Previous Section Index Home Page

Any agreement that can be considered rigorous must pass a number of tests, including but not limited to the following list. First, an agreement has to be sufficiently rigorous to bind the world in a common commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures to below 2° C. That has to be explicit if any deal is to carry credibility. Secondly, the deal must establish a new international financial mechanism that will provide our brothers and sisters in the world's poorest countries with the means to protect themselves against future floods, famine and
5 Nov 2009 : Column 1021
drought. To that end, we must use funds additional to and not instead of, the resources currently deployed to fight poverty. It would be bizarre if, having agreed to help alleviate the poverty of various countries, we were then to find that an additional problem came along and made us forget about that agreement. There needs to be a recognition that climate change is an additional challenge that requires additional help.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said about additionality, but does he agree that additional money to make the Copenhagen agreement work should not be taken from existing UK aid budgets? Does he agree that the new money must be separate and clearly distinct, and that it should not put those aid budgets at risk?

Greg Clark: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point, and I agree with his analysis. If we regard climate change as a new and additional problem, we need new and additional resources to tackle it. In that regard, I do not understand fully how the figure of 10 per cent. has been arrived at. I know that the Secretary of State wants to be rigorous, but it seems a suspiciously round number. How can we know that 10 per cent. will be the proportion of the aid budget that is relevant for ever and a day? I would like a more rigorous basis for that number.

I believe that that must be part of the Copenhagen agreement. Unilateral commitments by individual countries will not lead to the necessary certainty of funding. Various mechanisms are already on the table at Copenhagen that might result in a flow of funds, and it is very important that we establish a deal in that regard. That will be one of the central tests of whether any agreement can stand up to the ambitions that we have for it.

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about 10 per cent., but what we really need is a commitment from all parties in this House that any help given to developing countries coping with climate change must be over and above the aid that goes to them for poverty relief.

Greg Clark: The right hon. Gentleman makes the exact point that I have made in my remarks.

The final essential element of any outcome at Copenhagen is an urgent agreement on deforestation. Some 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are lost every year to deforestation. To put that into context, that is an area larger than England. We must secure a deal at Copenhagen to protect the global rainforests, without which it will be impossible to keep warming under a dangerous threshold.

From the beginning of his leadership, the leader of my party has made it clear that Britain must take a position of leadership on our global as well as our domestic environment. We have talked about that already in our exchanges, and it is nothing new. British Governments throughout the ages have seen it as Britain's role in the world to be a force for progressive change. In a remarkable speech this summer that I commend to all hon. Members, my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary said:

That must characterise our ambition in Copenhagen.

5 Nov 2009 : Column 1022

As we get close to Copenhagen, we know that significant outstanding issues remain. The Secretary of State alluded to the question whether the deal would trigger higher contributions from other EU member states. If the deal is to be genuinely global, it is essential that it triggers that pan-European 30 per cent. emissions reduction target and ensures that it is brought into effect. Moreover, we have talked about the temperature requirement, but it is also important that we encourage-as the Secretary of State has said he will-our European partners to rise to the challenge as we have and respect the scientific view of what is required.

When it comes to the flow of funds for adaptation, it is important that we understand that the numbers used in the agreement must be rigorous. I agree with the Secretary of State that those numbers must not be made up and used just because they sound round and can be easily communicated. The numbers used in the agreement must have some substance to them.

It is clear that much work remains to be done on important aspects of the problem before Copenhagen begins. With a little more than a month to go, it is right for people to be apprehensive about the task ahead. It is not in anyone's interest to be over-confident, but I began my speech by saying that a number of people are making a parallel with the Bretton Woods conference of 1944. On the eve of that conference, John Maynard Keynes, one of the architects of that historic agreement, said that it was

I think that we start off from a stronger position than he did, in terms of our optimism about what might come out of the negotiations. I wish the Secretary of State much success in the weeks ahead.

Several hon. Members rose -

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. May I remind right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 15-minute limit on Back-Bench contributions?

1.10 pm

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I welcome the debate and the tone and tenor of contributions from Members on both sides of the House. This is a crucial issue, and the conference in Copenhagen will probably be one of the most important international negotiations that has ever taken place. There are great implications for the future of our country and the international situation. I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the Front-Bench spokesmen for the fact that I might not be able to be in the Chamber for the wind-ups, because I have an engagement in my constituency.

I wanted to speak in the debate because the conference is so important and its outcome will be vital to us all-and, indeed, to future generations. I welcome the lead that the Government have taken. The fact that the Prime Minister made it clear that he was willing to attend sent an important signal, because I agree that getting an outcome will probably require the involvement of the leaders of countries, given its importance. I agree that the progress that has been made so far has been the result of international leaders engaging through the UN.

