|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
My final point on domestic emissions is that the methane that comes from landfill is 23 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2. That is why we have
had the landfill tax for the past 11 years, which has helped to achieve a 25 per cent. reduction in the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. However, with the rate of increase at £3 per tonne, the incentives are not yet right for a fundamental shift away from landfill, which is why the tax will rise by £8 per tonne every year from April 2008 until at least 2010-11. That should save greenhouse gas emissions of at least 200,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says from a sedentary position, No, it wont, but I am happy to provide details to show how the landfill tax, which was introduced by a Conservative Government, has worked. I suggest that Conservative Back Benchers take a few lessons from their Front Benchers.
Mr. Hands: I am glad that that the Secretary of State mentioned landfill tax. What funding will be available to help local authorities to meet their obligations under landfill tax in the coming years?
David Miliband: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to wait for the comprehensive spending review for details of funding for the years from 2008. He will know that the position until then has been set out in previous Budgets and spending reviews.
Joan Walley: I rose to help my right hon. Friend out because it seemed as though we would not get any response from the Opposition. The Staffordshire Environmental Fund is keen that there should be an increase in the landfill tax because of the good work that is being done to aid recycling and environmental schemes as a result of the tax. That is a very welcome outcome of the Budget.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend, who sits on the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, is right. I thought that the landfill tax had cross-party support, so I am surprised by the earlier sedentary comment. We will have to put certain Conservative Back Benchers down as sceptics, if not opponents, but I assure them that the scheme is very good.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth:
The Secretary of State has been very generous in giving way. Just for the record, the landfill tax was introduced by the Conservative Government. We support it and we support what the Government are trying to do with it, but does he
recognise that one of its consequences is increased fly-tipping, responsibility for which should fall within his Department? What initiatives is he taking to ensure that an increase in the landfill tax does not lead to an increase in fly-tipping?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman may not have memory on his side, but Labour Members recall his opposition on Second Reading to the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, a measure that was designed to tackle precisely that problem. I suggest that he does not tie himself in any further knots.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): I welcome the increase in landfill tax because of the likely consequence of a reduction in methane emissions, but can the Secretary of State give us an estimate of the overall impact on greenhouse gas emissions of the measures announced in the Budget? How large a cut will they lead to, in percentage terms?
David Miliband: I do not have the figure to hand, but the hon. Gentleman can tally up the millions of tonnes of carbon represented by the announcements that I have made in my speech, and I shall be happy to send the figure to him later.
David Howarth: I am sorry to disappoint the Secretary of State, but one difficulty with tallying up the environmental effect of the Budget is the precise result that the Government intend with their alterations to the climate change levy. The Red Book appears to give no figure for carbon saving from the package. Are the measures in the Budget designed merely to hold the savings level, or are they intended to make any change? If they are not intended to cause a reduction, why not?
David Miliband: The climate change levy has been raised by inflation, and the associated climate change agreements work with it. I understand the hon. Gentlemans difficulty with calculation in respect of some of the changes. Obviously there is an arithmetical relationship between tax and output, but my experience of talking to businesses suggests to me that the climate change levy and the associated agreements are causing them to take a whole new attitude to the way in which they deal with energy. In other words, the climate change levywhich, as I shall make clear later, has saved about 16 million tonnes of carbon so farhas had a bigger effect than an arithmetical calculation might suggest. To put it more simply, it has resulted in a cultural as well as a fiscal change.
I want to say something about the international part of the agenda. We know that, as well as helping to build a low-carbon economy at home, we must contribute to further emissions reductions abroad. Our commitment to European action is central to our vision of the low-carbon economy of the future.
The European Union can regulate across markets worth 475 million citizens, minimising the competitive disadvantage for any one country. It can bring together a negotiating bloc that is powerful on the world stage. It can create and use carbon markets to drive emissions reductions in Europemarkets that are worth billions of pounds in carbon finance for the developing world.
