[8th Allotted Day]
I beg to move,
That this House approves the Government’s policy towards the Treaty of Lisbon in respect of provisions concerning climate change.
I am sure that the whole House welcomes the opportunity to debate the part that Europe should play in tackling dangerous climate change. Leadership on this most important task facing our planet is exactly what we need Europe for, and in providing that lead Europe is building on the environmental foundations it has created since its early days. It was in 1987 that environmental protection was first brought into the treaty of Rome, with the signing of the Single European Act. In 1993, the Maastricht treaty established the environment as an activity of the EU. The treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 included balanced and sustainable development as a new objective of the European Union. There was a declaration by member states alongside the treaty of Nice in 2001, which expressed determination that the EU play a leading role in promoting environmental protection both in the EU and globally. Finally, the Lisbon treaty specifically recognises combating climate change as an important strategic objective of EU policy.
Regardless of what we think of the nature of the protests that have taken place today on the roof of Parliament and a few days ago at Heathrow, they point to a major contradiction in EU policy. On the one hand, the approval of the open skies treaty between the United States of America and the EU could lead to 25 million tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere, while on the other we have this debate today about climate change. Will the Secretary of State press for the treaty’s provisions on climate change to trump the other things that are pushing to make matters worse?
I shall address aviation later in my speech. Interestingly, although the abandoned constitution did not contain a specific reference to climate change, the Lisbon treaty specifically recognises the need to combat climate change as a strategic objective of the EU. I hope my hon. Friend acknowledges that. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe says, it is an improvement. That is because it recognises the changes in politics, in science and in understanding and awareness. If I may say so, that makes the Opposition amendment look pretty strange. I am looking forward to hearing the speech of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), because what on earth would the rest of the world make of us if, having put that into the Lisbon treaty—for reasons that many Members have advanced—we were to take it out? What message would that send to the world about how serious Europe is?
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that those who are concerned about the precise, detailed wording of the Lisbon treaty, lest it should lead to uncovenanted results, ought to be particularly keen on the introduction of these words, because the results to which they will lead will be covenanted? They will mean that the European Union makes this a much more central issue than it would otherwise be.
The right hon. Gentleman absolutely makes the case. I pay tribute to the work that he has done over many years to advance the cause of environmental understanding in the UK and in Europe. That is absolutely the argument. Bluntly, it would look really odd if, having gone into this recognising that we all understand the problem, we were then to argue that it should not be in the treaty and that we should take it out. What sort of message would the House be sending out if that were to happen?
Does the Secretary of State accept that adding six words to the Lisbon treaty is hardly going to transform the centrality of climate change to European policy making? As he has set out in his speech, the EU already has the powers and the established position to take action on this matter. With respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), whose point I take on board, might not the practical effect of the measure be that international treaties on climate change would need the approval of the European Parliament, which could put a brake on action on climate change, rather than leading to an improvement?
Methinks the hon. Gentleman doth protest too much. Yes, this measure will institutionalise what the European Union has already been doing—I will say more about that in a moment—but that is not an argument for not putting it in the treaty. If we recognise, as we all do—I am sure that that goes for the hon. Gentleman as well—that climate change is one of the two greatest threats that the world is facing, why would we not want to put in the treaty a reference to dealing with the dangerous consequences of climate change as a strategic objective of the European Union, given the opportunity and given what Europe has done up to now? I have to say, in all honesty, that I really do not get the hon. Gentleman’s argument, which is why his speech on the subject will be very interesting to listen to.
Is it not clear that the suggestion in the Conservatives’ amendment that
“the Treaty of Lisbon is effectively irrelevant to the vital issue of climate change”
is completely absurd? Is it not also clear that their attempt to set the purpose and policy of the European Union against the processes of the European Union is also based on a false dichotomy? Without streamlined processes, the European Union would not be able to advance its policies.
The Secretary of State has warned the Opposition about the danger of sending baffling messages on climate change. May I put it to him that actions speak a great deal louder than words, and that the decision to expand Heathrow is utterly baffling to my constituents, and to people all around the world? I really must ask him to reconsider it.
I will come to the emissions trading scheme and aviation later. The hon. Gentleman will know that a consultation is taking place, and that, in the context of the much lower total of carbon emissions that we will be able to emit if we are to achieve our international objectives, society has a choice about where it decides to make those emissions. It is because of Europe that aviation will now have to make a contribution; it did not have to do so in the past. Aviation has a particular set of characteristics, along with shipping, including the fact that it is international, and we will need to agree on a system for divvying up responsibility for coping with the consequences of those emissions. We now have a vehicle for doing something about that, but only because the European Union has acted.
I am following what the Secretary of State is saying, but is it not the case that, although aviation will come into phase 3 of the EU emissions trading scheme, there will be an opt-out for industries in competition with businesses in countries without comparable carbon restraints? Does not that mean that international flights from the EU to the United States or the far east, which do not have carbon restraints comparable to those of the ETS, will not be included in the scheme? Will not the scheme therefore affect only flights within the EU?
The EU has competence in relation to flights that come in and out of the Union. Frankly, if the International Civil Aviation Organisation were doing its job properly, it would be addressing this issue, because ultimately we need an international solution, as we do in the fight against climate change. That is not an argument for Europe not trying, however, and the significance of the agreement that we reached at the Environment Council in December was that member states said, “Yes, we wish to see aviation included.” Britain would have liked aviation to come into the scheme earlier than 2012. It looks as though that is when it will happen; it now depends on negotiations with the Parliament. The cap that will be applied, subject to those negotiations, will be based on 2004-06 emissions. That means that any rise in emissions above that level will have to be compensated for by emission reductions elsewhere.
That example, and the inclusion of climate change in the Lisbon treaty, demonstrate that the development of the EU’s policy on the environment reflects our evolution of understanding as to why the environment—and now climate change—matter so much. Why did this happen? Very simply, it did so because the countries of Europe realised pretty early on that what we could achieve by working together would be much greater than what we could hope to achieve by going our separate ways. We know that environmental pollution does not respect national borders. It is a statement of the obvious, but there is no means by which we could say, “Okay, we’ll look after the UK’s emissions and you can look after yours.” By definition, this is a problem of interdependence. It is a global problem that requires action at international level, and the EU is giving the lead.
In view of what my right hon. Friend has said about aviation, would he agree that an equal, if not stronger, case needs to be made for shipping? Everything has been concentrated on aviation, and it is now vital to press through the International Maritime Organisation for a proper carbon regime for shipping. That can best be done through the EU.
I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. As she will know, the challenge is even more complex in relation to shipping. It is not simply a question of divvying up the emissions according to which port a ship leaves and which one it arrives in. We need to address the question of fuel bunkering; if that happens in international waters, who is responsible for the emissions? We also need to deal with the question of flags of convenience, because if the trading were arranged on that basis, some countries might suddenly find that they had to take responsibility for a lot of emissions. This is a complex issue, and it needs to be dealt with on an international basis.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that people throughout the world, not just those who live in the EU, look to the EU to provide a lead on climate change? In November, the UK branch Commonwealth Parliamentary Association held a conference here in London that was attended by 85 parliamentarians from Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries. The conference called for a new international treaty, and for the promotion of the creation of durable carbon markets. The majority of the people there were from non-EU countries, and they look to the EU to provide a lead because our carbon emissions trading scheme is the best and strongest so far developed in the world, and because they see the EU as the most likely base on which to build an international agreement on these matters.
I agree with my hon. Friend completely. This is about providing leadership in the world. If we all wait for someone else to act, “After you” will do for all of us. That is the truth. I congratulate those who took the initiative to call that conference together. Parliamentarians are part of the process by which this change will take place, because we, too, represent the change in awareness and the growth in understanding. As I shall illustrate in relation to Bali, Europe’s leadership is hugely significant in this regard, and gives encouragement to others around the world.
The Secretary of State has just mentioned the subject of my question. On the international situation, does he not agree that the impact of the Conservatives’ amendment would be to undermine the strategic direction that Europe took in Bali, which was so vital to the success of those negotiations in bringing pressure to bear on countries such as the United States to come on board and join the international consensus?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. In truth, people will look at that amendment and think, “What? What is that all about?” It makes no sense whatever. Let us debate the substance of what we need to do. To focus a lot of attention on saying, “Can you please remove the words ‘climate change’ from the EU treaty?” would be greeted with a lot of perplexed looks and exasperation around the globe.
The Secretary of State is being very generous in giving way and he is making his case most eloquently. He has repeatedly referred to what the EU will do, to the EU’s actions and to what it is enabled to do. Will he tell us, simply, whether there is any new power in the treaty that was not provided for already?
No, there is not. The treaty does not change the shared competence and qualified majority voting applies. However—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept this, on reflection—it institutionalises the point that the EU, as it moves forward, recognises that tackling climate change will be an important part of what it will need to do.
Does that not underline how confusing the Opposition amendment is? Surely, if climate change is important, which we all accept, it should be institutionalised. The debate should be about shifting resources from agricultural subsidies to fighting climate change. To do that, the policy should be part of the institutions of the EU.
I am sorry that Labour Members appear to be confused by the amendment, as it is very straightforward. I am also sorry that the Secretary of State says that the amendment would also remove reference to climate change from the Lisbon treaty. It would do nothing of the kind. The point made by the Opposition’s amendment is that
“the Government’s priority on climate change in the European context should not be institutional change but the strengthening of measures to drive down greenhouse gas emissions”—
there should be actions, not words.
I think that those on the Opposition Front Bench have indicated that they will not. It would not make any sense. I do not understand why they are carping about the inclusion of those words which they say make no difference. My argument is that they do make a difference. Since the Opposition are not arguing in favour of the treaty they will, in the end, be understood by the position that they take.
Every one of us has an interest in a healthy and natural environment. We all recognise the improvements that have been made as a result of the efforts of the EU. Pollution control is a good example. Air quality legislation has been in place since the 1980s and has been responsible for dramatic improvements in air quality across Europe. Sulphur dioxide emissions, which are one thing about which we should be concerned, are down by 68 per cent. compared with 2004. Nitrogen oxides are down 32 per cent. Volatile organic compounds are down 43 per cent. and ammonia is down 22 per cent. That is one example of European action making a difference.
A second example is the quality of bathing water. In 1976, EU legislation protected bathers from health risks. What has that meant for people in the UK? Significant improvements have been made to the quality of our bathing waters. As a result, nearly all coastal bathing sites consistently meet the European standard. Seven in 10 waters now achieve the tougher guideline standards. Those are two examples of Europe acting to improve our environment. They both represent real progress.