5 Nov 2009 : Column 1023

I also welcome the fact that the EU has reached an agreement on funding for adaptation and for help for some of the world's poorest countries that are suffering the most. That must be part of the deal, and it gives a useful lead. It is important that other developed countries add their contributions to that to form part of the overall outcome.

I accept that the numbers are crucial. They must be based on the science. There must not be a a repeat of Kyoto when several countries chose figures because they were slightly higher than those of some of their rivals. Some countries did a better job of that, and the UK negotiations identified a more realistic number than Canada's, for example. However, although I accept what the Secretary of State says about being realistic, some annexe 1 countries have not made a lot of effort over the years, and that must change.

Mr. Graham Stuart: In an otherwise excellent speech, the Secretary of State did not say a great deal about compliance mechanisms, and did not include compliance in the list of key points at the end of his speech. Does the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) agree that without compliance to ensure that people face a sanction if they fail to keep their promises, even if we end up with an agreement that we can celebrate, because it looks strong, that agreement might not lead to the actions that people promise?

Mr. Morley: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There will clearly be an issue regarding compliance. There must be a binding international agreement. I do not underestimate how difficult it will be to apply and enforce compliance measures, but I do not dispute that there must be such a mechanism.

Developing countries, especially the major emerging economies, must show some commitment. That commitment might be different from that which we would accept, as an annexe 1 country, but nevertheless they must demonstrate that they are willing to make a major contribution towards reducing emissions.

I agree with what has been said about China. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) has joined me in many meetings with Chinese representatives, as have my hon. Friends the Members for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) and for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen). Countries such as China have made an enormous move, and engagement among legislators has been important. There have also been signs of movement from the United States, although not as great as I would like, and smaller signs of movement from India-again, not as great as I would like. It is important to get legislators on side, especially US legislators, because any agreement will have to go through Congress and be ratified. Unless we have the support of legislators, we will find ourselves back in the position at the time of Kyoto when the US was willing to sign up to the agreement, but there was no chance of it getting through Congress.

Mr. Gummer: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that before we can expect developing countries to make the major promises that they need to make, they must
5 Nov 2009 : Column 1024
have confidence that we have accepted responsibility for causing the problem and profiting from the pollution that we are now suffering?

Mr. Morley: I absolutely accept that point. To be fair to the UK, we have always been clear that we went through a dirty phase of industrialisation and gained the economic benefits of that. We cannot deny the benefits of economic growth to others when that forms part of their policies of poverty alleviation. However, other countries do not necessarily have to go down the path of dirty industrialisation. They could go straight to cleaner technologies, and we can play a role in developing and transferring such technology to other countries.

I want to focus on the benefits of a low-carbon economy. Two themes come out of discussions with legislators from other countries, especially countries such as America: first, they say that unless there is action from emerging economies, there will be unfair economic competition that will undermine their economies; and, secondly, they talk about the cost that will fall on their individual countries due to moving to a low-carbon economy. However, we always make the point in those discussions that there is no cost-free option, because there will be costs arising from not moving to a low-carbon economy. In addition, they must consider the important factors of security of energy supply and economic sustainability, which can bring benefits in themselves, as well as the absolutely overwhelming environmental arguments.

Our country could benefit greatly from moving to a low-carbon economy. My region could receive those benefits. The steel plate for wind farm towers is already made in Scunthorpe, and a local company in my constituency maintains and overhauls gearboxes for land-based and offshore wind turbines. The Humber area could be a centre for the low-carbon economy by supporting the growing offshore wind sector, including from the ports of Hull, Grimsby and Immingham. South Yorkshire can offer engineering and design, and we have steel facilities, science and universities, and expertise in the area, including from the oil and gas industry. We also have expertise on carbon capture and storage, and I am really pleased that the EU has committed money to a carbon capture power station at Hatfield, which could form just one part of a big centre for the low-carbon economy involving many thousands of jobs in the Humber. Such a thing could happen in other parts of the country.

Following the Prime Minister's statement on the European Council, I pointed out in my question to him that if we are to encourage developing countries, in particular, to take the required steps, they will need to see the benefits that they could get from a low-carbon economy. We need to offer encouragement, and the European Union, as a major trading bloc, is in a good position to do that. For example, we could argue for a tariff-free, low-carbon trading zone, whereby products that would benefit energy efficiency or low-carbon energy could enter a country on a tariff-free basis. That would benefit manufacturing in the UK, which is important, and encourage international trade. We already have the important developing carbon market, which brings benefits, and we need measures in the European Union, such as a zero or reduced VAT rate for insulating or low-carbon
5 Nov 2009 : Column 1025
materials, to provide such encouragement. Other possible measures have recently been discussed, such as a scrappage scheme for boilers, which would generate jobs and trade.