We are determined that London will be the centre of the European and global carbon market. Thanks to the resolution of the dispute with the European Parliament, we can release common agricultural policy funds to our farmers to help environmental stewardship and rural development across our country. I will make further announcements about that later today.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): In raising the European Union, the Secretary of State acknowledges that many decisions on these issues are now made in the Council of Ministers, but this is, in United Kingdom terms, a devolved matter. Can he tell us how many of those Council of Ministers meetings he has attended in the presence of a Scottish Executive Minister?
David Miliband: I have been to many meetings of the Council of Ministers. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is deliberately misleading the House, or deliberately misunderstanding what I said, but I shall be happy to find out how many such meetings I have attended.
I can remember Scottish Ministers being present at meetings. I sit on the council of environment Ministers as well as the council of agriculture Ministers. What I can tell the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson)and I am sure that it will interest himis that the clout of all parts of the United Kingdom is all the greater for a United Kingdom presence at the negotiating table, rather than a splintering of our efforts. [Interruption.] I said that I would find the exact number. I do not want to name a number of meetings that Scottish Ministers have attended, and then for that to turn out to be wrong. I want to reply to the hon. Gentleman later to ensure that he has an accurate answer.
We know that we need to effect change further afield. Carbon financethe product of emissions reduction commitments in richer countrieswill help, but we also need Government leadership. It was announced in the Budget that there will be an £800 million international window for the environmental transformation fund to help developing countries deal with climate change, get access to clean energy and
tackle unsustainable deforestation. The poorest countries will be the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and we have a duty to support them and to help them to participate in the global transition to a low-carbon economy. Deforestation accounts for about 18 per cent. of global greenhouse gas emissions.
That is why it is right that the first £50 million of the fund will go to support proposals made by 10 central African countries to help protect the Congo basins forests and people. I am not sure whether the significance of that announcement has been appreciated. The forests of central Africa contain an amount of carbon equivalent to about 4 years of global emissions. If that carbon is released, all our futures will be affected. If it is safeguarded in those rainforests, we will all be protected.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): It strikes me that the European Union might introduce measures along the lines of the emissions trading scheme, which placed tax burdens on British citizens. Will the Secretary of State give a commitment that, if that is the case, the taxes that he has createdin respect of air passenger duty, for examplewill be reduced to offset the taxes from the EU?
David Miliband: That would be a very disappointing commitment for the following reason. The European emissions trading system has had support from all parts of the House, as well as from business and industry. The recently published UK manifesto for the future of the European emissions trading scheme got part of its strength from the fact that business, non-governmental organisations and all parties in this House supported it. The market mechanism that has been established ensures that those who are environmentally thrifty are rewarded, and that those who are not have to pay. That seems to me to be a very good principle to establish.
Mr. Paice: The Secretary of State is right in what he says about deforestation, and we all want to prevent that from happening, of course. However, that raises an issue to do with the renewable transport fuel obligation. As he knows, there is widespread concern that if we are not careful we will meet that obligation simply by sucking in ethanol from Brazil and palm oil from Indonesia, with both of them taken either directly from land that was rainforest or by domino effect. When does he expect the Government will announce their criteria for meeting our targets in this regard, using sustainability objectives and others that will prevent those imports?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, but we are consulting now on how we can make this work. He might be thinking about the European side of this matter. As a result of our interventions, and those of others, the European commitment on biofuels requires steps to be taken in a sustainable way.
At the G8 meeting in June and the UN convention in December, the UK will be able to argue for a global emissions reduction deal on the back of landmark proposed domestic legislation in the draft Climate Change Bill, significant domestic action and world-leading commitment to international help. The hon.
Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) said last month, at a joint forum at which the Government and the Liberal Democrats were also represented, that the foundation of his approachthe lodestar of his policy and the reason why he could be trusted in the battle against climate changewas that he believed in conservation. However, we will never achieve a low-carbon economy by becoming a preservation society. The old ways are the problem; they are not the solution to climate change. What our carbon-fuelled economy needs is not conservation but change.
