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Interestingly, the race for renewable technology can have a downside. I am toldthe Minister might wish to
correct methat Holland has the highest level of onshore wind generation in the European Union. The result of that, however, is that it needs so much back-up hydrocarbon technology for when the wind does not blow that it also has the highest per capita carbon dioxide levels in the EU.
These are difficult issues for us to resolve. Unless there are compelling reasons in the British interest not to do so, I believe that these matters should be resolved by this House and our Ministers. We have a good Energy Minister at present, and I would rather that he dealt with these matters. I do not want us to let these powers go or to pool them unnecessarily.
I have severe reservations about the way in which this market will work. We have a lot to do to ensure that our own market will work effectively. There is news, apparently, that EDF might be about to buy Scottish Powerit is a bit of an outside chance, but it could happenwhich would reduce from six to five the number of suppliers in our market and raise big questions about the competitiveness of the UK energy market.
Peter Luff: That is absolutely right. EDF is actually buying Iberdrola. It is a long and complicated chain of events involving a number of European energy companies but, basically, it looks as though there could be further consolidation of ownership in the British market. There are big issues facing competition in this market as well. I still think that the balance of power is about right as it stands, and I am not persuaded by the Governments case for the energy provisions in the Lisbon treaty.
Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff). I might not agree with some of the sentiments that he expressed, but he always speaks eloquently on this issueno doubt as a result of his chairing the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee.
I have listened closely for the past four or five hours to the arguments from Opposition Front-Bench Members and other hon. Members who have tried to justify our rejecting article 192 in the consolidated texts of the EU treaties as amended by the treaty of Lisbon. I believe that the amended treaty merely recognises a need to reflect a developed understanding between existing and new member states, and reaffirms existing agreements. It also takes the opportunity to assert an unequivocal position on the promotion of energy efficiency and energy saving, and on the development of new and renewable forms of energy. It is this element of the reaffirmed energy policy that I wish to discuss today.
First, I want to refer to the recent announcement by my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy. As his White Paper on nuclear power and the Lisbon treaty unequivocally state, human-caused climate change is in large part due to huge emissions of carbon dioxide. As a result, we have a moral as well as an expanding economic duty to begin converting our industries, homes and means of transportation to more environmentally friendly technologies. The House of Commons has a duty and a responsibility to debate the merits of nuclear, wind and coal power in Britain. It might be politically risky or inopportune to suggest higher energy costs in the short term, but we must consider that a down-payment on a much brighter future. That has certainly been the case for some of our renewable resources.
We owe it to our children, and to their children, to blaze a trail to greater environmental and ecological well-being, but also to keep Britain competitive and current in the European and world economies. New technology undoubtedly offers a great market opportunity for British-based companies. Making a change to nuclear power, as the Government have proposed, will undoubtedly incur short-run costs.
The recent White Paper estimated that assessing designs and location strategies, licensing new plants and establishing an application process will not take place until 2013, well before the construction of new nuclear plants can begin. During that time, spending on these plants will be condemned and lambasted by Opposition parties, rendering the nuclear plan a significant political liability. However, it is essential that we follow this path, but we must never under any circumstances underestimate or undervalue our desire and our need to develop other technologies.
The Stern review of 2006 concluded that up to 1 per cent. of the worlds gross domestic product should be invested each year to mitigate the worst effects of global climate change by restricting the release of greenhouse gases. The catastrophic result of saying that we will take care of it later is not simply that exotic plants and animals will die; according to Stern, global GDP will eventually suffer the immense consequences of climate change as a result of severe weather, including hurricanes, wind and flooding. Stern concluded that if we begin acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing renewable energy sources, further capping the emissions of coal plants and increasing the usage of nuclear power, we will save money later in the century. Making sacrifices now will create a much better situation in future. I believe that the UK must take a lead so it can guide its allies in America, India, China and the developing nations on these policies.
Mr. Lilley: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I understand it, this is essentially a Committee stage, so is the hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) in order in giving us a general dissertation on Chinese energy policy, which has absolutely nothing to do with the treaty, let alone the detailed provisions of the Bill?
