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Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

Question agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


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Climate Change (Political Response)

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. Before I call the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), I say to those who will speak from the Front Benches, as well as to those hoping to catch my eye from the Back Benches, that there is a very long list of applicants and relatively little time for their work to be completed. I ask, therefore, for restraint in the length of speeches and perhaps on the number of interventions. The Chair will use its powers to vary the time limit if that will help to ensure maximum participation in the debate.

4.17 pm

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I beg to move,

We live in an age of crises, and in recent months the economic crisis has most dominated the commentary around the world, the concerns of the public and debates here. However, the global ecological and environmental crisis poses the greater challenge. In some ways happily, although very belatedly, it is now rising to the top of the domestic and international agendas. To put it in context, a UN report this year stated that 300,000 deaths a year are attributable to climate change, that 325 million people are seriously affected at a cost to the global economy of $125 billion a year, and that 4 billion people are vulnerable to climate impacts.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Simon Hughes: Not yet. I am trying to respect the Deputy Speaker's exhortation.

Action on climate change clearly cannot wait any longer, which is why, all over the world, individuals, communities and Governments who have understood the message are taking action. Last week, I was in west Africa. People in Nigeria realise that the wasting of oil and flaring of gas cannot continue; people in Ghana are changing the way they grow their cocoa crops, so that they do not chop down trees as part of the farming process; and people in Sierra Leone understand that deforestation around Freetown cannot continue. More and more people are getting the message. Many people will have seen the film the other day of the extraordinary
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meeting of the Cabinet of the Government of Maldives to emphasise the threat to that low-lying country, and millions of citizens of more populous countries such as Bangladesh will be at risk if we do not change direction.

Governments all over the world are now working hard-I commend them on that-to get a tough, fair and effective new international deal in a few weeks in Copenhagen, because, in spite of the warnings, for too long there has not been enough action. To put it bluntly, there has been too little action so far, and it has come too late. Many people are saying that the next five years-the lifetime of the next Parliament-is the period in which we will either avert the climate crisis or not.

Today's debate, chosen by my colleagues and me, aims to put the climate crisis centre stage in Parliament and to turn our minds not just to the targets of 2020 or 2050, but to what can be done now.

Mr. Andrew Smith (Oxford, East) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Simon Hughes: I will give way to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) first, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me.

Our motion sets out three major areas of political change that we believe are needed in Britain as a whole, as well as some specific things for us to do now. The three major areas are a massive expansion of renewable energy, a wholehearted commitment to energy efficiency and a commitment for all homes in Britain to be warm homes within the next 10 years.

Rob Marris: May I gently suggest to the hon. Gentleman and the House as a whole that a debate on the UK's political response to climate change on the Liberal Democrat motion-the Government amendment is hardly better-is monstrous, because the motion says nothing about adapting to climate change? As he has said, people are already dying from climate change. We need to take adaptation just as seriously as the mitigation of emissions.

Simon Hughes: I accept that. At our conference last month, we made it clear that the international agreement of the developed world to put money into the kitty to deal with adaptation and mitigation-the Prime Minister understands the agenda item- is just as important. The reason our motion is more focused is that there is a campaign in this country and around the world for action now and next year. We are trying to get the Government and Parliament to make decisions about this country. We are also continuing to exhort our Government to make the right decisions at Copenhagen.

However, the motion adds to the three general propositions that I have set out for the next decade and calls on the Government and Parliament to sign up to the 10:10 campaign-if we pass the motion this evening, that is what we will do-and commit this country and this Parliament to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent. by the end of 2010. At the end of this debate, I shall ask colleagues from all parties to support the motion and reject the amendment. If we make the right decision today, we can bring great credibility to Parliament, we can do the right thing for the people whom we represent and, just as we did a few months ago when we decided to give proper recognition to the commitment and service of the Gurkhas, we can show that Parliament, not just the Government, can determine what the nation does.

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Mr. Andrew Smith: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. In welcoming this opportunity to reaffirm our support for the 10:10 campaign, may I ask the hon. Gentleman why, in focusing his motion, he left out the groundbreaking Climate Change Act 2008, the importance of carbon budgeting and the contribution of local authorities? Surely all are vital to success in combating climate change.

Simon Hughes: If the right hon. Gentleman had seen the preparation for my speech, he would know that I will applaud the Government for the 2008 Act, as well as the work done in both Houses and by all parties to ensure that the 2008 Act was stronger than originally proposed. He would also know that I am clear that it is a good thing that Departments now have carbon budgets and that the role of local authorities is important.

All those things are important, but the 10:10 campaign is not about those things. The 10:10 campaign is about asking individuals, organisations, companies, councils, the Government and Parliament to make a specific commitment to reduce our emissions by 10 per cent. between now and the end of next year-that is, 10 per cent. by the end of 2010. The campaign builds on the work that we have done, but it is because people believe that the long-term planning is not sufficient that we must now do those things that the right hon. Gentleman and I, as well as many others, no doubt already do in our personal lives and our communities.

Several hon. Members rose -

Simon Hughes: I will take one more intervention in a second and then I will press on.

We have worded the motion in the way that we have because we are talking not about a "tomorrow" problem, but about a "today" problem. Parliament has the authority to make decisions today that can change things from today in the days and months immediately ahead.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Like many in the House, I have personally signed up to the 10:10 campaign, but it is not clear from what he has said so far whether he is calling on Departments or the UK as a whole to cut emissions by 10 per cent. by the end of 2010. Indeed, can he give an indication of the pathway for achieving a 10 per cent. reduction in the country as a whole by 2010?

