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5 Nov 2009 : Column 1071

I was interested in the ECOFIN proposal that part of the levy on bunker fuels for aviation and shipping should go towards establishing clean development mechanisms in developing countries. This country's Chamber of Shipping and the United Kingdom Major Ports Group have worked together to set out how such a levy might be implemented. The suggestion is that international shipping could be registered from point of origin to point of destination, with the levy being imposed on the bunker fuel taken on at specific points. For the future of the UK economy, it must be underlined that it is not that difficult to impose a levy on international shipping. A successful levy would bring shipping within both climate trading arrangements and the Copenhagen considerations.

I believe that the changes that are needed will become easier over time. It is an iterative process, as is the move to a low-carbon economy in this country. The fact that the science fiction films of a few years ago that are now shown late at night feature people in high-tech, futuristic outfits holding to their ears extremely clunky mobile telephones only serves to emphasise how change from the take-up of new technology can happen much more quickly than we thought.

A significant tipping point reached in the past year has generally gone unnoticed, even though it ranks alongside a number of the other tipping points that we have discussed in previous debates. Last year, and for the first time, the worldwide investment in green energy was greater than investment in fossil fuel energy.

Mr. Gummer: Would the hon. Gentleman set aside party politics for just a moment and agree with me that what we really want from the Government is some real enthusiasm about these new things? I long to hear the Minister of State get up and say with excitement, "We are pushing the shipping industry to do these things. We are the leaders on this matter." That would be better than being told by the Danes that we are way behind. Why does she not speak about the excitement of new technology? I want some enthusiasm and excitement from her-that is what we are asking for.

Dr. Whitehead: I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is very enthusiastic about the new economic world in which we will live, and I am sure that that will be displayed in her winding-up speech. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the idea of a low-carbon economy has been underlined by the Climate Change Act 2008 and the material that has been produced about the route to such an economy-indeed, I am holding in my hand a copy of "Moving to a global low carbon economy: implementing the Stern Review". The vision of moving forward to a low-carbon economy is at the heart of the Government's economic, environmental and energy strategies for future years.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is incumbent on us to underline with enthusiasm that vision for the kind of world that we want to live in, and the reasons why the British public should not fear it, but instead embrace it. Job opportunities will be created by changing our energy sources from predominantly mineral-based fuels to predominantly renewable fuels. We will have the opportunity to improve our quality of life and to tackle problems such as fuel poverty, thanks to the ambitious plans that are afoot-although I hope that
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even they will be superseded-to increase the energy efficiency of our homes and the standard assessment procedure ratings of our buildings. We will see changes to the way we transport ourselves around and the emergence of different forms of transport. If a considerable proportion of our energy is generated from wind and other renewable sources, energy will probably be more or less free to the customer at certain times of day. That explains why, without unduly affecting people's fuelling security and the availability of personal transportation, electric cars could play a substantial role in our economy.

Such changes will be fundamental to the way in which our economy works, and they will go with the grain of how the public wish to live and what they want for our economy's future prosperity. There will not be the hurt and pain that some people believe will be the result of such changes. A combination of enthusiasm for those changes and enthusiasm for investment in those changes elsewhere in the world is at the heart of not only ensuring that Copenhagen is a success, but increasing understanding throughout the world that Copenhagen is essential to the future of the globe and that it can usher in a much better life for the globe. That must be an essential part of the negotiations, and I wish our negotiators in Copenhagen every success in that objective.

Maynard Keynes also said:

and getting a deal that is as close to roughly right as possible and that leads to a legally binding outcome on world carbon emissions is a noble objective that can be achieved through the effort that is being put in. I suggest that if my hon. Friend the Minister burns the midnight biogas, rather than the midnight oil, to achieve that end, I shall be very pleased.

4.34 pm

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): I apologise to Members whose speeches I may have missed during the afternoon. However, I have been able to hear a lot of the debate.

I should like to discuss palm oil, because one of the most important things that the Government have tried to meet is the renewable transport fuel obligation. I fear that, accidentally, they have increased the chances of the orang-utan, Asia's only great ape, becoming extinct. I do not think that that was their intention, but with deforestation meaning the loss of such a vital carbon sink, and with 6.5 million to 10 million hectares of rainforest having been cleared across Sumatra and Borneo, within 15 years 98 per cent. of Indonesian rainforest could be extinct. That will have a devastating impact on climate change, on efforts to reduce emissions and on vital habitats.

There are 7,000 Sumatran orang-utans and 12,000 to 15,000 Bornean orang-utans left in the wild. Extinction could be as near as five to 10 years away. Some 80 per cent. of orang-utan habitats have been lost or altered, and unless we stop that destruction we will fail in our well intentioned efforts to save the planet. About 90 per cent. of palm oil exports are from Indonesia and Malaysia, and palm oil is found in 10 per cent. of the products in UK supermarkets. More than 900,000 tonnes of palm oil are imported by the UK, and figures are set to rise as biofuel levels increase to meet the RTFO biofuels target of 3.5 per cent. by 2010-11.

