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I endorse the sensible comments made by the Secretary of State about the leadership of the European Union. I
attended the United Nations forum on the climate change convention at Buenos Aires. If not for the European Union, Buenos Aires would have been an utter failure. The EU managed to salvage a useful outcome from that meeting. I attended the crucial Montreal meeting. There is no doubt that the leadership given by the EUunder the UK presidency, incidentallygave impetus to a positive outcome. As my right hon. Friend said, at the recent Bali meeting the EU played a crucial role in achieving a positive outcome by moving forward on a post-2020 framework.
Mr. Morley: Yes, I accept that, although the United Kingdom played an important role in those negotiations. Nevertheless, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the EU is a powerful influence in such international negotiations. That is why we should harness the EU as a positive force. It does no good to send the signals that we are getting from the debate, such as that including climate change in a new treaty is not important. We should support progressive change in the EU and harness the EU as a force for good and for change, which it can be.
I recognise the argument about whether changes are needed. I freely concede that the first phase of the European emissions trading scheme has not been the success that it should be because of over-allocation and, mainly, of giving in to the lobbying of vested interests by member states. Having said that, I should point out that the scheme has brought together 27 countries in the only worldwide trading scheme of its kind and I believe that it will form the nucleus of future carbon trading. Putting it in place has been a tremendous success. Like the hon. Member for East Surrey, I believe that it can be reformed in due course.
As I mentioned briefly in my intervention, it is important that the issue is mentioned in the context of institutional change under the Lisbon treaty. There must be changes in the EUs focus and we must move from the position in which half the EU budget is spent on agricultural subsidies. That does not make any senseit is a negative influence on world trade and a distortion for many agrarian economies internationally. We should be progressively moving from those subsidies and put the funding into more productive areas, such as agri-environment programmes and the promotion of adaptation and of measures to combat climate change. We need such reforms, and that is why such issues need to be mentioned in a new treaty such as the Lisbon treaty.
Biofuel targets have had a potentially perverse outcome, and I recognise what the hon. Member for East Surrey said about that. Biofuels have an important role to play, but not enough thought has been given to the environmental consequences of targets within the EU. It is certainly inexcusable to push ahead without a proper certification mechanism.
I have just come back from the global legislators forum in Brasilia, where I was joined by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members of this House. There was a very good agreement with the
Brazilians on a biofuels policy based on certification and sustainable development. I will write to the Secretary of State about the outcome of the conferencethere were discussions about biofuels and forestry, and proposals on a post-2012 framework that he might find interesting. It was good to bring together 80 legislators from the G8 plus 5 countries, African countries that export timber, and Bangladesh, and to get that level of agreement. It was also good to listen to President Lulas thoughts on the issues.
This welcome debate is about an important issue. The Government position of emphasising climate change in the Lisbon treaty is absolutely right. As the NGOs have rightly said, the treaty provides many benefits. We should have a more positive approach to it, rather than the negative, confusing and wrong signals that have come from the Opposition.
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): It is a particular pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who has distinguished ministerial experience of these issues; I welcome the benefit that his contribution brought to the debate.
Some say that these many days of European debates are a little like Groundhog Day, given that the same things are repeated over and again. I have attended the debates regularly, and I like to be a keen observer. I have noticed that there are nuanced differences in the spirit of the debate on the different days; some subjects are a little controversial, but others are discussed in a more consensual tone. I had high hopes that todays debate on climate change might err more towards consensus and have more agreement than we have managed so far.
The Conservative Back-Bench amendment is clearly ridiculous: to argue that it would be better to remove references to climate change in the treaty does not stack up, and I am pleased that the Conservative Front-Bench team has said that it will not support it. However, the notion that action is more important than words is right, although it is not the only thingpolitical priorities also send an important signal, so having the references in the treaty is welcome.
I think from the point of view of the Conservative party, pursuing the green line is all talk and no action
Successive treaties have developed EU environmental powerand rightly so, as the global environmental challenges that we face clearly require international co-operation. It is therefore very welcome that climate
change will be explicitly listed in article 174, and that the environmental objectives will now include
promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.