Madam Deputy Speaker: We are not yet in Committee. I am occupying the Chair here rather than at the Committee Table, so I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. I believe that the hon. Lady was going rather wide of the debate, but I repeat that the House is not yet in Committee.
Mr. Harper: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Surely it is the case that the motion before us relates to approving the Governments policy on the treaty of Lisbon in respect of energy provisions. It is not a debate on Britains energy policy in the wider sense, but on the treaty provisions that relate to energy.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: I am dealing now with the promotion of energy efficiency, which is covered in article 197C. Some of my constituents would expect the treaty to consolidate energy security and trading markets, but that is not the main subject that focuses their minds. They want to know how we are going to use this treaty to tackle climate change, and I believe that that desire is strongest among the youngest members of our society. Schoolchildren in my constituency and members of my own family are greatly focused on that aspect of this treaty. We often talk about how Parliament can engage young people and it is clear that this is a very relevant platform for themone that I wish to express on their behalf.
It is this generation of young people who will without doubt have to confront the serious consequences of climate change. It is not just the young people of Europe whose lives will be affected in an unprecedented way as a result of energy utilisation. The children of developing nations such as Sierra Leone, for examplemany of whom live without any energy, light or heat for cooking or manufacturingare likely to bear the consequences of excess energy utilisation today.
I know that the development of new and renewable forms of energy provision in the treaty will do more than just drive new technologies within the EUin respect of which we will inevitably take a leadas the significant investment will greatly assist developing nations that have very little access to energy sources within their countries now. We need to share with them our knowledge as well as the products of this new element in the treaty. It seems so utterly unfair that we constrain the energy utilisation of emerging countries because we have become only too well aware of the impact of unconstrained use in our own. We have to do all we can not just to find ways to generate the energy, but to be far more creative in respect of conserving the energy we have already produced. That will require technological innovations and significant public information and educational programmes, which I hope will flow from the new treaty.
Young people must be made aware of the importance of combating climate change. Although many of my local schools have taken their own initiatives on that,
climate change is not covered in the primary or secondary curricula, except for a very small intervention in geography subjects.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: In conclusion, I want to emphasise that although young people have a major role to play in combating climate change now and in the future, Members of Parliament also have a duty to do that. Under the energy element, we are invited to introduce a number of new instruments in order to be in compliance with the treaty. Those instruments should lead to the extension of current initiatives in the UK, including those on controlling carbon emissions around town, such as through charging exercises and the low-emission programme that the Mayor has just introduced. It is important that this element has been included in the treaty. I welcome it and the support the House will give to the treaty today.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): I shall be brief, as I know that other Opposition Members wish to contribute, and in the interests of having a balanced debate, I shall try to give them sufficient time to do so.
I support the insertion of the energy element in the new treaty, as I have long argued that energy was insufficiently covered in existing arrangements, and having a more common EU energy policy is becoming an issue of increasing UK national importance.
Many contributions to the debate reflect the self-confidence that has come from decades of energy self-sufficiency in this country, but the reality is that we are now rapidly getting into a state of energy insecurity. It is interesting that a consultancy firm, Inenco, says that the number of nuclear and coal plants coming out of service over the next few years make shortages likely. It believes that demand will overtake supply some time between 2012 and 2015, creating a serious generation gap. As I hope there will be a Conservative Government at that time, we should deal with this matter quickly.
Although I support the desire to have new nuclear power stations, they will not by themselves fill the gap because they will not be ready in time. It is right that the Government are encouraging them by providing regulatory and support frameworks for investment in nuclear power stations, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) has supported the Government in that. However, we face a problem, which is shared by most other EU countries, although the extent of the problem differs: there is within the EU an increasing dependence on imported energy. Rather than have a beggar my neighbour attitudethat is, by and large, the attitude of Members who wish there to be no more pooling of sovereignty or community engagementwe should have a constructive approach.
