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However, I should point out to the hon. Gentlemanhe almost gave us credit for thisthat it was under a Labour Government that this country achieved the one and only agreement to change the common agricultural policy. Since this debate is about climate change, I hope that he would accept that our change moved things in
the right direction, both by decoupling public payments to farmers from production of goods and through voluntary modulation, providing even more money for farmers involved in agri-environmental works. So there are some bright points in Europe on climate change, through a Labour Government, in respect of farming and land management.
Let me come back to the words in the treaties. In debating climate change, three sections are particularly relevant and significant. The first is measures for energy efficiency and renewable energy. As was remarked earlier, most of the provisions are a consolidation of the existing text. Secondly, there is wording on combating climate change, which is plainly new. It seems to me bizarre to argue that it is irrelevant to move from saying nothing about climate change to talking about promoting the combat of it. That is very significant. Before I come to the third section, let me say that, taking those two sections together, the treaty texts underpinning the EU bring us up to speed with the agreement that the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire mentionedthe agreement to have 20 per cent. of energy from renewable sources and a 20 per cent. cut in carbon emissions by 2020. In a sense, that shows the two working together: action and the necessary underpinning words to go with it.
Bob Spink: The hon. Gentleman is talking about words and rhetoric, and he will recall the common fisheries policy objective and rhetoric were about conserving fish stocks, but it presided over the decimation and historic destruction of our fish stocks, which shows that we cannot trust pure rhetoric from Europe. Carbon emissions in Europe, for instance, are growing day on day.
The third part of the treaty text that I want to mention is the addition of sustainable development to the key objectives of the EU, which Members can now find in article 3. I still occasionally hear objections to the whole idea of the EU from one or two constituents who hark back to when we joined it. They say that Edward Heath told them that we were joining only a European Economic Community. In adding the words sustainable development after the reference to an internal market in the key objectives, there is a maturing of the EU into something that recognises the importance of sustainable development. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that amounts to a recognition that it is essential to balance economic, environmental and social considerations to get the right outcome in using the worlds resources in a sustainable way so that we do not take out more than the earth can afford. To my mind, that third example of new wording is the most significant of the three when we are talking about tackling climate change in future.
Let me provide some examples of where sustainable development applies. Again, the Secretary of State referred earlier to the UKs leadership in Europe in the past. We have had the confidence to lead because we have had such backing behind us. The first example was the negotiation of the Kyoto agreement and the
acceptance of legally binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In the end, when we divided out the EU share of those emissions, we took more than the overall 8 per cent. targetand we are on target virtually to double our savings beyond our legally binding target.
Mr. Gummer: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the decision to have an EU system whereby those who could do more would do so, in order that those who could not do more could do less, was taken under the last Conservative Government? The idea that the best way forward is that those who can should help those who cannot was a historic decision in the EU.
Mr. Kidney: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and that is a good example of social justice in action. I am slightly disappointed, in reflecting on the target to meet 20 per cent. of our energy needs from renewable sources, that the UK share is less than 20 per cent, so I would agree with him about how these matters are divided up. On the occasion that he mentioned, they were divided up as he described, and in the 2020 targets, they are beginning to be divided up in the same way. The principle still applies.
Another important example of UK leadership with EU backing was emissions trading. As the Secretary of State rightly said, this country established the first emissions trading scheme in the world. I remember the legislation that the House passed in order to set up the scheme, which has now become an EU-wide emissions trading scheme. It is true that there will always be difficulties in setting up a brand new scheme, and they have been adverted to in respect of phase 1 of the ETS earlier in the debate, but we are now approaching the second phase for 2008 to 2012.
We appear to have learned some lessons from our experience of the first phase: caps are getting tighter and auctioning is being used as a way of distributing permits, but we have not yet seen those developments reflected in a higher carbon price going forward. By the time we get to phase 3, however, I expect that there will be very tight caps, lots of auctioning and, with that, a new challenge to consider. As people start to pay their auction prices to national Governments for their permits and as they start to pay penalties for breaching the permitted amount of emissions, those national Governments are going to receive pretty huge sums of money.
I wanted to intervene earlier in the speech of the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire when she referred to the positive examples of land use, landfill and tax credits for Community benefits. She took one intervention in which reference was made to the enormous cost of helping developing countries to cope with adaptation, to which I would add the enormous cost of adapting to low carbon economies and of new technologies. We are talking about huge sums of money. The text in front of us says that we are going to commit to promote the tackling of climate change, so surely those huge sums will be applied in accordance with that text, will they not? There we see the great significance of the change in the wording that we are debating today. I urge hon. Members to accept that it is a hugely significant change that will make a great difference to the world in future.
