Skip to main content

Climate Change

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2006

1. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on climate change issues relating to Scotland. (104866)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a range of issues.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the comments made this week by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on climate change, explaining that it is the major challenge facing the world today and that the United Kingdom has to play its part both domestically and internationally. Does he agree that, rather than pulling up the drawbridge and cold-shouldering the European Union, as the Conservatives wish to do, or spending many months fruitlessly renegotiating its way back into the European Union, as would happen if the Scottish National party were to lead us, Scotland should play its full part as an integral part of the United Kingdom in leading change in Europe that will make a real difference to climate change for our citizens?

I find myself in complete agreement with my hon. Friend. The European Union—now 25, soon to be 27, members—can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change. The Kyoto protocol and the process that was taken forward evidences the leadership role by the European Union. It is therefore incongruous that the principal Opposition party spends its time trying to disentangle itself from a principal party in the European Parliament, and that one of the main Opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament is so confused that it seems to support independence in the European Union, but wants to secede from the one Union that has been more successful than any other over the last 300 years: the United Kingdom.

Scotland is leading the way for the UK in tackling climate change: for example, by means of more ambitious targets for renewable energy generation of 40 per cent. by 2020, which we are on course to exceed. Does the Minister agree that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and other Departments, can learn from the Scottish example and that, in Scotland, we can and should go further and meet 100 per cent. of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2050?

The starting point is somewhat different. The foresight shown by predecessors in my office as Secretary of State for Scotland has resulted in a far greater element of hydro power being generated in Scotland than south of the border. I am proud that, historically, the Labour party has been supportive of those kinds of environmentally friendly power-generating initiatives in Scotland, and I am glad to say that the Scottish Executive, led by the Labour party, have once again shown a leadership role in showing that we can be a world centre for renewables in years to come.

Both England and Scotland should work together on the issue. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proposal for a zero-carbon building target for new buildings within 10 years in England and Wales could usefully be adopted by the Scottish Executive, as well, and will he urge his colleagues in the Executive to follow that example?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we are stronger together and weaker apart when confronting the challenge of climate change and he is also right to recognise the visionary statement that was made last week about carbon-free homes. I am sure that the Scottish Executive will give the matter consideration, given their continued determination to lead on the issue in Scotland.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the report from the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, which concludes that cod has moved northwards in the North sea as a result of sea warming changing the distribution of plankton, a point made by Scottish fishermen over several years? Given that the Fisheries Council is due to meet next week, will he for once stand up for this important Scottish industry and press his colleagues in DEFRA to oppose any further quota cuts until that new evidence is fully taken into account?

I am aware of the review of the cod recovery plan, but the approach taken by the hon. Gentleman’s party would prejudice the ability to get the outcome that is in the interests of Scottish fishermen. The nationalists simply cannot answer the question of how they would get into the European Union after independence, given their position on the common fisheries policy. That would leave Scottish fishermen high and dry.

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Caledonian Paper in my constituency on the announcement that it made last week of an investment of some £58 million for a new power generation plant? Will he urge other industries in my constituency and elsewhere to do likewise so that what is happening with its carbon tonnage, which will be reduced from 90,000 tonnes per annum to 15,000 tonnes once the new plant is on stream, will be repeated elsewhere?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Caledonian Paper, which has shown real foresight with that innovative investment. I know from having visited his constituency with him that he takes a close interest not just in environmental issues, but in the economic development needs of that part of Scotland. I pay tribute to him for his tireless efforts on behalf of his constituents and local companies.