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Sustainable Development

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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If she will make a statement on the outcomes of the 11th meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. [113301]

The 11th session of the Commission concluded last week, having agreed a reform package and a new work programme that focuses on results and actions rather than textual negotiations. The outcome holds some promise that the CSD will be able to effectively fulfil its task of following up implementation of the Johannesburg world summit on sustainable development.

Given the lack of binding targets on renewable energy set at Johannesburg and the fact that the follow-up on energy will not begin until 2006, what strategies are the Government developing on expanding the use of renewable energy globally, and will a British Minister attend the Bonn conference on that subject next month?

We are mindful of the importance of the Bonn conference and we shall certainly be represented at a senior level. Unfortunately, we have not had much notice of those dates and Ministers' diaries are under considerable pressure. We are trying to find out who might be able to attend, but I cannot tell my hon. Friend at this point. I can tell her that we are involved in the renewable energy and energy efficiency partnership. We are taking that forward with great vigour and there is great interest in it from many companies and organisations across the world. We hope that it will be a fruitful vehicle. We are also working with other states that are pursuing similar partnerships internationally. I can assure my hon. Friend that the coalition of people who wish to pursue the advance of renewable energy is alive and well.

On the issue of sustainable development and road fuels, the Secretary of State will be aware of the contribution that is being made by the development of biodiesel, especially from the use of oilseed rape as a feedstock. However, the 20p duty derogation is not considered sufficient to pump-prime the industry in the UK. What representations could her Department make, even at this late stage in the passage of the Finance Bill, to try to increase the derogation from 20p to 28p, thus triggering an important development in sustainability?

We have had many discussions with our Treasury colleagues and I can, in all honesty, tell the right hon. Gentleman that there is no unwillingness in the Treasury team to look at those issues. There have already been, and there will continue to be, extensive discussions. The industry is very aware of the position: so far, it has not been able to make its case with sufficient force to convince the Treasury about the further steps that would make the dramatic difference that has been suggested. Treasury Ministers are open to those discussions—

We are talking about substantial sums of money. The Treasury has already made a substantial potential concession in revenue terms and is willing to consider discussions, but the case must be made.

My right hon. Friend will know that there is a growing network of eco-schools, where children of all ages learn about sustainable development in practical ways. That is a good way of embedding in future generations knowledge of, and responsibility for, sustainable development. Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether the Department already disseminates information on sustainable development to the network of eco-schools? If not, does she not think that it is a really good idea and is a way of improving people's understanding of sustainable development?

I share my hon. Friend's view that it is a good way of improving the understanding of sustainable development. DEFRA and the Department for Education and Skills make substantial information available to schools. Offhand, I am not aware whether special information is devoted to the network of eco-schools, but I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the relevant staff.