I met representatives of west midlands manufacturing businesses yesterday and we discussed the pressures of the carbon price in the EU as providing one more push to manufacturers in developed European countries to move to less developed countries where the costs are cheaper. They told MPs that we should beware of adding another push factor to the offshoring of hard-pressed businesses in this country. That is a good antidote for people who stress the urgent need to deal with environmental factors because it reminds us that sustainable development has to be viewed as a balance between three different limbssocial and economic factors as well environmental. We need to keep the three in balance.
Conversely, across the EU, the low-carbon economy is helped and driven by emissions trading mechanisms, among others. There are opportunities, as the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) mentioned, for European and British businesses to take advantage of being at the forefront of new technologies that will help the whole world to achieve a low-carbon economy. In energy efficiency, for example, condensing boilers are important and in some forms of transportation there are new ways of powering vehicles. When it comes to marine renewables, as the hon. Gentleman said, the UK is uniquely well placed within the EU to be at the forefront of such developments. Finally, as we look forward to developing those business opportunities, it is important to remember that we need intelligent regulation, not no regulation of the markets.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): I have generally welcomed the treaty of Lisbon because it brings together in a sensible form a system that will enable us to do the things in the EU that we need to do. Clearly, climate change is one of the most central matters. Let me remind my colleagues who are concerned about the degree of unimportance of these few words of the importance that they often place on a number of other single sentences in the Lisbon treaty and how much time they take explaining how dangerous they are. I have had to spend quite a lot of time explaining why they are not as dangerous as that.
We cannot dismiss what is in the treaty as merely a few words, because what they say is that, at the heart of the activities of the European Union is the battle against climate change. We cannot do most of the things that we want to do effectively except on the basis of the worlds largest trading organisation. There is no doubt, as The Wall Street Journal recently said, that Europe is setting the standards that the United States and others have to follow. Within the European Union, we can influence that and take a serious leadership role. I believe that that is what we should be doing. The idea that we can deal with the issues of the 27 member states by having a rotating presidency or that we do not have a system whereby we can proceed institutionally is unlikely.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the very significant achievements that he made as a Secretary of State in this field. He laid the foundations for many of the things that we have heard about.
However, to add a slight rider to that, I do not remember that he found the absence of a permanent presidency to be an insuperable obstacle for all that he wanted to achieve.
Mr. Gummer: We had only 15 members at the time. We now have 27. That is why the change has to take place. However, I thank my hon. Friend for his kindness and remind the House that he was one of the Ministers who did those things with me.
I discovered one time as Minister that the worst place for air quality in Britain on one particularly bad day was in Sibton in my constituency, which is a blink and you miss it village. The reason was that half the air pollution in Britain is blown over from the rest of Europe, and we export half of that which we produce. If we want to do anything about air quality, we have to do it across the whole of Europe. We cannot clean up our beaches if the Elbe and the Rhine are pouring filth into the North sea. We have to do such things together, and we should do so with pleasure and enthusiasm, rather than in this miserable way of always finding a reason why we do not like working with our nearest and dearest. Talking about global co-operation when we cannot get on effectively with our neighbours is nonsense.
The United Kingdom Independence party is not only entirely wrong on the European Union, but has an entirely non-existent environmental policy, because it is not possible to have an anti-European position and have any kind of environmental policy. However, that does lead us to action. The Governments unwillingness to debate a range of things that we ought to have debated has not been helpful to those of us who have a different view of the treaty of Lisbon. Not being able to discuss some of the issues that we should have discussed has done a great deal of harm. It is a symbol of the fact that the Government do not trust Parliament to debate properly.
I want to press the Government on a series of actions that they should take. It was a disgrace that they voted against Austria and Denmark when the abolition of hydrofluorocarbons was going to be timetabled. It was a disgrace that they allowed the Home Office and the so-called Ministry of Justice to be rebuilt in the one case and built in the other, with HFCs as the mechanism for dealing with air conditioning. It was also a disgrace because they promised that they would not do that. The Government must set an example to the rest of industry by the way in which they procureby what they do on the Government side. They can do that only if they take other policies seriously.
I suppose one should not condone the arrival of large banners on this House, but I have huge sympathy for those who say that it is a peculiar environmental policy that suggests that, at the same time as dealing with climate change, we should have another runway at Stansted and at Heathrow. It is difficult to argue the case for being an environmental leader if we go on doing that. We have to restrict the growth of airports and get a sensible policy towards the flights that use them.