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Biofuels may not be the long-term panacea, and we need to look to the Government to accelerate the development both of hydrogen, like in California, and of electric charging points. Indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, plans to introduce up to 25,000 such points in London. We need to strike a balance between palm oil as a biofuel and the loss of rainforest and the impact of biodiversity on animals such as orang-utans, rhinos and the pygmy elephant.

I happened to go to Borneo last year-it is in the Register of Members' Interests-and I wanted to tell the House about the work of a company called Sime Darby, which took me out there and showed me how, in Malaysia, one can combine biofuel and palm oil production with a genuine conscience and on a renewable and sustainable basis. The company's work was fantastic: it had joined the political process with the farming process-the production of that important biofuel-and it was doing so positively and brilliantly. It is time that we heard that side of the story, and about what is going on to protect the orang-utan. It is being protected in Malaysia but, tragically, not in Indonesia.

Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): If the hon. Gentleman wants his political career to go well, he will be familiar with everything that the Leader of the Opposition does. The hon. Gentleman may therefore have heard recently that the Leader of the Opposition's favourite biscuits are oatcakes, which of course contain a substantial amount of palm oil. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that Opposition Members eat only orang-utan-friendly oatcakes, which do not contain palm oil?

Bill Wiggin: I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks that he has scored a goal, but if he buys Paterson-Arran oatcakes he will find that they are, indeed, orang-utan friendly-and no more monkey business from him while he's at it.

Companies such as ASDA, Sainsbury's and Cadbury's-big, serious and sensible companies-are doing a tremendous amount to change the content of their food and other products from unsustainable to sustainable palm oil. Indeed, other companies, such as McCain, are using sunflower oil for chips, and a lot is going on to make food production more sustainable. I really welcome that and urge colleagues to encourage it in their constituencies wherever possible.

Mr. Graham Stuart: My hon. Friend is showing his expertise in this area. Does he prefer following palm oil from production all the way through to market to ensure that only sustainable oil is used; or creating certificates and selling them at the point of production, so that companies can buy them and make sure, at least for the quantity that they buy, that an amount goes forward to give a premium to sustainably produced palm oil?

Bill Wiggin: We have to do both, because, although certification is helpful, ultimately we all want proper sustainability from planting through to end use. Therefore, anything that financially encourages such practice is worth having, but ultimately we should get it right from start to finish rather than buy our way out of bad practice.

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In Hereford, we had a 350 campaign meeting in the town hall; it was extremely good, and I enjoyed taking part in it. Something very serious went on there that showed why we need to get the climate change debate handled properly and why we need success in Copenhagen. A lot of people, from all sorts of different political parties, brought forward their little dream lists of things they would like brought about, but they did not have much to do with climate change and were much more about their political and social engineering ideas. The bottom line is that the climate change agenda is an exciting opportunity not only to get the planet set up properly but to ensure that we do so in a way that will work. That means using the market and going with the grain of human behaviour, not fighting every inch of the way and introducing silly things such as the Tobin tax, which was raised at the meeting. That is not to do with climate change; it is to do with people having a social engineering agenda, and it is totally counter-productive to taking genuine steps forward. The countries that are accelerating fastest are not doing it through those sorts of methods.

I hope that the Minister will make some comments on the 350 campaign. If we really are at a level of 385 parts per million and going the wrong way, it would be interesting to know what message she can send to the people involved to say, "Look, if we carry on doing it right we will be able to wind those parts per million back to 350 instead of seeing them go up to 450"-we should all be fearful of that.

I worry that Britain is lagging behind. In 2007, after a decade of Labour Government, just 1.78 per cent. of energy used in the United Kingdom came from renewable sources. That is a wasted opportunity. I think that it was due not to bad intention but to bad implementation. Germany, France, Spain, Norway, America and Korea are out-performing the UK in solar photovoltaics. Germany has more than 2,500 on-farm anaerobic digesters, compared with 30 in the UK. Norway has been pioneering carbon capture and storage facilities in the North sea since the mid-1990s, while sadly only now are this Government getting serious about CCS. Combined heat and power has become the biggest source of heating in the Netherlands.

Then we get on to another matter that I hope the Minister thinks is very serious: green jobs. She is on the record as saying that every job should be a green job. I am pretty unhappy about the Prime Minister promising 400,000 new green jobs in March and then cutting that figure to just 250,000 at the Labour party conference. What happened? Where did those jobs go? Some 150,000 jobs were to be created but now they are not. That sends out all the wrong signals. I know that the hon. Lady will have difficulty defending the Prime Minister's speeches, but we need to keep reminding the Government from all parts of the House that, as she said, jobs should be green jobs.

Thirty-five per cent. of our carbon dioxide emissions come from energy supply, 22 per cent. from other industries, 24 per cent. from transport, 4 per cent. from services and 15 per cent. from gas and oil powered heating and cooking in homes, so there is obviously a lot more that we can do.

