[Relevant documents: The Road to Copenhagen: The UK Government’s case for an ambitious international agreement on climate change (Cm 7659) and The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan.
Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2007-08, on Reaching an international agreement on climate change, HC 355, and the Government response, HC 1055, the Fourth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, on Reducing CO2 and other emissions from shipping, HC 528, and the Fifth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, on Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, HC 30.
Fifth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2008-09, on Sustainable development in a changing climate, HC 177-I and -II.]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of preparation for the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Today’s debate is held at an appropriate time—a week after the 17 countries of the Major Economies Forum met in L’Aquila in Italy and accepted the long-held scientific consensus that we should seek to prevent dangerous climate change above 2° C, and the day after we in Britain published our road map to 2020, the low carbon transition plan, which sets out our plans for a 34 per cent. reduction in emissions in the UK by 2020 compared with 1990.
We have set some ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions—I think it is 80 per cent.—by 2050. How is that compatible with increasing the population in the same period by more than 10 million? The Home Secretary said that he was relaxed about this country’s population increasing by 10 million, but that will increase the size of our carbon footprint.
It all depends on the actions that we take. Globally, there will be a significant increase in the population in the next decades. That argues for a transition to the low-carbon path and away from the high-carbon path. We must do that, whatever the size of the population, but obviously increasing population means increasing carbon emissions and we need to take action. I am confident that we can; that is within our projections.
I was saying that it was an appropriate time to hold a debate on the preparations for Copenhagen. I believe that it is a make-or-break year: President Obama in the United States is showing new leadership; China wants a deal, and the acceptance of 2° C as the yardstick by which we should judge success or failure at Copenhagen is important. However, there is a long and hard road ahead. I want to highlight in my brief remarks the five big challenges that we face between now and December.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that we need real leadership at local authority level? As much as Government may exhort and have the right policy framework, we need leadership in and from local authorities. We have some excellent ones—we all know about the Kirklees model—but we also have local authorities that lag behind, so we need a bit of a push to get them moving in the right direction.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the key indicators is the extent to which capital funding from the Learning and Skills Council can ensure that we move towards green training and skills and the skill sets that will be needed throughout the economy? Will he ensure that those considerations are taken on board and that colleges like mine in Stoke-on-Trent benefit from that?
My right hon. Friend and I have been involved in environmental issues and campaigns against climate change for a long time, but time and again our efforts have been dogged by the lack of planning permission for ambitious and innovative schemes. Are we going to crack planning permission and are we going to do it fast?
Yes, and it is important that we are reforming the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which not only is important domestically, but will be seen as important by our international allies in the run-up to Copenhagen. I regret that the Opposition want to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, but I hope that the good offices of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) will persuade his colleagues in charge of local government issues to think again.
I know that the Secretary of State wishes to promote renewables and as for wind-powered energy, I have no problems whatever with developments out at sea. However, I was concerned to read that the only major manufacturer of wind turbines in the Isle of Wight has closed. As for renewables, could he give a commitment to ensure that we will support research and development and the manufacturing of solar panels, batteries and wind turbines in the United Kingdom?
Absolutely. That is why we made available £120 million yesterday to support, for example, the offshore wind manufacturing industry.
Let me come to the five challenges that we will face between now and Copenhagen. The more consensus that we can achieve in the House on these questions, and particularly on the international side, the better, so I look forward to hearing other hon. Members’ speeches in this debate. First, we need to show that the mitigation actions by developed and developing countries are consistent with the 2° benchmark. When it comes to the targets and the commitments made by developed and developing countries, the question is: are they consistent with the actions that the scientists tell us are necessary to meet the 2° target and to contain temperature rises on the planet to below 2°? In Britain we have set an emissions target for 2020 of 34 per cent. below 1990 levels. However, we stand ready to tighten and improve that target as part of a global deal at Copenhagen.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the scientific body in charge of those issues—said in its 2007 report that, for developed countries as a whole, we needed to aim for 25 to 40 per cent. reductions on 1990 levels by 2020. There is no doubt that that is a challenging objective, given the situation in America and elsewhere, but the 25 to 40 per cent. target is still an important benchmark. There may be other scientific pathways to get to the 2° target, but that benchmark is—at the moment, anyway—the dominant way in which we are thinking about such issues, and it indicates that all countries, but particularly developed countries, need to show maximum ambition.
Because the Secretary of State hopes for a more ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, and because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that the target that we need to meet may be even bigger, can he assure us that he and his colleagues have done the necessary contingency planning for the further reductions that we will need to make, sector by sector, so that, without internal barriers, we can go for, say, a 42 per cent. UK reduction at Copenhagen in December?
Yes, we think that getting to that higher number is feasible. Because of the plans that we announced yesterday and the fact that we are overachieving on the 34 per cent. target by a couple of percentage points, to 36 per cent., we are in line to be able to move to a tightened target.
Developing countries also have to play a role in reducing emissions and meeting our long-term targets. About 75 per cent. of the increases in emissions over the next 20 years or so will come in developing countries, so even if richer countries cleaned up their act straight away, we would still need the involvement of developing countries if we are to meet our objectives.
My right hon. Friend will know of the concern in developing countries that the resources required to meet those mitigation targets should not come from official development assistance or Department for International Development budgets. I am pleased that the Government have given a commitment that we would do only 10 per cent. of double counting, as it were, where there are actions that can both reduce poverty and mitigate climate change, but is he confident that the Opposition share that view?
Obviously it is for the Opposition to speak for themselves, but my hon. Friend makes an important point, which I will come to in a moment. We need to ensure that the resources that we put into climate change finance are not simply taken from existing finance for poverty reduction, although I will come to that in a moment.
Developing countries have an important role to play. Studies have suggested that by 2020 they need to show a deviation from what we would otherwise expect them to do—that is, from what one might call “business as usual” and continuing to emit at current rates—of 15 to 30 per cent. That is an important part of the challenge that we face between now and Copenhagen.
The second challenge—this touches on the point that my hon. Friend made—is on the finance and the financial architecture of a global deal. There is no question but that that is one of the most difficult issues that we face in Copenhagen. Developed countries are hard pressed financially and resources will obviously be hard to come by. At the same time, however, on the basis of historical responsibility for emissions, there is no question but that developed countries bear responsibility for the emissions in the atmosphere—cumulatively, between 1850 and 2000, about 30 per cent. of global emissions came from the United States, about 30 per cent. came from the EU and 6 per cent. came from China. Per capita emissions in developed countries are still significantly higher than in developing countries, and obviously the development needs of developing countries are significantly higher as well.
