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"Science has been moved aside and the space has been filled up with political myopia with every country now trying to protect its own narrow short-term interests."
"They are afraid to have negotiations go any further because they would have to compromise on those interests."
There is also the problem at home. I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), but he made a good point about the number of people in this country who agree that there is a need to take action. Many Members will have received when preparing for this debate an e-mail on the HSBC climate confidence monitor. According to its figures, overall in the world,
"65 per cent. of people believe a new international deal to cut emissions is 'very important'...79 per cent. of people want to see a commitment at Copenhagen that 'meets or significantly exceeds' a 50-80 per cent. cut in emissions by 2050"
"69 per cent. of people agree that addressing climate change is at least as important, if not more important, than supporting their national economy during the downturn."
"In the UK, however, we still have a significant amount of work to do to convince the public that solutions are possible. Whilst those surveyed for the Monitor in developing countries are calling loudest for strong action on climate change, the UK scored highest across the world for those who believe climate change cannot be stopped (53 per cent.)".
That is not to say that people in the UK do not understand that there is a problem, but they are sceptical about our ability to deal with it. Ministers and all hon. Members should find that statistic very worrying indeed, because we need to take people with us if we are going to tackle climate change.
Mr. Graham Stuart:
We need not only to take people with us, but to come up with a credible plan that suggests that the world is capable of making the
transformative reduction in CO2 emissions. At the moment, no such credible plan exists, so if people are sceptical about our ability to deliver, that is right and proper. It is for those in the House and elsewhere to come up with more credible plans.
The danger is that if we go to Copenhagen and come away without a plan, scepticism, and the sense that climate change is inevitable and that there is nothing we can do to stop it, will increase. Because we have spent the past couple of years or so telling the general public that something must be done, we must get this agreement. The Prime Minister said not so long ago that we have 50 days to save the planet, if I remember correctly. Much of that is true, but what will be the impact on the general population of this country if they see that the politics is not keeping up with the science and that we are not taking it seriously enough to ensure that we reach a deal that will tackle these matters?
I raised that point with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith when he talked about the activist base-those people who are very engaged with the issue and send us postcards and so on. We all have such constituents, and some of them send postcards from several different organisations at the same time. However, we have to remember that the very engaged are just a small segment of the population. Many of our constituents may have an idea that climate change is a problem, and may do a bit here and there, but they are not that engaged. The impact on them of a failure to reach agreement at Copenhagen deeply worries me.
If, after Copenhagen, we end up saying, "Och well, it was just a step in the right direction. It was a window of opportunity, but we will have another conference in three, six or 12 months", the message will be that climate change is not such a great problem. People will think, "It's not all that dangerous, we can afford to spend more time before we reach a deal." I do not think that we can-we need to take action now. The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) made a very good point with his t-shirt from the Youth Parliament. If we are talking about targets for 2050, that is a very long way away, and very few of us will still be-to put it politely-active in politics then. Even interim targets for 2020 represent two Parliaments into the future before we have standards to move towards.
We have to think about the impact of failure at Copenhagen on ordinary people, as well as on activists. The Secretary of State rightly made the point that we must make the issue of jobs and the green economy central to our argument. That is another way to make the issue relevant to ordinary people and to show that it is not just about science and warming, but about how we change our economy, create jobs and come out of the current recession.
One example of what can be done is happening in my area. The Crown Estate has recently awarded exclusivity agreements for offshore wind farms. There are four off the east coast of Scotland: Inch Cape, Bell Rock, Neart na Gaoithe and the Forth Array. Altogether, 10 are planned, which will create some 6,500 MW of renewable energy. As I pointed out at questions this morning, Siemens and Vestas which manufacture wind turbines
say that the construction phase creates 3,000 jobs for every gigawatt of wind energy. That is a tremendous opportunity to create new jobs. In my area, the ports that formerly served the fishing and oil industries are becoming very interested, because they can see the opportunity to diversify by servicing wind farms. We debated the Select Committee's report on the oil and gas industry last week in Westminster Hall, and we made the point that it has a huge opportunity to diversify into offshore renewables. Given how many jobs could be involved, we can do a lot to show ordinary people the relevance of tackling climate change.
There is also a slight problem. Two of the new offshore wind farms-Inch Cape and Bell Rock-are directly off my constituency. The Crown Estate announced the exclusivity agreements back in February, but I was inundated a few weeks ago by fishermen from Arbroath, who came to see me en masse because the proposed Bell Rock wind farm is in their fishing grounds. They were worried that they would no longer be able to fish in the area. That is not the case, and the area is not to be closed off for the wind farm. However, there is sometimes a lack of communication between those developing renewables and those who might be affected by the impact.
As it happens, I have introduced the fishermen to the developers. They are now talking, and I am certain that we will get an agreement that prevents the farm from impacting on the fishermen. However, we have to be careful that we do not get into the situation with offshore wind that we got into with onshore wind, where there was almost a knee-jerk reaction against any proposed wind farm. We need to be careful in the way we go about offshore wind.
