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Climate Change

Volume 482: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2008

3. What steps his Department is taking to help the world’s poorest countries address the adverse impacts of climate change. (233023)

Climate change poses a serious and long-term threat to development in poor countries. To tackle this, the Department is pushing for an ambitious new global agreement to combat climate change. Our core business of lifting people out of poverty is still the most effective way of reducing the impact of climate change on the world’s poorest people. We are supporting countries to integrate climate change adaptation into their development plans, and doing the same for our bilateral aid programmes.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply and it is good to see him in his new role.

In recent years, the intensity and frequency of flooding in Bangladesh seems to have increased substantially. What are the Government doing to help that nation, which is one of the poorest, to tackle climate change?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Bangladesh’s geography and poverty combine to make it especially vulnerable to climate change. DFID has helped to raise the floors of some 32,000 homes in Bangladesh—the equivalent of a small city in our country—above the one-in-100-year flood level. In addition, we have announced a £75 million programme to help the country to adapt further to rising sea levels, waterlogged land and increased saline intrusion.

The Minister will be aware—and it is worth reminding the House—that the Select Committee on International Development is about to embark on an inquiry into sustainable development in a changing climate. Does he agree that it is important for those of us in the west tackling climate change to understand that developing countries that have developed niche markets, selling, for instance, flowers and vegetables to the United Kingdom, can do so sustainably? Does he agree that we should continue to support those countries, rather than stop buying such goods, as some people have called for, which sustain thousands of jobs in Africa?

May I begin by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on his work on the International Development Committee? I look forward to appearing before his Committee in that inquiry. He is absolutely right about enabling developing countries to grow in a sustainable fashion. I think that he and I would both agree that climate-smart development is the way for the future.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one immediate and visible sign of climate change is food shortages in developing countries? What is his Department doing to improve people’s nutritional status and stop the hunger, especially among children, in sub-Saharan Africa?

In addition to the humanitarian aid that we obviously give in such circumstances, we are embarking on a major piece of research, with some £400 million being invested over the next five years, so that in the long term we can help to cultivate drought-resistant maize and saline-resistant rice for waterlogged countries.

The Minister may be aware that drought and water problems are extremely difficult to overcome for parts of Africa and other parts of the world. As chairman of the all-party group on water and sanitation in the third world, which enjoys the support of 250 Members of Parliament, may I ask him to say what steps are being taken to satisfy organisations such as WaterAid and Tearfund, which recently made representations to the Department because of the shortfall in the amount of money being made available for sanitation and water?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Just last week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State launched DFID’s new water and sanitation strategy. Part of that strategy accepts the fact that there are 1 billion people living in developing countries who still have no access to toilets and 900 million people who have no access to clean water. Through that strategy and the good work of organisations such as WaterAid, we intend to build toilets for more than 50 million people and provide clean water for an additional 25 million people in the developing world.

Now that Britain is the biggest contributor to the World Bank’s International Development Association—or IDA—window, which funds grant aid to the least developed countries, we are in a particularly strong position to influence bank policy. What contribution do the Government want the World Bank to make to adaptation to climate change in the poorest countries of the world?

At the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, the UK championed the clean energy investment framework, which commits the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to increase their investment in renewable sources of energy.

May I, too, welcome the Minister to his new post? Does he agree that consensus on a post-Kyoto agreement at Potsdam next month is essential to protect some of the poorest people on the planet? In that connection, what strategy have he and his colleagues in other Departments adopted to deal with the new President-elect Obama, who has already stated that he wishes to re-engage in the UN process and, in particular, to introduce a new and effective carbon cap-and-trade system?

May I say how much we welcome the pledges made during the election campaign by President-elect Obama? We are pushing for a post-2012 agreement on climate change and as part of that campaign we believe that it is important to engage with our European allies and European partners. If I could just tease the hon. Gentleman, I would say that isolation in the European Union is not good for the developing world or for climate change.