That is why the Prime Minister made the speech that he did a couple of weeks ago, when he suggested—he was the first world leader to suggest this—that we should have a working figure for how much money we are seeking to raise, namely $100 billion by 2020. He also said that it should come from private and public financial sources—from the global carbon market and public sources—and that we needed new sources of finance, in addition to official development assistance. We are attracted by various proposals, including from Norway and Mexico, and importantly—this comes back to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) made—we should limit the ODA used to 10 per cent., so that we do not simply divert it away from poverty relief.
That is a very important point in commanding the confidence of developing countries in the negotiations. I urge those in all parts of the House, including the official Opposition, to think hard about that. They published a document earlier this week looking at overseas development, but it was not explicit on that point, so I hope that when the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) responds he can say something about their attitude, because it would send a bad signal if it looked like we were simply going to transfer money wholesale from ODA to climate finance.
The hon. Gentleman helps me to segue into my third point, which is about technology. For countries such as China, the key in the negotiations is not finance, but the big technological questions. From my experience of the discussions on this issue, it may not be the most difficult one that we face in the negotiations, but it is the most complex. We need to respect intellectual property rights, because they are an important part of the technology being developed, but, having been in China, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that it is sometimes hard to pin down exactly what is required.
To take carbon capture and storage as an example, the way I look at it is like this. Rich countries have a responsibility to demonstrate new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which is crucial to the problem of coal production. People understandably campaign about new power stations in the UK, but in one part of China that I visited—Guangdong province—the plan over the next 10 years is to build 40 GW of coal power, or approximately 25 new power stations. The good news is that China is interested in carbon capture and storage and in the role that it can play in that country. Our responsibility is to help to demonstrate the new CCS technology and share our know-how on it as best we can. In the coming months, as part of the Major Economies Forum, we will be working out how best we can drive that new technology through, as well as transferring established technology.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Copenhagen will provide an opportunity for us to jettison business as usual, and that what we need is a new environmentalism, not only in the run-up to Copenhagen but at Copenhagen, in which non-governmental organisations, businesses and Governments are all on the same page and pursuing the same aims?
My hon. Friend has made a crucial point. I have been very conscious of this in the discussions that I have had about Copenhagen. We need the broadest possible coalition in every country of the world on these issues, involving not only civil society and Governments but businesses, faith groups and the whole broad spectrum of people. Copenhagen will be hard enough, but the big challenge will be to sustain consensus on these issues across time, across developed and developing countries, across different Administrations in those countries and across different political systems. That is the scale of the challenge that we face in relation to climate change.
The fourth area that I want briefly to touch on is the need for a comprehensive agreement on forestry. Deforestation is responsible for 18 per cent. of global emissions, or about one fifth of the overall problem that we face. I think I am right in saying that, in Peru, an area of forest the size of 64 football fields is being cut down every 90 minutes as part of the process of deforestation. Any global agreement must therefore include forestry, and the UK has put forward some concrete ideas to make that happen. A key part of this is to find a way of incentivising people who live in the forests to manage them sustainably; that has to be the answer. There are good examples of sustainable forest management, but there are also difficult questions around the governance of these issues.
In the light of what my right hon. Friend has just said, it is possible that a forest the size of 64 football fields could disappear in the time it takes us to have this debate. Will he therefore look again at Government policy on biomass, and, in particular, on how we can control imports?
I have a problem on the question of biofuels. I thought that I was saving the planet by buying a biofuel car—Wellingborough has one of the few biofuel pumps in the country. Are we saving the planet by buying such cars, or are we destroying it?
I am conscious of that fact that I am no longer getting any extra time when I take interventions. In the light of that, I must plough on and come to a conclusion, in order to allow more of my colleagues on both sides of the House to speak.
The fifth area that I want to mention is the system of governance that we will need in relation to Copenhagen. It is important that that system of governance commands respect from developing and developed countries. That means developing countries having a fair voice in the system of financial decision making, and we have put forward an idea for a compact involving a system in which developing countries wishing to have finance will submit low-carbon development plans to a body that gives an equal voice to developed and developing countries. In that way, we will give a fair voice to the developing countries in the discussions.
One important point for our public, and for the public around the world, is that we must have a robust system of monitoring, reporting and verification of all countries’ actions and commitments.
I will not give way, because I must wind up. I apologise to my hon. Friend.
We need a robust system of MRV—monitoring, reporting and verification—and good ideas have been put forward on how we can manage that process and ensure that developing and developed countries are clear about the actions that they are going to take.
Let me summarise the challenge that we face and end on a note of optimism. We want an ambitious agreement, with clear mid-term and long-term targets to keep us on—at the very worst—a 2° pathway. We want the agreement to be fair, because the poorest countries need to move from high-carbon to low-carbon growth, and we need to accept our responsibilities as developed countries. The agreement also needs to be comprehensive, covering not only the actions that each country needs to take but the actions required by international sectors such as aviation and shipping.
I want to end on this note of optimism. When I came into this job, many people talked to me about the chances of success at Copenhagen, and said that President Obama would not be interested in dealing with these issues because he would have too many other things on his plate. They said that he would get to them in his second year. What has actually happened is that, with new US leadership, with Chinese engagement and with wider developing country engagement on the issues, the chances of success at Copenhagen have significantly increased. We face a long, hard road ahead in the next few months, and the UK Government stand committed to straining every sinew to get the kind of ambitious agreement that we need to protect the planet for future generations.
It is a pleasure to meet the Secretary of State across the Dispatch Box for the second time in two days, again on a subject on which there is a broad degree of consensus between the two Front Benches about what is needed in our national interest and the interests of the world. I do not want to rehearse all the points that the Secretary of State has laid out, as they are indeed points of common ground. Instead, I want to use the opportunity of this brief debate to make a couple of observations of my own on some of the unfinished business relating to Copenhagen.
I think that we can agree that it is in our national interest to move to a genuinely low-carbon economy, for reasons of energy security and economic competitiveness, and for the sake of our environment. Yesterday, we discussed that issue in so far as it applies domestically, but exactly the same arguments apply across the world. There is no distinction there. It is in the global interest that we have an agreement at Copenhagen that is significant not because it is an agreement, but because it constitutes a set of commitments that mean something tangible. Yesterday, we discussed whether we could achieve that aim domestically. We need to adopt exactly the same sense of purpose and realism internationally, because the poorest people of the world, who have contributed least to the problem, will be hit first and suffer most from the consequences of climate change.
