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If that is so, we must ask ourselves whether it is merely an accidental corollary or something we should plan for. If it is not something we should plan for, perhaps we could convince the developing world to shout
Accidental equity is our right and see how quickly it signs up to some climate change framework involving equity by osmosis.
I hope I have convinced my hon. Friend the Minister that I take the Bill very seriously. I very much welcome it, and I recognise that the Government want to go beyond the 60 per cent. target emission rate that they set in statute. So that I am not misinterpreted, I conclude by saying that the challenge is not just for the Government. It is for all parties in the House. There is no escape clause from the necessity of achieving a solution that solves the problem faster than we are creating it. The evidence is abundant that that is beyond 60 per cent. I believe the Government agree. I hope the Opposition parties also agree and do not try to make party capital out of the 60 per cent. figure. If they do try that, they are binding themselves to a higher figure, and they will have to say what that figure is and what the framework is that supports it. I look forward to my hon. Friends response.
Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) on securing the debate. I am surprised at the early closure of business, which gives me the opportunity to deliver a few hastily prepared wordsas will no doubt become apparent in the course of my speech.
I was interested to hear the hon. Gentlemans points, which reflect the thought he has given to the subject. Thankfully, right hon. and hon. Members to whom I have spoken have a thoughtful and scientifically based perspective on the matter. Sadly, the media all too often try to grab the headlines. The recent Channel 4 so-called documentaryit should perhaps have been classed as fictionwhich snatched one scientist who disagreed with the vast majority of the rest and tried to make his opinion appear mainstream does not help the debate out in the country. We need a cross-party approach.
The hon. Gentleman touched on the subject of mitigation. Politicians in many countries are pinning their hopes on achieving the targets, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere and turning back the clock to overcome the problems that will be visited on this and future generations. I was interested to meet the Danish scientist, Bjørn Lomborg, who says that although he understands that global warming is happening and, linked to that, CO2 is rising in the atmosphere, we should do more to try to reduce the threat that rising sea levels and other associated climatic problems would have on our economyfor example, by not building on flood plains, by making sure that important strategic developments are not sited in areas that could be under threat, and by studying the migration that may well result from changes in climate.
In Warminster last month I spoke to Ministry of Defence long-term planners, who were considering problems associated with vast numbers of people migrating from north Africa to southern Europe because of climate change and the effects of that on agriculture. Climate change would have beneficial effects on our agriculture and that of the Russian Federation, for example, as the climate warms up.
The UK has a good story to tell, as I am sure the Minister will say. We are on track to meet our Kyoto targets, not least because of the dash for gas. Our old, dirty coal-fired stations were phased out as the gas stations came in. Germany has met its obligations because of the closure of large sections of heavy industry in east Germany. For the same reason, much of the former Soviet Union is also meeting its obligations, so it is puzzling why the Russian Federation did not sign up sooner to the Kyoto agreement.
The UK has grasped the nettle of nuclear build, for which I praise the Government: it was a decision that had to be made. Notwithstanding the alternatives, the renewables and all the steps that we can take to reduce the amount of fuel that we burn by making our homes more fuel efficient, driving smaller cars and so on, we must get on with building nuclear power stations, which not only contribute to reductions in CO2, but will improve the United Kingdoms energy security.
I am sure we all share the goals and objectives of the Climate Change Bill. Targets of a 26 to 32 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2020, and the 60 per cent. target by 2050 to which the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell referred, are indeed ambitious. Although the Bill will aim to address that, will the Minister address the concerns that have been raised with me by people who say that this is not justiciablethat the Government cannot control it? The reductions in CO2 are being achieved not by the Government but by heavy industry, consumers, motorists and the rest. Those concerns have been raised during the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. Many people think that it will not get off the ground. What would happen if we failed to meet our targets and legal action was taken by Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth? Could it be made to stick in court, given that the emissions are not directly within the Governments control? Yes, the Government can put structures in place and participate in the European emissions trading scheme, but can they be held to account in that respect?
In a previous life I was a Member of the European Parliament and deputy co-ordinator for the EPP-ED group in the Environment Committee, where we took the European emissions trading scheme issue very seriously. What would happen if, for example, the UK succeeded in developing new clean technologies in the aluminium industry or other metallurgical industries such as steel smelting and the rest? What if we were so successful that such industries were developed here and closed down in other parts of the European Union? Who knows, by 2050 the large complexes in the Donetsk region of Ukraine could be closing because we could do it more efficiently here. UK emissions would therefore increase in terms of our participation in the trading scheme. In other words, we would miss our target but the global situation would improve. That occurred to me immediately. If the UK were to go it alone, would we then be precluded from trading in emissions within Europe, which would increase UK emissions but reduce total EU emissions?