Some of us heard an interesting speaker from Surfers Against Sewage last night, not far from this House. The speaker pointed out that if it had not been for European regulation, Surfers Against Sewage would never have achieved what it has as a successful pressure group that has changed the quality of sea water around our country. Does the Secretary of State agree that every environmental group that I talk to believes that nothing would have happened in this country without leadership from Europe?
That is entirely the case. Europe has been a force for good in improving the quality of our environment. That is the truth. Those who carp at the EU and do not wish it to have those responsibilities and powers must then accept the consequence of the lack of action that would have happened if Europe had not taken the lead. That is precisely the reason that we need Europe to act on climate change. I would describe the Lisbon treaty as a further step in the journey in protecting the environment for us all.
The Prime Minister said in November last year that our membership of the EU
“gives us and 26 other countries the unique opportunity to work together on economic, environmental and security challenges”.
We all know that dangerous climate change is all three of those challenges and more. One has only to think for a moment about the possible consequences of reduced water availability in the world. What will we do when human beings start to fight each other about water? How will we cope with the consequences for crop yields of increased temperature? What will we do as a world when large numbers of people begin to move around the globe in pursuit of a safe place to live, because they cannot live where they lived previously as dangerous climate change has rendered their homes uninhabitable? I and other hon. Members have seen with our own eyes people who are experiencing that precise situation in the developing world.
The truth is that the world has come a long way since 1988, when the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At that point, few people were aware of what was going on, and in the years since things have changed dramatically. The science is no longer in doubt. Climate change is happening, and it is happening fast. Time is short and the world must act now.
The UK Government have played an important part in leading that debate in the EU and internationally. After all, in 1998 the UK Government, during our presidency, led the EU in pushing for the historic Kyoto agreement. The EU emissions trading scheme is based on the UK’s domestic scheme, which started three years earlier. We were the first country in the world to do that. The EU picked it up and, as has been said, it is now the bedrock of the EU’s efforts to reduce emissions by putting a price on carbon. The emissions trading scheme is the largest scheme of its kind in the world and covers the largest emitters, who produce almost half the EU’s CO2 emissions. We want other sectors to be included in the scheme, which is precisely why we pressed for aviation to be included. That was agreed at the Environment Council in December.
I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State, who is as generous as ever in giving way. The six words—almost an aside—in the Lisbon treaty that refer to climate change are:
“and in particular combating climate change.”
Of all the strands in the comprehensive treaty, which covers so many areas of law and activity in the EU, that must be the slightest reference to any subject. Today is being spent trying to deflect attention away from the failure to provide the people of this country with a say on the Lisbon treaty by dressing it up as an important step in climate change. I put it to the Secretary of State, who is known for his honesty in this House, that that is nothing more than a charade. It is not giving a genuine impression.
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but in preparing for the debate and standing at the Dispatch Box today I am not taking part in a charade, whatever he is doing. I do not accept the argument. However, maybe he is arguing that there should be a bigger reference to climate change in the Lisbon treaty. Is he?
I would have thought that as we are devoting a day to considering the Lisbon treaty as it relates to climate change, it would deserve a much bigger entry if it was felt to be important. We have already said that we do not think that it needs such an entry. Why are the Government spending this time on discussing six words? The EU has the powers. The point that we Conservatives will be making today is that it is action that counts. Our frustration and annoyance is caused by the lack of action and the Government’s desire to play politics by using climate change as a cover.
I am not trying to use climate change as a cover for anything at all. I was in the middle of pointing out that the EU is already getting on with it, hence why argue with the words in the treaty? We were the first country to put climate change at the heart of a G8 presidency and to argue that there should be a debate on climate change in the Security Council. We were the first country in the world, as a member of the European Union, to put together a Climate Change Bill. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the Climate Change Bill, which is being considered in the other place, is an historic piece of legislation that will make us the first country in the world to provide for a legally binding, long-term framework to cut CO2 emissions. That UK commitment reflects Europe’s commitment. EU member states, as well as other countries throughout the world, are watching what we are doing in the United Kingdom with great interest.
Given that the Climate Change Bill was the product of Opposition pressure and Government willingness, and is thus a commonly supported Bill, does the Secretary of State agree that we are setting an important example throughout the world and that that ought to be the way in which we proceed on all these matters?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman absolutely. All our thinking has evolved. That is reflected in the politics of all the parties of which we are proud to be members and the campaigns of non-governmental organisations—Friends of the Earth has worked particularly hard. The truth is that whoever is in government in any country in the world, they will have to deal with this threat, so we all have a shared interest in ensuring that we have the right framework, the right politics and, above all, the right action to get emissions down.
Brevity is not necessarily an indication of substance. The phrase
“all men shall be free”
underpinned the anti-slavery movement, which shows that even five words can achieve a great deal. To return to the substance of the debate, another phrase is “commerce always outbids conservation”, and it bothers me that aviation is being grandfathered. All other sectors in the ETS have a baseline of 1990, so why should aviation have 14 years’ growth grandfathered? Surely all other sectors in the ETS should be unhappy with that decision.
The straight answer to my hon. Friend’s point is that that was what the Council of Ministers was able to reach agreement on in the end. However, I am not sure that I agree that commerce will always trump conservation. In the development of our understanding of dangerous climate change, it is striking that the business community gets it, too. Even in the relatively short time that I have been in this job, I have seen the CBI taskforce report and listened to business people from around the world, especially from the UK and Europe. I pay tribute to Nick Stern, because if one was to put a finger on one bit of work that has done more than any other to change attitudes in the business community and broader society, it would be his fantastic report. He said very simply, “If you don’t get the moral case and you’re not wholly persuaded by the science, just have a look at the numbers.” People who understand numbers for a living can see that a case is being made when someone says, “Given a choice between a low cost and a much higher one, which do you fancy pursuing?”
Does the Secretary of State agree that Conservative Members would be able to make a more valid contribution if they focused on other aspects of the treaty relating to climate change more than on the six words that have presumably been crayoned on to their briefing notes for them? The Lisbon treaty clearly talks about the sustainable development of Europe, energy efficiency and new agreements on renewable forms of energy. Are they not crucial factors in tackling climate change?
I want to make a little more progress because many hon. Members wish to speak and I want to give them as much time as possible.
President Barroso himself has acknowledged the growing public recognition of the dangers posed by climate change. He says:
“It therefore deserves and demands to be seen as one of the new cornerstones of the EU’s raison d’être.”
I could not agree more, and that is what the treaty will achieve. That is reflected by the fact that, last spring, the European Council agreed an ambitious set of targets on carbon emissions, renewable energy and biofuels to push forwards the transition. Germany, as G8 president, played a role in getting agreement at Heiligendamm on the need for cuts in emissions, which was an example of European leadership.
In December, Europe’s united front in support of an agreement at the climate change negotiations in Bali played an important part in achieving a breakthrough. Something was achieved at Bali that had not seemed possible before, namely that all countries in the world—from the United States of America to developing countries—recognised the science and the need to make deep cuts in emissions, and agreed that we needed to negotiate a new climate deal over the next two years. On 23 January, the European Commission published legislative proposals in the climate and energy package that will put the emissions trading scheme at the heart of EU policy. An EU-wide central cap is being established for the first time precisely because Europe is learning from the experience of phase 1 of the ETS that if the cap is not right, progress will not be made.
Given that, according to the House of Commons Library, per capita CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom have increased this century, will my right hon. Friend say a little more about what articles 191 and 192 will do to assist us to adapt to climate change, on which Stern was particularly strong? There is a need not only to deal with the causes, important though that is—it has been a major focus of my right hon. Friend’s speech—but to say something about the inevitable consequences that he realises are already happening and that will get worse in the future.
The last point in article 191.1 refers to
“promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems”.
Such problems are not just those relating to combating climate change, but those that will flow from climate change, such as the availability of water, crop yields and diseases that will spread to parts of the world in which they have not been found before. There must be adaptation now, because whatever we agree on mitigation, we will have to adapt to the changes that are irrevocably in the system.
The EU has set ambitious targets on renewables for member states. By demonstrating its leadership, it has said that if there is a global deal, the EU will increase its commitment further and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent. by 2020.
I agree with many of the general points that the Secretary of State is making. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), I have had a quick look at article 174 in the previous treaty, which seems to include an almost identical provision to that to which the Secretary of State referred in article 191, except for the words to do with climate change. Is that the case?
What is new is the inclusion of the strategic objective of addressing climate change, which we should all welcome.
Europe is providing leadership, and its 27 voices are giving the same message to citizens, businesses and our global partners. Europe, this country and the world need to concentrate on five things if we are to deal with the problem. First, now that we have the deal at Bali, we need to agree on a goal.
Well, Europe has made a start because it has a goal—a temperature target. There is a question of what temperature increase the world thinks that we can live with and what we must avoid. Europe’s target is no more than 2°C, which will require at least a 50 per cent. reduction in global emissions from 1990 levels across the world. We must get agreement, because once there is agreement on a goal, we can look at all the commitments from around the world that are on the table. We can then add them up and decide whether they will be sufficient. We know that they are not sufficient to deal with the task at the moment.
Secondly, we need bigger and more ambitious commitments from developed countries. That is why Europe’s commitment is important and why we need all the rich developed nations, including the largest economy in the world, to make binding commitments. Thirdly, we need a strong global carbon market, because putting a price on what is bad for the climate will encourage people to invest in what is better for the climate. We have to open up those markets to all countries, and the fact that the EU ETS is the largest of all the markets puts Europe in a strong position to ensure that that happens. As other trading schemes emerge in other parts of the globe, one of our tasks is to enable them all to fit together, so that we do not end up with—if I can put it this way—a VHS trading scheme in one place and a Betamax trading scheme in another, or different currencies; we need to be able to connect the schemes together.
Fourthly, we need a deal that is fair. This is fundamentally a matter of global social justice. We now learn that we have a finite resource that the world can cope with: CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. The world can only take so much, so the question is how we divide that up fairly and equitably, both to save the planet and to lift every citizen out of poverty in the same century. That is why we need measurable contributions from developed countries, but we also have to show that those countries are willing to provide financial support, help with technology, assistance to avoid deforestation and support for adaptation to developing countries. Fifthly and finally, we need an agreement that covers all countries and all emissions and does enough to solve the problem.
That, in summary, is the task that the negotiations between now and Copenhagen have to achieve. The truth is that Europe alone cannot ensure that we get that deal in Copenhagen; it depends on many other countries, too. But with the Lisbon treaty acknowledging Europe’s role—that is what it does, and so it should—we now have a firm basis on which to proceed. What the Lisbon treaty has to say on climate change recognises reality and embraces practical politics, and I think that the House should support it.
