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9 Feb 2010 : Column 884

Planning and Development (Essex)

11 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I should like to present an important petition collected by two worthy, caring and community-spirited residents of my constituency, Pam Drever and Pat Shepherd. They are seeking to protect the public interest and to fight a developer who has caused nuisance to neighbours and is seeking to regularise the position of his fence, which he has progressively moved on to what is clearly highway land. The councils must act to stop this unacceptable behaviour, and I warmly congratulate every one of the many people who have signed the petition, which states:


Pedestrian Crossings

11.1 pm

Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): I am privileged to present a petition signed by more than 200 of my constituents calling for the creation of a safe pedestrian crossing at the junction of Old Shoreham road, Neville road and Sackville road in Hove. Of the 212 residents of the five roads at Painters Corner, all but two signed the petition, showing that it has 99 per cent. support. Residents have long noted the increased danger at this crossing, and have cited incidents that include three children being involved in accidents there and numerous near-misses by vehicles. Written complaints to the council have achieved nothing. The petitioners would like the council to remedy this by funding road safety improvements at the junction.

The petition states:


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Climate Change (Bangladesh)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. -(Mr. Mudie.)

11.3 pm

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity that this debate provides to raise my concerns about the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh and to say how we should respond to them. In large part, the debate arises out of a joint report published by the all-party climate change groups in the UK and the Bangladeshi Parliaments. The report is called "Climate change equity: is it a plan, an aspiration or a fashion statement?"

I want to take this opportunity, as chair of the UK all-party group on climate change, to praise the work of my counterpart in Bangladesh, Saber Chowdhury MP, who has shown great leadership on this issue. I also want to praise the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which has taken a leading role in bringing together parliamentarians from around the Commonwealth to discuss the impacts of climate change. As we know, many Commonwealth member states are highly vulnerable to climate change, and it is my belief that, as MPs, we have a considerable task ahead in promoting climate change policies and proactively ensuring that climate change finance is properly utilised. I will return to that subject later.

As we know, Bangladesh is especially vulnerable to climate change. Even a 1 metre sea-level rise would displace 30 million people, and although that prospect may be some time off, many problems are likely to happen in the meantime due to more intense storms, increasing salinity in drinking water supplies and so forth. I suspect that the prospect of tens of millions of displaced people is one reason why India, which shares most of Bangladesh's border, is building a security fence all along that border. With a land mass the size of England and Wales and a population of around 150 million, the pressures on Bangladesh are immense. Clearly, another consequence of climate change could be the raising of regional tensions.

Help from the UK is immensely important to the people of Bangladesh. About £1 billion a year is committed, making us Bangladesh's largest donor. Nearly £140 million comes through the Department for International Development. Clearly, the money is devoted to the twin aims of developing Bangladesh's economy and accomplishing the millennium development goals. Equally clearly, these goals and Bangladesh's escape from poverty are threatened by climate change. It is vital to reassess our support in the light of the changing climate.

We also need to ensure that more money is forthcoming. It would be interesting to learn how much of the $30 billion of early climate change finance proposed by the Copenhagen accord will find its way to Bangladesh. As the Prime Minister has acknowledged, we need to ensure that we are talking about new money-not just taking it from existing development budgets. As we know, some countries have reduced their official development assistance budgets in the wake of the recession. The UK has pledged to increase our official development assistance to the 0.7 per cent. level called for by the United Nations way back in 1970. We need assurances that this increase will be largely separate from climate change finance. We cannot rob Peter to pay Paul.

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I support the commitment we have made that no more than 10 per cent. of our ODA budgets will be spent on tackling climate change, but I think that we should match that commitment with another and insist that that 10 per cent. never becomes more than 10 per cent. of our climate change assistance. We have to be open and transparent about this; we must not count the new money twice.

As Copenhagen showed, there is a commitment among developed countries to commit new finance to tackling climate change, but it is not at all clear that the figures mentioned, including the mid-term goal of $100 billion a year by 2020, relate to actual need. One wonders how we arrived at a figure of £64 billion at today's exchange rate. One of the tasks of the two all-party groups' joint report was to see whether we could put a benchmark figure on what Bangladesh should receive from all sources if we had a global deal that really was equitable.

