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Environmental Protection (Lisbon Treaty)

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2008

2. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the effect of the provisions to the treaty of Lisbon on the ability of EU member states to agree effective policies on environmental protection. (175892)

Tackling climate change is recognised as a specific objective of EU policy for the first time in the Lisbon treaty. The treaty also includes welcome proposals to liberalise energy markets and promote energy efficiency.

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. I very much welcome the fact that tackling climate change is now a specific EU policy objective and that we have the necessary legal framework for it, but does he agree that we also need greater international co-operation to meet EU-wide targets on climate change? What progress is being made on that front?

My hon. Friend is right. She takes a keen interest in these matters, and will know that article 2 of the Lisbon treaty states that the EU will

“contribute to…the sustainable development of the earth”.

That is a remarkable change in the EU’s posture. We are making real progress on reducing carbon emissions: we have set a target for reductions totalling 20 per cent. by 2020, and have also established a number of demonstration plants for carbon capture and storage. Progress must also be made through other organisations, such as the G8, the World Bank and the UN, but the EU is a crucial component in any international climate change strategy.

If the EU is making such progress, why is it that several EU countries will not meet their Kyoto targets, and why are carbon emissions going up in Britain?

The UK is the first and so far the only country to have set binding targets for reducing carbon emissions. We are leading the way in Europe and throughout the world, but carbon emissions can be reduced only through international co-operation. We cannot set up a patriotic front against climate change, as such change does not recognise the national boundaries and borders that the right hon. Gentleman seems to believe in. In fact, I understand that he opposes the binding targets on carbon emissions.

How effective has the UK been, either alone or with our European colleagues, in talking to the Japanese about their disgraceful behaviour in taking whales?

We were talking about national borders, and now we have moved on to whales; I assume that we are now talking about the animals and not the Principality. We continue to raise the question of Japan’s whaling practices, and its capture and killing of whales. I shall bring my hon. Friend’s question to the attention of our colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. That Department leads on the specific question of whaling, as Japan is not likely to be part of Europe in the foreseeable future.

How was it that the EU emissions trading system ended up issuing permissions to pollute at 6 per cent. higher than the current level of pollution? What is going to be done about a situation in which Britain set tough targets and ended up having to buy 22 million tonnes of carbon and other similar countries such as Germany and France issued so many permits that they were selling them? What will Lisbon do about that?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not mind my saying so, but the basic premise of his assertion is absolutely correct. The problem in the past was that there was not enough international co-operation and countries set their own targets in a way that did not fit international priorities or the scale of the problem. Over the next 30 years, if we continue at the current pace, international and world energy demand will increase by a remarkable 50 per cent. That is clearly unsustainable, which is why there is a real need for internationally agreed binding targets of the type that the United Kingdom was first in the world to agree to.