I beg to move, To leave out from ‘House’ to end and add
‘notes that the Treaty of Lisbon makes no substantive changes to EU competence on climate change; agrees with the Foreign Secretary that climate change agreements already reached by the EU “have done more to show the relevance of the European Union than any amount of institutional tinkering”; believes that the Treaty of Lisbon is effectively irrelevant to the vital issue of climate change; and concludes that the Government’s priority on climate change in the European context should not be institutional change but the strengthening of measures to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.’.
Conservatives always welcome the opportunity to speak in this House on the vital importance of tackling climate change. As the debates on the Lisbon treaty are demonstrating, we also welcome opportunities to speak on the role and influence of the European Union in the political and daily life of this country. Indeed, some hon. Members on both sides of the House seem to show an insatiable appetite for debating matters European. We are happy to debate climate change and our relationship with the European Union.
The other place has happily been debating the Climate Change Bill in recent weeks, and I am pleased to note how the Opposition have succeeded in persuading the Government to toughen up some key provisions of that Bill. We look forward to its arrival in this House in the near future. If we end up with a robust Climate Change Bill—one that really changes the mindset in Whitehall and in Westminster—it will be a great example of what a national Parliament can achieve.
There will be plenty of opportunities to debate climate change in the weeks ahead, and that is a good thing, given that climate change is the greatest threat we face. It would be surprising indeed if we were not debating it. I sense that, despite the fact that the science is still disputed by some, there is a real hunger for clarity and leadership on climate change, which affects all of us, whatever our job, wherever we live, whatever our income and whatever our faith. It demands a new politics.
Does my hon. Friend share my anger and concern that in the past few days, despite sensible opposition by Her Majesty’s Government, the European Union has decreed that from 2011 all motor cars will have to have daytime running lights? Is he aware that, in answer to a parliamentary question that I tabled, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), revealed that that will result in an increase in fuel consumption of about 5 per cent.? Is not that a good example of what is rotten in the European Union—the blanket, one-size-must-fit-all approach, which in this instance will lead to an unnecessary imposition on the British motorist and will increase emissions?
My right hon. Friend will no doubt have an opportunity to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker, but he makes a good point. I shall later make some positive remarks about the role that the EU can play in combating environmental challenges and climate change, but producing a directive requiring all cars to keep their headlights on at all times is precisely the sort of thing that gets under people’s skin and annoys them about the EU. I know that Ministers have resisted that measure. The EU maintains that it will increase fuel use and carbon emissions by only 0.3 per cent., but the Government’s position is that it will increase them by 5 per cent. That is wholly unacceptable and counter-productive, and an example of what could go wrong if we do not persuade Europe to engage in the new politics that I just mentioned.
My understanding is that Conservative peers abstained on that vote. However, I am pleased by the co-operation that has been taking place between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in the other place. The first key task set out by the Secretary of State was to keep the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2° C. I shall be interested to hear the Minister who sums up this debate explain why Government peers voted against Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers on making that task a primary purpose of the Climate Change Bill.
In an intervention, the hon. Gentleman said that the Conservative amendment was all about adding substance and not flitting about with a few airy-fairy words. In terms of substance, therefore, will he tell us how the Conservatives would raise the price of carbon in the emissions trading scheme to a level that might deter people from flying?
Just before the previous interventions, the hon. Gentleman said that climate change affects us all, but does he agree that it does not affect us all equally? It will have the greatest impact on the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world. In that sense, climate change is not only an environmental issue, but a social justice issue.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. If the House will allow me to make progress, I am about to touch on that very point.
We need a new politics in the face of an unprecedented challenge. Our approach must not be tactical or short term, geared toward electoral advantage; it must be long term. We do not need insular and self-interested policies; we must be global and generous. As the hon. Gentleman said, climate change is not just an environmental or economic challenge. It is about our economy and the world’s, our society and some of the most vulnerable societies in the world. Ultimately, it is very possibly about our ability to survive at all.
Climate change needs to be debated but, above all, it needs action. So far, the Government have been long on words but desperately short on effective action: the rhetoric and the reality are far removed. This country’s climate change emissions have increased since 1997, and now key environmental projects are threatened by the latest consequences of DEFRA’s financial difficulties. Given the absence of dispute between the main political parties on the seriousness of the threat of climate change, it is astonishing that so little progress has been made towards dealing with the problem.
What I have been struggling to understand is why we have been invited to discuss climate change here and now, in the debate on the Lisbon treaty. The Lisbon treaty matters, too. It might not literally be a matter of life and death, which is what irreversible climate change might ultimately become, but it does go to the heart of how we are governed, our democratic values and our right to determine our own future in years to come. It is uncomfortable to say this, but I really think that the fact that the Government have devoted so much time to the issue of climate change in debates on the Lisbon treaty betrays a serious misjudgement of the importance of both issues. It may betray something worse: a cynical willingness to use the issue of climate change as a decoy, a means of avoiding more thorough debate about the constitutional implications of the Lisbon treaty.
We have already heard how many words in the Lisbon treaty are devoted to the issue of climate change: six. [Interruption.] When I say six, I mean literally that there are no more than six words in the whole treaty devoted to the issue of climate change, and I shall quote them:
“and in particular combating climate change.”
It is hardly groundbreaking stuff. There is nothing in those six words or anywhere else in the treaty that will help our collective efforts— [Interruption.]
Order. We cannot have hon. Members waving documents about in the Chamber.
What has happened is that the Government have dedicated three and a half hours today to discussing those six words. That is 35 minutes a word, or just over five minutes a letter. I suppose that I should be grateful that in this long series of debates, I am probably unique among Conservative spokesmen in not having to complain about any new powers arising from the treaty of Lisbon, but I must ask whether this is the most productive use of the House’s time.
Do the Government think that focusing on a thematic issue such as climate change, which they identify correctly as something that the public care about, enables them to avoid a more technical debate on the parts of the treaty that actually make important changes to our political relationship within Europe? Why have they arranged this particular debate on this subject?
The hon. Gentleman said earlier that actions speak louder than words. Are not the important vehicles for environmental change—measures providing for clean water, how we look after our landscape, how we dispose of our waste, climate change—being driven by Europe? We ought to be supporting them rather than carping about today’s debate.
Is my hon. Friend not being rather kind to the Government? The truth is that it would be perfectly proper to have a whole day’s debate on climate change under the Lisbon treaty—it really is a very important addition—if we had had a proper debate on defence or a whole range of other matters in the Lisbon treaty. What worries me is that it is not the Secretary of State’s fault. The fault lies in the Government’s unwillingness to arrange for proper line-by-line debate on the treaty. Those of us who are deeply opposed to referendums should be most concerned that we ought to have had that debate.
My right hon. Friend makes a compelling and important point. I understand that none of the amendments dealing with defence was debated at all, which is a disgrace. I suggest to him that there may be another and rather more scurrilous plan at work: I suspect that somebody in some Government office thought it might be a cunning wheeze to table the motion that we are debating in order to paint the Conservatives’ considered opposition to the Lisbon treaty as being incompatible with support for collective EU action on climate change. If so, that is not only cynical but ignorant.
The question is whether the Conservative party speaks with one voice. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said how important it was for the EU to have a competence in climate change. Amendment No. 121 to the European Union (Amendment) Bill, tabled by some very senior Conservatives—including a former party leader, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), and a former Cabinet Minister, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood)—says that the EU should have no say at all on climate change. Does that not show that the hon. Gentleman’s party is deeply divided and unable to provide leadership on Europe?
The evidence of these debates has been that the divisions are all on the other side of the House. I agree strongly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal.
The hon. Gentleman ought to know that the EU already has a competence in climate change; that is exactly my point. The provisions of the Lisbon treaty are about the distribution of power between the EU and its member states, and how the EU is organised. The treaty has been deliberately designed, some would say, to be as hard as possible to understand, which is presumably why the Government hope that they can renege on their pledge to hold a referendum, although I remind the Secretary of State that people notice when politicians fail to keep their election promises.
However, when the EU does useful things, it can play an important role, not least in tackling climate change. Again, it is about actions and not words:
“if the European Union is to show itself to be useful, it need not reform its institutions or become obsessed with institutional reform; rather, it needs to get on with tackling the big issues that people recognise cannot be addressed at national level.”
Those are the words of the Foreign Secretary.
If the hon. Gentleman is opposed to the provisions in the treaty relating to the reform of institutions, and if he argues that reform is irrelevant to the issue of climate change, surely he should be able to stand at the Dispatch Box and explain how a six-month rotating presidency shared among 27 member states can possibly advance climate change policy more effectively than the provisions in the treaty.
It does not need a treaty to take effective action on climate change. I refer the hon. Gentleman, whom I respect greatly and whose knowledge of environmental matters is impressive, to the further remarks of his own Foreign Secretary in December:
“People sometimes say, ‘You can't address those issues unless you reform the institutions,’ but to take the topical example of climate change…if you look at the conclusions of the March 2006 European Council, which offer a genuine leadership role for Europe on climate change issues and international negotiations, you will realise that they have done more to show the relevance of the European Union than any amount of institutional tinkering.”
That is exactly the point that I am making. I am at one with the Foreign Secretary on the matter.
The hon. Gentleman has just made the extraordinary statement that it does not need a treaty to take action on climate change. Does he seriously think that something as complex as the emissions trading scheme could possibly have been established among 27 member states without the offices of the European Union, which the treaty will reinforce?
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I should have said “a new treaty”, as the existing provisions on climate change are, of course, undertaken through the treaty of Rome, and will not be changed by the Lisbon treaty.
I agree completely with the Foreign Secretary. We do not need more institutional meddling to deal with climate change; we need better policies and greater political will. The Foreign Secretary’s remarks serve only to emphasise how irrelevant today’s motion is. It is a distraction not only from the substantive issue of how to meet our carbon emissions reduction targets but from the issues of real relevance to the Lisbon treaty, such as defence and foreign policy.
The EU already has the power to tackle climate change. For instance, article 175 of the treaty establishing the European Community has already been used as a basis for the Community to pass many measures relating to climate change, which we have supported. Ratifying the Kyoto protocol at the European Community level did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a binding decision on implementing the Kyoto protocol in the EU did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a directive setting up the emissions trading scheme did not need the Lisbon treaty. Adopting a directive setting up a minimum target of 5.75 per cent. for vehicle fuel from biofuels by the end of 2010—I might have more to say about that in a moment—did not need the Lisbon treaty. So what is the Lisbon treaty offering us that will further enhance our collective European ability to tackle climate change?
