportunities, and not only costs. Although there are costs involved, as the Stern report rightly pointed out, it also highlighted the fact that more costs will result from not taking action than will from taking action. That is a powerful message for our economy, the Government and other Governments around the world. I am pleased that notice has been taken of that, and that the arguments, which were put well, are of the quality that we would expect from Sir Nicholas Stern.

There is an argument for targets, but we must think about what they should be. The overall target recommended by the United Nations climate change conference is a 60 per cent. reduction by 2050. That is to be made statutory, which is welcome. That may have to be reviewed, because given the way things are going, it may not be enough. We need interim approaches, too, so that we can measure our progress. Annual targets, and deciding the level of such targets, are quite difficult. I can tell that it must be a difficult subject of debate within the Conservative party, because it has talked about rolling targets and annual rolling targets—I am not clear about what an annual rolling target is, as a matter of fact, but the phrase was on its website, which is curious. There is probably not much between our parties on the reality of trying to apply such measures in a practical way.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): The hon. Gentleman was a distinguished fisheries Minister, so he will remember the rolling multi-annual guidance arrangements that existed for dealing with fish. Does he agree that those rolling programmes could perhaps give him an answer on what he has just been talking about?

Mr. Morley: That is why I do not think that our parties are too far apart on such issues. We will have a bumpy ride in relation to emission reductions; levels will go up some years, as they did recently, and down in others. They may fall quite dramatically in some years. For example, in years in which new carbon-capture power stations open—and there may be two within the next few years—there could be a big drop, so it will be a bumpy ride, and there must be realism about the targets. It might be more realistic to have five-year targets, which would give us some opportunity to deal with the rises and falls of the figures.

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Chris Huhne: Surely the problem with a five-year target is that five years is outside the normal lifespan of a Parliament—it is the absolute limit. Therefore if a Government face short-term pressure to deliver on a range of other policies by the next election, the long-term action that I am sure the hon. Gentleman wants could play second fiddle to other priorities. That is why it is important to have interim targets of less than five years, and that is why annual targets are a sensible objective, even if there are difficulties in adjusting for the state of the economy or the weather, or indeed for the sort of lumpy investments to which he rightly drew attention.

Mr. Morley: Such targets are desirable, of course, but will the effect be desirable if there is an over-concentration of them? We must also consider what consequences they might have, and their effects on building consensus with industry, which is something that we must do. I am not altogether sure such targets are the right way forward. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, because although we may debate in the House what those targets should be, and what measures we should apply in order to achieve them, I am convinced that there is consensus in the House that we must make progress and that climate change is a serious threat. I am convinced that we will take the kind of long-term approach that is essential for forward planning. We are looking for huge investment in clean technologies for our manufacturing and energy sectors, and those sectors want a long-term picture, so that they can make the necessary investments. There is a debate to be had on the subject, but I think that a five-year approach is more realistic. I understand that the details of the Bill will be made available at the end of the year, and that will be an opportunity for the House to debate them. That is desirable, because there is clearly a debate to be had on the issue. It should be open and inclusive, and it should involve MPs as well as industry, non-governmental organisations and civil society.

We should focus, too, on difficult issues such as aviation, and we must involve the retail sector, as well as the commercial sector, which is outside the European carbon-trading scheme. I very much hope that the enabling powers envisaged for the Bill will include categories that are not part of the European Union emissions trading scheme. They could, however, be included in the UK emissions trading scheme, for which the Government deserve credit, as it was the first national carbon trading scheme in the world. Carbon markets are the way forward. According to the World Bank, carbon trading generates about $5 billion worth of income. A levy on investments in clean development mechanisms is used to help poorer countries with adaptation, so the benefit is enormous. Market mechanisms are one of the most effective ways of driving down emissions, in parallel with measures such as regulation, innovation, technology and planning. We should not be timid about such things, so I was disappointed by the comments of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on waste collection. We should remove waste disposal from the council tax altogether. It is well worth thinking about charging for waste by volume, for example, as the technology already exists for such a measure. There will be resistance to such a concept—the Daily Mail will
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doubtless run a headline that it is a bin stealth tax—but we must think about what is right for sustainable development and for the environment.

Mrs. Spelman: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that discriminates against families, particularly with young children, as there is no other way of disposing of a large volume of disposable nappies?

Mr. Morley: No, I do not. If one has children one takes on responsibilities, one of which is to consider alternatives to disposable nappies such as reusable nappies. I commend the Women’s Environmental Network to the hon. Lady, as it can educate her about what can be done to reduce waste even when one has a family. I do not accept her argument at all, as there is a great deal that we can all do to follow more sustainable practices in our own lives.

Finally, on a related point, may I press my ministerial colleagues to look at the pre-Budget report and the Budget? If we wish to address climate change, there must be some big changes in this country, including the way in which we raise and use taxes. Recycling measures may be revenue-neutral, but we must consider how we would introduce them. We should not be afraid of making major changes or about making the case for what people can do themselves. The Government can put in place a structure that encourages people to take that power into their own hands and make a genuine difference to sustainability and to emissions reductions.

