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People sometimes say, You can't address those issues unless you reform the institutions, but to take the topical example of climate change...if you look at the conclusions of the March 2006 European Council, which offer a genuine leadership role for Europe on climate change issues and international negotiations, you will realise that they have done more to show the relevance of the European Union than any amount of institutional tinkering.
Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman has just made the extraordinary statement that it does not need a treaty to take action on climate change. Does he seriously think that something as complex as the emissions trading scheme could possibly have been established among 27 member states without the offices of the European Union, which the treaty will reinforce?
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I should have said a new treaty, as the existing provisions on climate change are, of course, undertaken through the treaty of Rome, and will not be changed by the Lisbon treaty.
I agree completely with the Foreign Secretary. We do not need more institutional meddling to deal with climate change; we need better policies and greater political will. The Foreign Secretarys remarks serve only to emphasise how irrelevant todays motion is. It is a distraction not only from the substantive issue of how to meet our carbon emissions reduction targets but from the issues of real relevance to the Lisbon treaty, such as defence and foreign policy.
The EU already has the power to tackle climate change. For instance, article 175 of the treaty establishing the European Community has already been used as a basis for the Community to pass many measures relating to climate change, which we have supported. Ratifying the Kyoto protocol at the European Community level did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a binding decision on implementing the Kyoto protocol in the EU did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a directive setting up the emissions trading scheme did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a directive setting up a minimum target of 5.75 per cent. for vehicle fuel from biofuels by the end of 2010I might have more to say about that in a momentdid not need the Lisbon treaty. So what is the Lisbon treaty offering us that will further enhance our collective European ability to tackle climate change?
I have been trying to follow the logic of the hon. Gentlemans presentation for some time. If he does not think that the six words on climate change in the Lisbon treaty are at all relevant, does it mean that the 15 words on energy efficiency and renewable
energy, and the words on sustainability in article 3, are not relevant? Would he excise all of them from the new treaty as, by his logic, none of them makes any difference?
Mr. Ainsworth: Almost all the words to which the hon. Gentleman refers are imported from other treaties. My point is that the matters are not taken forward by the Lisbon treaty. I can only refer him back to the comments made by the Foreign Secretary.
Martin Horwood: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He may not know this, but his partys foreign affairs spokesman, the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), suggested amendments to the Bill that would have removed energy from the shared competences. That would not leave us with the status quo that he describes, but would put European climate change policy into reverse.
Mr. Ainsworth: I want to make it absolutely clear, with the Foreign Secretarys explicit endorsement, that our opposition to the Lisbon treaty does not in any way compromise our commitment to tackling climate change or our belief in the EUs role in enhancing environmental protection, both in our country and across Europe and the world. In fact, the Conservative party has long considered the environment to be one of the areas where pan-European co-operation makes eminent good sense. For example, it makes eminent good sense, when legislating to improve the energy efficiency of goods sold in Europe, to do so for a single market of 300 million people, rather than having a patchwork of different product standards in different countries. We need to harness the market power of the EU to drive up product standards across the world. However, it also makes sense to legislate in a non-prescriptive fashionto say, Yes, we should have a common quality standard across the EU, but each member state can decide how it wishes to implement that standard. We do not support a one-size-fits-all approach.
I cite as an example the packaging directive, which is now an important part of our national effort on climate change and resource efficiency. It was introduced under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal. It was designed to allow each state to decide its own implementation mechanisms. In government, we chose to base the implementation of the directive on a market mechanism and, as a result, last year alone the cost of implementing it in the United Kingdom was 10 times less than it was in Germany, where it was decided to use a different approach. We agree with common standards, but not with top-down prescriptive implementation.
It should be noted that the majority of the energy labelling directives and minimum efficiency performance directives, which have resulted in significant European energy efficiency improvements, particularly for white goods, began in the early to mid-1990s under Conservative Governments. On broader environmental issues such as
wildlife and habitats protection, it was a Conservative Government who adopted the birds directive and the habitats directive, which have ensured that many of our loved wild creatures and places will continue to prosper. Those directives were incorporated in our law through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and our habitats regulations.