I have been trying to follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman’s presentation for some time. If he does not think that the six words on climate change in the Lisbon treaty are at all relevant, does it mean that the 15 words on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and the words on sustainability in article 3, are not relevant? Would he excise all of them from the new treaty as, by his logic, none of them makes any difference?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He may not know this, but his party’s foreign affairs spokesman, the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), suggested amendments to the Bill that would have removed energy from the shared competences. That would not leave us with the status quo that he describes, but would put European climate change policy into reverse.
I want to make it absolutely clear, with the Foreign Secretary’s explicit endorsement, that our opposition to the Lisbon treaty does not in any way compromise our commitment to tackling climate change or our belief in the EU’s role in enhancing environmental protection, both in our country and across Europe and the world. In fact, the Conservative party has long considered the environment to be one of the areas where pan-European co-operation makes eminent good sense. For example, it makes eminent good sense, when legislating to improve the energy efficiency of goods sold in Europe, to do so for a single market of 300 million people, rather than having a patchwork of different product standards in different countries. We need to harness the market power of the EU to drive up product standards across the world. However, it also makes sense to legislate in a non-prescriptive fashion—to say, “Yes, we should have a common quality standard across the EU, but each member state can decide how it wishes to implement that standard.” We do not support a one-size-fits-all approach.
I cite as an example the packaging directive, which is now an important part of our national effort on climate change and resource efficiency. It was introduced under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal. It was designed to allow each state to decide its own implementation mechanisms. In government, we chose to base the implementation of the directive on a market mechanism and, as a result, last year alone the cost of implementing it in the United Kingdom was 10 times less than it was in Germany, where it was decided to use a different approach. We agree with common standards, but not with top-down prescriptive implementation.
It should be noted that the majority of the energy labelling directives and minimum efficiency performance directives, which have resulted in significant European energy efficiency improvements, particularly for white goods, began in the early to mid-1990s under Conservative Governments. On broader environmental issues such as wildlife and habitats protection, it was a Conservative Government who adopted the birds directive and the habitats directive, which have ensured that many of our loved wild creatures and places will continue to prosper. Those directives were incorporated in our law through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and our habitats regulations.
Last month, we endorsed the EU climate change package announcement. We welcomed the economic opportunity inherent in the UK achieving our target of 15 per cent. renewable energy by 2020. The target means that we have a steep mountain to climb in the next 12 years, given that we are currently at 2 per cent., but responsibility for that weak position can be directly attributed to the piecemeal, inadequate policy mechanisms employed by the Government. Britain has the finest natural resources—wind, wave and tide—in Europe. We ought to be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, yet we are currently wallowing second to last in the EU league table, ahead of only Malta.
Our country has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and unrivalled access to financial capital in the City of London. We have some of the finest research universities in the world, where green technologies are being developed that could allow Britain to have first-mover advantage in the new energy economy. In fact, this afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), the shadow Chancellor, will speak at one of our leading research centres, Imperial college, on that very issue—how the UK can take a global lead in green technology. We want to make it a policy priority to empower our entrepreneurs, our markets, our industry and our academic talent to engage in and benefit from the decarbonisation of our economy.
The UK certainly needs far better policy instruments than those currently on offer from the Government. I do not question the sincerity of the Government’s attempts to tackle climate change; it is their competence that is the problem. Their international leadership on the issue has been commendable, particularly under the former Prime Minister. It is not on the whole their approach to international and EU agreements that has been weak. I say “on the whole” because there has been the occasional lapse; for example, it was disappointing to see British Ministers in Europe supporting the polluters over proposals to phase out hydrofluorocarbons.
It is the Government’s domestic policies that have let them down. Those policies have been lacklustre and not sufficiently joined-up. As I said earlier, carbon emissions are greater than when the Government took office 10 years ago. The Labour manifesto commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010 has been quietly dropped. The support mechanism for large-scale renewable technologies has primarily benefited onshore wind power and landfill gas generation, to the neglect of other technologies further up the cost curve, many of which could play a major role in our low-carbon future, and particularly in microgeneration. That is why the Conservative party recently announced its feed-in tariff policy, which I commend to the Secretary of State. I hope that he is seriously considering it.
Feed-in tariffs have worked to great effect in other EU countries, particularly Germany, which now boasts up to 300,000 people working in the renewables industry. Germany has 10 times the installed wind energy capacity of Britain, and 200 times as much solar capacity. The House will observe that Germany is neither 10 times windier nor 200 times sunnier than the United Kingdom, yet Germany is benefiting from those technologies, and we are falling behind.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in the energy sector, the biggest challenge that climate change presents to the world is the need to capture the carbon produced by coal-fired power stations, including those that are coming on-stream in large numbers every week? Does he agree that it is disappointing that the Government have failed to drive forward the carbon capture and storage agenda, despite having said back in 2003 that they would move forward on the issue as a matter of urgency, given that it is one of the biggest technical problems that needs to be solved?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. It was a disaster last year when, because of the Government’s failure to act, BP pulled its investment in a carbon capture and storage project. Of course, there is concern among Members on both sides of the House about proposals for a huge, new coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth in Kent. We have made it clear that we are seriously concerned about providing large-scale new capacity for coal when we cannot capture and store the carbon associated with it. If we cannot do that, it is simply not a safe technology, in view of climate change.
On the difference between wind developments in the UK and Germany, more than 100 onshore wind developments in this country are stuck in the planning system. How many of the councils holding them up are Conservative controlled, and what assessment has the hon. Gentleman made of the differences between the German planning system and ours? Will he say, at the Dispatch Box, that those Conservative councils ought to get on with approving wind developments?
The problem—I have touched on this already—is that the structure of the renewables obligation means that it drives investment into the nearest, most developed technologies, which are landfill gas and onshore wind. We all understand that there are strong feelings on both sides of the arguments, because of the visual intrusion and so on, but as the hon. Gentleman may know, as a result of planning difficulties, huge quantities of money are stuck in the system instead of being spent on renewables, which is a shame. The answer is not to impose wind farms on communities that do not want them, but to reform the way we support the renewables industry to develop less controversial forms of technology.
The Conservative party has welcomed the EU-wide plan for a 20 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, rising to 30 per cent. when an international agreement is reached. We expressed, and continue to express, our serious concerns about the sustainability of the EU-wide biofuels agreement, which is also part of the package. Last month, the Environmental Audit Committee called for a moratorium on both EU and UK biofuels targets. The Committee’s report highlights the fact that demand for biofuels is already exacerbating the destruction of crucial rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is sheer madness to cut down the rainforest or threaten food security in the name of the environment.
We took a principled stand on the issue last year when we voted against the Government’s renewable transport fuel obligation for its failure to include sustainability criteria until at least 2011. We hold the same position in respect of the EU target of 10 per cent. biofuels by 2020. I hope that Ministers will go to Europe and argue the case that no mandatory biofuel targets be included in the renewable energy directive until a working sustainability criteria basis has been established.
I turn briefly to the EU emissions trading scheme. It is not the be-all and end-all of climate change policy, as the Government sometimes seem to imply. It is not good enough to say that we can massively expand aviation capacity and not worry about the carbon implications because at some future date it will all be included in the ETS. A properly functioning scheme could play a vital role in driving down carbon emissions within the European Union.
It is widely accepted that phase 1 has been a failure in reducing emissions significantly. Too many credits were handed out for free, which meant handing the industry a licence to pollute, and the costs were passed on to the consumer. That gifted energy companies more than £1 billion in windfall profits. That was not the object of the exercise. However, that was a political failure, not a market failure. Phase 1 has not driven innovation—with a market price of 10 cents a tonne of carbon, it will never do that—but it has proved that it is possible to devise a mechanism that could work in the future, and phase 2 already looks more promising. That is largely to do with the introduction of more auctioning. We believe that in phase 3 we should push towards 100 per cent. auctioning of those permits to pollute. If we bring the market in on the ground floor of the ETS, we will begin to get some real change and a real price in carbon, which comes back to the point that the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) made earlier.
I am about to finish, so if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way again.
In conclusion, the Opposition recognise that there is a need to work at every level to tackle the threat of climate change. There are changes that we can all make to the way we live our lives. There is an important role for local government, and of course for national Government. We should be leading by example and setting a long-term framework to give confidence to the public and, importantly, to investors in the benefits of green growth. There is, as I hope I have made clear, a positive role to be played by the European Union. In the end the solutions to the issue of climate change will have to be found at a global level, because we are all in it together.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not want to misuse a point of order by interrupting the speech of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth). You admonished me for seeking to show the hon. Gentleman the two pages of the treaty which deal with climate change. Although it is true that the treaty adds the six words “and in particular combating climate”—
Order. I am sorry to choke the hon. Gentleman off so early, but we are taking time up from the debate. I did not admonish him for showing the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth); I admonished him for waving documents in the Chamber, which is not to be encouraged.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss climate change and to do so in the context of the Lisbon treaty. The treaty is important, as is the fact that climate change is mentioned in the treaty and has been institutionalised. The amalgamation of existing treaties and of existing and new wording on sustainable development, energy and waste is crucial if we are to deal effectively with climate change.
I welcome some of the comments made by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), particularly those about the role of the EU. The environment is one of the issues on which the EU has enjoyed particular success. There is no doubt that EU regulations have driven huge improvements in water quality, waste water treatment and air quality. Without the influence of the EU, individual member states would never have taken those actions or would not have taken them to the same extent. There are Opposition Members who have sensible views on these matters and sensible comments to make, but it disappoints me that, because of its divisiveness, the subject of Europe seems to bring about some kind of paralysis in the Conservative party.
Europe is a power for good. Of course it is not perfect, and there is a need for change and for reform. The Lisbon treaty is an important step forward in that reform. I do not understand the Opposition amendment. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it does not make sense. Institutional reform is essential for delivery and for achieving effective outcomes. For example, the Lisbon treaty extends qualified majority voting. Generally speaking, an extension of QMV is in the interests of our country.
I spent many years in the Council of Ministers negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom, and in my experience the UK usually sat within a consensus in Europe, but with so many member states it is impossible to get 100 per cent. support. There will always be one or two countries that, for various reasons, have differences. An extension of qualified majority voting therefore makes absolute sense, and makes sense in the context of the environment.
In the same way, extending the democratic role of the European Parliament makes sense. I have always thought of the European Parliament as a weak institution. Giving it more democratic accountability and introducing more checks and balances over the Commission and the Executive are desirable outcomes of the treaty. That is why it is a mistake to say that institutional reform does not make sense in this area.