Global leaders emerging from their summits always like to talk about equity, but they never seem inclined to define it. The nearest they get to doing so is by reference to the United Nations framework convention on climate change statement that we all share "common but differentiated responsibilities". That sounds all well and good, but it is no more than a statement of the bleedin' obvious. What does it mean in practice? In our report, we try to flesh it out.

We have chosen to use a contraction and convergence-or C and C-model and apply it to the Department of Energy and Climate Change cost of carbon abatement figures. It should be noted that the C and C framework, which posits a contraction in global carbon emissions leading to a global per capita convergence point, is the working model used by our own Climate Change Act 2008, the Committee on Climate Change and many others in calculating what our effort should be. In short, the result of that somewhat inexact exercise as it appears in our report nevertheless shows that fair climate change financing for Bangladesh this year would approach £2 billion. This, let us not forget, is on top of the existing £1 billion from the UK and other international finance.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): The hon. Gentleman has shown great leadership on this issue. May I set it in context? Bangladesh's annual per capita carbon emissions are a quarter of a tonne, the United Kingdom's are approaching 10 tonnes, and those of the United States are about 28 tonnes. Bangladesh did not cause the problem, and it is not fuelling the problem now. We did and we are, so we must pay. That is the clear message.

Colin Challen: I agree. I shall say something about that later.

Substantial sums are involved, which is all the more reason why we must not pretend that they could be buried in normal ODA financing. I have no idea how Bangladesh will fare in securing a fair share of that help. It has not done very well so far. Let us consider, for example, what it has got out of the clean development mechanism. There seems to be an unwritten rule that the poorer a country is, the less it can earn from CDMs. In other words, if a country is too poor to emit much carbon dioxide in the first place, it cannot expect to receive much help to avoid emitting carbon in the future. If a country cannot enter a carbon market, its
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costs in tackling climate change will go up. As the carbon price forecasts of the Department of Energy and Climate Change illustrate, in the medium term at least, official assistance is considered to be twice as expensive as market-driven finance.

What is the basis of the 2020 figure of £64 billion, and what is the basis of the short-term figure of £19.2 billion? Those are the Copenhagen accord figures translated into sterling. Have we begun to identify what the money will be spent on? When do we expect to see it spent? Who will be in charge of it? Those questions urgently need answers. The Copenhagen accord was so lacking in ambition-ambition, that is, to provide a rational and coherent solution to the challenge of climate change-that we should be impatient with any delay or obfuscation over the few promises that were made.

Another question that our joint report asks about climate change finance is whether we need better governance at international and domestic levels. In Copenhagen last December, I gained the impression that many developing countries were dissatisfied with the way in which climate change is currently handled. It is felt that local voices tend to be excluded from the process. In my view, we should do more-much more-to ensure that local people are in the driving seat.

In that context, our two all-party groups would like parliamentarians to have a greater role in monitoring the way in which money is spent, and more power to call Governments and international bodies to account. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association could have an enhanced role in the Commonwealth. If Members of Parliament from developed and developing countries had a regular channel through which to share their experiences, we could help to ensure that moneys were spent properly. Such channels could be established by the creation of bilateral Select Committees or a formal inter-parliamentary forum. Saber Chowdhury and I urge both our Governments to consider supporting the establishment of such a parliamentary forum between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh. Our existing links, through the CPA and the fact that we are Bangladesh's largest donor, suggest that a cross-party bilateral arrangement could have a significant role to play.

Underpinning such an arrangement should be a recognition that equity is not just about money-in which context the donor is too often perceived to have the upper hand-but about ownership. We need to recognise that although we may see ourselves in the United Kingdom as benefactors, we are actually debtors. As is so often said-and as has been said this evening-the developed world created the problem, but it is the developing world that will feel the impact of climate change first. Equity means understanding that countries such as Bangladesh are our creditors, and that it is therefore not for us to demand a dominant say in what we think is best. We must be equal partners, and who better to ensure that we realise that vision than the elected representatives of civil society?

Another major aspect of our report is the way in which it addresses the impact of climate change on human rights. It argues strongly for a human rights-based approach to climate change, since many of the rights that we cherish can so easily be destroyed by it. The report notes that there are currently four pillars to the
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climate change negotiations: mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology transfer. We call for the addition of a fifth pillar, that of human rights. In practice that could mean, for example, greater attention being paid to environmental refugees. It may mean that such refugees receive official recognition and status. Obviously, this is a live issue in Bangladesh, for if those 30 million displaced people cannot be accommodated in an already overcrowded country, and are hemmed in by a security fence, what is to become of them? For that matter, what is to become of people whose very nations may disappear, as could be the case for Commonwealth countries such as Vanuatu or Kiribati?

