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Carbon Emission Targets

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

We set out significant measures to strengthen domestic and international action on climate change mitigation in the 2006 climate change programme, and through the energy policy review published last June. In addition to our proposed climate change Bill, we are considering ways to help large commercial and public sector organisations and individuals to cut their emissions.

I welcome those initiatives. My right hon. Friend has been promoting in recent speeches some very important ideas about cutting individual carbon usage through a system of carbon allowances. Both as a matter of social justice and environmental necessity, we need to introduce policies that limit the personal use of carbon according to people’s actual usage, so that those whose lifestyle produces most carbon have to make the biggest cuts. Sir Nicholas Stern’s report says that there is very little time to change policy radically. Will my right hon. Friend’s Department bring forward a Green Paper to develop those ideas further, so that we may legislate in due course?

The science and the economics tell us clearly that we have between 10 and 15 years for global carbon emissions to peak and 30 to 40 years for emissions in industrialised countries to be reduced by between 25 per cent. and 50 to 60 per cent. The ideas being developed were first trailed in the energy review and we continue to discuss them. In respect of the incentives and rewards that we can offer to those individuals who are carbon thrifty, we published this week an issues paper about the idea of personal carbon allowances and we will take forward the debate in as many ways as we can.

Of course one of the quickest ways to reduce carbon emissions is to replace fossil fuels with biofuels and bioethanol. I know that the Secretary of State will be following closely developments at Whittington where a biofuels plant is being established. Will he look to establish such a plant in the north of England, perhaps in the constituency of the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on the site of the British Sugar plant, which is closing at great cost to local farmers in north Yorkshire?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I know that she forms an important alliance—I shall not call it an unholy alliance—with my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on certain issues, while maintaining a healthy competition with him on other matters. We are following the issues in York and its surroundings carefully. The most important thing that we can do is to ensure that the demand side has a clear bias towards biofuels and other such products. For example, the initiative in respect of the road transport fuel obligation—including the guarantee on 5 per cent. of forecourt sales being from biofuels by 2008, with an aim of doubling that figure—is the sort of signal that we can best give to ensure that we get the right pull through on those important new technologies.

As my hon. Friend said, we need a wide range of initiatives across Government and from individuals. He is probably aware that I have in my constituency a fantastic company called Intelligent Energy, which has produced the first hybrid fuel cell motorbike and hopes to move into cars. Will he ensure that there is sufficient funding to see those programmes through, not only from the research and development point of view—the company is probably years ahead of any other in the world—but to reach the point of production of such vehicles, so that we can reduce carbon emissions?

I am not aware of all the details of the work on the motorbike that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will look into it. I will also look into whether the Government have a funding role, but that may be more of a stretch, not least given the discussions we have had in the past 53 minutes or so about my Department’s funding position. I will look into the issues that he raises and I hope that his company is able to capitalise on the impressive advances that it has made.