I endorse the sensible comments made by the Secretary of State about the leadership of the European Union. I attended the United Nations forum on the climate change convention at Buenos Aires. If not for the European Union, Buenos Aires would have been an utter failure. The EU managed to salvage a useful outcome from that meeting. I attended the crucial Montreal meeting. There is no doubt that the leadership given by the EU—under the UK presidency, incidentally—gave impetus to a positive outcome. As my right hon. Friend said, at the recent Bali meeting the EU played a crucial role in achieving a positive outcome by moving forward on a post-2020 framework.
Yes, I accept that, although the United Kingdom played an important role in those negotiations. Nevertheless, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the EU is a powerful influence in such international negotiations. That is why we should harness the EU as a positive force. It does no good to send the signals that we are getting from the debate, such as that including climate change in a new treaty is not important. We should support progressive change in the EU and harness the EU as a force for good and for change, which it can be.
I recognise the argument about whether changes are needed. I freely concede that the first phase of the European emissions trading scheme has not been the success that it should be because of over-allocation and, mainly, of giving in to the lobbying of vested interests by member states. Having said that, I should point out that the scheme has brought together 27 countries in the only worldwide trading scheme of its kind and I believe that it will form the nucleus of future carbon trading. Putting it in place has been a tremendous success. Like the hon. Member for East Surrey, I believe that it can be reformed in due course.
As I mentioned briefly in my intervention, it is important that the issue is mentioned in the context of institutional change under the Lisbon treaty. There must be changes in the EU’s focus and we must move from the position in which half the EU budget is spent on agricultural subsidies. That does not make any sense—it is a negative influence on world trade and a distortion for many agrarian economies internationally. We should be progressively moving from those subsidies and put the funding into more productive areas, such as agri-environment programmes and the promotion of adaptation and of measures to combat climate change. We need such reforms, and that is why such issues need to be mentioned in a new treaty such as the Lisbon treaty.
Biofuel targets have had a potentially perverse outcome, and I recognise what the hon. Member for East Surrey said about that. Biofuels have an important role to play, but not enough thought has been given to the environmental consequences of targets within the EU. It is certainly inexcusable to push ahead without a proper certification mechanism.
I have just come back from the global legislators forum in Brasilia, where I was joined by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members of this House. There was a very good agreement with the Brazilians on a biofuels policy based on certification and sustainable development. I will write to the Secretary of State about the outcome of the conference—there were discussions about biofuels and forestry, and proposals on a post-2012 framework that he might find interesting. It was good to bring together 80 legislators from the G8 plus 5 countries, African countries that export timber, and Bangladesh, and to get that level of agreement. It was also good to listen to President Lula’s thoughts on the issues.
This welcome debate is about an important issue. The Government position of emphasising climate change in the Lisbon treaty is absolutely right. As the NGOs have rightly said, the treaty provides many benefits. We should have a more positive approach to it, rather than the negative, confusing and wrong signals that have come from the Opposition.
Order. I am sure that the whole House realises that the eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches is now in operation.
It is a particular pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who has distinguished ministerial experience of these issues; I welcome the benefit that his contribution brought to the debate.
Some say that these many days of European debates are a little like “Groundhog Day”, given that the same things are repeated over and again. I have attended the debates regularly, and I like to be a keen observer. I have noticed that there are nuanced differences in the spirit of the debate on the different days; some subjects are a little controversial, but others are discussed in a more consensual tone. I had high hopes that today’s debate on climate change might err more towards consensus and have more agreement than we have managed so far.
The Conservative Back-Bench amendment is clearly ridiculous: to argue that it would be better to remove references to climate change in the treaty does not stack up, and I am pleased that the Conservative Front-Bench team has said that it will not support it. However, the notion that action is more important than words is right, although it is not the only thing—political priorities also send an important signal, so having the references in the treaty is welcome.
The Conservatives must recognise the importance of Europe in tackling climate change. They have anti-European sentiments, but must recognise that they cannot have it both ways.
“I think from the point of view of the Conservative party, pursuing the green line is all talk and no action”—
those are not my words, but those of the former chair of the European Parliament environment committee, the Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson.
Successive treaties have developed EU environmental power—and rightly so, as the global environmental challenges that we face clearly require international co-operation. It is therefore very welcome that climate change will be explicitly listed in article 174, and that the environmental objectives will now include
“promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.”
The House has already had the opportunity to discuss the energy policy changes in the Lisbon treaty, but it is worth reiterating that there are obviously clear advantages for tackling climate change in the new objective for European energy policy in article 176A: to
“promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy”.
Article 188R, the solidarity clause, also has an impact on climate change. It states that
“The Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster.”
The issue of a terrorist attack may have been covered on a different day. However, with particular reference to climate change, scientists tell us that our best realistic hope is for a 2o rise in temperatures; we can expect an increasing frequency of natural disasters, so the solidarity clause is also welcome.
As has been mentioned, the EU will be able to play an important role in adaptation; as the science gets better, we will be able to work out on which areas that 2o rise will have the biggest impact and where we need to take action.
I am delighted to hear the hon. Lady talk about adaptation, which is not discussed enough in the House. Is she, like me, surprised and saddened that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) never mentioned it in the 30 minutes during which he was on his feet?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We need to consider climate change in the context of both mitigation and adaptation, because the science tells us that a level of climate change is now inevitable. Mitigating that and minimising it as much as possible is obviously important, but many communities, particularly coastal ones—we are on an island—have to bear the impacts.
To back up the hon. Lady’s point, I should say that it is not often understood that we have already reached 0.7 of those 2o. We are already down the track that far, so she is absolutely right.
Indeed. The confirmation in article 2C of the environment as a shared competence is also welcome. Of course the UK must preserve its right to act on environmental matters, but we also need EU-wide action—the environment is exactly the kind of issue that should be a shared competence.
Like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), I praise the hon. Lady for raising the issue of adaptation. She is aware that funding for adaptation in the developing world is currently about £37 million a year from the clean development mechanism. However, the estimates just for the developing world are 1,000 times that—between £30 billion and £60 billion a year is required for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world to be protected against climate change, which is already inevitable. The treaty may make a difference—who knows? If it is to do so, we need the Secretary of State and other Ministers to give increased priority to adaptation and allocate funds appropriately.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point—and a good case for a stronger Europe that is able to take action on that issue.
The European Union emissions trading scheme is the single most important development in tackling climate change for the UK and Europe; arguably, it is a pioneer for the rest of the world. Emissions trading will play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions internationally. Phase 1 has shown how a scheme can be successfully set up and administered, and have very high compliance rates, but it has not shown how we can use it to cut carbon emissions. However, the scheme is a step in the right direction and there are encouraging signs that we are learning from the over-generous allocations in phase 1, which were raised by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth).
I am optimistic that phase 2 can make more of a contribution to emissions cuts, although it is regrettable that that phase has a maximum of 10 per cent. auctioning, given that we all know that auctioning is far more economically efficient. It is even more regrettable that the UK will get up to only 7 per cent. auctioning. I urge the Secretary of State and Ministers to consider extending the auctioning to 100 per cent., particularly as we approach phase 3. That would give us the best possible tools and enable us to make the scheme effective and pass the price signals on.
We have already heard about the shortcomings of the ETS and the exclusion of aviation and shipping, although it is welcome that the Government at least recognise that that needs to be pursued. We should, as a House, recognise the success of the scheme so far and the fact that it is being emulated in many other parts of the world, such as California. The Environmental Audit Committee, several members of which are here in the Chamber, recently went on a trip to Australia, where we were told that the Australians are setting up an emissions trading scheme using the EU scheme as a model and learning from our mistakes. We were also able to enlighten them somewhat on the changes that we would have made. Their scheme goes further in terms of including transport, so I hope that countries will be able to learn from each other on this. It is particularly pleasing that Australia’s decade of climate change denial has come to an end with the electors deciding to elect Kevin Rudd. Interestingly, that was perhaps one of the first elections where the issue of climate change was so pivotal in deciding the result—that may be a sign of things to come. They are having their own mini-Stern report, the Garnaut report, which will, I hope, help them to catch up on lost time.
The EU has had many environmental successes, and I will touch on a few of them; others have already been mentioned. The landfill directive, with its escalating penalties for sending too much waste to landfill, is driving up recycling rates across the UK, and they have significantly increased in the past few years. Some of the proceeds from that go into funding community groups, including some in my constituency that have been lucky enough to receive grants. It was about time that we learned from our continental neighbours, many of whom have been recycling huge amounts more than us for decades—but better late than never, and we still have a long way to go. The interestingly named WEEE—waste electrical and electronic equipment—directive has been helping to encourage more recycling and safe disposal of electrical goods. There is the EU energy label, with the A to G ratings on white goods, which has been very successful in making it easier for consumers to know, when buying appliances, which ones will cost them dear in their energy bills.
Indeed—I was just coming to the directive on vehicle emissions, which phases out and bans leaded petrol and sets standards for acceptable emissions, coupled with labelling for vehicles on energy use so that when people are buying a car they can see exactly how much it will cost them to run.
There would certainly be a case for that in some parts of Scotland during the winter months, but I suspect that we may be better off encouraging drivers to use their common sense about when it is required.
Those changes have not only enabled consumers to make different decisions about what to buy but are encouraging manufacturers to make different decisions about the types of cars that they want to sell. There has also been an international lead from the EU. As the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said, Kyoto might not have been ratified without EU pressure on various other countries, particularly Russia. The EU was a key player at the recent Bali conference, and while it was disappointing not to get carbon reduction targets agreed, we did at least secure, in principle, international agreements to cuts, and the details will be worked out following further negotiations towards Copenhagen in 2009.
I do not have a crystal ball, but I certainly believe that it is important that climate change is listed explicitly as one of the EU’s priorities. Given the choice between having it listed or not, I know which I would prefer. When we look at what the EU was set up to do, peace and security was obviously a key driver in the initial post-war period, but now, increasingly, climate change must be one of the top priorities, and it would be bizarre for it not to be listed in the new treaty.
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I really do want to make progress, because many other hon. Members want to speak.
We welcomed the setting of various targets at the March 2007 European summit—the 20 per cent. energy efficiency target, the target on a 20 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, and the target on 20 per cent. of energy coming from renewable sources. However, we need to push to increase those, and the EU has said that it is keen to do so—to 30 per cent., if international partners do likewise. Given that the EU went to Bali and argued for a cut of 25 to 40 per cent. by 2020, while we have agreed only to 20 per cent. ourselves, we need to recognise the urgency of the issue, particularly if, as the science is now telling us, 60 per cent. by 2050 may not be enough and we may have to go up to 80 per cent. If so, 20 per cent. by 2020 seems a little unambitious, and it will lead to much more painful cuts and reductions in the years from 2020 to 2050.
