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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Exotic Animal Diseases (DEFRA Contingency Plan)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): The National Contingency Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases was laid before Parliament on Monday 10 December.

This Plan sets out the operational arrangements Defra will put in place to deal with any occurrence of foot and mouth disease, avian influenza or Newcastle disease. The plan is also applicable to other exotic animal diseases. It is composed of two elements: Defra’s Framework Response Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases, outlining systems, structures, roles and responsibilities during an outbreak of disease, and Defra’s Overview of Emergency Preparedness which provides details of our preparedness and operational response.

It replaces Defra’s Exotic Animal Disease Generic Contingency Plan which was laid before Parliament on 13 December 2006.

Defra’s Contingency Plan is very much a “living document”. It will be subject to ongoing revision taking on the latest developments in science, research, and epidemiological modelling together with lessons identified from outbreaks.

To meet the provisions of the Animal Health Act, the Plan will also be subject to formal annual review.

Animal Health and Welfare

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): I am today announcing publication of a document inviting views on the next steps on sharing responsibility and costs for animal health and welfare.

Better animal health and welfare is important for our livestock, their owners, public health, society, and the rural economy. As recent events have shown animal disease outbreaks can be costly to farmers and the livestock industry, to the wider economy and to the taxpayer. The costs are not just financial but also the disruption and uncertainty caused while we have worked together to bring outbreaks under control.

The Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain (2004) set out our vision for the future. Partnership working and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities are key elements in achieving that vision.

The Responsibility and Cost Sharing Programme is central to delivering this. The aim is to make joint working between industry and government a reality: with joint decisions on how to prevent, control and eradicate animal diseases using our joint resources and skills. The close partnerships involved in tackling the recent foot and mouth and bluetongue disease outbreaks, are excellent demonstrations of how industry is able and ready to take on greater responsibility and play a more active role in managing disease risks.

The Government wish to develop and strengthen this partnership approach. This consultation is an important part of the process for developing the right structures
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and mechanisms for doing so and seeks views on a range of options. First, it discusses ways to share responsibility between Government and industry. The questions here are what decisions livestock keepers and industry as a whole are best placed to deal with; and how best to organise joint decision making with Government where this is needed.

Secondly, the document looks at the principles for deciding how costs can be shared equitably. The Anderson inquiry into the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak highlighted the need for sharing disease control costs with those involved: those who benefit should contribute. There is undoubtedly a need to redress the current imbalance. But jointly owned and funded animal health disease controls can also deliver wider economic benefits, public health and other public goals. Therefore, it is right that the public, as taxpayers, should also pay an appropriate share of the costs.

Thirdly, it considers what funding mechanisms would encourage and incentivise public and private sector interests to work together to manage risks better and deliver outcomes more efficiently. We wish to encourage behaviour that leads to better biosecurity, and compliance with cost effective risk reduction measures, making more use of non-legislative alternatives to regulation, and with a greater focus on incentives rather than penalties and enforcement.

Lastly, some specific proposals are put forward for the withdrawal or reduction of public subsidies for certain measures that concern BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These would not affect the controls that protect public health, which will remain firmly in place.

The content of this consultation has been shared with the UK Consultative Forum on Responsibility and Cost Sharing and the England Implementation Group for Animal Health and Welfare. In the light of this consultation and further work by the forum the Government will be developing detailed proposals for further consultation next year.

These changes should lead to better risk management, improved decisions, more efficient delivery; and a fairer, transparent distribution of costs between industry and government, and between businesses within the industry.

This consultation concerns England. I am also discussing these issues closely with ministerial colleagues in other parts of the UK, with the aim of developing common policies that recognise the challenges posed by animals and their diseases and movements across administrative borders from livestock enterprises spread across the UK, especially as Great Britain is recognised as a single epidemiological unit for animal disease.

Climate Change (UN Framework Convention)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and I will attend the 13th meeting of the Parties (COP13) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia this week. Our aim for the meeting is the launch of negotiations leading—by the end of 2009—to a comprehensive global agreement to tackle climate change. This is an ambitious objective, and success is not guaranteed.