Despite the Government's rhetoric, their record is lamentable. In 1997, Labour claimed in its manifesto that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent. below the 1990 levels by 2010. In 2003, that target had become an aspiration to move towards a 20 per
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cent. reduction. In 2006, the climate change programme review conceded that the target would be missed. In 2008, carbon dioxide emissions were just 10.3 per cent. below 1990 levels-barely halfway towards the Government's target, with less than two years to go. We know that Ministers want to do the right thing, but the Government do not have a great record on this. Therefore, anything we can say or do today to encourage them to get it right at Copenhagen is crucial.

In my constituency, there is a company called Green Energy Supplies that sells microgeneration equipment-log-fired boilers. It is suffering because the microgeneration certification scheme insists on certain standards-all good stuff so far. Unfortunately, those standards are achieved under EU regulations. With our microgeneration certification scheme, there is duplication of the same regulations plus a bit of gold-plating, and as a result there is extra cost to the companies that should be the point of the spear in the attack on climate change. Those companies want to make money by selling their products and encouraging people to do microgeneration, but they are being swamped.

I am waiting for a meeting on that matter with the Minister's Department, as promised by the Prime Minister, but I have not yet heard when it will be. I and my constituents look forward to hearing from the Government what they are going to do to encourage companies such as Green Energy Supplies in Leominster and let them get on with doing what we all want them to do, which is help cut our carbon emissions.

The story of wind farms makes me even crosser. I passionately agree with renewable energy, but the way in which the Reeves Hill wind farm in my constituency was handled makes me want to pull my hair out. Here we have a uniquely beautiful place, and there were 1,500 objections to the wind farm applications. In my eight years as an MP, I have never seen anything like that volume of objections to such a planning application. I asked the Government to call it in and they did, but in the end it was handed back to the council, which had unfortunately already decided to approve it. None of the proper procedures to give people confidence that the planning application protected them from things that they did not want and from their lights going out were followed in the way that they should have been. We are never going to convince people that we are right about renewable energy if the planning process is not used properly-I hesitate to use the word abused. That is a huge regret.

Another wasted opportunity is the skew in renewable energy efforts towards wind, without an equally passionate effort on tidal energy. We in this country have a unique opportunity, because we are on an island. We ought to be doing everything that we can to lead the world in alternative and effective renewable energy sources. As the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world, we can do that.

We have a unique opportunity to set an example by investing in the research and development necessary to bring forward new technologies. We can prove that if we go with the new technology, we will not only live in a cleaner and better country but create jobs, wealth and energy and deliver what people want at a price they want. Other countries that follow on behind us will then get the benefit, just as they did with the mobile telephone revolution. They do not have to go through the early, painful years, and they can walk straight in and pick up
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the technology ready and fit for purpose. That is what leading economies should be doing and what we want the Government to do.

There is no better example of where the current system is not working than on-farm biodigestion. Farmers have picked up a bill of more than £520 million for extra regulation such as the nitrate vulnerable zones. We understand why the Government wanted that regulation, but what a shame it was not coupled with something such as biodigestion so that when a dairy farmer produced huge quantities of cow muck, instead of being made to build a vast pond to store it in he would have been encouraged to build a biodigestion unit. Then that muck would have been recycled properly and the gas would have gone back into the grid, hopefully with a proper feed-in tariff.

We can do those things, and they are being done in other countries. Why are we not leading the world on such technology? Every time we throw food away, it should go into biodigestion. We can do it. It is not rocket science, and it is happening in Germany. It is inexcusable that we hit our dairy farmers with huge bills, when they have the answers to the problems if only they were encouraged and able to invest in the right technology. It is a real tragedy.

When I needed a new boiler in my house, I wrote to every energy company and asked whether they could help me get a combined heat and power boiler. I got a straight set of replies saying that they did not do that. We had a demonstration in the Jubilee Room by a company with, I think, a sterling coil boiler, but I could not get one. That is a real shame, and I suspect that if I could not get one it must be much more difficult for our constituents.

We need to make it easy for people to do the right thing, encourage them to do it, and show them that when they do it, they win. If we press all those buttons, we will see climate change sceptics disappear because, actually, it will not be worth being sceptical about climate change. It should be profitable and sensible to go with what is right, and people should take pride in it, but it is just too difficult to do so at the moment. If we are finding it too difficult, our poor constituents must find it far, far worse.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have a conversation such as this with the Government, and to say to them, "We desperately want you to get it right in Copenhagen. We are very worried because your track record is lousy, but if anybody's got the chance to do it, you have." The tragedy of the debate is that it is not something that can wait.

I had the privilege of listening to Al Gore when he spoke to Conservative Front Benchers. We asked him what one thing he would do if he were in our shoes, and his answer was very helpful. He said that the only thing that really matters is getting global agreement. Although I have spoken about things we could do ourselves, to solve this global problem we need a global solution. At the time, that was about moving to Kyoto 2 and making it enforceable, but now it is about Copenhagen, and his words are as true today.

I say this to the Government: get that agreement, bind in the people who are causing the trouble and help those who are suffering, but do not come back to us and say, "We tried jolly hard but we're awfully sorry, it didn't
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work this time." They should go out there and save the planet. After all, what better reason is there to be in politics today?

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