That is increasingly important in the context of the world energy situation and of the way in which some of our energy is increasingly supplied. The African
position is worrying for the EU as a whole. It is true that Algeria is one of the largest suppliers of its own energy to Europe, but let us consider the situation across the African continent. There is now very strong Chinese investment in, for example, energy in Angola, and the recent Gazprom negotiations in Nigeria cause serious concern about the future of the Nigerian energy supply. Uncertainties are arising, and they need to be discussed at European level.
The increasing dependence on Russia, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members, should give a pause for concern. About 25 per cent. of our energy comes from Russia, but that figure will rise to 40 per cent. by 2030, according to the Commissions figures. It is difficult to know exactly what will happen. Interestingly, Russia is the second biggest producer and exporter of oilafter Saudi Arabia. It accounts for about 12 per cent. of global production, although it has only 6 per cent. of global oil reserves, so there are a few questions marks over its continuing prosperity. There is no doubt that Russias ability to generate huge capital reserves because its energy is being sold at elevated prices means it will dictate much of what will happen over the next few years. Given all those circumstances, we need to deal with energy coherently at the European Union level.
Mr. Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the treaty could have an effect on concerns about energy security, particularly in eastern European countries, and could therefore be used in such a way that the UK loses control of its own energy stocks in an emergency?
The situation is cause for concern because Russia is picking off individual members of the former Soviet Union and doing some alarmingly worrying deals. The Baltic states are very susceptible to that influence. A different deal with Bulgaria has just been done, and it too is of concern. It involves both Gazprom and the approval of a particular pipeline that has been mentioned earlier. We should not be unaware that the Russians are determined to ensure that there is a single source supplier of energygas and oilto Europe, and that the way the pipeline has been negotiated means that for a period of years, until we find some way of bypassing it, there could be a single source. That would mean that Russia would be able to pick off members of the European Union.
I think everyone in this House agrees that the European Union cannot allow any one of its members to be influenced by an external country. That is one of the solidarity issues that we have agreed ever since we joined the European Union. As energy is now a security issue, the danger is that some of the former Soviet Union countries that are now part of the European Union could be very vulnerable to the Soviet tactics of the Russian Government. I do not wish to name a particular country, because to do so might draw too much attention to it, but one can use ones imagination as to which countries I am discussing. We therefore need to get our act together, and the main principles of the treaty and the changes in article 176A are crucial.
Mr. Taylor: A lot of very worrying negotiations are going on, particularly as they affect Lithuania and Poland. They are therefore European Union matters in which we have an interest. That was one of the most helpful interventions my hon. Friend has ever made, because it confirmed my point that these are European Union matters rather than national matters. He is, of course, an expert on the treaty, but he does not always understand what he has said. Article 176A is crucial. Paragraph 1(a) states that the Union should aim to
ensure the functioning of the energy market.
Our main priority is that customers can choose and have an active role in the market. That will bring prices down. If you do not like your supplier you should be able to change.
ensure security of energy supply in the Union.
In an earlier intervention in the speech by the right hon. Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt) I commented on the energy charter treaty that the Russians have signed and which has recently received much attention. I hope that the Minister will have another look at that treaty, because it raises considerable concerns about energy supply and the role of the Russians, especially Gazprom. They have signed the treaty, and that requires reciprocal arrangements, including investment and other characteristics of the energy market. As the treaty is in existence, we should hold the Russians to account and perhaps ask whether it would be right for them to be given easy entrance into the World Trade Organisation before starting to honour the treaties that they have signed. I draw the Ministers attention to early-day motion 798, in my name.
promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy.
We have had those discussions and I do not need to say more about that. It is clear that each nation will have a variety of choices in how it achieves that, and that is enshrined in the treaty as a national interest.
We have to ensure that we meet our environmental objectives, and also diversify into reliable energy sources. I am all in favour of renewable energy, but I am not entirely certain that it will provide reliability of supply. I hope that the Minister will be challenged on that in the Select Committee, which is admirably led by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff).
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