Last month, we endorsed the EU climate change package announcement. We welcomed the economic opportunity inherent in the UK achieving our target of 15 per cent. renewable energy by 2020. The target means that we have a steep mountain to climb in the next 12 years, given that we are currently at 2 per cent., but responsibility for that weak position can be directly attributed to the piecemeal, inadequate policy mechanisms employed by the Government. Britain has the finest natural resourceswind, wave and tidein Europe. We ought to be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, yet we are currently wallowing second to last in the EU league table, ahead of only Malta.
Our country has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and unrivalled access to financial capital in the City of London. We have some of the finest research universities in the world, where green technologies are being developed that could allow Britain to have first-mover advantage in the new energy economy. In fact, this afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), the shadow Chancellor, will speak at one of our leading research centres, Imperial college, on that very issuehow the UK can take a global lead in green technology. We want to make it a policy priority to empower our entrepreneurs, our markets, our industry and our academic talent to engage in and benefit from the decarbonisation of our economy.
The UK certainly needs far better policy instruments than those currently on offer from the Government. I do not question the sincerity of the Governments attempts to tackle climate change; it is their competence that is the problem. Their international leadership on the issue has been commendable, particularly under the former Prime Minister. It is not on the whole their approach to international and EU agreements that has been weak. I say on the whole because there has been the occasional lapse; for example, it was disappointing to see British Ministers in Europe supporting the polluters over proposals to phase out hydrofluorocarbons.
It is the Governments domestic policies that have let them down. Those policies have been lacklustre and not sufficiently joined-up. As I said earlier, carbon emissions are greater than when the Government took office 10 years ago. The Labour manifesto commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010 has been quietly dropped. The support mechanism for large-scale renewable technologies has primarily benefited onshore wind power and landfill gas generation, to the neglect of other technologies further up the cost curve, many of which could play a major role in our low-carbon future, and particularly in microgeneration. That is why the Conservative party recently announced its feed-in tariff policy, which I commend to the Secretary of State. I hope that he is seriously considering it.
Feed-in tariffs have worked to great effect in other EU countries, particularly Germany, which now boasts up to 300,000 people working in the renewables industry. Germany has 10 times the installed wind energy capacity of Britain, and 200 times as much solar
capacity. The House will observe that Germany is neither 10 times windier nor 200 times sunnier than the United Kingdom, yet Germany is benefiting from those technologies, and we are falling behind.
Mr. Graham Stuart: Does my hon. Friend agree that in the energy sector, the biggest challenge that climate change presents to the world is the need to capture the carbon produced by coal-fired power stations, including those that are coming on-stream in large numbers every week? Does he agree that it is disappointing that the Government have failed to drive forward the carbon capture and storage agenda, despite having said back in 2003 that they would move forward on the issue as a matter of urgency, given that it is one of the biggest technical problems that needs to be solved?
Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. It was a disaster last year when, because of the Governments failure to act, BP pulled its investment in a carbon capture and storage project. Of course, there is concern among Members on both sides of the House about proposals for a huge, new coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth in Kent. We have made it clear that we are seriously concerned about providing large-scale new capacity for coal when we cannot capture and store the carbon associated with it. If we cannot do that, it is simply not a safe technology, in view of climate change.
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): On the difference between wind developments in the UK and Germany, more than 100 onshore wind developments in this country are stuck in the planning system. How many of the councils holding them up are Conservative controlled, and what assessment has the hon. Gentleman made of the differences between the German planning system and ours? Will he say, at the Dispatch Box, that those Conservative councils ought to get on with approving wind developments?
Mr. Ainsworth: The problemI have touched on this alreadyis that the structure of the renewables obligation means that it drives investment into the nearest, most developed technologies, which are landfill gas and onshore wind. We all understand that there are strong feelings on both sides of the arguments, because of the visual intrusion and so on, but as the hon. Gentleman may know, as a result of planning difficulties, huge quantities of money are stuck in the system instead of being spent on renewables, which is a shame. The answer is not to impose wind farms on communities that do not want them, but to reform the way we support the renewables industry to develop less controversial forms of technology.
The Conservative party has welcomed the EU-wide plan for a 20 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, rising to 30 per cent. when an international agreement is reached. We expressed, and continue to express, our serious concerns about the sustainability of the EU-wide biofuels agreement, which is also part of the package. Last month, the Environmental Audit Committee called for a moratorium on both EU and UK biofuels targets. The Committees report highlights the fact that demand for biofuels is already
exacerbating the destruction of crucial rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is sheer madness to cut down the rainforest or threaten food security in the name of the environment.
