With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about December’s Copenhagen climate change conference, at which I represented the United Kingdom alongside my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Today I want to report back to the House and set out where we go next in the global battle against climate change.
Let me say at the outset that the outcome of Copenhagen was disappointing in a number of respects. We are disappointed that Copenhagen did not establish a clear timetable for a legal treaty and that we do not yet have the commitments to cuts in emissions that we were looking for. However, I also want to report to the House the significant progress that the accord agreed at Copenhagen marks and explain how we can build on the progress that was made.
The Copenhagen accord, which is available in the Library, was agreed by a group representing 49 developed and developing countries that together account for more than 80 per cent. of global emissions. The key points of the accord are as follows. It endorses the limit of 2° C in warming as the benchmark for global progress on climate change. Unlike with every previous agreement, not just developed, but all leading developing countries have agreed to make specific commitments to tackling emissions, to be lodged in the agreement by 31 January.
Also for the first time, so that we can be assured that countries are acting as they say they will act, all countries have signed up to the comprehensive measurement, reporting and verification of progress. On finance, significant commitments have been made by the rich world to developing countries. They include fast-start finance worth $10 billion a year by 2012, with a total of up to $2.4 billion from the UK, and specific support to tackle deforestation. In the longer term, the accord supported the goal, first set by the Prime Minister, of $100 billion a year of public and private finance for developing countries by 2020.
By any measure, those are important steps forward, but we know that the world needs to go much further. We need more certainty and a greater scale of ambition. So the urgent task ahead is to broaden, deepen and strengthen the commitments that were made in Copenhagen, drawing on the large coalition of countries that wanted more from the agreement. Broadening the commitments is vital. Forty-nine countries signing up to the agreement is not enough. To tackle the global problem, we need a wider group. The United Nations is seeking to persuade all countries to sign up to the accord, and the UK is determined to play its part in making that happen.
In addition, we must act to deepen the commitments on emissions made by countries across the world. Lord Stern has shown that if nations make the biggest emissions cuts in the range that they have put forward, we can be within striking distance of the two-degree pathway that we need, including with the peaking of global emissions by 2020. We know that that is in our economic as well as our environmental interests. Greater certainty about emissions is necessary to provide the strongest incentive to business, including through the carbon price. So we will work to persuade other countries that we all need to show the highest levels of ambition on emissions as part of the commitments that we make. For Europe, provided that there is high ambition from others, that means carrying forward our commitment to moving from 20 to 30 per cent. reductions by 2020 compared with 1990. We must also act to strengthen the accord, including by continuing our efforts to secure a legally binding framework. In taking on clear commitments and actions, we should recognise how far major developing countries have come in the past year. However, we must also seek to allay their concern that they will be constrained from growth and development by the demands of a legal treaty.
We must draw on the coalition between some of the world’s richest developed countries and some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable developing countries, such as Ethiopia and the Maldives, all of which want a legally binding structure. Strengthening the accord also means that richer countries must make good on the promises made on fast-start finance and show that we can fully fund the longer-term goal of $100 billion, one of the tasks for the high-level panel on sources of revenue that was agreed in the accord.
Those efforts to make progress on substance must, in our view, be accompanied by reform of the process of decision making. The conference was held up by disagreements over procedure: which text negotiators should look at and whether, as in Kyoto, a representative group of countries could be formed to avoid having to discuss everything in a plenary of 192 nations. Those disputes about process meant that it was not until 3 am on Friday, the last day of a two-week conference, that substantive negotiations began on what became the Copenhagen accord. By then there was simply too little time to bridge some of the differences that existed. We need to find better ways of running the process of negotiation, so I welcome the UN Secretary-General’s decision to look again at those issues.
We also welcome the decision by Chancellor Merkel to host a conference as part of the mid-year negotiations in Bonn, and we will work with the incoming Mexican presidency, which will be hosting the next conference in November. But dialogue and negotiations need to restart before June—something I made clear to Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the convention on climate change when I met him in London just before Christmas.
In looking back at Copenhagen, we must bear in mind that reaching agreement would inevitably be tough because we were seeking consensus among 192 countries. Like most ambitious efforts, it was always going to be difficult to succeed the first time round. However, we should not let frustration with the two weeks at Copenhagen—albeit justified—obscure the historic shift that this past year has marked.