“The Road to Copenhagen”, the document that the Government published recently, sets out three principles in moving towards securing a global deal, and we have no problem endorsing them. They are ambition, effectiveness and fairness. These are sound principles. We need ambition, in that the commitments made on reducing emissions must accurately reflect what the science says is necessary. We need fairness, in that the balance of commitments entered into by the developed and developing worlds must be a fair reflection of the extent to which each is responsible for the problem and able to deal with it. We also need effectiveness, in that words alone are useless without rigorous monitoring, reporting and verification. I would add a fourth principle, both for Copenhagen and for our domestic action: urgency.
Over the next few years, decisions will be made that will shape the global energy and transport industries for decades to come. Down one path lies the kind of vision that my leader and those on the Opposition Front Bench have been urging for some time, which we discussed yesterday. Down the other path lies not business as usual but an attempt to compensate for dwindling oil reserves by relying on unconventional sources of fossil fuel, most of which are unconventionally expensive and unconventionally damaging to the environment.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why his party changed its view on nuclear power, seeing it now as a first resort rather than a last resort? Was it to do with the £93 billion bill to clear up old nuclear, or the fact that nuclear has never been delivered on budget or on time, or the fact that the only new nuclear power station in the world is already three years late and €2 billion over budget?
I am grateful for that intervention. My assessment is that nuclear power is clearly a low-carbon source of energy. We discussed yesterday how we need to diversify our sources of energy generation for energy security purposes, so unless one has an objection in principle to nuclear as a technology—and we do not— given that it contributes to energy security, and is consistent with our climate change objectives, and if it is economically viable, I would expect to see it as part of the mix.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again on this subject. In what year would he estimate that a new nuclear power plant would deliver a new additional watt of so-called low-carbon energy, as opposed to what comes from the replacement plants that the Government are talking about first-off?
That point again takes us back to yesterday’s discussions. The difficulty we are in—it is one of the points I raised yesterday—is that we been through a period in which public policy has not grappled with the predictable issues, one of which is the fact that the majority of our current nuclear fleet comes to the end of its planned life during the decade ahead. It is now too late to even replace the capacity provided by those nuclear power stations before the existing fleet reaches the end of its planned life. I think that decisions were ducked during that period, but according to the promoters, such as EDF, for example, 2017 or 2018 are the earliest years by which we could expect that contribution.
I think—[Interruption.] Well, I was certainly in the Conservative party in 1997. On questions like that, I suggest that the hon. Lady asks her own Front-Bench team for factual information; I am sure they will be happy to oblige.
Let me make some more progress. Copenhagen will be seen by many as a fork in the road—and to some extent it will be, because trillions of dollars are waiting to be committed one way or the other, with investors looking to the world’s leaders to set a clear direction. I therefore agreed with the Danish Prime Minister when he said last month that the meeting in Copenhagen
“may be one of the most important meetings of this new millennium—a meeting where we cannot afford to fail”.
The worst kind of failure at Copenhagen, however, would be failure dressed up as success, by which I mean an agreement that literally promised the earth without achieving the action required of every major emitting nation, including those in the developing world. A fake deal would eventually be exposed for what it was, but by that point, precious time would have been lost.
Of course, it is in the nature of international summitry to blur the line between success and failure. We saw a prime example at last week’s G8 summit in Italy, where on the face of it a great success was scored when the signatories agreed to make cuts of 80 per cent. in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, in the small print, the agreement referred to a base year of
“1990 or more recent years”.
This matters because the choice of the base year can make a huge difference to the size of the carbon limits actually agreed to. For instance, between 1990 and 2007, annual emissions in the US alone increased by 1,000 million tonnes—more than the total annual emissions of Britain and France combined.
We have already seen Japan attempt to use 2005 as its base year, and the same date was used by this Government when they unveiled an aviation emission target as what I regard as a fig leaf for their decision to build a third runway at Heathrow. Fiddling around with base years is just one way of moving the goal posts, but the only goal that really matters is the reduction required to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2°C.
I was happy to support the Climate Change Bill, but what does my hon. Friend say to those who point out that in recent years, global temperatures have not been rising, as the early computer models predicted, but have actually been falling? Is that not tempting countries to rebase the years at which they start their carbon reduction targets?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention, because what he has mentioned is exactly the problem. If countries rebased their targets every time a different direction was indicated over a series of a few years, we would never meet our commitments. I believe that we need stability and that we need to follow the long-term consensus of the science. In this country, that means following the Climate Change Act 2008, which my hon. Friend supported, under which a committee comprising scientists and other policy makers keeps the issues rigorously under review. That is the right approach. I hope that in this regard the role of the British delegation in Copenhagen will be to unblur, as it were, the line between success and failure and to focus on clarity in the discussions.
Twenty years ago, Margaret Thatcher stood before the Assembly of the United Nations and told the truth about the emerging scientific evidence on climate change. Twenty years later, the world’s Governments will meet at Copenhagen and either they will agree to the necessary action or they will not—but we owe it to the people of the world to tell them which it is.
Another test of whether the agreement is a success or a failure is implementation, about which the Secretary of State rightly spoke. It is ultimately implementation, not targets, that provides the surest test. When it comes to the facts on the ground, it is impossible to blur the distinction between success and failure. Either megawatts of clean energy are installed or they are not. For instance, there can be no fudging of the fact that in the decade up to 2005, the share of renewable energy in the UK went from 1 per cent. to 1.3 per cent. I hope we all agree that that is disappointing. We can recognise that for what it is—a wasted opportunity—only if we are clear about the difference between success and failure.
The implementation agenda is all the more important because Copenhagen must find a way of binding in not only countries like ours, but developing countries, including those which are rapidly industrialising, such as China and India. They are not only significant contributors to global emissions, but are capable of making a real contribution to the development of a low-carbon economy both domestically and globally.
We are told that these developing nations will not agree to targets. That may or may not be the case when it comes to the negotiations, but if it is the case, it is on the implementation of action plans—with regard to reducing carbon intensity, for example—that this part of the global deal will stand or fall. It is therefore absolutely vital that we in the developed world can bring forward credible implementation strategies of our own to show that this can be done. Unless we do so in our countries, there seems little chance of guaranteeing that the same will happen in the developing world.
The hon. Gentleman will know that developing countries have agreed that they should perform nationally appropriate mitigation actions. As part of that, they look to the developed world to provide funds to enable them to do that—as well as to intellectual property rights, which were mentioned earlier. Will the hon. Gentleman commit, as the Government have committed, to ensuring that only 10 per cent. of the official development assistance budget is used to facilitate the developing countries’ nationally appropriate mitigating actions—and no more than that, as that would be seen by those countries as good faith, whereas anything more would be seen as bad faith?
