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Climate Change

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

During my visit to China in February this year, I discussed China’s engagement on climate change and sustainable development with Premier Wen and other senior members of the Chinese Government, including State Councillor Tang. Together, we chair the UK-China taskforce. I also held discussions with Mayor Han of Shanghai to discuss the Dontang eco-city project, which is a new concept in building sustainable cities in which British companies are involved.

The UK is leading the way internationally on city regeneration and sustainability, proving that it is possible to support jobs and economic growth in an environmentally responsible way. We are now sharing that knowledge and enterprise with other countries.

With the Chinese economy growing by 13 per cent. a year and reports that a new coal-fired power station is being opened every fortnight in China, it is a major source of carbon pollution. How confident is the Deputy Prime Minister about involving China in a successful outcome post-Kyoto?

I have absolutely no doubt that China is a pretty active player in the desire to get a climate change programme, and the Prime Minister’s effort at the G8 to include China and India is a major step forward in achieving an agreement that was not readily available to involve China and India in the Kyoto agreement. So I am absolutely convinced of that, and my hon. Friend will know that I discussed the issue on my last visit, last February, but he may also like to know that I opened the Ningbo campus of Nottingham university, which is a very important part of the education contacts between our two countries and, indeed, deals effectively with climate change studies, too.

Why does the Deputy Prime Minister feel he could give useful advice about Kyoto to the Chinese, given his own failed environmental policies at home: his failed pledge to ensure that fewer car journeys take place, his failed integrated transport system, and his Strategic Rail Authority that was so bad that it was immediately scrapped by his successor? Everything that he does goes wrong. Does not China deserve better?

Good comment; no truth. In reality, I made a successful contribution to Kyoto: we did get an agreement. On the environmental targets, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that we are the only country in Europe to achieve double the target level in the reduction of greenhouse gases. No other country in Europe has been able to achieve that. If I look at the Opposition’s environmental and transport policies, although I am not sure what they are at the moment, I think that rail privatisation has been rejected. The 10-year plan that I introduced is being continued. More people are travelling on public transport than ever before. That sounds like success, not failure.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that despite the chaff from the Opposition, his well known and highly regarded leadership internationally on this issue is well respected? Does he also accept that if he can advise China on how to achieve a balance between economic growth and sustainable environmental policies, it would be a major step forward and one that Labour Members would really appreciate?

Anyone who has experience of travelling abroad, as the deputy Leader of the Opposition has, will be aware that one of things that is admired about Britain is that we have been able to achieve economic growth in a sustainable way, while at the same time achieving our climate targets. There are very few countries that have achieved that, and it is because of the success of this Labour Government’s policies.

When the Deputy Prime Minister met his Chinese opposite number, did he advocate adoption of the concept of contraction and convergence? What is his view of that concept?