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Climate Change Bill

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 12 June 2008

10. What recent representations he has received on the provisions of the Climate Change Bill; and if he will make a statement. (210311)

This year, we have received approximately 50,000 representations from members of the public, stakeholders and others on the Climate Change Bill. Most representations are campaign based, offering support for the Bill and encouraging the Government to strengthen it.

I am grateful for that reply. The Government grabbed the headlines by stating that they would cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010. That is an interesting date, because there will probably have been a general election by then, and the Secretary of State will not be in post to be accountable on those figures. Therefore, could I ask him to give the House an update before 2010 on the progress on meeting those targets? Does he agree that it is not just a matter of having long-term objectives? To keep the Government accountable, it is appropriate to have interim targets as well.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman—despite the somewhat unkind premise of his question—that it is important to measure progress, but the 2010 target was always very ambitious. On the basis of current trends, it seems likely that we will achieve about a 16 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990. As he will know, however, the United Kingdom will be one of the few countries to meet the Kyoto commitment; indeed, we will probably almost double it.

As for interim targets, the hon. Gentleman will have heard what my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment had to say when he introduced the Climate Change Bill on Monday. I greatly regret that I could not be present on that occasion. We will set out an indicative range so that we can measure our progress year by year, bearing in mind that five-year budgets are sensible.

It has been well flagged up that the Climate Change Bill will include a clause relating to the banning or restricting of plastic bags. Before the Government embark on that route, if indeed they are planning to do so, will my right hon. Friend listen to representations from the packaging and film manufacturers? Having banned plastic bags, we do not want to turn to far more damaging materials, including imported materials such as jute and hemp.

Of course we will always listen to representations. We propose to take a power requiring those who issue single-use bags to charge for them. Let me be frank: environmental impact is an issue, but 13 billion of these things are distributed every year, and they are a symbol of a throwaway society. Public attitudes are changing. One big supermarket, Marks and Spencer, has recently reintroduced charges. We should not forget that 20 or 25 years ago most supermarkets charged for plastic bags. This is an important symbolic step. We hope that the industry will be able to demonstrate progress itself, but we will have that power, and if we do not see that progress we will use it.