Simon Hughes: I can deal with both those questions, and the answer is yes. I am calling on the Government as a whole to sign up, which would involve all Departments and agencies of Government. The Department for Energy and Climate Change-the Minister's Department-has already signed up, and public sector organisations, such as the national health service, have also done so. The pathway is set out in the motion, which calls on the Government to come back with a programme for how this can be delivered by the end of this year. The Government would be committed to doing that, if the motion were passed. In that way, everyone would know how the Government believe that they can implement the plan. Bodies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England have made it clear that they can achieve more than a 10 per cent. reduction by the end of next year. This is not impossibilist politics; it is politics for now that would commit not only this Government but whoever is in government after the election to deliver in the months ahead.

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Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Is my hon. Friend saying that the strength of the motion and the narrative that he is putting forward is that they seek to involve not only corporations but individuals, and that, as the Centre for Alternative Technology has pointed out, we can achieve this only by working together to create attitudinal and practical change in the way that we, as individuals, live? If we can do that, we can achieve this target. If we do not, we have no hope whatever of doing so.

Simon Hughes: That is absolutely correct. I had the privilege of being at the launch of the 10:10 campaign outside the old power station in my constituency that is now Tate Modern. This is a campaign in which ordinary people are saying that they want to do things in their communities. They are also now saying that they want Parliament and the Government to lead and to do the same. I would hazard a guess that, in the constituencies of all my friends-and, indeed, of every colleague in the House-there will be many individuals and organisations that will want us to be bold today, not timid, and to sign up to a campaign that many individuals have signed up to in recent weeks.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): We want to be bold in Stoke-on-Trent. We want to sign up to the 10:10 campaign, and it is vital that we work together right the way across Parliament and down to the people at grass-roots level. That is taken as read. May I point out to the hon. Gentleman, however, that it would have been helpful if his motion had mentioned the report that was delivered only last week to Parliament from the Committee on Climate Change, entitled "Meeting carbon budgets-the need for a step change"? It is vital that everything that is done on the 10:10 campaign should be done within the framework of the CCC.

Simon Hughes: Of course I accept what the hon. Lady says. She has a very good track record. I was present at the announcement of the report to Parliament, and I think that Ministers have already given an undertaking that it will be debated-it is bound to be debated. May I just point out to colleagues, however, that this motion is not meant to encompass every single thing that anyone could ever do, or everything that we should have done? It is designed to focus our attention on the demand that is being made of us to sign up now to a campaign that is gathering support daily around the country. If Parliament and the Government do not sign up to it, it will send a terrible message to other people. We will seem to be saying, "You do the job, but we're not willing to follow."

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has rightly said that we need to be bold, not timid. Is not this therefore the time for the Liberal Democrats to show leadership and to accept the need for new nuclear power if we are to meet our green needs and our energy needs?

Simon Hughes: I could be distracted down that road, and I am very happy to have that debate. There is perfectly reasonable debate involving the argument that nuclear power should play a part in our energy mix, but I believe that it is flawed in a huge number of respects. For example, it is too expensive, it will be late and it is too risky. There are all sorts of reasons why it is not a good option, but the really important thing is that we can meet our energy needs without nuclear power. It is
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not necessary. The Government and the Conservatives, who are allied in their love of the nuclear industry, are wrong about that. My colleagues and I have held to that view over the years.

This country has a particular responsibility in this regard, for three reasons. We have an historic responsibility because we were the country of the industrial revolution and we have contributed hugely to the amount of emissions on the planet. We also have a responsibility because we are a member of the European Union, which has many industrialised countries, and because we are a member of the Commonwealth, which stretches around the world. We must therefore achieve a really strong deal at Copenhagen; a weak deal will not be worth having. I applaud the Prime Minister and his colleagues for the fact that they are working hard to get a good deal at Copenhagen. We boast that we are a world leader, but we have to show that our deeds match our words.

Here, sadly, we have not delivered the goods. We have had a Government target in every manifesto since 1997: one was a 20 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2010, for example, but we are barely halfway there. Emissions reductions through the recession do not count; we simply have not delivered. Another Government target was to have 10 per cent. of our electricity through renewables by 2010. We have the best potential source of renewables anywhere. I attended the British Wind Energy Association conference in Liverpool this morning, and I know that the number of people expressing an interest in renewable energy has gone up nearly 50 per cent. since last year alone. Yet where are we? Not at the top of the league table for renewables in Europe, like Sweden, but at the bottom with countries such as Luxembourg. The Minister told me earlier this year that only 1 per cent. of our homes are energy-efficient-we are the cold man of Europe. The Government now support the expansion of Heathrow-blind to the evidence of the need to reduce aviation emissions and still willing to have dirty coal produced in the future. Commitments to the environment have been broken again and again; sadly, we have not delivered.

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): In condemning the third runway and expansion at Heathrow, my hon. Friend anticipated my point, but does he agree that it is imperative that we hear from the Conservatives some condemnation of the "Boris island" estuary airport, which would be a climate change and environmental disaster on an even worse scale?

Simon Hughes: I say to my hon. Friend, who has led our work on this issue, that it always seemed to me entirely inconsistent for Conservative Members to say on the one hand that they are against expanding Heathrow while saying on the other hand that they are quite happy to have lots more activities in airports elsewhere in the south-east of England. [Interruption.] That is not our policy-absolutely not. If Ministers, civil servants, fellow MPs, local government officers, councillors and all the people in public office used trains rather than planes in this country when they could do-and they set an example, which it is perfectly possible to do in mainland Britain-we would not need the sort of expansion that the Government are now supporting.

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