A great deal can be done, and the European Union is in an excellent position to bring that about. It is also a way of engaging legislators in how they might see the benefits for their own areas. I met some senators from Texas, which, without being unfair, is not the most progressive part of America in the low-carbon economy. However, although they were not hugely enthusiastic about the environmental arguments, they certainly saw the economic arguments and the benefits for their local economy and for people from carbon capture and storage, solar power and smart grids. Indeed, smart grid development in Texas is very advanced. We need to emphasise those points when we hear negative responses from some countries.

I should like to flag up some issues that, although important, may get lost in the negotiations, given the main focus of the talks. They include deforestation, which has already been mentioned. There has been some welcome progress on tackling deforestation, but what I have heard and read concerns me. We need to get the details right of how we deal with deforestation through the reduced emissions from deforestation-or RED-process; we need the money to go to forest management and restoration; and the most important people to get onside, those who live in and rely on forests, need to receive some share of the investment. Any deal that puts a lot of money into the hands of Governments and never reaches forestry management or local communities could do more harm than good. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to be aware of that, because a deal is important, but a deal at any price could make things worse rather than better.

The forests issue is linked to ecosystem protection. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North has been very active on the latter, but it could also get lost in the argument. Internationally, the role of forests and deforestation has been recognised, but wetlands, peat bogs and mangrove swamps also have roles-and not only in mitigation. Some of the effects of rising sea levels, storms and typhoons have been made worse by the removal of mangroves, taking away not only potential mitigation for poor communities, but nurseries for fish, which are very important for commercial fisheries. The ecosystem issue is part of the consideration of how we manage our environment to mitigate the effects of carbon, and it has not had the attention that it deserves. The work that has been done in valuating forests has also been done for ecosystems, but we should not separate the two. They have to be seen together, and that will be one of the challenges for my right hon. Friends.

My final point is perhaps the most difficult one. Population is an issue, but it is not for us to lecture other countries. This is about improving the economics of developing countries and improving access to education, for women in particular. We have a role to play through our aid programmes, and I agree that the additional funding for adaptation must not be removed from the Overseas Development Administration budget, because we have a role to play in that, too. Part of that role is to recognise that it is in no one's interest for the
5 Nov 2009 : Column 1026
population to rise from 6 billion to 9 billion. That may not happen, but we should take into account the effects of population increase, because it has many negative effects, not least on the environment, on emissions and on sustainability.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has said and done the right things. The negotiations will be very difficult, but for all of us the long-term consequences of failure are almost unthinkable, and I wish him all the best.

1.24 pm

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I shall start where the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) finished and express our thanks to the Secretary of State. I wish him all the best, and I wish to strengthen his resolve. Indeed, I hope that today encourages him, the Prime Minister and the Government, because those in power today have a responsibility that may not fall to the next Government, and now is the time to make progress.

All of us recognise that throughout the world there has been a significant movement towards a desire to do business at the conference, which starts a month on Monday. For example, China and India have agreed to put on one side disputes about their border so as to try to reach a common view, and that is fantastic progress. The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe speaks with great authority and experience and can testify to the fact that even states such as Texas, where there is an historical reluctance to act and a conservative position, for reasons that we know, have none the less made some movement on the issue.

Looking throughout the world, I note that significant players such as the Japanese, as well as the Chinese and Indians, and the Americans, whose signature was absent from the Kyoto treaty, are all coming to the table with more commitment. However, we are a long way from reaching a deal, and I shall return to what my party and our sister parties in Liberal International and throughout Europe have sought to say. It is a great privilege for our group of politicians that the host in Copenhagen is a Prime Minister who comes from the liberal democratic tradition, and he and his colleagues in other European countries have a pivotal role to play. I wish him all the best; he knows the significance of the meeting that he will host in Denmark in a month's time.

Unlike Mr. Speaker and other colleagues, I was unable to attend the Chamber last Friday when the Youth Parliament held its first meeting here-something that I supported and argued for. Earlier last week, however, I met for the third time representatives of the UK Youth Climate Coalition. I know that Hansard does not record objects, but I have one here with the slogan that the coalition uses all the time, and it is the question asked of all of us:

Next Section Index Home Page