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The recent fourth assessment report from the panel on climate change (IPCC) has made clear the role of humans in climate change and the impact on food production, sea level rise, human health, biodiversity and on our economies if we do not take urgent and sustained action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is very important that we achieve an international agreement which can build on existing commitments and is agreed in time to follow the first commitment phase of the Kyoto protocol, which ends in 2012.

I welcome the recent call by the Corporate Leaders’ Group, representing over 90 companies, for a launch of negotiations and for an enhanced and extended carbon market. At Bali we need to agree that all parties will take part in a comprehensive, twin-tracked negotiation to be completed at the Copenhagen climate change conference at the end of 2009. This will require a detailed work programme and interim milestones to review progress.

The two tracks relate to the Framework Convention and the Kyoto protocol. Under the convention, parties have already been discussing in a non-negotiating forum how to improve its implementation. The focus has been on technology, market instruments, adaptation and sustainable development and we need to build on these discussions in formal negotiations.

The second track relates to the ongoing negotiations under the Kyoto protocol, where developed countries which have ratified have been considering new targets for the second commitment phase which is due to start in 2013. This needs to continue in tandem with the planned 2008 review of the protocol.

We believe that the negotiations we will seek to launch in Bali will need to be guided by four main principles: recognition of the scale of the challenge, effectiveness, fairness and a comprehensive scope.

The first principle on recognising the scale of the challenge is the need for the negotiations to be guided by the aim of limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than 2(0)C above pre-industrial levels, and agreeing a goal of reducing global emissions to at least 50 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2050.

The second principle is that the agreement must be effective. This means it must involve all countries with significant emissions; and the commitments made must be measurable. An effective agreement also requires development of a truly global carbon market. We know that putting a price on carbon is essential to provide the incentive for the private sector to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy sources. We need to expand and evolve market mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism to move us toward a global carbon market. At Bali we will be pressing for improvements to implementation of the current mechanisms.

The third principle is fairness. The commitments made by different countries must be based on the UN principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. Developed countries must continue to take the lead by adopting deeper targets. The larger developing countries will also need to adopt new and flexible types of commitments which do not have the effect of putting a brake on their development. These commitments will need to vary between countries depending on their different stages of economic development and they will change over time as countries
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grow. We do not foresee any developing country taking on absolute emissions reductions in the next commitment period but action by developing countries should nevertheless be measurable and verifiable. Negotiations on these commitments should form the basis of the discussions under the convention talks.

Fairness also demands that the rich countries support developing countries in making this transition. We need to facilitate the transfer of technology and in Bali we will be aiming to launch a new body to progress a long-term and enhanced technology transfer framework feeding into a post-2012 agreement. Through the Clean Development Mechanism, the carbon market already provides significant flows of finance to developing countries; they could be much larger in the future. And we are also prepared to do more to offer support. The Clean Energy Investment Framework of the World Bank and regional development banks is intended to catalyse private sector investment in low carbon energy, energy efficiency and adaptation to climate change.

The Government have already pledged £800 million through our Environmental Transformation Fund over the next three years for these aims, and we now want other donor countries to join us in making this a major fund that can assist developing countries in tackling the challenges of climate change.

Fourth, a post-2012 agreement must be comprehensive. As well as emissions from energy it must address those from land use, especially from deforestation. Major progress in reducing deforestation rates has already been made, in Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere. If we are to help reduce emissions from deforestation, the international community must make it economically worthwhile for local people to benefit from sustainable forest management rather than through logging and forest clearance. In Bali we are aiming to agree a framework for voluntary participation by developing countries in a scheme to provide positive incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation, including a set of indicative national baselines with long-term responsibility for stocks.

We also want to see positive support for pilot schemes, to help build links to activities by other organisations and stakeholders, including the World Bank proposal for a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. We need to link the deforestation negotiations into the broader negotiations on a post-2012 agreement. For any agreement to be comprehensive, it should also cover the growing emissions from aviation and shipping.

And last, but very importantly, we need to accept that climate change is already happening and some future impacts are inevitable. All countries need to put in place measures now that will increase resilience to the effects of climate change. It is the poorest countries that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At Bali we will be seeking to agree governance arrangements for a planned Adaptation Fund so that it can start work, as well as to agree to develop a new Framework for Action on Adaptation which provides a structure for stakeholder engagement and funding.