The House has already had the opportunity to discuss the energy policy changes in the Lisbon treaty, but it is worth reiterating that there are obviously clear advantages for tackling climate change in the new objective for European energy policy in article 176A: to
promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy.
The Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster.
The issue of a terrorist attack may have been covered on a different day. However, with particular reference to climate change, scientists tell us that our best realistic hope is for a 2(o) rise in temperatures; we can expect an increasing frequency of natural disasters, so the solidarity clause is also welcome.
As has been mentioned, the EU will be able to play an important role in adaptation; as the science gets better, we will be able to work out on which areas that 2(o) rise will have the biggest impact and where we need to take action.
Rob Marris: I am delighted to hear the hon. Lady talk about adaptation, which is not discussed enough in the House. Is she, like me, surprised and saddened that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) never mentioned it in the 30 minutes during which he was on his feet?
Jo Swinson: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We need to consider climate change in the context of both mitigation and adaptation, because the science tells us that a level of climate change is now inevitable. Mitigating that and minimising it as much as possible is obviously important, but many communities, particularly coastal oneswe are on an islandhave to bear the impacts.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Phil Woolas): To back up the hon. Ladys point, I should say that it is not often understood that we have already reached 0.7 of those 2(o). We are already down the track that far, so she is absolutely right.
Jo Swinson: Indeed. The confirmation in article 2C of the environment as a shared competence is also welcome. Of course the UK must preserve its right to act on environmental matters, but we also need EU-wide actionthe environment is exactly the kind of issue that should be a shared competence.
Mr. Graham Stuart:
Like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), I praise the hon. Lady for raising the issue of adaptation. She is aware that funding for adaptation in the developing world is currently about £37 million a year from the clean development mechanism. However, the estimates just for the developing world are 1,000 times thatbetween £30 billion and £60 billion a year is required
for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world to be protected against climate change, which is already inevitable. The treaty may make a differencewho knows? If it is to do so, we need the Secretary of State and other Ministers to give increased priority to adaptation and allocate funds appropriately.
The European Union emissions trading scheme is the single most important development in tackling climate change for the UK and Europe; arguably, it is a pioneer for the rest of the world. Emissions trading will play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions internationally. Phase 1 has shown how a scheme can be successfully set up and administered, and have very high compliance rates, but it has not shown how we can use it to cut carbon emissions. However, the scheme is a step in the right direction and there are encouraging signs that we are learning from the over-generous allocations in phase 1, which were raised by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth).
I am optimistic that phase 2 can make more of a contribution to emissions cuts, although it is regrettable that that phase has a maximum of 10 per cent. auctioning, given that we all know that auctioning is far more economically efficient. It is even more regrettable that the UK will get up to only 7 per cent. auctioning. I urge the Secretary of State and Ministers to consider extending the auctioning to 100 per cent., particularly as we approach phase 3. That would give us the best possible tools and enable us to make the scheme effective and pass the price signals on.
We have already heard about the shortcomings of the ETS and the exclusion of aviation and shipping, although it is welcome that the Government at least recognise that that needs to be pursued. We should, as a House, recognise the success of the scheme so far and the fact that it is being emulated in many other parts of the world, such as California. The Environmental Audit Committee, several members of which are here in the Chamber, recently went on a trip to Australia, where we were told that the Australians are setting up an emissions trading scheme using the EU scheme as a model and learning from our mistakes. We were also able to enlighten them somewhat on the changes that we would have made. Their scheme goes further in terms of including transport, so I hope that countries will be able to learn from each other on this. It is particularly pleasing that Australias decade of climate change denial has come to an end with the electors deciding to elect Kevin Rudd. Interestingly, that was perhaps one of the first elections where the issue of climate change was so pivotal in deciding the resultthat may be a sign of things to come. They are having their own mini-Stern report, the Garnaut report, which will, I hope, help them to catch up on lost time.