What would happen when we went to the table for the next stage of EU negotiations in terms of our emissions trading or in a wider international context? The other states would say, We cant negotiate with youyoure already locked into this. We could not make a trade-off with them that we would be more
ambitious if they did not want to go along with us. Are we likely to be in a weaker position in EU and international negotiations?
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) is right to point out the weaknesses of the emissions trading scheme, but it surely behoves individual states to recognise that it is their prime responsibility to ensure that they do not damage the living opportunities of the following generation. That is why it is vital that we have a strong Bill and therefore rely less on ideas such as emissions trading.
Mr. Goodwill: I can see the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. However, my concern is that in recent years heavy industry has gone east to countries where emissions standards are not so tight, or not so tightly policed, and where labour is cheaper. We need to claw those industries back to western Europe, where we have clean technologies. The European emissions trading scheme is a good mechanism for that, but if we set ourselves a target that would be jeopardised by such trading, that could be counterproductive.
The UK needs to take some tough decisions. We all subscribe to the wish to reduce emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050or to reduce emissions as much as we can, because we know that in other parts of the world similar ambitions are not held with the same strength. Many developing countries feel that they should catch up with us before they make any cuts at all. Perhaps the Government should try to focus on things that they can dofor example, on the tax tools that they hold. In recent years, under this Government, the total tax take from environmental taxes has been falling. Perhaps they should address that. Constituents sometimes write to me saying, We hear theres a marvellous Government scheme to insulate our houses.. However, they then find that the money has all gone because no sooner is it announced than it is snapped up by housing associations, among others, who are geared up and ready to go for those subsidies, but not by individual householders, who may be a little slow off the mark. Perhaps more money should go into research and development, which will result in better technologies. And what a shame that the plug has been pulled on the carbon sequestration scheme that was due to go ahead in Scotland. There are areas that the Government need to be considering. They should not just think that because they can set these targets in stone the rest of us will have to comply and that they will be held to account if we do not.
We should give more consideration to biofuels. As a farmer, I declare an interest. Ten per cent. of the land in this country is not doing anything at all. At the moment, the real emphasis on biofuels is in the developing world in places such as Brazil, where biodieselsome call it deforestation dieselis being produced. Let us try to bring that closer to home and encourage farmers in this country to produce biodiesel. Funnily enough, I am producing biodiesel on my farm, but through an offset scheme with German farmers who are accessing subsidies in Germany. It seems bizarre that because the system in Germany is geared up for farmers to take advantage of biofuels schemes,
UK farmers are having, in effect, to participate in a German scheme to follow that through.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): Is not the hon. Gentleman concerned about some of the international evidence on biofuelsfor example, that they are beginning to displace land used for food crops? For example, in the US there has been a rise in the price of corn from about $2 to $4 a bushel, and one of the side effects has been riots about the price of tortillas in Mexico.
Mr. Goodwill: My former colleague in the European Parliament is absolutely right. In recent years, we have been fortunate in that when there is famine somewhere in the world there are stocks of food to send. What would be the reaction in this country if, faced with famine in Africa, we were told, Sorry, we dont have any wheat to send because weve turned it all into ethanol and were burning it in our cars? We have seen this around the worldnot only in Brazil but in the far east where the habitat of the orang-utan is under threat because of oil production to go into biodiesel. Perhaps we should look closer to home for better incentives for biodiesel production. Farmers are crying out for new crops to grow, and that would be a good initiative to catch up with what is going on in other EU countries.
Once again, I congratulate the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell on putting this subject on the agenda so that we can kick it around a little bit. I just hope that the Government will not find themselves kicked around when the Climate Change Bill is introduced. Many of us, not only people on the environmental side but lawyers, are seriously concerned about whether it will be made to work. Can the Government legislate on something that is not directly within their control? If it fails and the Government are taken to court and fined, who will pay the fine? Presumably the Government will have to pay the fine to the Treasury, which will then put the money back into the system again. It seems somewhat flawedor that is the point that has been made to me, anyway.
I look forward to the Ministers winding-up speech and hope that he will allay my concerns about whether the Bill will fly. If he is worried that it is going to be an absolute minefield, then perhaps the Government should push the marine Bill a little further up the agenda and we could do that first. The marine Bill is very close to my heart, and there is strong support for it on both sides of the House. It does not have the legal and other problems that have been raised by those who, while having the objectives of the Climate Change Bill very much to heart, are concerned about whether it is the right mechanism and whether it will work.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) on securing the debate on such a critical issue and assure him that he has much sympathy and support from Liberal Democrat Members on the subject.
As the hon. Gentleman said, it is vital that the UK show leadership at this time, which is a critical moment in the history of the world. There is some uncertainty at international level about what will follow the Kyoto agreement when it expires in 2012. Sadly, the United
States has thrown the position into some confusion. It is vital that the UK be among the nations that press for a secure Kyoto-based process when 2012 arrives.