While the UNFCCC is the primary body for international consensus on a new agreement, we need to recognise the valuable work taking place in informal discussions and negotiations such as the G8, Gleneagles Dialogue and
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US Major Economies Meeting. The results from these informal processes should be fed into the convention negotiations.

Success in achieving these aims at Bali is indeed an ambitious goal. But it is one that all those attending from the UK will do their best to achieve.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

EU Africa Summit (Lisbon 8 and 9 December 2007)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): Leaders from the European Union and Africa met in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December at the second EU Africa summit to agree new co-operation and a framework for a closer partnership between the two continents. The agenda was wide covering peace and security, governance and human rights, trade, infrastructure and development, energy and climate change and migration. The main themes to emerge discussions focused on governance and trade.

The UK had made its position clear that the Prime Minister would not participate if President Mugabe attended. Baroness Amos ably represented the UK and promoted key aims.

The UK commitment to the relationship between African and the European Union is clear. We supported the summit and have been working hard with partners in the course of this year to prepare for successful discussions and agreements. We welcome the fact that leaders were able to discuss and reach agreement on urgent global challenges including the need to accelerate progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, tackling conflict and climate change, and promoting good governance.

European leaders at the summit rightly highlighted the links between governance and development and focused particularly on the human rights situations in Zimbabwe and Darfur, and the serious challenge to Africa’s development that they represent. Baroness Amos raised Zimbabwe and the appalling human rights situation caused by President Mugabe during her intervention. African leaders too spoke up on the need to tackle poor governance and safeguard human rights and the links to growth promotion and development.

The trading relationship between the European Union and African countries and regions formed an important part of discussions, with some African countries expressing concerns about the new Economic Partnership Agreements. Many African countries have now signed or initialled interim agreements with the Commission. The Commission underscored the importance of concluding such agreements, particularly for non-least developed countries, in order to safeguard trade flows. It agreed to schedule further discussions with the leaders from the five African regions in the new year to take stock of the situation and discuss the way forward. The UK continues to encourage those countries which have yet to sign an interim agreement to do so to avoid damaging trade disruption. We also consider it vital that no country should be worse off and that when full economic partnership agreements are negotiated, they promote development objectives.

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The summit aimed to forge a stronger partnership between Africa and Europe. Leaders agreed a joint strategy, and a series of action plans that set out specific commitments over the next three years. These new agreements build on many of the commitments made: at Gleneagles and at the December 2005 European Council held under the UK presidency. “EU Africa Partnerships” setting out co-operation and targets have been agreed under eight headings; the millennium development goals; good governance and human rights; peace and security; climate change; energy; trade and integration; migration; and science.

The UK will continue to work closely with EU and African partners to ensure that commitments made in Lisbon are honoured and concrete progress is made.


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): On 7 December, representatives of the Contact Group submitted to the UN Secretary-General the report by the EU-Russia-US troika on their work aimed at achieving a negotiated settlement for Kosovo’s future status.

The troika correctly set themselves the objective of “leaving no stone unturned” in the search for an outcome mutually acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina. During the four months of their mandate, the troika undertook an intense schedule of meetings with the parties. Over ten rounds of negotiations—including six sets of direct talks, one of them in extended conference format—the parties considered options covering the spectrum from independence, autonomy, confederation, partition and a status-neutral approach. One or other of the parties rejected all these options.

The troika have therefore reported that the parties have been unable to reach an agreement on Kosovo’s status.

I pay tribute to the troika’s work. They have worked tirelessly and imaginatively. Although they did not secure an agreement between the parties, their work generated sustained and intensive high-level dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The troika have also been able to extract important commitments from the parties, including pledges to refrain from actions that might jeopardise the security situation in Kosovo or elsewhere and not to use violence, threats or intimidation. These are important commitments to which we shall expect both sides to adhere strictly in the period ahead.

The troika’s efforts followed those of UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari who laboured heroically for 14 months to reach agreement between the parties before concluding that this was out of reach. He therefore drew up his own proposal for how to move forward based around the concept of supervised independence. That recommendation was supported by the EU, US and UN Secretary-General. It was rejected by Serbia and Russia.

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