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Carbon Emissions

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

2. What recent meetings he has had with representatives of UK commerce and industry to discuss the contribution of environmental management systems to reducing carbon emissions. (125904)

My ministerial colleagues and I have regular discussions with UK industry representatives about a wide range of environmental issues, including the role that environmental management systems can play in helping to reduce carbon emissions.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. What conversations has he had with the construction industry and developers to promote a regulatory framework that in turn will promote geothermal and other energy-saving devices in the residential and commercial property sectors?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out the potential for geothermal energy. If we are to move to zero carbon homes—as we must if we are to avoid dangerous climate change—we shall need a host of renewable technologies in our new housing stock. Geothermal energy, where appropriate, can work and provide a cost-effective solution. There are obviously other forms of renewable energy, such as ground source heat pumps, solar, voltaics, wind turbines and district heating systems, which also have a role to play. We are looking into how we can use regulation to encourage greater use of renewables through the planning system, as we think that is an important way forward.

I do not know how often the Minister goes shopping, but if he walked down the nation’s high streets he would notice that many shops leave their doors open to provide easy access for their customers, while keeping the heating at full blast to make customers comfortable inside the store. Does he agree that if we are to get the commercial sector to take climate change seriously, we urgently need a climate change Bill to provide a framework in which everyone has to make their contribution to dealing with the problem?

I certainly agree that we need a climate change Bill, which is why one was announced in the Queen’s Speech. The hon. Lady is probably aware that we are consulting on a proposal to introduce either a benchmarking system or an energy performance commitment, which would affect large energy-intensive users, including many supermarkets and other high street properties. This afternoon, I shall be visiting the Trade Association Forum, which covers 300 trade bodies and 500,000 companies that are signing a declaration on climate change, so I think our high streets are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint and want to do something about it.

When my hon. Friend talks to the private sector, will he take into account the fact that it has an enormous leadership role to play in meeting climate change? Does he agree that Government regulation and that sort of thing can go some way to putting ourselves in a position to meet the challenges, but that if we could harness and encourage some of the very innovative work going on in the private and the financial services sectors, we could do something serious about climate change?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the private sector has a vital role in avoiding dangerous climate change. Through the EU emissions trading scheme, some of our biggest companies are already actively involved in a cap and trade scheme. I have already mentioned the energy performance commitment and the proposal on benchmarking. There are other ways in which the UK Government can help support the private sector to avoid climate change. We have funded Envirowise, for example, which has helped business save about £1 billion through increasing resource efficiency and avoiding waste. We also fund the Carbon Trust, which works with companies that want to avoid climate change, and I think that business increasingly recognises that there is value and importance in reducing CO2.