I certainly agree with one objective at Copenhagen, which is to set up a fund for adaptation, which is in addition to the aid agreements between different countries. I think it is important that we do that, but when it comes to existing action within ODA, we have to recognise the effect of climate change on variables that are the subject of aid at the moment. Tearfund, for example, brought to my attention a World Bank figure suggesting that climate change might put 40 per cent. of international poverty reduction at risk, so I would not want to be in a position of being constrained from taking action on poverty because of some other figure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) made an important point. We should absolutely continue to tackle poverty and it is good that on both sides of the House we are committed to the 0.7 per cent. share of gross domestic product. It would be a real problem, however, if under the guise of that 0.7 per cent. figure, a large proportion of that money was diverted to climate change. Then people would say that we were not funding poverty in the way that was promised, as it was being diverted to climate change. Of course the two issues are related, but my hon. Friend is right to press the hon. Gentleman to commit to 10 per cent. of the ODA budget.
I do not think that there is any disagreement between us. Additional resources for climate change are needed, and we should not divert money from important programmes in our aid budget.
Taking action to show that we can implement the commitments is an important test of our good faith if we are to argue for them around the world. If continue to fail to live up to the ambitious targets we have set ourselves, we are in a poor position to bring other countries on board. That is why yesterday’s discussion in the House was so important. We will continue to press the Government for more urgent, comprehensive and tangible action domestically.
I am reminded of a speech delivered by John F. Kennedy in 1963 on the subject of peace which in itself changed the course of the cold war. Before the United States could credibly call on the Soviet Union to reform its attitude to human rights and aggression around the world, the President argued, American citizens needed first to examine their own attitudes to peace and freedom in their country. Only when all American citizens lived with full equal rights and without fear of violence in their own country, the President said, would the United States have the moral authority to call on other countries to reform their behaviour. So it must be for us: if we are to have the moral authority truly to lead in Copenhagen, it must be by example as well as by exhortation.
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, and that applies from now on.
It is pleasure to take part in this short debate on climate change. The fact that it is a short debate indicates that more immediate problems tend to come ahead of climate change in our consideration—I do not intend to undermine the importance of the debate on Afghanistan in any way. I look forward to a longer debate on climate change in the autumn.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is correct that we must be consistent in trying to meet the targets that climate change science tells us we ought to meet if we are to stay within a 2° temperature increase. I would like to talk about those numbers, because policy based on scientific analysis is quite new in politics—policy of such magnitude based on science is extremely new. I address my comments not only to Government Members but to Opposition Members, because the point would be a crucial one to miss.
The numbers are terribly important, and the Government are far more candid on them than they were two or three years ago, which I welcome. I draw Members’ attention to page 35 of the “Road to Copenhagen” document, which for the first time provides an honest assessment:
“It is estimated that stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 ppm CO2 equivalent gives around a 50 per cent. chance of keeping temperature levels below 2°C and reduces the chance of increases of between 3 to 4°C. Higher concentrations would reduce the chance of staying below 2°C significantly and increase the chances of much higher temperature rises.”
That is a major step forward from the publication of the Stern review two and a half years ago, when the range of targets discussed went up to 550 parts per million, on the basis of which one could plan one’s policy, prepare one’s budgets and so on. Nick Stern has now reduced his estimate of where we should be to, I think, 450 parts per million. Around the world, others are saying it should go much lower. Jim Hansen, for example, has suggested that 350 parts per million, which is less than where we are today, ought to be our longer-term target.
Those numbers may seem arcane to most people outside this Chamber, and I suspect that that is an inevitable consequence of a science-based policy. However, it is essential that we base our policies on numbers based on the science. I fear that in some cases we are still not managing to do that. The Committee on Climate Change’s recommended budgets, for example, appear to be based on some modelling that rather ignores the impacts of coupled models, in which the impact of positive feedbacks and carbon sink failures are calculated. The Hadley centre, which contributed evidence to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, has examined the differences between coupled and uncoupled modelling, and shown that if we followed the coupled model, global carbon emissions would have to be reduced by 80 per cent., not the 50 per cent. that many people are now talking about. That is a radical step change in the budgets that we should consider. Should anyone care to look at it, that evidence from our own Hadley centre is repeated authoritatively in the IPCC AR4 work group 1 report, chapter 10, page 791.
There is already a big change in Government, which is welcome, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should be congratulated for shaking things up. However, we always seem to be chasing our tail on climate change policy, and the science seems to be pointing south—even more so than six months ago. In March, the Copenhagen congress on science suggested that the impacts of climate change will be worse than many people thought.
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that even though everyone in the Chamber would honour the Secretary of State for the way in which he has changed attitudes so rapidly, he must expect, and we ought to give him, constant pressure on such issues? Consensus should not mean silence on this issue. We must press all the time if people are to listen.
I could not agree more with that assessment. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State goes to Copenhagen and tells his colleagues—or tells the Americans or the Chinese before Copenhagen—that he is under constant pressure in the House to do a better deal, that is of great value. I make no apology for sometimes sounding critical of my Government. The criticism should come from all sides. We are not looking for a consensus around motherhood and apple pie. I am looking for a bigger effort.
In another example of the Government’s candour of late on the issue, in response to my written question about the contribution of Government policy to reductions in CO2 emissions in this country since 1990, I received the reply that the dash for gas contributed 15 per cent. of that reduction, that the change between imports and exports—the fact that more manufacturing takes place in China and we import it back—accounted for about 30 per cent. of the reduction in carbon emissions, and that other factors, of course, also contributed. The written answer stated:
“The direct effect of Government policies overlaps with the estimates given above and is likely to have accounted for about 15 per cent.”—[Official Report, 13 July 2009; Vol. 496, c. 36W.]
Therefore, between 1990, the baseline year, and today, Government policy—from Governments of both parties, presumably—contributed about 15 per cent. to our reduction in greenhouse gases.
In my view, 15 per cent., which is equivalent to the contribution from the dash for gas, is simply not enough. Hopefully, the budgets that have now been published, and the report and statement yesterday, will indicate that we will go well beyond 15 per cent., and I hope that we will be much more interventionist in the markets, and tell them what they have to do—not leave it all to the magical formula called, “Not picking winners”, which so far, I think, has managed to pick quite a few losers.
The idea that we would aim for higher greenhouse gas emissions cuts if we had a global agreement calls on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, Ministers and the EU generally to make a big impact on the Americans. I know that we all welcome President Obama’s contribution to the debate, and we all welcome the Waxman-Markey Bill, although its headline reduction figure seems lower than that of the Kyoto protocol. However, a recent comment has caused me considerable concern. Todd Stern, who is President Obama’s lead envoy for climate change, said in June, during the Mexico talks of the Major Economies Forum,
“In our judgment”
the cut proposed by the European Union
“is not necessary and not feasible given where we are starting from. So it is not on the cards.”
