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Climate Change

Volume 478: debated on Thursday 10 July 2008

Climate change will have a serious impact on the economy as well as on the planet. The Stern review found that the cost of inaction could be the equivalent of 20 per cent. of GDP. That is why we are working internationally and nationally to cut carbon emissions and why we welcome the steps forward made at the G8 summit.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware of my private Member’s Bill, which is designed to cut carbon emissions from Government buildings, and I thank my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary for her help with that Bill. What more does my right hon. Friend think can be done to improve the energy efficiency of the Government estate and what action can she take to achieve that?

My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to improve the energy efficiency not only of the Government estate but of buildings right across the country. Overall energy efficiency on the Government estate has gone up by about 20 per cent. in recent years, but we need to go a lot further. I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend’s Bill raises these issues, which she feels very strongly about. We want to keep talking to her about this, and my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary will write to her with further information. I think, too, that we should be considering how we build zero carbon offices and schools and how we can substantially cut carbon emissions from our public buildings in the longer term.

To what extent does the Treasury welcome the recent hike in oil prices as an incentive to encourage more environmentally friendly vehicles?

We have been very clear that the increase in oil prices is causing substantial problems for economies right across the world. It is causing difficulties for the UK economy as well as creating challenges for the global economy. That is why it is important for us to take action, working with the Saudis and people across the world, to try to address that increase and to bring those prices down in the short term. It is also why, in the longer term, we need to take more action to reduce world dependency on oil and fossil fuels in order to save the planet and to support the economy.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity? Will she take further steps with her colleagues to get more eco-innovation in our universities and in the private sector? Some strong steps are being taken to make us a leading expert in this area, and a bit more encouragement from the Treasury would help.

My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to recognise the opportunity to develop leading-edge environmental technologies. That is why we are thinking particularly about carbon capture, which could have an impact right across the world, and about making the most of the UK science base in that respect. We have some great expertise and innovation in this country, and we need to ensure that that is supporting new environmental technologies.

My right hon. Friend is aware that 20 per cent. of global emissions come from deforestation. Will she therefore ensure that her Department resists the blandishments of the Office of Government Commerce, which would undermine the Government’s new policy on timber procurement, to ensure that all timber used on the Government estate is sustainable and legally harvested?

As my hon. Friend will know, my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary has been engaged in some detail in how we can improve sustainable procurement, and a new document was published yesterday to support that. We are working to ensure that we can get the most sustainable procurement possible within the legal framework that we have.