I want to pay tribute in particular to the enormous effort of those in the UK, from the scientific community, civil society, British business and the general public, who have mobilised on climate change. Their ideas and energy helped to drive us forward over the past 12 months and during the Copenhagen conference itself. Let me assure them and the House that we are determined to strengthen and sustain the momentum behind the low-carbon transition in the UK. Building on our low-carbon transition plan, our world-leading policy on coal and our plans for nuclear, we will be making further announcements in the coming weeks and months on energy generation, household energy efficiency and transport. Following Copenhagen, as part of the work already ongoing on the road map to 2050, we are looking at whether further action is necessary to meet our low-carbon obligations, and we will report back by the time of the Budget. This will include looking at the advice of the Committee on Climate Change published last autumn.
Internationally, thanks in large part to the deadline of Copenhagen and the mobilisation behind it, every major economy of the world now has domestic policy goals and commitments to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa and, of course, the EU. Throughout the world, policy is now set to improve energy efficiency, to increase investment in low-carbon power, to develop hybrid and electric vehicles and smart grids, and to reduce deforestation.
So although Copenhagen did not meet our expectations, 2009 did see the start of a new chapter in tackling climate change across the world. This global shift might not yet have found international legal form, but scientific evidence, public opinion and business opportunity have made it irreversible. In 2010 and in the years ahead, this Government—and, I am sure, the vast majority in this House—are determined to ensure that we redouble our efforts to complete the unfinished business of Copenhagen.
Climate change remains the biggest global challenge to humankind, and it requires a global solution. We owe it to our children, their children and the generations to come to find it. The work has started, it will continue this year, and I believe that it will succeed. The fight against climate change will be won. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement, and for the briefing that he kindly gave me in advance of the Copenhagen summit. It is disappointing that the Prime Minister is not making this statement, however. He missed questions in the House in order to go to Copenhagen early, and it is surprising that he has chosen not to report to the House on what he accomplished there. The Secretary of State and I share the view that we need to see global action on climate change. If Copenhagen showed one thing, it was that the discussions should not end there, and that they must continue.
Before Copenhagen, we said that a rigorous deal should achieve three things. The first was a commitment to limiting warming to 2° C. The second was a clear focus on adapting to climate change and on finding a dependable mechanism to finance that. The third was urgent action to preserve the rain forests. On the first, the 2° C proposal was noted, as the Secretary of State said, but the accord is completely unclear about when emissions should be cut, and by how much. On the second, it is welcome that adaptation was so prominent in the discussions, but there is no clarity on the sources of finance. On the rain forests, there was once again discussion of the issue, but nothing that could be meaningfully described as a political deal, let alone a legal framework. By any objective assessment, therefore, Copenhagen was a flop.
The question is: how do we move on from here? I wonder whether the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, in this statement today and their remarks before Christmas, have reflected deeply enough on the implications of the outcome of Copenhagen. The Prime Minister has volunteered to lead a global campaign to make the Copenhagen accord legally binding, but what precisely is it that he would make legally binding? The accord is essentially an agreement to disagree, defined chiefly by what is absent from it. It contains nothing to indicate the scale or the timing of the carbon reductions required of the world, or indeed of any particular country. Is it still the Prime Minister’s intention to lead such a global campaign for ratification?
In the days after the conference, the Prime Minister said that the negotiations had been held to ransom by only a handful of countries, and that that must never be allowed to happen again. The Secretary of State clarified that this included China, but has he not missed a big point here? Does he not see that Copenhagen requires us to face up to what I think is an uncomfortable reality, so to blame China, India and other countries for wrecking a deal is futile because no meaningful global deal can be done without them? Do we not need to understand why these nations considered a real deal to be against the interests of their own people? This view is reflected in their insistence on including in the final text the declaration that
“social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and over-riding priorities of developing countries”.
In other words, the implication is that attacking climate change ranks, for them, below these priorities.
This revealed preference on the part of India, China and other parts of the developing world cannot simply be overlooked or assumed away. The People’s Daily reported that the Chinese Government would treat talks in 2010 on a binding global deal as a struggle over “the right to develop”. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that the central issue is now how cutting current and future emissions can be shown to be compatible with development? Does he agree that for developed and developing countries alike, becoming less dependent on fossil fuels, using energy more productively and damaging the environment less is a pathway that can enhance the prospects for economic development, for prosperity through trade and for the reduction of poverty? If he does, will he accept that we now urgently need a new politics of climate change—one that can convince both around the negotiating table, as it failed to do in Copenhagen, and in the court of public opinion that the action we must take to guarantee the stability of the climate in the long term is also in the interests of both rich and poor in the short term?