That is an alarming position for us to find ourselves in, particularly now that the Waxman-Markey Bill has left the House of Representatives, having been watered down quite a bit and facing a much tougher battle in the Senate, where the Republicans—in my view, a horrid little core group of far-right extremists when it comes to this subject—will dig their heels in and oppose it every inch of the way.
It is unlikely that the United States will come up with a settled piece of legislation in December. It will have one foot in the camp and one foot outside it, and we need to recognise that that could have great consequences for the European Union’s higher intended target. Are we really going to proceed with the proposal for 40 per cent. cuts by 2020 if the Americans are promising only 4 per cent.—or, given the other measures in the Waxman-Markey Bill, possibly slightly more?
I hope that we shall receive some response to the message that we are sending on behalf of those in the developing world, the people who have given us their carbon emissions free of charge since the industrial revolution. Of course, they may say that they did not give us their emissions, but their emissions were stolen from them. Those people should have an equal voice in Copenhagen. It should not be just the major economies that determine the agenda; the countries in the developing world should have an equal say, because it is their atmosphere as much as ours. If we do not recognise that, we will go horribly wrong, and there will be no agreement worth having in Copenhagen.
Of course I applaud the Secretary of State and his colleagues for their work, but I will accept the appeal from the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) and the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) for me to do my job between now and December in maintaining the constant pressure on the Government to be ambitious, not just for the United Kingdom but for the world. I see six opportunities. Although we are talking about Copenhagen, there are the three inter-sessional meetings—in Bonn, Bangkok and Barcelona—the United Nations Secretary-General’s meeting in New York to discuss climate change, the Pittsburgh summit, and the meeting of the Council of the European Union. All those meetings provide opportunities, and I hope that each of them will ratchet up progress.
I have only six minutes in which to speak, so I shall be brief. I begin by flagging up two facts. I shall then ask questions about what the Government have said so far, identify places where we need to do better, and present proposals that I hope I may be able to persuade the Government to take on board.
First, let me say something about our contribution. Most of the public still do not quite understand the figures, the science and the urgency. The United Kingdom’s citizens represent about one in 110 people on the planet, but we contribute about one fiftieth of global emissions. We are the country of the industrial revolution, and we have an historic legacy. We have a huge responsibility because of that legacy, because of our responsibility in the European Union, and because of our responsibility in the Commonwealth. If all these countries could come together, they could play a hugely important part. The Secretary of State said yesterday, or colleagues of his have said, that we share the ambition of the Swedes. The Swedes now hold the EU presidency, and we need to work with them and the other progressives in the EU to drag the recalcitrants along with us.
Let me make a second “setting the scene” point. The rich developed countries constitute about a fifth of the world’s population, but three quarters of the emissions are ours.
We must be clear about what we have to do. If we are to make this year the most important since the Kyoto deal in 1997, we must do several things. First, we must follow the science all the time. The direction of travel must be clear. I hope Ministers will say that they accept that emissions must peak globally in 2015 or 2016. In that case, we should aim for the 40 per cent. global target suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rather than a target of 20 or 30 per cent., which would mean a target of more than just 34 per cent. or 42 per cent. in this country. I am aware of the difficulties, however, and of the economic backdrop.
Secondly, while the Prime Minister’s speech was welcome in setting a starting point, I think that we should build on that. The United Nations is central to delivery. I suggest a leapfrog fund of the kind which I believe is proposed by the Mexicans, allowing the developed countries to contribute to the kitty of the developing countries. That would be in addition to contributions that we have already made, and would be used for purposes of technology change. I also suggest an adaptation fund to prepare people and deal with the crisis that would afflict countries such as Bangladesh—I believe that 18 per cent. of the country would be under water—and the Maldives, which would disappear completely. We need an insurance mechanism to cover developing countries that implement risk reduction against climate-related or disaster losses, and a fund to prevent deforestation, which is one of the biggest contributors of global emissions, although it is not perceived to be so important from here.
The Prime Minister proposed a $100 billion contribution. We think that $160 billion will probably be needed for each year of the period between 2013 and 2017. What can we do to increase the Prime Minister’s proposed figure? Conservative Front Benchers were asked whether they thought that this money should be additional to overseas development money. The Minister will expect me to say that the Liberal Democrats think that it should be additional. I understand the argument about the overlapping 10 per cent., but we have been struggling to implement the Brandt commission’s 0.7 per cent. target for decades. If I may put it bluntly, if we do not have additional money, we will lose many of the other opportunities of which the Minister and his colleagues are aware.
I am also not sure how much of the $100 billion—let us take that as the starting point—would be new and additional money. If 50 per cent. is to come from carbon markets and $20 billion from global official development assistance, that leaves only $30 billion of new money, which is not a very ambitious figure. Many people—including members of the campaign groups who brief Ministers, and brief me—suggest that it should be higher. Finally, what percentage should we contribute? In its briefings to us, Oxfam suggests that our fair share of $100 billion should be about 5.4 per cent., or $5.4 billion. Is that accepted? The Minister has heard the proposition; obviously we believe that the figure should be higher.
This is not just an opportunity for us to deal with the environmental crisis. It is probably the best opportunity in all our lifetimes for us to deal with the global inequity that is the legacy of industrial development. It is crucial for us to deal with that in Copenhagen, and I hope that we shall be able to do so.
As this is a topical debate, let me begin by quoting from a document that has been published in the last few hours under the title “The Road to 2010”. It contains a policy for nuclear proliferation. It proposes:
“A new Nuclear Centre of Excellence in the UK to promote wider access to civil nuclear power… to make a reality of the right of all countries… to the peaceful use of nuclear power.”
That will cause great celebrations in Iran and many other parts of the world. I should have thought that, if we had learned anything, it would be that the proliferation of nuclear power can lead inevitably and very easily to danger. There are no secrets left about nuclear processes, and processes for making nuclear bombs. However, we as a country decided this morning to spend a further £20 million of taxpayers’ money on nuclear subsidy.
We already have a bill of £93 billion to clear up the mess of old nuclear. It was said that that would be achieved without public subsidy, but within months we are paying a public subsidy. We have indemnified the consortium that has taken over against any accident that might take place, and that money would be paid by the taxpayer. The Americans who have the contract said they would not take it over unless they had a guarantee that the taxpayer would pay the bill for an accident that could cost billions of pounds, so there is another subsidy there. Again, in spite of the promises from the nuclear industry that it would not have any subsidies, immediately voices have been raised to say that it cannot compete on level terms with genuine renewables.