Another disappointment regarding the target on 20 per cent. of energy coming from renewable sources was that when Tony Blair signed up to it in March 2007, he said that Britain should aspire to meet the target by 2020, but the Government have now backtracked to 15 per cent. Britain has huge renewable resources at its disposal, with the potential offered by wind and marine energy through tidal and wave power. We must recognise the urgency of investing in research and development to realise that potential and be far more ambitious. If Britain wants to be a leader in this area, we should not lag behind our European partners, with them achieving more than 20 per cent. and us achieving less than 20 per cent.
However, Europe does not always get it right, and in a few areas we should be pushing it to do much better. One issue, which I have raised previously with the Secretary of State and in a ten-minute Bill, is excessive packaging, which leads to UK consumers paying three times over for the ridiculous amount of packaging that surrounds the stuff that we buy. They not only pay for it at the checkout but through their council tax bills in sending it to landfill, and then they also pay the environmental cost of the gas that is given off and the changes made to our environment. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003—the EU directive that governs this—is completely toothless. Since its introduction, and that of its predecessor regulations nine years ago, there have been just four prosecutions. Trading standards officers complain that they have numerous problems with enforcement. When I raised this with the Secretary of State in the Environmental Audit Committee, he said that the environment directorate-general was keen to look at reviewing it. I have written to the directorate for further information, but so far there has been no response. I wonder whether the Secretary of State might have more luck and be able to help me with more information on the issue.
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. Plastic bags can indeed be a scourge in terms of litter and the effect on marine life. We need to exercise a little caution, because research studies from other countries where they have been banned or taxed show that that has led to unforeseen consequences. However, when I go shopping I take reusable bags whenever I can, and I urge other Members to do the same.
Another aspect that is disappointing from a European perspective is biofuels. The EU has a target of 10 per cent. by 2020, and in the UK it is 5 per cent. by 2010. This is a very expensive policy, and it has been called into question by a growing body of academics and organisations, not least the Royal Society, the United Nations, the OECD, Professor King—the Government’s own adviser—and, recently, the Environmental Audit Committee. Sustainability standards are much discussed, but they are not yet in place. The evidence that we received on the Environmental Audit Committee suggested that it may be impossible to create robust sustainability standards that would truly capture the problem of land use change and deforestation. The Government have been pretty dogmatic in their line that pursuing biofuels is the right way forward. Indeed, in Transport questions on 22 January, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), told me that
“we are convinced that that is the right way to proceed.”—[Official Report, 22 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 1352.]
I am nothing if not persistent, so I raised the issue again at business questions last Thursday morning, at Hansard column 527. I was pleased to see that on Thursday afternoon at 2.15 pm, the Department for Transport issued a press release saying that the Secretary of State was initiating a review of the indirect impact of biofuels. It is not often, as a Member in this place, that one has such an immediate impact on Government policy. I am delighted that the Government now accept that there may be issues with biofuels and that when the facts change it is fair enough for them to change their mind. I hope that it will be a thorough review that, if necessary, leads to the UK changing its policy and arguing for changes in Brussels.
I appreciate what the hon. Lady is saying, but does she not agree that a distinction has to be made between first generation biofuels, which were very dodgy with regard to sustainability, and second generation biofuels, which may come from the wood industry and so forth? There is a possibility of making something out of second generation biofuels.
That is true, but they are not currently commercially viable. It is important to look at the differences between biofuels. For example, using waste oils, which otherwise would just be thrown away, to create fuel seems sensible. However, I have a problem with targets that can hasten the development of biofuels that do not meet such robust environmental standards. There may be interesting research to be done on second generation biofuels, but we are not there yet.
I agree with the hon. Lady’s line on biofuels. When talking about some sort of sustainability scheme, does she agree that there is a real problem with displacement? We might end up with a scheme where sustainable certification is granted for a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, for example, that has transferred to producing renewable fuels, but then develops a new palm oil for other uses that ends up taking up rain forest. Sustainability is a hugely difficult issue.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We took a lot of evidence on the Select Committee about the importance of sustainability standards, and some of our witnesses were quite optimistic about that issue, but I remember vividly asking a question about it. We said, “If there is a particular field or plot of land that is currently designated as agricultural land, what is to stop them clearing a bit of forest to put food production there, then using the land that was used for food production for the biofuels, in order to mask what they had done?” We could not get an answer from any witness on how to develop a standard that would properly take that problem into account. I found that somewhat depressing, but perhaps it is the reality of the situation.
I am conscious that many other hon. Members want to speak, so I say in conclusion that the European approach to climate change is not perfect. We can and we must work to improve it. We must also, however, recognise its genuine achievements. Europe is taking a global lead on this issue. I would like to quote the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd), who is in the Chamber. He said that “getting Europe to work on climate change would be helping the EU redefine its relevance to a new generation.” I totally agree with that. This is the biggest challenge that we face. It is in all of our interests to work across Europe and internationally, to rise to meet this challenge.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson). I say to her and to the House that many distinguished people from the Environmental Audit Committee are speaking with great distinction in the House today, especially on environmental issues. It is great to see so many past and present members. During the past 10 years, that Committee has played a key role in pushing forward the environmental debate.
One former member of the Environmental Audit Committee spoke for the Opposition—the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), and I agreed with much of what he said. He talked, however, about the need for action; the Conservatives can dream up all the action that they want, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, if we do not have the institutional framework, the mechanisms, the procedures or a way of being able to co-ordinate matters to get a joined-up approach, we will not get the action that is needed. That is why the key word—never mind the six words we are looking at today concerning climate change—in the opening remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was leadership. It is critical to use the debate to show how the leadership that the Government have shown in Europe, at so many international conferences and in so many treaties is what we need to take the issue forward.
I have received, as have many other hon. Members, a great deal of correspondence on the amendments that the treaty of Lisbon makes to the treaty on the European Union. I shall use the brief time available to set out why it is so important that we ratify the treaty and why the misinformed view that we are simply giving away power to Europe does not add up when it comes to the pressing need to secure urgently an international climate change regime.
My starting point is article 174 of the treaty on the European Union, which states:
“Community policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the following objectives: preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment; protecting human health”
and the fourth indent will be amended to read
“promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular, combating climate change.”
That is the core—the heart of the matter. Moreover, article 174.4 already establishes a duty for members to co-operate with the wider international community in combating climate change. It states:
“the Community and the Member States shall cooperate with third countries and with the competent international organizations.”
I believe that that is essential in combating climate change, which is fundamentally an international issue.
There is no more important challenge facing the international community and the people whom we represent than climate change. It faces people everywhere, from those who have written to me asking us to go further than the 60 per cent. target in the Climate Change Bill—I was pleased to hear the leadership shown by the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions last week, when he said that the new climate change commission will be asked to see how we might move towards an 80 per cent. target—to the people in China whom members of the Environmental Audit Committee met, including the ambassador on climate change. As we arrived, we experienced extreme temperatures and climate change—the worst snowstorms that that country has experienced. It faces the people of Australia, and I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), who was in the Australian Parliament only last week. The new Government of Kevin Rudd was elected on the back of the climate change election commitment that he gave.
The challenge faces people in developing countries all around the world. Only today we read in the press that they face shortages of grain. We need to have regard to the United Nations and other agencies that recognise that the stiff increase in grain prices is linked to extreme weather conditions, which lead to devastating effects such as flooding and drought. People who are experiencing that desperately want policies now. They want policies that will urgently reduce carbon emissions, which means that we can tackle climate change only by being at the heart of Europe. The new arrangements will assist us in that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe referred to the change in voting on climate change matters and environmental legislation from unanimity to qualified majority voting. I thought that he made that point very well. With the expansion of the European Union we have to change the way in which we administer matters and do business. We need the institutional framework that Conservative Members do not seem to want this Parliament and this Government to have.
I welcome the new parliamentary role for MPs announced this week by my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House. Having looked closely at the new arrangements, I have found that there will be greater transparency of scrutiny and increased expertise made available in European Committees, through the inclusion of members of the European Scrutiny Committee and of relevant Select Committees. Those changes to parliamentary procedure will allow us better to scrutinise and contribute to what Ministers are doing to take environmental policies forward in Europe. We have to have checks and balances, and this House has to find a better way of giving its views so that Ministers going to Europe do so on the basis of taking into account Members’ views. That will give us the more effective framework that is so urgently needed.
Many of those who have spoken have listed at great length the various strategic policy issues that have already been advanced in Europe, but which desperately need to be increased much more quickly. I agree about all of those, but want briefly to touch on the work of the Oxford Research Group, which has urged us to look into ways of making foreign and global security policy into a more sustainable policy. The issue of foreign policy is at the heart of Europe, too.
Finally, I should like to end by referring to Mr. Lester Brown from the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, who will be in Westminster next week. Last year he published a book—
Order. The hon. Lady has had her eight minutes.
All I can say is well done Mr. Lester Brown. I hope that the meeting is successful, as the issue is important.
I accept that the European Union has done many important things that have benefited our world—it has made the climate better and our environment better—but I want to concentrate on where Europe has performed extremely badly, which is in agriculture, farming and the lamentably slow process of common agricultural policy reform. In this time of changing climate, it is important that Europe should change and modernise its agriculture. As we have seen, in recent decades Europe was all about surpluses, but now the boot is on the other foot and we are talking about shortages. The hon. Lady talked about the rising price of grain. It is right that Europe should produce more food now, not only for its own security, but so that it does not import food that is needed elsewhere—being a collection of rich nations, we can outbid the poorer nations.
I cannot allow my hon. Friend to get away with saying that Europe has helped to clean up the environment, because it simply has not. In fact, Europe has continued to increase carbon emissions over the years and is still doing so. That is a great problem. We hear a lot of rhetoric from Europe, but we see no action.
I disagree with my hon. Friend on that. I appreciate that Europe is not perfect, but it has made some substantial contributions towards improving the environment.
The issue now is food shortage. We have seen a surge in food prices. There is now talk of the UN World Food Programme having to be cut back because of rising prices and a possibility of introducing rationing, which I understand Egypt and Pakistan have done. Only yesterday the price of palm oil increased by about 6 per cent., while wheat and soya prices have risen to record highs on the world market in recent weeks.
That has been substantially driven by the changing climate. One of the reasons why the price of oil increased so much was the cold winter in China, which virtually wiped out the Chinese rape seed crop. That means that China has been in the market buying oil. The same applies with the drought in Australia, which has lasted for many years, and the drought in sub-Saharan Africa. We have climate change in this country, too. My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) now has bluetongue in his constituency, which has spread up from southern Europe and is causing a problem for our farmers.