The Government have been tardy on the question of carbon capture. If ever there were an issue that is manifestly obvious, it is that we need a system of carbon capture. Without it, the Chinese economy will
not be able to deal with the use of its coal and the like. If we want to export that technology, we have to get it. The Government have done two foolish things. One was to walk out of the deal with BP; the other was to insist that the only kind of carbon capture that they will have is a particular technology that they have decided is the better one. This Governments record on deciding technological choices is not very good. I am sorry that they have not seen fit to deal with that directly. Kingsnorth is the opportunity for the Government to declare their hand effectively.
Why on earth have the Government held up the introduction of smart metering when we have the legislative vehicle to do that and Ofgem has sought to have it? It is a disgrace. We could do that in eight years and it would do more to deal with climate change and the use of energy than any other single reasonable proposal. Why have the Government failed to do that?
Those concerns lead me to the question of social justice. I agree that there is no possibility of dealing with the issues without a better sense of social justice. Therefore, why have the Government not changed the rules under which Ofwat can deal with metering? I declare an interest: I am chairman of a water company. I have the right to impose metering, but I have refused to do it because I cannot at the same time have a rising tariff system which would enable the poor not to suffer under such an imposition. The Government have not changed Ofgem, Ofwat or any of the other regulators to take all that into account.
That reminds us that most of the real advances in the environment have been at the behest of the European Union. I am not one of those who say that we go to Europe; rather, I say that we are in Europe, and in Europe we make the decisions around the European table. I have to say, however, that as Secretary of State for the Environment for four years, I could not have done most of the things that I did without the water directives, packaging directives and a range of other things in which we played an active part. I want the Government to be better at playing that part.
Why are the Government not convening a meeting of the European Union to deal with shipping in the busy shipping lanes to reduce the amount of emissions in the North sea and channel, so that we can make a start on the problem of shipping and bunker fuel? Why have they not taken the lead to get the European Union as a whole to have a sensible measurement of biofuels? We have done the work here, but the Government will not use it even for their measurements of biofuels. I want to know why the Government are not putting into operation feed-in tariffs. They could have easily learned how to do that from Germany, but they are still fighting for an unacceptable out-of-date mechanism, which we need to replace.
In supporting the treaty of Lisbon and believing that it will do much to concentrate peoples minds on the battle against climate change, I say to the Government that they cannot come to the House without explaining why they have not been more vibrant and enthusiastic. They should have listened less to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and a bit more to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to do their job.
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): After listening to that splendid eulogy on behalf of Europe, much of which I agree with, I want to take a different line, while recognising that Europe is, as the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said, absolutely central to our purpose. It is ridiculous to have any other view.
The problem for the EU in regard to climate change is not that there is a need for a new constitution or amended treatiesalthough I welcome the warm words, albeit only six of them, in the Lisbon treaty, because they are worth havingbut that it does not yet have a policy on climate change that is working. The policy is built on the EU emissions trading scheme, which has so far clearly been a failure. The EU policy is also based on a regulation of car emissions that so far has been voluntary and therefore ineffective. The policy excludes aircraft from any regulatory scheme, which means that airline emissions continue to rise extremely fast. Finally, EU member states have a burden-sharing arrangement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but only three of the EU 15 countries are on track to meet their targets by 2010.
The key EU policy has clearly been the emissions trading scheme. In phase 1, more permits to pollute have been printed than there is pollution. As a result, emissions across the EU from installations covered by the ETS have actually risen by nearly 1 per cent. The lesson has been learned, of course, that the real problem has been over-allocation during phase 1. However, just as one loophole is beginning to be closedand I am afraid that phase 2 is doing far too little to close it when it comes to the level of auctioninganother, even larger loophole has opened up.
In phase 2, member states will be permitted to import external Kyoto credits from developing countries in order to meet their carbon reduction targets. That might be acceptable if the credits reflected actual emission cuts, but many of them are generated from projects in developing countries that would have gone ahead anyway. In other words, there is no additionality, and the result will be that those credits will increase pollution.
Bob Spink: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I assure him that I shall make a different point. Does he agree that the EU emissions trading scheme is in fact a covert industrial subsidy, given that carbon emissions in Europe are actually rising? Also, France will take over the European presidency at the beginning of July. Does he expect France to take up the targets for environmental and climate change, or does he share my anxiety that it will simply push the European defence policy?
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