It is extraordinary that both main parties have become bewitched by the pied piper of nuclear power. I greatly admire the previous Conservative spokesman. I served with him on the Environmental Audit Committee. That Committee produced an objective and scientific report that dismissed nuclear power as an unobtainable objective economically—that is not taking into account other problems. It has never worked, and it never will work, on economic grounds, as we were reminded yesterday by the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. Every nuclear power station in this country has been late; it has never been built on time and it has always been vastly over budget.
Nuclear power is also unreliable in practice. It works for only 80 per cent. of the time. People complain about wind power not being reliable, but neither is nuclear power. We are now exporting electricity from Britain to France because of the French problems with their nuclear power stations. The problems are the result of climate change because there is not enough water in the rivers to cool the power stations. Therefore, this source of power is dangerous and its proliferation could cost the world, but we are now going to promote it to other countries. The paper says that every country has the right to have their own nuclear power, and we are spending taxpayers’ money to promote that. This is truly, deeply mad.
That is not what I said. The point I am making is about the economic case, and I also object on the grounds of proliferation. I cannot believe that we do not now realise the dangers arising from the facts that Pakistan has a nuclear power possibility, that Iran might also have one, and that many other smaller, unstable countries are likely to have nuclear power and, from that, access to nuclear bombs. How on earth can a reversal of policy come about this morning? This makes me feel that I should be sitting in a far corner of this House, rather than here on the Labour Benches.
The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to remind the House that my party does not share the slightly surprising cosy consensus between Labour and Tory Front Benchers, but may I reinforce the point he made that all the big mass producers of energy at present produce huge waste? The system has fantastic waste, which causes the emissions as much as anything else does. This is why the argument against renewables is so flawed. The waste from them is far less than from any other means, and their reliability is just as good as that of all the other sectors, including nuclear.
I accept that entirely. I am in a party that said in 2005 that nuclear was an unattractive option. It remains an unattractive option, and apart from the intensive lobbying that has been applied to both main parties I cannot think of anything that has changed. Nothing has changed, and we have a further example to mock the policy. In Finland, the new nuclear power station, and the prototype of what we will have in this country, is three years late. It was supposed to be generating electricity this year.
We are told that heat waves of the intensity of 2003 will become a regular occurrence by 2050, yet the French will not say how many of their nuclear power stations were about to be closed in 2003. It is an official secret, but many of them would face closure at precisely the time when the demand for summer cooling will be at its highest.
I am grateful for that contribution. I am familiar with the French nuclear power stations, but may I move on to a French success: La Rance? It generates probably the cheapest electricity on the planet, and it comes from a 30-year-old tidal barrage system on a river. The turbines are still in pristine condition, and they are using the immense power of the tide.
There are many mysteries in the personality of the French people that I do not understand. Many of them are entirely impenetrable to me, but I have raised this point many times in my frequent visits to Brittany. Because the French have not done that, however, there is no reason why we should not. As the paper said yesterday, we have an immense possibility for using tidal power. The paper said that half the opportunities for tidal power in the whole of Europe are around our coasts. They are not all tidal either. There is also the flow of water between Guernsey and France; an immense amount of energy is flowing there 24 hours a day. It will carry on eternally and it is untapped. If we could utilise this power with a range of barrages around our coast—or tidal lagoons, or just simple mills—we could have surges of electricity that would come when the tide flows around our coast at different times. We could tap that, too; when the surge of power comes in the early hours of the morning, we could use it to pump water up to the top of hills and downs and allow electricity to be generated for peak times.
The geographical position of these islands presents us with by far the best opportunity, and we should be taking it instead of throwing our money away at the nuclear power industry. Billions upon billions of pounds are being thrown at it—there was another £20 million this morning, just like that. There was also £93 billion for clearing things up, and uncountable billions to build nuclear power stations. In contrast, our investment in tidal energy and other marine energy is in sums of £60 million here and £50 million there. We have a huge opportunity that we are neglecting because of the conversion of both our main parties to supporting nuclear power for no rational reason.
We should look at our priorities again, as this is the way to solve our global warming problems, which we all agree it is important to do. We must look at the power of the tide. It will go on for ever. It is clean and does not produce a legacy of poisoned fuel, and it will add greatly to amenity features in the places where it is operated. The future should be tidal. It certainly should not be nuclear.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn), with whom I often find myself in strange alliance. However, I have to say today that, much as I respect his passionate opposition to nuclear power, if we add opposition to nuclear power to the unrealistic targets we already have, we will get from a dream world to fantasy land in terms of ever meeting the objectives the Government have enshrined in law.
That may well be the case and that is up to the Scots, but I am referring to the figures the Government have given out for the United Kingdom, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to ignore the rest of the world, let alone the rest of the UK.
The Secretary of State called for the maximum consensus in this House behind his policies. I have to say that all my experience in, and observation of the history of, this House leads me to think that its greatest mistakes have invariably been made when both Front Benches have been united, and even worse mistakes have been made when the whole House has been united. That is the case from Munich through the Child Support Agency to weapons of mass destruction. It is when the House failed to exercise effectively its adversarial functions that we have made the greatest mistakes. A widespread consensus invariably results in a reluctance to face up to inconvenient facts and difficult problems; instead, the House indulges in self-congratulation on its common good intentions. Good intentions are fine, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I suspect that the road to Copenhagen is paved with good inventions. A lot of convenient facts—or factoids—have been invented to try to encourage us towards a destination that is probably unrealistic, and which we will undoubtedly not reach.
Order. We finish this debate at 1.55 pm and a large number of Members, all of whom wish to speak, are still seeking to catch my eye. Could hon. Members bear that in mind?
Politicians, having committed themselves to the idea of climate change, invent the reasons to justify it, and there is a tendency to demonise anybody who dissents from the consensus. I make a point of doing so, because I think it is helpful to have an alternative view expressed in this House. Outside the Chamber a very polarised debate is taking place, on blogs and elsewhere, between the alarmists—they are very well represented in this Chamber, and they believe that almost all the global warming observed over the past century is a result of man-made greenhouse gases and that the future will be even worse—and the deniers, who argue that as climate change occurred long before man appeared on the planet, the current climate change and that which we have observed cannot be down to man’s efforts. I entirely accept that that is a complete non sequitur; the fact that man did not contribute in the past does not mean that he may not be contributing now or may not contribute in the future.