The EU has had many environmental successes, and I will touch on a few of them; others have already been mentioned. The landfill directive, with its escalating penalties for sending too much waste to landfill, is driving up recycling rates across the UK, and they have significantly increased in the past few years. Some of the proceeds from that go into funding community
groups, including some in my constituency that have been lucky enough to receive grants. It was about time that we learned from our continental neighbours, many of whom have been recycling huge amounts more than us for decadesbut better late than never, and we still have a long way to go. The interestingly named WEEEwaste electrical and electronic equipmentdirective has been helping to encourage more recycling and safe disposal of electrical goods. There is the EU energy label, with the A to G ratings on white goods, which has been very successful in making it easier for consumers to know, when buying appliances, which ones will cost them dear in their energy bills.
Jo Swinson: IndeedI was just coming to the directive on vehicle emissions, which phases out and bans leaded petrol and sets standards for acceptable emissions, coupled with labelling for vehicles on energy use so that when people are buying a car they can see exactly how much it will cost them to run.
Jo Swinson: There would certainly be a case for that in some parts of Scotland during the winter months, but I suspect that we may be better off encouraging drivers to use their common sense about when it is required.
Those changes have not only enabled consumers to make different decisions about what to buy but are encouraging manufacturers to make different decisions about the types of cars that they want to sell. There has also been an international lead from the EU. As the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said, Kyoto might not have been ratified without EU pressure on various other countries, particularly Russia. The EU was a key player at the recent Bali conference, and while it was disappointing not to get carbon reduction targets agreed, we did at least secure, in principle, international agreements to cuts, and the details will be worked out following further negotiations towards Copenhagen in 2009.
Jo Swinson: I do not have a crystal ball, but I certainly believe that it is important that climate change is listed explicitly as one of the EUs priorities. Given the choice between having it listed or not, I know which I would prefer. When we look at what the EU was set up to do, peace and security was obviously a key driver in the initial post-war period, but now, increasingly, climate change must be one of the top priorities, and it would be bizarre for it not to be listed in the new treaty.
We welcomed the setting of various targets at the March 2007 European summitthe 20 per cent. energy efficiency target, the target on a 20 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, and the target on 20 per cent. of energy coming from renewable sources. However, we need to push to increase those, and the EU has said that it is keen to do soto 30 per cent., if international partners do likewise. Given that the EU went to Bali and argued for a cut of 25 to 40 per cent. by 2020, while we have agreed only to 20 per cent. ourselves, we need to recognise the urgency of the issue, particularly if, as the science is now telling us, 60 per cent. by 2050 may not be enough and we may have to go up to 80 per cent. If so, 20 per cent. by 2020 seems a little unambitious, and it will lead to much more painful cuts and reductions in the years from 2020 to 2050.
Another disappointment regarding the target on 20 per cent. of energy coming from renewable sources was that when Tony Blair signed up to it in March 2007, he said that Britain should aspire to meet the target by 2020, but the Government have now backtracked to 15 per cent. Britain has huge renewable resources at its disposal, with the potential offered by wind and marine energy through tidal and wave power. We must recognise the urgency of investing in research and development to realise that potential and be far more ambitious. If Britain wants to be a leader in this area, we should not lag behind our European partners, with them achieving more than 20 per cent. and us achieving less than 20 per cent.
However, Europe does not always get it right, and in a few areas we should be pushing it to do much better. One issue, which I have raised previously with the Secretary of State and in a ten-minute Bill, is excessive packaging, which leads to UK consumers paying three times over for the ridiculous amount of packaging that surrounds the stuff that we buy. They not only pay for it at the checkout but through their council tax bills in sending it to landfill, and then they also pay the environmental cost of the gas that is given off and the changes made to our environment. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003the EU directive that governs thisis completely toothless. Since its introduction, and that of its predecessor regulations nine years ago, there have been just four prosecutions. Trading standards officers complain that they have numerous problems with enforcement. When I raised this with the Secretary of State in the Environmental Audit Committee, he said that the environment directorate-general was keen to look at reviewing it. I have written to the directorate for further information, but so far there has been no response. I wonder whether the Secretary of State might have more luck and be able to help me with more information on the issue.
Martin Salter: Does the hon. Lady agree that it is about time that we saw some effective action to get rid of the scandalous waste and destruction that is caused by single-use plastic bags, some 13 billion of which are used and abused in this country every year?
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