Does the Secretary of State agree that three shifts from how Copenhagen was conducted are required—first, the case for action should always be based on practical rather than ideological grounds; secondly, action must not be presented in sacrificial terms, but as a set of economic and wider opportunities; and, thirdly, leaders and Ministers must see it as their mission to persuade and to unify rather than to denounce and divide?
I slightly regret the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. I welcomed the cross-party support for the Government’s work at Copenhagen, from the hon. Gentleman himself and from those on the Liberal Democrat Benches—and, indeed, from the Leader of the Opposition and from the leader of the Liberal Democrat party. All of us who went to Copenhagen sought to get the best agreement we could and I believe that we can build on the accord that was reached. Petty and partisan remarks about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others, however, really do not become the hon. Gentleman.
Let me deal now with the hon. Gentleman’s specific points. On the question of the accord and whether there should be a global campaign for it, I believe it is necessary to seek to encourage more countries to sign up to it. It is not just me that thinks that, as the President of the Maldives, Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia and a coalition of developing and developed countries signed up to the accord. It is not an agreement to disagree. I said clearly in my remarks that it is a matter of regret that the emissions reductions were not lodged at the time of the agreement, but they will be lodged by 31 January, and I hope that those will be targets. I mentioned all the countries that have targets and we can build on that, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not understand that these will be lodged as part of the agreement by the end of January. As I say, it is something on which we can build. That is my first point to the hon. Gentleman.
On the second point, of course developing countries emphasise the overriding importance of development. Indeed, the words that the hon. Gentleman cited were taken either from the Kyoto treaty or the Rio convention, which both emphasised the overriding priority of development for developing countries. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of how we talked about Copenhagen. When he or I talked about Copenhagen, we did not talk about it simply in sacrificial terms; we talked about it as being good for our economies. We did not talk about it simply in ideological terms either; we talked about what countries could gain from it and we talked about how it could unite rich and poor nations alike.
I am all for slogans about the need for a new politics of climate change and all that, although I will have to talk to the hon. Gentleman at some point about what that means. I think it best to build on the progress made at Copenhagen—although it was disappointing—and, more important, the progress made over the last year, and to use the opportunities that we shall have in the coming year to secure the agreement that we did not secure at Copenhagen.
I attended the Copenhagen conference in my capacity as the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on climate change. May I offer my congratulations to my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister—as did many people at Copenhagen—on the leading role that they played in bringing about the Copenhagen accord? The Opposition clearly do not understand that, as at Kyoto, an agreement was reached in principle and the details will come later during years of negotiations. That is called the process of the United Nations. We did not secure a legal UN agreement because—as the House knows, and as I have constantly said—it was never possible to secure a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen. The matter will be decided in the negotiations.
May I ask my right hon. Friend, who will be involved in those negotiations, to take into account, as one of the criteria relating to burden-sharing, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities? May I also ask him to recognise pollution as measured per tonne? In America it is 20 tonnes per person; in Europe it is 10; in China it is 5; and in India it is 2. If we take those issues into consideration, we shall be able to combine social justice, the eradication of poverty, and growth and prosperity, along with a greater chance of agreement.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the former Deputy Prime Minister on the role that he played at Copenhagen through the Council of Europe, and, of course, on the role that he played at Kyoto. He speaks with great wisdom on these questions. Just as it would be wrong for Government not to admit the disappointment that was part of Copenhagen, it would be ridiculous for anyone in the House to deny that any achievement has been made in the last year. That, I am afraid, was the problem with what was said by the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark).
I agree with what my right hon. Friend said about burden-sharing and common but differentiated responsibilities. Many of us believed that we had already incorporated that principle, and indeed it is incorporated in the Copenhagen accord. I remind the House of the commitments that must be registered. In the case of developed countries, the commitment is to cuts in emissions; in the case of developing countries, including China and India—as is clear from the annexes to the agreement—it relates to actions that they are taking. However, my right hon. Friend is correct to say that common but differentiated responsibilities must be at the heart of both this accord and any future agreement.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, and commend his efforts and those of the Prime Minister before and during the Copenhagen conference. However, is not the honest truth that many of the efforts made at Copenhagen were too little too late, and that the Copenhagen agreement will probably go down in history as one of the only occasions on which so many world leaders came together in one place to discuss one of the most important issues and came away with so little to show for it?