My view is, uncharacteristically, moderate and seems to take the middle way. It is somewhere in between the two positions, because although I believe that some of the heating that we have observed has been due to man’s effort, I doubt whether it all has. I was a physicist in my youth, so I entirely accept that the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere serves to keep us warmer than we otherwise would be, that a doubling of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will, of itself, increase the surface temperature by about 1° C and that there are all sorts of feedback effects, notably the inclusion of water vapour, which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas. However, the models that are then used to suggest that there will be multiple effects far greater than the direct effect of an increase in CO2 are unreliable. I used to produce econometric models, so I know that in all these models based on finding a correlation between two things, the only certain correlation one observes is between the prejudices of the person producing the model and the outcomes of that model; it is no surprise that most models produce the result that they do.
I am happy that we should seek ways of insuring against the costs that might result from climate change arising from increased greenhouse gases, provided the cost of insurance is not disproportionate to the benefits of mitigating climate change. I also welcome moves to more secure and diverse sources of energy for this country, but I believe that the claims that the scientific evidence is overwhelming and that the debate is ended are incorrect and exaggerated, that the damages supposed to result from rises in the global average temperature are exaggerated and that the cost of mitigating that rise in temperature is almost certainly understated.
I wish to say a bit about the science, and the argument that it is settled and that there is no dissent. As far as I know, only one comprehensive study has been undertaken on the views of climate scientists and it was carried out by Professor von Storch. He received replies from 570 climate scientists—members of the international bodies of climate science across the world—to his asking them whether they agreed or disagreed that climate change is mostly the result of man-made causes. More than half of those scientists—56 per cent.—said that they agreed, but 14 per cent. were unsure and 30 per cent. disagreed. So if the Government were to say that a majority of scientists agree with them, that would be correct, but to suggest that none disagrees is simply factually incorrect. In any case, it is absurd to suggest that science is carried out by majority opinion. When Einstein was told that 100 German physicists had—probably as a result of Herr Goebbels getting them together—signed a statement saying that his theory of relativity was wrong, he said that if it were wrong it would require only one scientist to prove that. The fact that uncertainty remains means that the science is still unsettled. Yesterday—I think that was when this was—the Prime Minister said that the science is irrefutable. If a theory is irrefutable it is not scientific. Scientific theories must be capable of refutation. If a theory is not capable of refutation, we are dealing with metaphysics rather than science.
Over the past decade, despite the predictions of the climate models and the fact that the amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere has exceeded expectations, no global warming has taken place—indeed a slight global cooling has occurred. I accept that one decade of the absence of global warming and of a slight decline is not sufficient to refute the notion that CO2 is having a substantial impact. However, I must ask the Government a question: how many decades will be required before they are prepared at least to consider the fact that their climate models may be somewhat exaggerated? Clearly there must be other factors that they are not taking into account, which are at least masking and suppressing the global warming over the past decade. Of course, those factors might have been operating in the opposite direction in the previous three decades, when we did observe global heating.
The second issue is that of damaging climate change. I believe that the Secretary of State—although it might have been the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—proudly told us that it was an historic moment when the G8 agreed to define a 2° C rise in average global temperature as “damaging climate change”, that that would be caused by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increasing from the current 380 parts per million to 450 parts per million and that we were to prevent that from happening. The idea that we have got our fingers on a global dimmer switch and we can determine the average temperature is an example of human hubris that has rarely been matched in this Chamber.
It is also rarely stated that when the Government talk about a 2° C increase, they are not talking about an increase from now; they are talking about an increase of that order from the early 18th century—from before the industrial revolution. We have already had about two thirds of that increase in CO2 since then. [Interruption.] Well, the increase has been from 280 parts per million to 380 parts per million, which is an increase of 100 parts per million out of a rise of 170 parts per million. The impact is logarithmic, so that should account for about 64 per cent., or about two thirds, of the global heating that would be expected to be induced by a rise to 450 parts per million. Thus, a rise of 1.3 ° C ought already to have appeared, whereas in fact only a rise of 0.8° C has done so. That leaves us with a rise of about a further 1.2 ° C to occur.
The Government are saying that a further one and a bit degrees centigrade rise in the average temperature of the world would be hugely damaging and that we must be prepared to sacrifice billions of pounds to avoid it. I pointed out the other day that the average temperature in Cornwall is more than 2° C higher than the average temperature in the north-east of England. Is it really dangerous for someone to move from Newcastle to Cornwall? Would it be dangerous if the north-east of England became as warm as Cornwall? Would it be dangerous if Cornwall became as warm as the Loire valley? That is what a 2° C increase—let alone a 1° C increase—would involve. It is not such a big deal. I accept that for poor and tropical countries a rise of that order is more serious, whoever causes it, and we ought to be prepared to help them. However, we ought not to kid ourselves that we are really facing Armageddon if this happens.
Finally, the Secretary of State said in his statement the other day that the impact of these measures on household budgets would be 6 per cent. In his White Paper, he says that the cost of renewables would put electricity budgets up by 15 per cent., on top of the 15 per cent. increase already, and that gas prices and household budgets would increase by 23 per cent. I cannot find the quantification of the measures that he suggests will reduce the impact on households—
Order. The right hon. Gentleman has run out of time. I call Joan Walley.
I do not accept that the issue is whether we should do something about global warming. We are on the way towards the most important international agreement at Copenhagen and we should give every ounce of support to the Secretary of State, who is taking such a leadership role. Parliament should back all the work that he is doing now and will do at the international negotiating table at Copenhagen. I ask him to use the various reports that the Environmental Audit Committee has produced to highlight the detailed areas where we need to make progress quickly.
I was pleased that the Secretary of State referred to deforestation, the importance of stopping the illegal logging of timber, and how the deforestation agenda can be incorporated into the talks and agreements on climate change.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) said, the science is really important. The important question on some of the modelling that has been done is whether it is coupled or uncoupled. The detail on that point is in some of the evidence that the Committee has received, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look at it urgently, so that we go to Copenhagen with the best and most reliable science.
Despite what we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), evidence given to the Committee suggests that we have only a 50:50 chance of not exceeding a temperature increase of 2° C. Anything over that increase would be catastrophic. We therefore have a higher chance of exceeding 3°, which is why it is so important that we get the science right.
