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UN Conference (Poznan)

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

Among the outcomes from Poznan were further agreement to tackle deforestation and the provision of resources to support it; secondly, the launch of an adaptation fund to help developing countries begin to deal directly with the impact of climate change; and thirdly, agreement that serious negotiations to agree a post-Kyoto framework should now begin in earnest in the run-up to next year’s Copenhagen summit.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Given that the outcome of the Poznan conference represents a watering down of the commitment by European countries to prevent global warming or contributions to it from CO2 and yet the impact of any global warming—we can see this even if we are not climate alarmist, which I am certainly not—will fall most severely on the poorest countries, which have contributed least to the problem, does that not mean that our obligation to help them to adapt to change is increased? Does the Minister agree that the adaptation fund of some €60 million agreed at Poznan was inadequate to the scale of the problem and the obligation we have to the poorest countries?

I agree with much of the right hon. Gentleman’s analysis, but not all of it. I do not think that Poznan represents a watering down of Europe’s commitment. Indeed, the 2020 package agreed by Europe has helped to encourage a willingness among some of the larger developing nations, and indeed allies in other OECD countries, to negotiate seriously in the run-up to Copenhagen. The adaptation fund is just one part of the response that we need to help developing countries. I agree with him that more is needed, which is one of the reasons why, along with a number of other countries, we have commissioned a much broader piece of work in order to understand just how much additional finance, whether it be from the private or public sector, is necessary to help developing countries to adapt.

Although I do not completely share the analysis of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) on climate change, I agree that it is important that we play a leading role in ensuring that the developing countries that receive Department for International Development funding see it targeted at sustainable development. Does the Minister agree that programmes such as using hydrogen fuel cells for microgeneration are important for developing local projects in areas where there is no access to electricity in other forms? Will he ensure that every aspect of the work of the Government and the Department is sustainable in the long term to allow those countries to skip a generation in respect of such schemes?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the huge potential that hydrogen fuel cells offer not only the British economy, but the global economy—including the developing countries, too. I recognise the particular expertise in my hon. Friend’s constituency on the development of new renewable technologies. I say to him, however, that fuel cells are some way off providing a more immediate solution to developing countries, and there are a range of other renewable technologies that we can help developing countries to deploy. That is one reason why my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made available some £800 million, housed in the World Bank, leveraging other donor sources of financing to build climate investment funds to help developing countries to move on to a low-carbon path.

Given that 2008 represents the halfway point towards meeting the millennium development goals, why was there no discussion of that issue? We should bear in mind that according to the World Bank, the first millennium development goal—eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in the world’s poorest countries—would cost an estimated £30 billion. That is a great deal of money, but it is about the same amount that Wall street and City bankers awarded themselves in bonuses last year. How does the Minister reflect on the abject failure of the United Nations to achieve the first of the millennium development goals?

With all due respect to the hon. Gentleman, we are still some seven years away from the target date for achieving the millennium development goals and there are encouraging signs in many parts of the world that we will achieve both the top-line millennium development goal and a number of others. We are off track on a number of the goals. That is very true, but it is one reason why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister initiated a high-level event at the UN in September to focus on what else we need to do to get back on track to meet the millennium development goals. The impact of climate change was very much part of that discussion.

What effect will the UN climate change conference have on the provision of electricity to Afghanistan, bearing in mind that its one renewable resource, hydro power, cannot be fully utilised because the transmission lines cannot be protected?

The hon. Lady raises a very good question about the general need to support developing countries in getting better access to energy in the first place—it is a real challenge to help people get connected to electricity and other sources of energy—and in accessing low-carbon sources of energy. On her specific question about Afghanistan, we are in discussions with the Afghan Government about how we can help support them to develop more access to electricity and to other sources of energy.

Oxfam has said that the Poznan conference

“exposed a shameful lack of progress”

on climate change. It is not entirely clear how much irony was intended by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in yesterday’s written statement, in which he cited as the main achievement of the conference an agreement

“to accelerate the pace of negotiations”.—[Official Report, 16 December 2008; Vol. 485, c. 107WS.]

Given the dismal experience of the Doha trade negotiations, does the Minister agree that a pattern has emerged of a lack of political will among the rich countries of the world, the cost of which is being borne by the poorest people in the world? Is he satisfied by the amount of progress made at Poznan, and if not, what will his Department do now to ensure that we get to Copenhagen and get a deal?

I do not share the doom-laden scenario that the hon. Gentleman has peddled. I think that significant progress was made at Poznan. When the talks were launched in Bali 12 months ago everyone was certain that it would be at least two years before a deal was reached on climate change, but we have seen some of the key building blocks for tackling its impact in developing countries begin to be put in place, such as the adaptation fund that I mentioned earlier and action to tackle deforestation. The Secretaries of State for International Development and for Energy and Climate Change have announced a £100 million contribution to help tackle deforestation and to help with taking a series of additional steps in that regard. What the Government as a whole will do now is work with a range of partners, including G20 colleagues, to establish what further action we can take to increase appetite for the deal at Copenhagen that we all want to see, and build progress towards it.

When I attended the Poznan conference last week, I was struck by the visible differences in negotiating capacity between the world’s richest and poorest countries. Will the Minister examine ways of strengthening the ability of the poorest developing countries to participate in these vital but complex negotiations?

The hon. Gentleman has made an important point about the need for the voice of developing countries to be heard in the negotiations. We are already helping them to ensure that their voice is heard, in the same way as we have during trade negotiations, and we will continue to provide that support. Through our country offices we are working closely with a range of developing countries, both on their domestic programmes to adapt to climate change and on their engagement in the actual negotiations.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but does he not agree that Britain could do more to help, for example through the Commonwealth? Will he consider again the advocacy fund suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), which would help the poorest countries to fight their corner in these crucial negotiations?

As I have already told the hon. Gentleman, we are holding discussions with a range of developing countries about how we can help them to engage in the negotiations. We will have further talks with them through the Commonwealth and a range of other organisations. I would take his question a little more seriously if his party had not just announced its commitment to slashing public spending. That would potentially have very serious consequences for developing countries, not least in respect of their ability to adapt to climate change.