4.23 pm

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and to pay public tribute to the role that he played as an Environment Minister. He made a significant contribution in generating today’s debate, and I share entirely his concern that the Queen’s Speech does not include a marine Bill. The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made a clear recommendation, which the Government accepted, that such a Bill was required to deal with a vast range of issues connected with the exploitation of the marine environment, both near-shore and offshore. I share the hon. Gentleman’s aspiration that the Government should at least publish a draft Bill in this Session.

I am delighted that there is a Minister from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the Chamber again. Although I want to focus on climate change and the work that the Select Committee has undertaken, it is important to put on the record the fact that just under a year ago, the Treasury and DEFRA—I think, however, that the Treasury’s input was greater than DEFRA’s—published a document on the Government’s vision of the reform of the common agricultural policy. In nearly 12 months since that important document appeared, two things have occurred. First, the European Union has started to debate the subject, and secondly, there has been an ominous silence in the House about that important document. I hope that in the next 12 months or even sooner, the Minister might prevail upon the Leader of the House to have a debate on the subject. The contents of the document are vital if we are to examine issues such as food security, sustainability and some of the
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environmental challenges that a new form of agriculture for the 21st century will present.

There has also been no debate in Government time on the debacle that is the Rural Payments Agency. We have had a number of statements, some a little more reassuring latterly than formerly, but it will probably have to wait until the Select Committee produces its report on that in the early part of next year before we can have a debate on what has gone wrong.

In the debate today hon. Members have commented on the problem of waste. The Government are embarking on the development of a new waste strategy, but sadly there has been no debate in Government time on what we want done about waste and the sustainability issues that it raises. As the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plays an ever more central role in policy matters in this Parliament, I for one would like to see that Department punching at or above its weight in getting more time for us to discuss these matters.

I welcome the climate change Bill. It contents touch on a certain amount of the work that the Select Committee has done in a series of three reports on climate change issues—one on bioenergy, on which we published our findings, the second on the citizens agenda, which dealt with the question how more of our constituents and businesses can become more closely involved in that endeavour, and the third one which will start early next year on Kyoto 2012 and what comes next. There could not be more important topics than those.

In the Government’s publicity about the climate change Bill, we discover that next March we are to receive an energy White Paper. At the very time when we are talking about climate change in a national, European and international context and trying to resolve the many challenges that prevent us from finding the international consensus on the way forward that the hon. Member for Scunthorpe so correctly outlined in his remarks, I found it singularly disappointing that the Government’s response is a further White Paper on energy, following in less than nine months since the last White Paper on energy. Will the Minister change the title and its content and produce a White Paper on climate change, so that the House may consider all the factors that affect the subject in formulating our policy and putting in context the important work on which the climate change Bill will embark?

One of the issues about which the climate change Bill has caused most debate are targets. Over the weekend I settled down to watch David Attenborough’s two films once again on planet. As we come to the end of the second one, in which there are shots of the underground flooded, London under goodness knows how many metres of water and large parts of the United Kingdom disappearing, there is a note of hope and optimism. At the end the film shows what the pathway could be to enable us to stabilise our emissions by 2050. Sector by sector—transport, industry, heat, power generation, personal energy consumption—it shows what can be done to achieve that.

If we are to have a debate about targets, we need to be a little more sophisticated. We need to think about each sector of our economy, look at what can be done and at what speed we can travel in those individual
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sectors, and try and set targets that are meaningful. In certain cases, some of which are described as the low hanging fruits, such as the dash for gas in the generation of electricity, the gains have been accumulated. It may be much more difficult to make a great deal of progress in the energy generating sector, whereas in transport there is an enormous opportunity for progress, just as there is in respect of energy efficiency and energy saving in the home and in business.

Let us be a bit more sophisticated. I would say to right hon. and hon. Members on both Front Benches that I hope that our deliberations on the Bill will not become a party political knockabout, because the public will not tolerate something as important as this involving comments such as, “My target’s better than your target” or “My idea’s better than yours”. Let us by all means have a debate about ideas, but let us genuinely build a consensus on these matters, as my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have tried to do.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are some way behind our target of a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. From the 1990 baseline, that works out at a reduction of roughly 1 per cent. a year, but we have dropped behind, and we shall now have to make savings of 1.9 per cent. each year. This is where target setting is useful, because it helps us to recognise when we are slowing down and where we might need to put in more effort.

I hope that we shall recognise that our debates on these matters are not only about how we generate our electricity. The one third of our emissions that come from heat, and the one third that come from transport must not be forgotten. In our bio-energy report, we have identified the tremendous opportunity for renewables in the generation of heat. Every hectare of land on which a bio-crop is grown will provide the largest carbon dioxide return in terms of the use of biomass. We have also discovered that 1.5 million tonnes of wood are thrown away in this country each year. Simply mobilising the resources that we have will make a tremendous impact on heat generation alone.

We must also examine the resources that we use to influence policy in this area. The Stern report suggests that we can afford to do something, but in the very year in which that report has appeared, Government funding for the Energy Saving Trust has dropped. For example, the Department for Transport’s contribution has gone down from £22 million to just under £10 million a year. If the Government are serious about bottoming up activity to ensure that our communities play their part in dealing with climate change in the context of the Bill, they must also be serious about the resources that they put into bodies such as the Energy Saving Trust and the Carbon Trust.

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