Skip to main content

Climate Change

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

We have already seen progress this year with several key meetings, including the G8 leaders summit, which sent a clear signal on the need to advance international negotiations on a post-2012 framework, and the UN Secretary-General's high level event last month. We look forward to Bali, where the aim must be to reach agreement on starting negotiations on a new framework.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Bali, a major international conference, is just six weeks away. Can he give an undertaking that the attitude of Her Majesty's Government will be that countries such as the United States, which contributes 22 per cent. of the carbon dioxide in the world, will be forced to be part of the next agreement, to sign up to it and then to deliver, and that President Bush will not be allowed to stall discussions and agreements until after he has left office, thus setting back progress considerably globally as well as in north America itself?

I cannot force, and the United Kingdom Government cannot force, any other country to do anything, but when I was in New York for the high level event, I said that a post-2012 agreement that does not include emissions from the largest economy in the world is not going to do the job. We all know that. The fact that the US Administration now recognise that there is a thing called climate change and have begun to talk about it, is welcome. What is striking about the US is the extent to which policy is being led by the states. Look at what is happening in California and in the eastern states, which are developing their own emission trading scheme. Understanding is increasing, and that is moving the politics. I do not think anyone at the Bali conference will be in any doubt that we have to start those negotiations, because we do not have much time left to sort this out.

While it is welcome that the United States is starting to move in the right direction, what is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the commitment of other leading industrial nations, for example, China and India, to post-2012 Kyoto agreements?

We are seeing movement—look at the recent announcement that Australia made. However, my hon. Friend draws attention to the other thing on which we have to make progress. If we look at the G77, the group of developing countries, we cannot credibly argue that China, which will shortly be the largest emitter in the world, if it is not already, although not in per capita terms, should be regarded as in the same position as Mali or Burkina Faso. That would hinder efforts to make progress. So far, the agreements have talked about common but differentiated commitments, but in the course of negotiations wewill have to come to a view, as countries develop economically, about what commitments it is reasonable for them to take on to contribute to dealing with the problem.

Even if the rich developed countries disappeared from the world tomorrow and took the emissions that we are currently producing with us, because of the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere and the rising carbon emissions in the developing world, it would be left to deal with the problem anyway. That makes the point that all of us have to play our part.

Britain has huge natural resources and financial and human capital to build the world’s first low-carbon economy. Bali should be a key staging point on that mission, yet the global leadership we once exerted in those international forums is being undermined by the slow rate of genuine change and economic transformation at home. As the Secretary of State prepares for Bali, can he list any low carbon sectors or renewable technologies where the UK is now leading the world—not in their discovery or research, but in their commercialisation and market share?

I am very happy to give the hon. Gentleman some examples. We have just given the go ahead to what will be the world's largest offshore wind farm, the London Array. When it is completed, it will generate—[Interruption.] Well, we are getting on with it. When it is completed, it will generate enough electricity—[Interruption.] Having asked me the question, will he do me the courtesy of listening to the answer? It will generate enough electricity to power one in four homes in Greater London. That is what I call world leadership. We are undertaking a feasibility study of the Severn barrage, which could generate 5 per cent. of our electricity. Renewable electricity is set to increase threefold between now and 2015, and Ernst and Young, which does a renewable energy attractiveness survey, now ranks the UK equal second in the world behind only the United States. I would call that leadership.