I urge Ministers to go for the strongest possible scheme at Copenhagen. I believe that we need to agree a scheme to reduce emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050, but more than that we have to show that we are serious about committing to a reduction of at least 40 per cent. by 2020. Frankly, as far as I can see, the omens are not good. Although the United States is finally moving through the efforts of President Obama, as it has been noted, a version of the US Bill has passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate, and it will not have been passed come Copenhagen. It is very unlikely, therefore, that the United States will be in a strong negotiating position at Copenhagen. Without the States, things look bad indeed.
The Scottish Parliament has also produced ambitious climate change legislation. We should not think that only this place is involved. The devolved Administrations also have a say in the matter for their own areas in producing climate change legislation. In Scotland, we have a statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent. by 2050, including emissions from international aviation and shipping, and an interim target of 42 per cent. by 2020. We have pledged to establish a framework for annual targets, because 2020 is two Parliaments away and we have to find a way of establishing how we are getting along. Along with the draft budget, the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, has produced a carbon budget. Crucially, an attempt is being made in that budget to calculate the emissions for which Scotland is responsible from goods manufactured outwith Scotland. That is also part of our true carbon footprint. We have to take that into account.
I will not pretend that meeting those-or any-targets will be easy. Again, I return to my main point: we have to take people with us. We will have to explain exactly what it means to meet the targets. The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) said that individuals have to make a lot of changes. That is why 10:10, and other such campaigns, are so important. They give guidance and help people to make the small changes that will add up to meeting our climate change targets. The ease with which we can reduce our emissions by 10 per cent. over the next year depends on where we start from. Some of us might find it quite difficult; some might find it quite easy. However, if we all make the effort, we will get there.
I end on a perhaps more controversial note. I have talked about the devolved Administrations and what they are doing to try to make reductions. The Minister talked about the need for everyone to come together and show leadership, so I find it very strange that the Government are not prepared to have representatives from the devolved Administrations on the delegation to Copenhagen. A Scottish Minister could help. The Scottish climate change legislation has been welcomed by the Government of Maldives, the President of Ethiopia and others who are directly affected. It is a great shame that the Government will not be inclusive and take a Scottish Minister to Copenhagen as well.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Like many who have spoken today, I think that climate change is the most important issue confronting politicians of our generation, notwithstanding the speech by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley). I am not sure whether his point was that climate change is not occurring or, if climate change is not the fault of the activities of human kind, that we should perhaps leave it to the polar bears to sort out. However, the problem is there for us to confront as politicians, regardless of its source.
I accept the point about public opinion. I have seen opinion polls suggesting that the issue has never been lower down people's lists of priorities in the past 10 or 15 years than it is now. However, we still have a duty as elected representatives to address it and ensure that we try to educate people and take them with us.
As hon. Members have said, we have benefited from nearly 200 years of economic development based on a carbon economy. The heaviest consequences of that are now weighing very heavily indeed on the developing countries. I attended a symposium organised by Lord Nicholas Stern in the House of Lords a couple of weeks ago. Lord Martin Rees, the chairman of the Royal Society, made the point that an increase in the average global temperature will not affect everybody equally in each country or on each continent. An increase of 4° C, which is not the worst-case scenario, but the upper limit of what it is hoped climate change can be limited to, would mean a 10° C increase in the average temperature in Africa. We therefore have a moral duty to address the issue, as much as anything else.
An international agreement is essential. I would like genuinely to commend the Prime Minister on his activity on the issue and on his determination to get other
international leaders to address it, including by turning up at Copenhagen and reaching an agreement. Without that, we will not achieve a framework to take us forward that seriously addresses the issue.
Mr. Drew: Climate change affects us all, because the greatest change in Africa now is mass migration, which is not happening just within Africa, but will affect the entire western world. Does my hon. Friend agree with that?
I shall risk being partisan for a moment, but I want to say to the Conservative party that whoever wins the next general election will have to deal with the issue. In order to do that, whoever wins will have to maximise their influence in all the major debating forums, including the EU, the UN, the G20 and wherever else the issue will be discussed. Placing yourselves at the fringes of the European Union, in the way that you have in your party grouping, is not-
Having placed themselves where they have, the Conservatives will not be in the vanguard of those debates. In fact, people who are concerned about the issue will be alarmed that they have aligned themselves with people who deny that climate change is even a problem. The Conservatives may have concerns about the European Union and this country's association with it, but I would suggest that it is not in this country's best interest for the Conservative party to pull its Union Jack underpants tight up under its armpits and march off into the wilderness when the rest of us will be debating those important issues. I urge the Conservatives to consider the position that they have adopted because, should they ever-God forbid-find themselves in Government, they will have to represent this country in debates on this matter, and they will not be able to do so from the fringes of the European Union on which they have placed themselves.
