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Copenhagen Conference

Volume 493: debated on Thursday 4 June 2009

4. What the Government’s priorities are for a global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in December. (277921)

Our priority at Copenhagen is to seek a comprehensive agreement, which gives the best chance of limiting global temperature rises to no more than 2° C. To achieve that, we want to see ambitious emissions reductions targets from developed countries, action by developing countries to reduce emissions below business-as-usual levels and agreement on finance and technology flows to support developing-country action.

I thank the Minister for that response, but what grounds does she have for believing that Copenhagen will be more successful than Kyoto and that unanimity can be reached?

Since Kyoto, the world community has become more conscious of the science of climate change. In every country that we visit, no matter what its perspective, all the conversations that we have show a real understanding that the situation is very serious and that we need to avert the most dangerous climate change. Because of that, minds are much more focused and we have much more science—we also have a new mood in the United States of America, which is extremely important. We also know that China, which is doing a great deal domestically already, is now approaching the talks in a very positive manner, and we have great co-operation from the G77 countries. There is reason to be optimistic, therefore, and even more so because of the commitments that the US Administration have made.

The Minister has stated that one of her personal priorities, which is shared on both sides of the House, is the increased use of electric cars. The first law of thermodynamics says that one cannot create energy, so what sort of cost-benefit or overall analysis has she done on the effects on climate change of having to produce the extra electricity generation capacity to power all those electric cars, which we hope we will have—they will certainly help asthma sufferers in the UK—in the years to come?

The key to the extra generation of electricity is renewables—[Interruption.] I am being pressed as to whether or not that involves nuclear. We have said that there needs to be an energy mix, of which nuclear is a part. Nuclear power creates a lot of emissions through building and the mining of the ore, but when these facilities are in operation, they are then emission-free. So, of course nuclear power has a part to play, but renewables and, in particular—given that we are examining international needs and discussions—the ability to transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, to enable others to produce electricity by low-carbon or no-carbon means, are crucial. That is because there needs to be growth in those emerging economies. That is also why we are working with China on carbon capture and storage for coal, because that is another area where reducing emissions from energy sources is crucial.