It is no good doing everything that we can at Copenhagen to get the right policies if we then come back and do not do as we say. I commend the Government on the series of statements this week, including those on renewables and the low-carbon economy. We especially need to make progress towards the latter, given the state of the recession and the urgent need to restore the economy to the best position that we can.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) said, the nuclear issue is important. The Government need to back winners and put their money on the renewable agenda, so that we can harness all the wind and water power that we have in huge quantities all around the British Isles. It is vital that this agenda is mainstreamed into everything that the Treasury and other Departments do. The Treasury should have a scientific adviser at the heart of its policy making, to influence the green book so that infrastructure expenditure provides not stranded assets, but assets that help us to deliver on the international agreement that I hope we will reach in Copenhagen.
It is also important that we stress the education agenda. All too often, only the initiated take part in these debates. We should be on a war footing on climate change and, so that everybody—including my constituents and those of every hon. Member—understands what they need to do in their industry or Department, we need to make information widely available. Last night, I visited St. Mary’s school, which—like Burnwood school and other schools in Stoke-on-Trent—is attempting to become an eco-school. It is the young people who will show us how we can turn this agenda around and come forward with solutions for our future.
Finally, I ask the Secretary of State to include parliamentarians constructively in the run-up to Copenhagen.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) for keeping her comments brief, and I shall do likewise to enable other hon. Members to speak. However, I have to tell the hon. Lady that I am more in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) than I am with her.
First, I wish to thank my researchers Alex and Andrew for providing the background detail for my comments this afternoon. The Copenhagen climate change conference is an update on Kyoto, so that the world can unite and make a greener planet. However, there is much contradictory evidence about what is causing global warming. It is like rolling a set of dice—the outcome is uncertain. Some 1,000 years ago, for instance, Greenland was warm enough for the Vikings to have vineyards there, but today it is covered with ice. That contradicts the idea that global warming has been going on for ever and a day—
No, because I want other hon. Members to have the chance to catch Mr. Deputy Speaker’s eye.
Research has just been published by NASA’s Goddard space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland that argues strongly that the sun is causing global warming on a cyclic, 11-year pattern. It does not claim that man-made global warming has no effect, but the vast majority is caused by the sun. It also makes the point that the temperature is changing on Jupiter and Mars, and clearly that cannot be due to man-made effects. The Secretary of State did not address that point. It seems to be almost a religious belief that man is creating global warming, and that nothing else is responsible. However, I am not convinced that the science is there, and certainly the new research from such an august body as NASA needs to be taken on board.
I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has done. He has shaken the Conservative party up and put environmental issues at the top of the party’s agenda. He has also installed as our spokesman my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) who, very cleverly, has translated the ambitions and policies of my right hon. Friend into practical measures.
Like other hon. Members, I will make a short contribution to an important debate in order to allow others to contribute.
I agree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) about the importance of the youngsters and their role in this issue. A week ago, I visited Brabins endowed school in Chipping to see the school presented with its fifth environmental flag. The children, supported by their teachers, parents and the community generally, have their own garden to grow their own food. They also make promises about what they will do at home to achieve a more sustainable future. That is the crux of the matter, because whether people agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) that the science does not support the argument—so why do anything about it—or are totally convinced that something is happening and we need to do something about it now, no one can argue with the need for sustainability.
Fossil fuels will run out in the foreseeable future, whatever happens, and therefore it is only common sense to move towards a sustainable future. That means that there must be more research into and development of renewables. Some of us went to see that lovely electric sports car the “Lightning” in the House of Commons a few weeks ago. It can now do 198 miles before it needs recharging, and I hope that it will be developed and manufactured in the UK. Fortunately, President Obama wants a lot more research and development in battery technology. That is long overdue, and we need to encourage more to be done in that regard in the UK as well, in liaison with a number of other countries.
The hybrid vehicles now in production are far better than they were a few years ago. In the one that I tried the other day braking recharges the battery, and the car also has an indicator about how environmentally friendly one’s driving is. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden asked whether it was advisable to move from the north down to Cornwall because of the 2° difference in temperature, but the only danger would arise if one were to travel in the vehicle that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) owns. It is a biofuel car, but it is powered by the wrong biofuel.
We know that more research and development need to be done in biofuels, which in the future may well be an answer to the depletion of fossil fuels. For instance, there is an algae-based biofuel that is both much more productive and less damaging to the environment. Taken together, those two properties are superb, but what we do not want is the deforestation that the Secretary of State talked about. That deforestation is done to grow the crops to provide the fuels that people burn in their vehicles, so in some cases the environment is damaged more than it is aided. We therefore need to get the right balance on biofuels.
Conservation is also important in respect of travel. I know that Al Gore flies around the world telling the rest of us not to, but we have to recognise that many young people are going to want to travel. We cannot deny them the opportunity to discover what the rest of the world has to offer, but travel can be done in a more environmentally friendly way. Again, we need to encourage more research and development, and investment, in planes—such as the mixed-fuel one that Virgin revealed the other day—that use environmentally friendly fuels.
The Airbus A380—and the Boeing 787, when it eventually leaves the ground—will be far more environmentally friendly aircraft, but we must also ensure that aeroplanes have more people on them when they take off. That will mean that there will be no phantom take-offs just to maintain the slots at airports. We must make it absolutely certain that aviation is environmentally friendly.
I want to end with a plea. We mentioned China, and we know that India is developing as well. As they grow, both countries must play a full part in doing their bit in ensuring that theirs are low-carbon environments. There is a lot of poverty in both countries, so they have to grow: we do not want to deny them the opportunity to develop as we did in the past, but they must learn the lessons of our experience when it comes to destroying the planet.
To that end, and where we can, we must share technology with countries such as China and India so that they can benefit from the investments that we have already made. However, as China in particular adopts renewable sources to power the energy that it needs, we must encourage it to let some of the contracts to companies in Europe. Renewable sources include wind farms, hydro technology and other approaches, but we in Europe have the expertise that developing countries need. We need to have an opportunity to share that knowledge with them.
When it comes to nuclear power, again it is clear that we are talking about a mix. Such power generation must be part of the mix, although we must ensure that it is produced in an environmentally friendly and safe manner. We have dragged our feet for far too long on nuclear power, but nothing would be a greater disaster to industry in this country than if we were forced to turn the lights off in two or three years’ time simply because we got it wrong.
First, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) is right, we will do no harm trying to clear up global warming because that is necessary anyway to meet the needs caused by the shortage of resources and so on. If he is wrong, he will lead the country and the world into dire disaster. So we must ignore him—as I have had to do for the past 12 years!
Secondly, we need nuclear power because we cannot leave anything aside in this battle. Thirdly, the Secretary of State must be pressed constantly on these issues. If he is going to be believed in Copenhagen, the first thing that he has to do is to introduce measures at home. That is why I press him yet again on hydrofluorocarbons, and why I demand that he does the things—
One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 24A).