We took a principled stand on the issue last year when we voted against the Governments renewable transport fuel obligation for its failure to include sustainability criteria until at least 2011. We hold the same position in respect of the EU target of 10 per cent. biofuels by 2020. I hope that Ministers will go to Europe and argue the case that no mandatory biofuel targets be included in the renewable energy directive until a working sustainability criteria basis has been established.
I turn briefly to the EU emissions trading scheme. It is not the be-all and end-all of climate change policy, as the Government sometimes seem to imply. It is not good enough to say that we can massively expand aviation capacity and not worry about the carbon implications because at some future date it will all be included in the ETS. A properly functioning scheme could play a vital role in driving down carbon emissions within the European Union.
It is widely accepted that phase 1 has been a failure in reducing emissions significantly. Too many credits were handed out for free, which meant handing the industry a licence to pollute, and the costs were passed on to the consumer. That gifted energy companies more than £1 billion in windfall profits. That was not the object of the exercise. However, that was a political failure, not a market failure. Phase 1 has not driven innovationwith a market price of 10 cents a tonne of carbon, it will never do thatbut it has proved that it is possible to devise a mechanism that could work in the future, and phase 2 already looks more promising. That is largely to do with the introduction of more auctioning. We believe that in phase 3 we should push towards 100 per cent. auctioning of those permits to pollute. If we bring the market in on the ground floor of the ETS, we will begin to get some real change and a real price in carbon, which comes back to the point that the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) made earlier.
In conclusion, the Opposition recognise that there is a need to work at every level to tackle the threat of climate change. There are changes that we can all make to the way we live our lives. There is an important role for local government, and of course for national Government. We should be leading by example and setting a long-term framework to give confidence to the public and, importantly, to investors in the benefits of green growth. There is, as I hope I have made clear, a positive role to be played by the European Union. In the end the solutions to the issue of climate change will have to be found at a global level, because we are all in it together.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not want to misuse a point of order by interrupting the speech of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth). You admonished me for
seeking to show the hon. Gentleman the two pages of the treaty which deal with climate change. Although it is true that the treaty adds the six words and in particular combating climate
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to choke the hon. Gentleman off so early, but we are taking time up from the debate. I did not admonish him for showing the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth); I admonished him for waving documents in the Chamber, which is not to be encouraged.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I welcome the opportunity to discuss climate change and to do so in the context of the Lisbon treaty. The treaty is important, as is the fact that climate change is mentioned in the treaty and has been institutionalised. The amalgamation of existing treaties and of existing and new wording on sustainable development, energy and waste is crucial if we are to deal effectively with climate change.
I welcome some of the comments made by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), particularly those about the role of the EU. The environment is one of the issues on which the EU has enjoyed particular success. There is no doubt that EU regulations have driven huge improvements in water quality, waste water treatment and air quality. Without the influence of the EU, individual member states would never have taken those actions or would not have taken them to the same extent. There are Opposition Members who have sensible views on these matters and sensible comments to make, but it disappoints me that, because of its divisiveness, the subject of Europe seems to bring about some kind of paralysis in the Conservative party.
Europe is a power for good. Of course it is not perfect, and there is a need for change and for reform. The Lisbon treaty is an important step forward in that reform. I do not understand the Opposition amendment. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it does not make sense. Institutional reform is essential for delivery and for achieving effective outcomes. For example, the Lisbon treaty extends qualified majority voting. Generally speaking, an extension of QMV is in the interests of our country.
I spent many years in the Council of Ministers negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom, and in my experience the UK usually sat within a consensus in Europe, but with so many member states it is impossible to get 100 per cent. support. There will always be one or two countries that, for various reasons, have differences. An extension of qualified majority voting therefore makes absolute sense, and makes sense in the context of the environment.
In the same way, extending the democratic role of the European Parliament makes sense. I have always thought of the European Parliament as a weak institution. Giving it more democratic accountability and introducing more checks and balances over the Commission and the Executive are desirable outcomes of the treaty. That is why it is a mistake to say that institutional reform does not make sense in this area.
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