Previous Section Index Home Page

10 July 2008 : Column 1547

G8 Summit

11.30 am

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G8 summit, which took place under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Japan between 7 and 9 July. The summit was unique not just for the range of issues discussed in three interlocking summits—the African outreach, G8 plus 5 and major economies summits—but for the large number of countries whose Presidents and Prime Ministers took part.

Let me first draw the House’s attention to the unprecedented G8 statement on Zimbabwe. In the face of the deepening tragedy in Zimbabwe—the intimidation and deaths, the violation of human rights, the detention of political prisoners—the G8 made it clear that we do not accept the legitimacy of the Mugabe Government and that the UN Secretary-General should now appoint a special envoy both to report on the deterioration of human rights and to support regional mediation efforts to bring about change.

The G8 also called for the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid, which is essential to preventing further suffering and loss of life. We resolved that we would take further steps to take financial and other measures against those individuals responsible for the violence. As the House knows, we have followed that up immediately with a UN Security Council resolution, which is now being discussed in New York. We propose an international arms embargo on Zimbabwe, including a ban on all supplies of any arms, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. We list in the resolution 14 named members of the Mugabe inner cabal against whom travel and financial sanctions should be imposed by the whole international community. We have now set in train work to identify, in Africa, Asia, America and Europe, through a forensic assessment, both the physical assets and the bank accounts and finances of those 14 people. The UN resolution will also establish a committee to monitor the operation of those sanctions.

With worldwide sanctions and the worldwide arms embargo that we propose, our aim is that there will be no safe haven and no hiding place for the criminal cabal that surrounds the Mugabe regime. Now that the G8 has taken its decision, we propose that the UN put the full weight of the international community behind isolating an illegitimate Government.

At the heart of the summit’s other considerations and conclusions were the triple shocks hurting the world economy: the doubling of oil prices, rising food prices and, because of the credit crunch, the rising cost of money. Those are three shocks that, it is now agreed, cannot be solved by traditional monetary policy means alone but require direct action that will tackle the sources of oil and food inflation and make for more stable commodity, agricultural and financial markets.

The summit also reflected a world that is changing fast, with a consensus about the new economic power in Asia; about the fact that oil, commodity and food prices represent global problems that require global solutions; that there is an economic as well as an environmental imperative to break our dependence on oil; and that we should act in Africa and on international development
10 July 2008 : Column 1548
for moral reasons, but also because developing countries hold the key to addressing our food shortages and will be the ones most affected by climate change.

First, while the summit noted that there are many explanations for the doubling of oil prices in a year, and that the scale of change is now greater than the oil shock of the 1970s, the basic challenge, which cannot be resolved by one country or group of countries alone, is that oil demand exceeds oil supply now, and will in the future. Although Governments are taking action domestically—Britain with special winter payments, new help for low-income families and the current freeze on fuel duty—the G8 agreed that the global conditions for ensuring a more stable international energy market were, first, expanding nuclear power, with the International Energy Agency suggesting that we will need 1,000 new nuclear power stations over the next four decades; secondly, accelerating the expansion worldwide of renewables; thirdly, radical measures in each of our continents to improve energy efficiency; and fourthly, co-operation between oil producers and oil consumers to ensure greater understanding of the balance between supply and demand and then to ensure new investment in all sources of energy. The G8 supported the London summit that will be held later this year between producers and consumers.

Britain reported that, for our part, we are following up changes to the North sea licensing structure with a review of the current fiscal regime, with the aim of increasing recovery from new and existing oil fields. We will be discussing with Nigeria next week how the UK can work with the Nigerian authorities to address security problems in the Nigerian delta, which are costing 1 million barrels of oil a day. We are working with the Iraqi Government to build capacity in the oil sector there, and we are discussing with the Gulf states and others how sovereign wealth funds and oil revenues can be recycled into wider energy investments.

Global action to improve energy efficiency and to reduce the world’s dependence on oil will help not only to reduce energy and fuel bills for households and industry in countries such as ours but to fight the battle against climate change. That is essential to the future prosperity and security of the wider world. For the first time, the G8 agreed not just to consider but to adopt as part of an international agreement a long-term goal of a cut of at least 50 per cent. in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Also for the first time, we agreed on the need to have interim goals and national plans to achieve them. I welcome the fact that the major economies group, which now includes China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea, as well as the G8, agreed to continue to work together in the UN to achieve an international climate agreement next year, and that the major emerging economies have agreed to adopt appropriate mitigation actions with a view to reducing their emissions below what is called “business as usual”.