The hon. Gentleman saysand I believe him when he does sothat he has no time for climate change deniers, but I therefore have to ask him to have a word with the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), who speaks for his party on defence and who says, astonishingly, that
theres evidence on both sides, I dont think anyone actually knows what the real causes are.
We know from the scientists that they are 90 per cent. certain of both the nature of climate change and its causes. I hope that the hon. Member for East Surrey will be able to reassure us that the real position of the Conservative party is not to be found lurking in the words of the shadow Defence Secretary.
The Budget represents clear choices not for conservation, but for radical change. If we were to rely on social responsibility and not on Government action, we would not have every house builder working towards constructing zero-carbon homes. If we did not have the climate change levy, we would not have already saved more than 16 million tonnes of carbon and be on course to save 3.5 million tonnes of carbon a year by 2010. If we were isolated in Europe, we would not have been able to win support for tough vehicle emissions standards. If we were to follow the new fiscal rule of the Opposition, we would not have £800 million to spend on development projects, which they say they support.
The Chancellor said two weeks ago that carbon reduction now sits alongside low inflationary growth and high employment as the third foundation of economic policy. The Stern report has given Governments their marching orders: to align a market price for carbon and procure sustainable products, alongside international regulatory standards for low carbon goods, and information for citizens to help them support the goal of emission reduction. Stern said that carbon tonnes, not just sterling pounds, are the metric of policy. That is the course that the Government are following, and I commend it to the House.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con):
I feel rather sorry for the Secretary of State, not just because of the lamentable turnout on the Government Benches for this very important debate on a key issue of our times, but because of the Budget itself. He has tried to put a brave face on it, but he knows that it was a hopelessly unambitious Budget for the environment and for rural Britain. It was spun as a green Budget, but yet again it was just plain Brown. It is not the Secretary of States fault: he was a given a job to do by the Prime Minister, and he has found it quite difficult. If what we read in The Observer this weekend is true,
the Prime Minister is keen to give him another job; and we hear today that even Peter Mandelson is keen for him to have another job.
Before even contemplating taking on another job, however, the Secretary of State needs to be a little more careful about the way in which he expresses himself. Writing in the very same edition of The Observer yesterday, he said:
New Labour has, in my view...not been good enough at promoting strong community self-government...not good enough at making them
feel like real entrepreneurs...not good enough at giving young people a sense of commitment to the country...not good enough at reducing domestic carbon emissions...not good enough at promoting real engagement with citizens.
take action on climate change
ensuring that national consensus for action is turned into concrete measures that will have a real impact.
In October, the Environment Secretary wrote a letter to the Chancellor, entitled DEFRAs Priorities for Budget 2007. In it, the right hon. Gentleman urged the Chancellor to seize the policy initiative on the environment, which is quite interesting in its own right, because it implies that the policy initiative has slipped from the Governments grasp. It has: it is on the Opposition Benches.
I have often asked and urged the Government to show some initiative on climate change and the environment, and I have made it clear that we will support them if they provide leadership in the drive towards a low carbon economy. However, after years of watching them fiddle about and fail, I am running out of patience, and they are running out of time. They have left behind a trail of missed targets on the environment, and they are going to miss the most important target of all. It must be the most important of all, because it has appeared in three successive Labour party election manifestos: the 20 per cent. cut in carbon emissions by 2010.
The Government are not even meeting their own internal green targets. Not a single Department attained full marks in the recent Sustainable Development Commission report on Government performance, and 15 Departments emissions have gone up. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs itself came a rather middling ninth, getting three out of five points. The Governments own watchdog said:
Against a background of non-stop messaging on climate change and corporate social responsibility, the Government has failed to get its own house in order.
In his letter to the Chancellor, the Secretary of State asked him to look into aviation, car tax, greener homes and incentivising clean technology. We might have expected that his pleas would fall on deaf ears. After all, the former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, told us last Tuesday about the
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|