I quite agree that biofuels will prove totally unsustainable unless there is substantial reform of the way the schemes operate. Interestingly, 60 per cent. of Europe’s vegetable oil—a scarce world commodity—now goes into biofuels. In the United States the figure is 20 per cent. People talk about biofuels being good for the environment, but there is obviously a fuel security issue in the United States. It seems nonsensical that issues such as fuel security should come at the expense of poor people throughout the world.
That issue does not matter in Europe, where people spend about 10 per cent. of their income on food. However, the figure is 60 per cent. for people in sub-Saharan Africa, for whom a surge in prices would be catastrophic. We have had surges before. What normally happens is that the market eventually catches up. This time, however, I suspect that the gap will be quite considerable, because the effect of climate change—it degrades agricultural land, which means less land being used for food production—will be to make any surge in food prices more serious.
What should Europe do about that? It needs to increase its food production sensibly. First, Europe could deregulate more. Secondly, it could continue to—
The Secretary of State shakes his head, but Europe could indeed deregulate more. Secondly, it should proceed as rapidly as possible to reform the common agricultural policy, whose absorption of half the European Union’s budget is obscene. Thirdly, and perhaps more controversially, it is about time that the nations of Europe embraced genetically modified crops, which are producing a tremendous revolution in agriculture throughout the world. GM crops—not least drought-resistant wheat—are capable of meeting some of the problems that climate change has thrown up.
I am following the hon. Gentleman’s thoughtful comments with great interest and I happen to agree with him about GM crops. However, although a great deal more still needs to be done to reform the CAP and although its overall budget needs to be reduced, does he recognise that there has already been significant reform, so that much less of its budget is now spent on those outrageous subsidies to food production and more goes into direct support for farmers to maintain the local environment?
I accept what the right hon. Lady says. She was very much involved in that process, which was certainly a step forward. In my mind, however, the CAP budget is still too high. We need to move much closer to a proper market system, which, with prices at the level that they have now reached, is even more possible.
I was singing the praises of GM crops. They have considerable potential, but have become unpopular with consumers in this country, who have been scared by the talk of Frankenstein food, and so on, and are hugely worried about them. The new generation of genetically modified organisms, as they are actually called, has moved into areas that will enable us to make food healthier, which is enormously important. We can now produce oil that does not form trans fats when cooked, which is better for health. For those who are interested in carbon sinks, a eucalyptus tree has been developed in Australia that will absorb three times as much carbon dioxide as an ordinary tree.
The new scientific approaches should therefore not be rejected. Europe should not have a luddite attitude towards them. If we adopt the new science, we will go some way towards making a contribution to beating the challenge of climate change.
The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) would not give way to me, but she made an excellent speech and it was a pleasure to listen to it.
The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) made some interesting comments about the link between climate change and agriculture. I fully agree with him, but he might have mentioned adaptation and the work that we can do through land management to protect against floods and severe weather changes, for example. I also found what he said about genetically modified organisms very interesting.
However, I should point out to the hon. Gentleman—he almost gave us credit for this—that it was under a Labour Government that this country achieved the one and only agreement to change the common agricultural policy. Since this debate is about climate change, I hope that he would accept that our change moved things in the right direction, both by decoupling public payments to farmers from production of goods and through voluntary modulation, providing even more money for farmers involved in agri-environmental works. So there are some bright points in Europe on climate change, through a Labour Government, in respect of farming and land management.
Let me come back to the words in the treaties. In debating climate change, three sections are particularly relevant and significant. The first is measures for energy efficiency and renewable energy. As was remarked earlier, most of the provisions are a consolidation of the existing text. Secondly, there is wording on combating climate change, which is plainly new. It seems to me bizarre to argue that it is irrelevant to move from saying nothing about climate change to talking about promoting the combat of it. That is very significant. Before I come to the third section, let me say that, taking those two sections together, the treaty texts underpinning the EU bring us up to speed with the agreement that the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire mentioned—the agreement to have 20 per cent. of energy from renewable sources and a 20 per cent. cut in carbon emissions by 2020. In a sense, that shows the two working together: action and the necessary underpinning words to go with it.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about words and rhetoric, and he will recall the common fisheries policy objective and rhetoric were about conserving fish stocks, but it presided over the decimation and historic destruction of our fish stocks, which shows that we cannot trust pure rhetoric from Europe. Carbon emissions in Europe, for instance, are growing day on day.
I would advise the hon. Gentleman not to listen to my or anyone else’s rhetoric, but to look at the words plus the action and see how they work together.
The third part of the treaty text that I want to mention is the addition of sustainable development to the key objectives of the EU, which Members can now find in article 3. I still occasionally hear objections to the whole idea of the EU from one or two constituents who hark back to when we joined it. They say that Edward Heath told them that we were joining only a European Economic Community. In adding the words “sustainable development” after the reference to an “internal market” in the key objectives, there is a maturing of the EU into something that recognises the importance of sustainable development. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that amounts to a recognition that it is essential to balance economic, environmental and social considerations to get the right outcome in using the world’s resources in a sustainable way so that we do not take out more than the earth can afford. To my mind, that third example of new wording is the most significant of the three when we are talking about tackling climate change in future.
Let me provide some examples of where sustainable development applies. Again, the Secretary of State referred earlier to the UK’s leadership in Europe in the past. We have had the confidence to lead because we have had such backing behind us. The first example was the negotiation of the Kyoto agreement and the acceptance of legally binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In the end, when we divided out the EU share of those emissions, we took more than the overall 8 per cent. target—and we are on target virtually to double our savings beyond our legally binding target.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the decision to have an EU system whereby those who could do more would do so, in order that those who could not do more could do less, was taken under the last Conservative Government? The idea that the best way forward is that those who can should help those who cannot was a historic decision in the EU.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and that is a good example of social justice in action. I am slightly disappointed, in reflecting on the target to meet 20 per cent. of our energy needs from renewable sources, that the UK share is less than 20 per cent, so I would agree with him about how these matters are divided up. On the occasion that he mentioned, they were divided up as he described, and in the 2020 targets, they are beginning to be divided up in the same way. The principle still applies.
Another important example of UK leadership with EU backing was emissions trading. As the Secretary of State rightly said, this country established the first emissions trading scheme in the world. I remember the legislation that the House passed in order to set up the scheme, which has now become an EU-wide emissions trading scheme. It is true that there will always be difficulties in setting up a brand new scheme, and they have been adverted to in respect of phase 1 of the ETS earlier in the debate, but we are now approaching the second phase for 2008 to 2012.
We appear to have learned some lessons from our experience of the first phase: caps are getting tighter and auctioning is being used as a way of distributing permits, but we have not yet seen those developments reflected in a higher carbon price going forward. By the time we get to phase 3, however, I expect that there will be very tight caps, lots of auctioning and, with that, a new challenge to consider. As people start to pay their auction prices to national Governments for their permits and as they start to pay penalties for breaching the permitted amount of emissions, those national Governments are going to receive pretty huge sums of money.
I wanted to intervene earlier in the speech of the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire when she referred to the positive examples of land use, landfill and tax credits for Community benefits. She took one intervention in which reference was made to the enormous cost of helping developing countries to cope with adaptation, to which I would add the enormous cost of adapting to low carbon economies and of new technologies. We are talking about huge sums of money. The text in front of us says that we are going to commit to promote the tackling of climate change, so surely those huge sums will be applied in accordance with that text, will they not? There we see the great significance of the change in the wording that we are debating today. I urge hon. Members to accept that it is a hugely significant change that will make a great difference to the world in future.
I met representatives of west midlands manufacturing businesses yesterday and we discussed the pressures of the carbon price in the EU as providing one more push to manufacturers in developed European countries to move to less developed countries where the costs are cheaper. They told MPs that we should beware of adding another push factor to the offshoring of hard-pressed businesses in this country. That is a good antidote for people who stress the urgent need to deal with environmental factors because it reminds us that sustainable development has to be viewed as a balance between three different limbs—social and economic factors as well environmental. We need to keep the three in balance.
Conversely, across the EU, the low-carbon economy is helped and driven by emissions trading mechanisms, among others. There are opportunities, as the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) mentioned, for European and British businesses to take advantage of being at the forefront of new technologies that will help the whole world to achieve a low-carbon economy. In energy efficiency, for example, condensing boilers are important and in some forms of transportation there are new ways of powering vehicles. When it comes to marine renewables, as the hon. Gentleman said, the UK is uniquely well placed within the EU to be at the forefront of such developments. Finally, as we look forward to developing those business opportunities, it is important to remember that we need intelligent regulation, not no regulation of the markets.
I have generally welcomed the treaty of Lisbon because it brings together in a sensible form a system that will enable us to do the things in the EU that we need to do. Clearly, climate change is one of the most central matters. Let me remind my colleagues who are concerned about the degree of unimportance of these few words of the importance that they often place on a number of other single sentences in the Lisbon treaty and how much time they take explaining how dangerous they are. I have had to spend quite a lot of time explaining why they are not as dangerous as that.
We cannot dismiss what is in the treaty as merely a few words, because what they say is that, at the heart of the activities of the European Union is the battle against climate change. We cannot do most of the things that we want to do effectively except on the basis of the world’s largest trading organisation. There is no doubt, as The Wall Street Journal recently said, that Europe is setting the standards that the United States and others have to follow. Within the European Union, we can influence that and take a serious leadership role. I believe that that is what we should be doing. The idea that we can deal with the issues of the 27 member states by having a rotating presidency or that we do not have a system whereby we can proceed institutionally is unlikely.
We depend on the European Union as a whole for a range of changes.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the very significant achievements that he made as a Secretary of State in this field. He laid the foundations for many of the things that we have heard about. However, to add a slight rider to that, I do not remember that he found the absence of a permanent presidency to be an insuperable obstacle for all that he wanted to achieve.
We had only 15 members at the time. We now have 27. That is why the change has to take place. However, I thank my hon. Friend for his kindness and remind the House that he was one of the Ministers who did those things with me.
I discovered one time as Minister that the worst place for air quality in Britain on one particularly bad day was in Sibton in my constituency, which is a “blink and you miss it” village. The reason was that half the air pollution in Britain is blown over from the rest of Europe, and we export half of that which we produce. If we want to do anything about air quality, we have to do it across the whole of Europe. We cannot clean up our beaches if the Elbe and the Rhine are pouring filth into the North sea. We have to do such things together, and we should do so with pleasure and enthusiasm, rather than in this miserable way of always finding a reason why we do not like working with our nearest and dearest. Talking about global co-operation when we cannot get on effectively with our neighbours is nonsense.