As a measure of our shared commitment to meet these challenging goals, the G8 also agreed to 25 recommendations on energy efficiency standards, including agreement that each country will put in place car and consumer goods standards—standards we said that, if implemented globally, could cut global oil consumption by 15 per cent. and energy-related carbon emissions by 20 per cent. That is the equivalent of all the emissions of the USA and Japan combined. As I
10 July 2008 : Column 1549
told the summit, these standards include Britain pressing in the European Union for an average fuel efficiency target of 100g of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2020, and the Secretary of State for Transport is today publishing a consultation paper in support of this target. Britain will also work with other countries in the European Union on the scope for commercialising the production of electric plug-in and hybrid motor vehicles.

To make a reality of and to monitor higher energy efficiency standards, we are also setting up a new G8 energy forum to meet in the autumn to examine how we can globally adopt new standards and new technologies. This will feed into the next meeting of the consumers and producers dialogue in London, which was supported by the G8 and will happen before the end of the year. We will seek to make permanent these initiatives on energy by setting up an international partnership for energy efficiency co-operation as a high-level forum to accelerate the adoption of these new technologies, and for greater energy efficiency.

We also know that to adopt alternative energy sources Africa and developing countries must have greater access to funds, so it has been a British initiative to create what has been called the climate investment funds at the World Bank. We agreed measures at the G8 that will provide more than $120 billion in public and private finance for alternative energy and other environmental investments. This is $117 billion through the existing clean energy investment framework, and $6 billion of new funding through the new climate investment funds—a huge new global investment fund of more than $100 billion for tackling climate change and encouraging developing countries to move to alternatives to fossil fuels.

With rising food prices having an impact at home and abroad, particularly for the poorest, the need for co-ordinated global action is also clear, so the G8 agreed to invest more than $10 billion to meet the short-term humanitarian needs arising from famines, including increases in food aid, but we also agreed to improve food security and measures for agricultural productivity over the longer term.

One major element in reducing food prices, as well as generating wider global benefits, will be a successful outcome to the Doha trade round, where lowering trade-distorting subsidies and import restrictions could increase the global gross domestic product by as much as €120 billion a year by 2015. The Doha trade round is primarily a development round that will benefit the poorest countries most. But if we are to break the year-long deadlock in negotiations, the upcoming ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation on 21 July will be critical. It is a make-or-break meeting for a trade deal, and I discussed the importance of this at the summit with all its participants, including President Bush, the Presidents of Brazil and South Africa and the Prime Minister of India. We agreed that the biggest signal we could send that the present challenges must not be an excuse for a renewed bout of protectionism was signing that world trade deal.

I hope that all sections of this House will agree that all countries should show the resolution to achieve the breakthrough that we want and need. To support the deal, the G8 also reiterated a commitment to invest $4 billion in aid for trade to help the poorest countries to take advantage of new trading opportunities.

10 July 2008 : Column 1550

As part of action this year on the millennium development goals, the G8 also signed up to new action to meet goals on health, and reaffirmed commitments made at Gleneagles to provide $25 billion in aid to Africa, and $50 billion globally by 2010, as well as establishing universal access to treatment for AIDS. How the world achieves further major advances in the alleviation of poverty, disease and illiteracy is the subject of the UN millennium summit convened by the UN Secretary-General for 25 September. I call on all countries to do what is necessary to meet the promises that they made on the millennium development goals.

My aim at the summit was to turn generalised commitments that were not time-specific into concrete action and into delivery to address poverty, disease and illiteracy. We agreed that over the next five years we would deliver the commitment of $60 billion to tackle infectious diseases and strengthen health in Africa and developing countries. Some other countries will provide additional resources for health care systems, including our own.

We also agreed to help to fund in 36 African countries a target of 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people. That would mean in total an additional 1.5 million new doctors, nurses or health workers, including a major advance in the number of skilled midwives so that women no longer have to die when unaided during childbirth. The G8 also committed to finance 100 million bed nets by 2010 for the prevention of malaria—this could save 600,000 lives—while $1 billion of new funding for the education fast-track initiative will immediately help a further 10 million children to go to school.

During the summit, I had a number of key bilateral meetings with other leaders on millennium development goal issues, and on other issues as well. This included a meeting with the new President of Russia, when we agreed on co-ordinated international action on Iran and the middle east peace process. But I raised in detail all the major issues that exist between our two countries, our position on the Litvinenko case, the treatment of the British Council and the withdrawal of visas for BP employees.

The G8 also agreed that, in a world of global financial flows, it is essential that immediate action be taken to tackle the impact of financial instability. Action at home should be accompanied internationally by clearer standards for the valuation of assets, changes in the role and use of credit rating agencies and better management of liquidity. More generally, there was agreement on the need for concerted global action to reform the International Monetary Fund. There was agreement that the IMF should become a better early warning system for the world economy, and there was a wider agreement that the international institutions set up in the 1940s were now in need of fundamental reform to ensure that they were fit to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. Further work will be done over the coming year to produce proposals for their reform and renewal.

