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Climate Change (China)

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 6 December 2007

China will soon become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. China’s own national assessment report highlights the potential impact of climate change on its security, growth and development. A stronger national programme is being developed with targets to reduce energy intensity and to increase the use of renewables. The UK continues to work with China on initiatives for a global low-carbon economy and an effective international framework to tackle climate change.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. China is opening two coal-fired power stations a week, and it has coal reserves of 1 trillion tonnes. When President Sarkozy signed an agreement to open nuclear power stations with China, he said that because of their partnership it was more important to avoid confrontation over intellectual property rights than to make progress on this issue. Is it not time for Britain to share its knowledge about clean-coal technology with China and develop a partnership arrangement so we can tackle CO2 emissions?

That is exactly what we are doing through the near-zero emissions coal project, which is a joint EU-China project to develop and then to deploy carbon capture and storage. The UK will put in £3.5 million-worth of funding in the first phase, and we are working with other EU member states. China’s annual coal production is set to double to a staggering 5 billion tonnes a year by 2030. We must develop carbon capture and storage if the world is to have any prospect of obtaining the reductions in carbon emissions that are required. That is why there will be a demonstration project in the UK on post-combustion technology and why we are playing an important role in promoting this scheme with China.

China is seeking to move 400 million people from the country into cities over the next 30 years, and in that process it will build approximately half the new buildings in the world. Chinese homes are about three times less energy efficient than European ones. What are the British Government doing to facilitate the transfer of British expertise and technology to help the Chinese make those buildings as energy efficient as possible?

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. China is already an economic powerhouse and it will be the source of huge amounts of development over the next few years. The best thing that is happening is the growing awareness in China, on the part of the Government and the people, particularly the younger generation, that this process will create problems and challenges for China itself. China is coming to terms with the impact of pollution as a result of its industrialisation, and it is having to take action, including imposing tight controls on vehicle emissions.

My view is that intellectual property is not the problem when it comes to technology transfer; the problem is whether countries can afford the technology. China has undoubtedly been very successful in attracting investment from all around the world. As China’s understanding of climate change and what needs to be done develops—it will shortly publish its national climate change plan—we will continue to work with it to encourage it to take the necessary steps in China while trying to win its support for a new international deal.