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House of Commons Hansard
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International Co-operation
05 November 2009
Volume 498
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5. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on reaching an international agreement on climate change; and if he will make a statement. [297752]

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6. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of efforts to tackle climate change in international forums; and if he will make a statement. [297753]

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I am in intensive dialogue with my international counterparts, as I was last weekend in Barcelona at the United Nations talks and last month at the Major Economies Forum in London. Along with the Prime Minister and others, I expect to engage in further discussions in the run-up to Copenhagen. We are determined to do all that we can to secure the best possible outcome in December.

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In recognising the excellent lobbying of this Government by environmental campaigners in this country, will he use his offices to urge those campaigners to contact their sister groups around Europe and the rest of the world in order to put pressure on their leaders, so that they take climate change seriously at the Copenhagen summit and, like our Prime Minister, promise to step up to the mark, if needed?

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My hon. Friend is right. The role of campaigners, not only in Britain, but around the world, in securing the agreement we need is very important. There is still a long way to go to get the kind of agreement that we need, despite the summit being only a month away. The ambition has to come not only from Governments and from leadership, but from popular pressure, so I completely agree with him.

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Can the Secretary of State tell us what talks he has had about including forestry in the discussions at Copenhagen to try to prevent the indiscriminate destruction of forests by fuel-hungry nations looking for biomass fuel, which is obviously causing global warming and often rides roughshod over indigenous peoples and their needs?

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My hon. Friend is right to say that deforestation is a very big part of the climate change problem. The issue also involves how we help people in forest nations to carry out the environmental service that we want them to provide to the world, which is not cutting down the forests. Any agreement at Copenhagen needs to include a way to provide the necessary finance for those countries, so that they are incentivised to do the right thing—to manage forests sustainably, rather than cutting them down, as often happens at the moment.

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Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Copenhagen on securing this conference, which is a measure of Denmark’s record on this issue? Why should any other country take any lectures from his Government on climate change policy, given that they have failed, on adaptation policy, to implement the Pitt recommendations following the floods two years ago?

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We do not tend to lecture other countries, and if the Conservative party were ever in government, it would find that that is not necessarily the strategy that works. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is implementing the recommendations of the Pitt report. I must say to the hon. Lady that when one talks to people around the world, one finds, as my ministerial colleague has said, that people see that Britain has achieved a huge amount on tackling climate change—it is one of the few countries to exceed its Kyoto targets. Of course there is more to do, but the question is: who is going to make that low-carbon transition happen? As I have tried to explain, it is this Government, not the Conservative party.

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Following up the excellent question put by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), may I ask how much discussion there is in these international forums about the use and development of clean-coal technology in ensuring future energy supplies to this country, which are so crucial?

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There is discussion about this matter, and the hon. Gentleman has asked a pertinent question. The International Energy Agency has estimated that without finding a carbon capture and storage solution, the cost of the world’s tackling climate change will be 70 per cent. higher. In my view, there is no solution to the problem of climate change without a solution to the problem of coal. It is part of the discussions that we are having, and I very much hope that the finance that might be made available will ensure that we have demonstrations in not only developed countries, but developing countries. The good news is that a country such as China, which was more sceptical about CCS a couple of years ago, is now enthusiastic about taking it forward. That is a sign of the way the mood is changing on these issues.

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I wish to remind my right hon. Friend of his very good visit to Ensus on Teesside, which related to some very complex scientific analysis. During that visit, he stated that his chief scientist would visit Ensus. When will that visit take place, because we seriously look forward to it?

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I unfortunately did not bring with me the diary of the chief scientist, but on returning to my Department I will make sure that he is reminded of my suggestion that he visits my hon. Friend. It was a good visit, and it related to one particular point about the biofuels debate in this country. We all know the dangers of biofuels in relation to issues of food security and other things, but we also know that we have to have a nuanced debate about these questions. Biofuels can play a role—and a very important one—if they are managed in the right way and if we ensure that they have the right land use effects. I think that that example was demonstrated in my hon. Friend’s constituency.