The UK Government are well placed to launch an initiative to explore the legalities of these matters, and to ensure that the United Nations framework convention on climate change urgently addresses the issue. This work must be done before the crisis deepens.

The Department for International Development has been one of the outstanding successes of this Labour Government, but the challenges ahead are multiplying. It is good that we are making it a legal responsibility to reach the 0.7 per cent. ODA goal. For 40 years, the UN's ambition was merely voluntary, which is why so many countries have failed to achieve it, but let us not forget that the 0.7 per cent. goal was in no way scientifically arrived at. Even in 1970, it did not relate to actual need. Now, at a time when Nick Stern has suggested that 2 per cent. of GDP will have to be spent on tackling climate change, one hopes that we will not be waiting another 40 years before we commit to it.

I hope that we hear a very positive response from my hon. Friend the Minister this evening, as next week I and colleagues in the CPA will be visiting Bangladesh, and climate change will be at the top of our agenda.

11.16 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Michael Foster): May I begin by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) for securing this debate and for giving the House the opportunity to discuss the impact of climate change on Bangladesh? May I also say how pleased I am that more Members than I had anticipated are present for the debate, especially at such a late hour? My hon. Friend has a long-standing interest in this subject and he has considerable expertise on it, too, so I treat his views with great respect.

By now, it is well documented-although, perhaps, not yet as well understood as we might wish-that the impacts of climate change will be most keenly felt by the developing world. Countries such as Bangladesh that are already vulnerable to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns are particularly susceptible. In Bangladesh, climate change is not a future threat, but a current reality. The country is well used to floods and cyclones, and its people are resilient and adaptable, but the pace and severity of the climate changes that the world is now facing could have disastrous consequences for Bangladesh.

My hon. Friend will doubtless be familiar with the harsh statistics I am about to give, but I make no apology for repeating them, as it is essential to do so, both for the record and to inform our response. Looking ahead, by 2050 Bangladesh could have some 70 million
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people affected by floods each year, 8 million affected by droughts, and up to 8 per cent. of low-lying land under water owing to rising sea levels. Associated with that will be the saline pollution of rice-growing paddy fields. All that could happen within the lifetime of our children. Looking even further ahead, by the end of the century, half of Bangladesh's coastal embankments could be breached by rising sea levels. Should sea levels rise by just 1 metre, as my hon. Friend suggested, a fifth of Bangladesh could be flooded. In other words, an area 18 times the size of Greater London would be under water-land that people depend on for shelter and for their livelihoods. All that could happen within the lifetime of our grandchildren.

Bob Spink: Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that there is an official measure of countries that are vulnerable to climate change, and at the very top of the list of all the significant countries in the whole world is Bangladesh?

Mr. Foster: I have visited the country and looked at the statistics in the reports. I agree absolutely: Bangladesh finds itself in that rather unenviable position in the league table.

The Government of Bangladesh are alert to the problems. They have produced a 10-year climate change strategy and action plan and have allocated funding from their budget to help with implementation. Thanks to support from the international community, they are also working to improve their early warning systems for floods and cyclones.

Bangladeshi climate negotiators take part in most UN climate negotiation meetings, including discussions on the Copenhagen accord. Although we all recognise that a political resolution was not achieved at Copenhagen, Bangladesh did secure a number of good outcomes. In particular, the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries were recognised, as was their entitlement to preferential access to fast-start funds for adaptation.

Another sign of the commitment of the national Government can be seen in the new international centre for climate change and development that is planned in Dhaka. It will be a centre of excellence, encouraging those responsible for planning to factor climate change implications into their designs. The UK and Bangladesh enjoy strong historical links and we have been working with Bangladesh for many years, supporting development across the country.

That support includes £100 million allocated over the next eight years to help the people living in the areas that are most affected by climate change. In September 2008, we hosted an international conference on the impact of climate change in Bangladesh. At that event, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced a further £75 million to support the Government of Bangladesh's strategy for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Of that £75 million, £60 million will be channelled through a pooled fund to be controlled by the Government of Bangladesh.

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