The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) mentioned hydrofluorocarbons earlier, and I have also discussed them with my hon. Friend the Minister. If I were to recommend to her a way of cutting 10 per cent. of our carbon emissions, I am sure that she would be interested, and that is exactly what we could do if we cut the use of HFCs. They now constitute about 2 per cent. of our global warming emissions, but their use is projected to grow by 3 per cent. a year. By 2050, they could represent more than 12 per cent. of this country's emissions. If we address this important issue now, we could head off the catastrophic consequences of the continued use of these gases.
HFCs came into widespread use to replace chlorofluorocarbons-CFCs-under the Montreal protocol, which addressed the issue of damage to the ozone layer. I understand that amendments are to be tabled to that protocol to bring HFCs under the same regime, and that the Government are proposing
amendments calling for a reduction in the use of HFCs through the prevention of leakages, and for the promotion of energy efficiency in the equipment that uses HFCs. Those are desirable aims, but, in the long term, they will not solve the problem of the growing use of those gases.
The Government's proposals are good for the short term, and they represent an excellent interim measure, but we need to act on them now. I have met the Minister to discuss this, and I have been told that an argument against the UK regulating in this area is that we would come up against EU competition rules. I have worked with the Environmental Investigation Agency, which has recently produced a report on the use of HFCs in supermarket refrigeration units, and the progress of that industry towards eradicating their use. The agency has also met representatives of the European Commission to discuss this, and it says that the Commission would welcome action in this area, and that European competition rules would not stand in the way of the UK's regulating in this matter.
I urge the Government to take action on HFCs not only because eradicating their use is the right thing to do but because regulation can create a framework in which change can be brought about. An example that I would offer to the Minister is that of the introduction of catalytic converters into vehicles. Arguments against that included the suggestion that it would impose unacceptable increases in cost, which would make cars too expensive. The arguments were eventually overcome, and catalytic converters were introduced into cars with minimum impact on the industry, and certainly with minimum impact on the cost of cars to the consumer.
Mr. Gummer: Does the hon. Gentleman not find it surprising that large numbers of big companies have been perfectly prepared to sign up to not using HFCs? There are no sectors in which HFCs are necessary, and they could all be got rid of without much difficulty. The British Government have in the past voted against banning them, which is a rather serious matter. Would it not be a good idea if they got rid of all these bits and pieces and, instead, stood up and said, "We will encourage a ban on HFCs by the year 2013"?
Clive Efford: I accept some of what the right hon. Gentleman says. Some uses of HFCs will need to continue, but they are minimal. I definitely agree with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that this should not be used as a smokescreen for encouraging general use of HFCs or to prevent the Government from regulating. The supermarkets are responsible for about 50 per cent. of HFC emissions, while refrigeration units are the major source of HFCs in the country, so regulation in respect of that would be very welcome, even within the industry itself-indeed, the industry has said that it wants such regulation.
As the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal pointed out, some large companies, including Unilever, Coca Cola and McDonald's have said that they want to stop using HFCs, so there is already a great deal of interest within the industry in such a change. The major UK supermarkets say the same, but make the point that, in order to make progress, they need a level playing field. This is a highly competitive market, in which the supermarkets are always looking over their shoulders to gain a market advantage over one another. They argue that were there a regulatory framework within which
they all had to operate, they would be able to make progress, because they would then know that their competitors would have to act in exactly the same way.
We need a regulatory framework and investment in research and development to tackle this issue. In turn that provides an opportunity for our industry, as we could help to develop the new green technology required.
We must also train the technicians. The technical change involved in moving from CFCs to HFCs was minimal, but using carbon-based gases, which do not have the capacity to add to global warming, as refrigerants will require people to be trained to use different equipment. That said, none of those problems is insurmountable.
The agreement that has been secured between the industry itself and those campaigning against HFCs should provide an opportunity for the Government to act to cut the use of those gases, which are up to 20,000 more potent in terms of global warming than CO2. The fact that their use is increasing at 3 per cent. a year should provide a wake-up call to us all. I believe that the Government should take the supermarket industry at its word and regulate. They should set a date, as the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal suggested, to eradicate usage of HFCs in supermarket refrigeration units. That date should not be too distant, but 2012 or 2013, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
In conclusion, I wish the Secretary of State and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister every success in the Copenhagen discussions and I hope that HFCs will feature in them. I note from Tuesday's edition of The Guardian that Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is quietly confident that something will eventually come out of the Copenhagen discussions, and I sincerely hope he is right. If the Minister of State is concerned about her carbon footprint, I nevertheless urge her to continue with one important part of her activities-the burning of the midnight oil to ensure that we reach an agreement at Copenhagen. I urge her and other Ministers to be bold, as others have suggested. Some things that might have been thought unthinkable in the past must become thinkable at Copenhagen, particularly if we are to avoid going down as the generation that fluffed it by failing to take the necessary action to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change. I wish all Ministers every success at Copenhagen.
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