Just as on Zimbabwe, where we have seen the growth of an international coalition for change, there is growing agreement round the world—and real progress now—on the need for detailed collaborative actions on energy, climate change, trade and international development. I commend this statement to the House.

10 July 2008 : Column 1551

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, and I am sure that I speak for the whole country when I say we are pleased to see that Heathcliff has come home.

There are four main issues that I want to ask about—the world economy, aid, climate change and Zimbabwe. First, on Zimbabwe, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on putting the issue at the top of the G8 agenda? Real progress was made on sanctions against the regime and on not recognising the legitimacy of the Government, and he is to be congratulated on the role that he played in that. The key is now to translate those words at the G8 into an effective UN resolution. Given what the Russian President has said—that a UN resolution has not actually been agreed—is the Prime Minister confident that the Security Council will pass a resolution that enforces an arms embargo and meaningful targeted sanctions against members of the regime? Specifically on sanctions, given that EU sanctions target 130 officials, can he tell us why the figure in the draft resolution is just 14?

The G8 also calls for the appointment of a UN envoy to Zimbabwe, which, again, is welcome. Will the Prime Minister press for the appointment to be accompanied by a UN commission to investigate human rights abuses in Zimbabwe? On Africa more widely, can the Prime Minister give us some further reassurance—he spoke about this—that the Gleneagles pledges are not being watered down? At Gleneagles, the commitment was to increase development aid by $50 billion by 2010, with $25 billion of that going to Africa. The latest communiqué has a rather tortuous phrase about being

According to Oxfam, on current trends, rich countries could miss their 2010 promise by as much as $30 billion—money that could save 5 million lives. Given all that, is the Prime Minister really convinced that the Gleneagles pledges will be delivered?

Secondly, the Prime Minister mentioned the vital issue of access to HIV/AIDS treatment. Tony Blair said last year that the G8 was still committed to delivering

I asked Tony Blair repeatedly about interim targets to help to make sure that the 2010 commitment was kept, yet now, with just two years to go, the G8 says that it is

How close to universal access to those vital treatments does the Prime Minister expect us to get in two years’ time?

Thirdly, on climate change, the Prime Minister said that the G8 agreement represented major progress, and on the face of it, the 50 per cent. cut in emissions does look good, but when we look at the small print, is there not a series of problems with the goal that was set? First, the goal is for global emissions, not G8 emissions, yet there are no figures for the contributions that G8 countries should make. Next, the Prime Minister mentioned the declaration issued by the wider group of economies that met on Wednesday; is it not the case that that had no specific figures at all? Furthermore, while the 2050 goal is clearly 42 years away, there are no interim targets. Vitally, is it not the case—although there seems to be some uncertainty here—that the 2050 goal is not being measured against 1990 levels, as we have always
10 July 2008 : Column 1552
discussed, but against current levels? Could he confirm that? Taken together, do not those points demonstrate that progress has been painfully slow?

The fourth issue is the world economy. As the Prime Minister said, one of the keys to improving standards of living is to break down barriers to trade, and the G8 said that it would continue to work, as a matter of urgency, on the Doha negotiations. Is it not the case that the greatest contribution that the EU could make is to reform the common agricultural policy? The Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee last week that he wanted to see the CAP change “fundamentally”. Would that not have been much easier if the Government had not abandoned much of our rebate, without any guarantee of real CAP reform in return?

At a time when people face higher food prices, higher fuel bills and a credit crunch, what they need is a Government who are on their side and able to help. The Prime Minister talks a lot about global oil markets, and clearly those are important issues, but is there not something that he could do, in the UK, to help people who need a car to get to work? First, why does he not scrap his retrospective vehicle excise duty tax hike for next year? Will he at least admit that when he told me from the Dispatch Box that a majority of drivers would benefit, he was wrong? Will he now correct himself and apologise to the House for getting it wrong? Secondly, will he look at our proposal for a fair fuel stabiliser? [Interruption.] People want to know that the outcome of the G8 will be to help people in this country. Will the Prime Minister look at our proposal for a fair fuel stabiliser, so that when the price of oil rises, the Government share the pain with the motorist?

Is it not the case that when the Prime Minister looked at the situation in other G8 countries, he found that far from being the best prepared for global economic uncertainty, Britain is among the worst? France and the United States are cutting taxes to boost people’s living standards. He cannot do that, as he has given us the biggest Budget deficit of not only the G8 countries but all the 55 large economies, apart from Hungary, Egypt and Pakistan. Is that not the true situation? Is that not why, despite all the difficulties people face, the Prime Minister is actually planning to put up taxes next year and the year after?

Of course people welcome the positive reports the Prime Minister has given on developments at the G8, but are they not entitled to something else? Is it not time that the Prime Minister, who for years boasted about an end to boom and bust and about prudence and stability, told us why as the difficult years come he put nothing aside during the good years to help people when they need it?

Next Section Index Home Page