As the hon. Gentleman also pointed out, there is increasing uncertainty in some of the science as wellnot about whether man-made emissions contribute to climate change; I hope that that is now beyond scientific debate, but about the seriousness of some of feedback mechanisms and the other processes. That may land us in an even more serious predicament than we have so far imagined.
The Climate Change Bill will be considered in Parliament. To give the Government due credit, that measure is welcome. Indeed, it is welcome that we are to debate such a Billit was not a foregone conclusion and the Government should be congratulated on introducing it and responding to the campaign by Friends of the Earth and many others to secure it.
The Government have a history of setting themselves carbon reduction targets. The first was set in the 1997 Labour party manifesto under the optimistic title of A new environmental internationalisma sentiment with which we would agree. It states:
We will lead the fight against global warming, through our target of a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2010.
We remain committed to achieving a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on 1990 levels by 2010, and our review of progress this summer will show us how to get back on track. A 60 per cent. reduction by 2050 remains necessary and achievable.
The history of carbon emissions in the past 10 years has sadly been one of rank complacency. That is not necessarily the Governments faultthey have been subject to sleight of hand by their spin doctors through the oft-recited piece of self-congratulation that the Government were on course to meet their Kyoto targets for the overall basket of greenhouse gases.
The time for self-congratulation is past. Many sources have categorically stated the reasons for initially meeting the target. The most authoritative is probably page 204 of the Stern report, which lists several historical reductions in national emissions. The UKs dash for gas was second only to the collapse of the Soviet economy in achieving carbon reductions, but Sir Nicholas Stern clearly sets out his explanation for our achieving the Kyoto target so long agoas far back as 1999. It happened purely because of the switch in energy generation to gas from coal-fired power stations.
The story since then is different. Since 1997, overall carbon emissions have increased by 2.4 per cent. That is the record under the Labour Government. Since 2002, the trend not only in CO2 but in greenhouse gases generally has been upwards. The increase in CO2 is 3.3 per cent. and that in greenhouse gases as a whole is 0.6 per cent. The trend for domestic carbon dioxide emissions and the overall basket of greenhouse gas emissions is upward.
Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that one of the reasons for the increase in CO2 emissions is that, since 2000, we have shut approximately six ageing nuclear power stations in this country? That has led to an additional 5 million tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.
Martin Horwood: I do not entirely accept that. There are plenty of scenarios in which we can maintain our intention of phasing out nuclear power and achieve up to a 94 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions from energy from electricity generation over the requisite time scales.
The dash for gas, not active Government policy, is responsible for the reduction that we have achieved in greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, the position has been getting worse. We are 18 per cent. over the domestic carbon reduction target. Do such short-term targets matter? Of course they do, because they are markers for how well we are progressing towards achieving the longer-term targets. The way in which we fulfil them is critical. If we make slow reductions at the outset and expect to make a steep rush at the end, that is different from sharp reductions early on, as Sir Nicholas Stern recommended, because the total volume of CO2 emitted in that period is much greater.
Mr. Goodwill: Is the hon. Gentleman honestly trying to say that if we do not reduce the number of nuclear power stations, we will not take a massive 20 per cent. step back in emissions from electricity generation? Surely he cannot genuinely maintain his partys position on replacing nuclear capacity and try to make out that reductions will occur? Without more nuclear capacity, there will be increases, not reductions.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is an Adjournment debate, which is an opportunity for Back Benchers to make individual contributions. I am conscious that the hon. Gentleman is a Liberal Democrat spokesmen for the affairs that we are discussing, but this evening he must confine his remarks to an individual contribution.
Martin Horwood: I am grateful for that guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My personal view is that the Liberal Democrat policy document on the subject is convincing, and I shall happily send a copy to the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill).
It is crucial that we meet the short-term markers because that is indicative of our ability to fulfil the longer-term targets. If we do that in the wrong way, with the wrong rate of reduction, we risk increasing the overall volume of CO2 contributed to the atmosphere even if we meet the percentage reduction target in the long term.
The signs are not good on other fronts. I was privileged to serve on the EU Standing Committee on 30 April, when we debated whether the EU target for 2020 should be 20 per cent. if the EU were acting alone, or 30 per cent. with what was described as
broad participation. That is an upside-down approach. Surely if other countries are not playing their partor cannot contribute as much, perhaps because, as in the case of China, we have exported our manufacturing industry there and some of our carbon emissions are actually being emitted in Chinawe become the equivalent of the man standing on a sinking ship who refuses to bale out faster because someone else is not playing their part. In practice, if other nations are not achieving those carbon reductions, we need to bale out faster.
The hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell rightly highlighted the Climate Change Bill and the target of 60 per cent. It is difficult to connect the consequences of global warming with the domestic target. However, Sir Nicholas Stern provides us with a pathway. It begins with the degree increase in global warming that we are prepared to tolerate. He makes it clear that some of the consequences are extremely serious at more than 2°. They include:
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