The United Kingdom Independence party is not only entirely wrong on the European Union, but has an entirely non-existent environmental policy, because it is not possible to have an anti-European position and have any kind of environmental policy. However, that does lead us to action. The Government’s unwillingness to debate a range of things that we ought to have debated has not been helpful to those of us who have a different view of the treaty of Lisbon. Not being able to discuss some of the issues that we should have discussed has done a great deal of harm. It is a symbol of the fact that the Government do not trust Parliament to debate properly.
I want to press the Government on a series of actions that they should take. It was a disgrace that they voted against Austria and Denmark when the abolition of hydrofluorocarbons was going to be timetabled. It was a disgrace that they allowed the Home Office and the so-called Ministry of Justice to be rebuilt in the one case and built in the other, with HFCs as the mechanism for dealing with air conditioning. It was also a disgrace because they promised that they would not do that. The Government must set an example to the rest of industry by the way in which they procure—by what they do on the Government side. They can do that only if they take other policies seriously.
I suppose one should not condone the arrival of large banners on this House, but I have huge sympathy for those who say that it is a peculiar environmental policy that suggests that, at the same time as dealing with climate change, we should have another runway at Stansted and at Heathrow. It is difficult to argue the case for being an environmental leader if we go on doing that. We have to restrict the growth of airports and get a sensible policy towards the flights that use them.
The Government have been tardy on the question of carbon capture. If ever there were an issue that is manifestly obvious, it is that we need a system of carbon capture. Without it, the Chinese economy will not be able to deal with the use of its coal and the like. If we want to export that technology, we have to get it. The Government have done two foolish things. One was to walk out of the deal with BP; the other was to insist that the only kind of carbon capture that they will have is a particular technology that they have decided is the better one. This Government’s record on deciding technological choices is not very good. I am sorry that they have not seen fit to deal with that directly. Kingsnorth is the opportunity for the Government to declare their hand effectively.
Why on earth have the Government held up the introduction of smart metering when we have the legislative vehicle to do that and Ofgem has sought to have it? It is a disgrace. We could do that in eight years and it would do more to deal with climate change and the use of energy than any other single reasonable proposal. Why have the Government failed to do that?
Those concerns lead me to the question of social justice. I agree that there is no possibility of dealing with the issues without a better sense of social justice. Therefore, why have the Government not changed the rules under which Ofwat can deal with metering? I declare an interest: I am chairman of a water company. I have the right to impose metering, but I have refused to do it because I cannot at the same time have a rising tariff system which would enable the poor not to suffer under such an imposition. The Government have not changed Ofgem, Ofwat or any of the other regulators to take all that into account.
That reminds us that most of the real advances in the environment have been at the behest of the European Union. I am not one of those who say that we go to Europe; rather, I say that we are in Europe, and in Europe we make the decisions around the European table. I have to say, however, that as Secretary of State for the Environment for four years, I could not have done most of the things that I did without the water directives, packaging directives and a range of other things in which we played an active part. I want the Government to be better at playing that part.
Why are the Government not convening a meeting of the European Union to deal with shipping in the busy shipping lanes to reduce the amount of emissions in the North sea and channel, so that we can make a start on the problem of shipping and bunker fuel? Why have they not taken the lead to get the European Union as a whole to have a sensible measurement of biofuels? We have done the work here, but the Government will not use it even for their measurements of biofuels. I want to know why the Government are not putting into operation feed-in tariffs. They could have easily learned how to do that from Germany, but they are still fighting for an unacceptable out-of-date mechanism, which we need to replace.
In supporting the treaty of Lisbon and believing that it will do much to concentrate people’s minds on the battle against climate change, I say to the Government that they cannot come to the House without explaining why they have not been more vibrant and enthusiastic. They should have listened less to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and a bit more to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to do their job.
After listening to that splendid eulogy on behalf of Europe, much of which I agree with, I want to take a different line, while recognising that Europe is, as the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said, absolutely central to our purpose. It is ridiculous to have any other view.
The problem for the EU in regard to climate change is not that there is a need for a new constitution or amended treaties—although I welcome the warm words, albeit only six of them, in the Lisbon treaty, because they are worth having—but that it does not yet have a policy on climate change that is working. The policy is built on the EU emissions trading scheme, which has so far clearly been a failure. The EU policy is also based on a regulation of car emissions that so far has been voluntary and therefore ineffective. The policy excludes aircraft from any regulatory scheme, which means that airline emissions continue to rise extremely fast. Finally, EU member states have a burden-sharing arrangement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but only three of the EU 15 countries are on track to meet their targets by 2010.
The key EU policy has clearly been the emissions trading scheme. In phase 1, more permits to pollute have been printed than there is pollution. As a result, emissions across the EU from installations covered by the ETS have actually risen by nearly 1 per cent. The lesson has been learned, of course, that the real problem has been over-allocation during phase 1. However, just as one loophole is beginning to be closed—and I am afraid that phase 2 is doing far too little to close it when it comes to the level of auctioning—another, even larger loophole has opened up.
In phase 2, member states will be permitted to import external Kyoto credits from developing countries in order to meet their carbon reduction targets. That might be acceptable if the credits reflected actual emission cuts, but many of them are generated from projects in developing countries that would have gone ahead anyway. In other words, there is no additionality, and the result will be that those credits will increase pollution.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I assure him that I shall make a different point. Does he agree that the EU emissions trading scheme is in fact a covert industrial subsidy, given that carbon emissions in Europe are actually rising? Also, France will take over the European presidency at the beginning of July. Does he expect France to take up the targets for environmental and climate change, or does he share my anxiety that it will simply push the European defence policy?
We should not underestimate President Sarkozy’s commitment in respect of climate change. In fact, he has suggested the extraordinarily radical policy that tariff constraints should be used against countries—most notably the US, of course—that refuse to admit the need to tackle climate change. As far as I know, that policy is far more radical than anything adopted by any other country around the world.
My right hon. Friend is making exactly my point: regardless of what we think of President Sarkozy’s social policies, or of some of his economic policies, there is no doubt that he has been very up front indeed about his commitment to climate change policy. Given his recent personal difficulties, his opinion poll ratings of 38 per cent. are a record low for a French president. That means that he has to do something very quickly, and being positive on climate change could help in that respect.
I agree, but let us get back to the UK. The Government have admitted that they are allowing for—and indeed expecting—two thirds of the headline carbon emissions that they have announced as resulting from phase 2 in 2008-12 to occur outside the UK, and outside the EU as well. Worse, other member states have set even higher import quotas than we have, which means that they will be able to import more than enough to meet their requirements and then to sell the rest on to the UK, no doubt at a nice profit. The effect is that phase 2 of the ETS may well not lead to any reductions in emissions in the UK at all. I think I am right in saying that the Government agree with that forecast.
The ETS is the linchpin of the EU’s anti-climate change policy. For all its good intentions, I fear that it has been distorted into something of a massive scam. In phase 1, it is believed that the power generators made more than £2 billion in windfall profits in the UK alone. They achieved that by passing on the notional cost of carbon to consumers, even though they had been given permits for free.
In phase 2, it is quite likely that the Kyoto mechanisms will be swamped by a huge oversupply of permits that will lead again to very low carbon prices. The real secret is to ensure that the carbon price is set at a level that seriously affects industrial and individual action, but there is a real chance that that still will not happen in phase 2.
There is a great deal of talk in this country about whether our target for 2050 should be a reduction in carbon emissions not of 60 per cent. but of 80 per cent. I entirely agree with that proposition, although I believe that it partly misses the point. The real question is not whether we cut emissions by 60 or 80 per cent. way down the track in 2050, but whether we are going in the right direction now, and on a significant scale. Sadly, I believe that we are still going in the wrong direction.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change’s fourth assessment report said that global emissions would have to peak in 2015 if we are to restrict the rise in temperature to the 2° C limit. Does the right hon. Gentleman know of anything in EU policy making that reassures him that Europe is committed to ensuring that that is achieved?
I am certainly one of those who feel that time is exceedingly short. The report from Nicholas Stern made it clear that even opting for the more moderate target of keeping the concentration of carbon greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to 550 parts per million, as opposed to 450 ppm, could still lead to a likelihood of between 50 and 90 per cent. that climate change could run out of control. The situation is exceedingly dangerous, but I do not believe that any country in the world has really begun to take on the sort of drastic policies that are necessary to avert disaster.
However, I want to pay a tribute to DEFRA, and in particular to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is sitting on the Front Bench. His Department has made valiant efforts, but the real problem in Whitehall is that other Departments are pursuing policies that encourage climate change. The tripling of airport capacity and the huge expansion of Heathrow are two examples, but I could also cite the virtual absence of any controls in this country over vehicle emissions and the dropping of the requirement on the UK’s biggest companies to report annually on their plans to cut carbon emissions.
We have talked about giving a lead on climate change to the wider population by introducing household carbon allowances, but we have failed to do anything about it. We have a depressingly weak policy on promoting renewables, but perhaps the most extraordinary and perverse of all our failures is our continuing and relentless attempt to corner the remaining repositories of oil around the world, even in those areas where conditions are the most extreme. I am referring to Britain’s apparent attempt to annex one third of a million square miles of the sea bed off Antarctica, where mineral and oil deposits are expected to be found. Moreover, our attempt to exploit Canada’s Athabascan tar sands will produce a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Bill is fine, but it must be followed up by action in all other Departments that is consistent with its goals.
I am all in favour of our lecturing other countries at international gatherings about their need to reduce their carbon emissions, but why do we allow the Drax power station in Yorkshire to emit from a single chimney more CO2 than is emitted by 100 smaller countries around the world? Why are the Government poised to begin a new round of coal-fired power generation—the most polluting form of energy? The Kingsnorth plant in Kent was originally justified on the grounds that it would be a breakthrough demonstration of carbon capture and storage. I was prepared to support it, so why are the press reporting—I hope the reports are wrong—that the Government seem to be moving away from it?
Finally, it is clear that we need a fundamentally new set of policies to promote the use of renewables in this country if we are going to get anywhere near the EU target of having 15 per cent. of all forms of energy produced from renewables by 2020. The target means that the amount of electricity generated from renewables will have to rise from the present 4 per cent.—one of the lowest levels in Europe—to 35 or 40 per cent.—or one of the highest levels—within 12 years.
How are the Government going to be able to achieve that? There needs to be a massive change in our attitudes towards microgeneration. In addition, the low-carbon buildings programme must be given enough money to ensure that it does not run out in a matter of hours. We will also have to abandon and replace the renewables obligations, and in that I agree with the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform may like them, because they help the big operators, but we need to give renewables the same boost that they have been given in Germany and Spain. If we did that, we would achieve some real progress.