Do the Government not accept that there is no excuse for not having sorted out the procedural issues beforehand, and that there clearly was not enough political leadership during the months preceding the fortnight in Copenhagen? To ensure that there will be no more disappointing conferences and no more setbacks like that of last month, will the Secretary of State commit himself to ensuring that political leaders here and in the European Union will be engaged in all the steps of the process—all the interim meetings—rather than just leaving it to a glamorous, or in this case rather unglamorous, summit? If the United Nations Security Council can sit in permanent session, why cannot a United Nations climate council do so as well? If this is indeed the biggest crisis, there really ought to be a mechanism for dealing with it.
As a supporter of the EU, I am sad to have to ask why it appeared to be so ineffectual on this occasion. Why did it not play the card that it had promised, and say that it would raise its target to 30 per cent. at Copenhagen? That might have triggered a much better response elsewhere. Given that it did not do that, is there not now an opportunity for the United Kingdom to propose—and for Baroness Ashton, in her new role, to propose—that the EU set a 30 per cent. target for the new decade this month? That proposal could either be contained in the accord annexe submissions that must be in by the end of January, or be submitted at the first EU summit this year.
Why did the Commonwealth not play a more significant role? I am a huge supporter of the Commonwealth, whose fantastic diversity—ranging from the Maldives and Tuvalu to Canada, Australia and other countries—surely presents a great opportunity for countries to share their experience and be a real force for influence in the world. I hope that the Secretary of State will undertake to ensure that it plays a much bigger role in future.
What about the US and China? How are we going to get them to sign on a dotted line and be more ambitious?
Lastly, rather than what has been suggested in some of the post-Copenhagen comments in the British press—that measures on climate change response and emissions targets will make us uncompetitive in a competitive world—will the Government make it clear, as I know that the Secretary of State is committed to doing, that unless we get an agreement that binds everybody, we will miss the chance to have a sustainable future for all countries, not just ours? We will also miss the chance to have the sustainable jobs and sustainable, safe and secure energy on which the security of the world depends.
The hon. Gentleman asks serious questions that deserve serious answers. Let me go through them. On his question about process and why we got to the stage that we did, the mess of process partly represented big disagreements about substance, because there was concern among a number of developing countries about the notion of Denmark tabling its own text. Why did it take until 3 am on the Friday for the leaders’ representatives from a group of 27 countries—representing 49 countries if the EU is included—to get together in a room? It was because the Danes were systematically prevented from tabling a text, because people kept saying, “We are not ready yet to go into a smaller room.” The same thing happened at Bali and Kyoto. That was one reason why we did not bridge some of the divides—because by 3 am on the Friday there were less than 24 hours of the conference to go.
The hon. Gentleman’s other points about procedure are important and correct. The notion that negotiators should be left to negotiate, even though they take instructions from Ministers, is insufficient. His notion that there should be some kind of permanent session is also an option that should be considered. It is very important that we do not leave it until June and the mid-year negotiations in Bonn to restart the whole process. The EU needs to use its commitment to going to 30 per cent. with comparable action from others. We need to build more of a consensus than we have in the EU at the moment to move to 30 per cent., but I think that the process of 31 January commitments is an initial stage in which the EU should seek to push others to higher levels of ambition, and should itself seek to be as ambitious as possible.
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman slightly about the Commonwealth, because it issued and pushed an important set of demands and requests regarding finance, some of which came through in the final agreement.
On the US and China, we want the deepest cuts from all countries, including the United States, but that is dependent on its legislation. It was willing to make an initial offer before making legislation, but the legislation that went through the House of Representatives was more ambitious than the offer that was made, so there is some hope there.
On the legal treaty and the attitude of certain developing countries, a process of persuasion is partly needed. They need to be persuaded that they have nothing to fear from the legal assurance that is, in my view, necessary. That argument has not yet been won, but there is a broad coalition of developing and developed countries that want the legal framework. That coalition is important and could help us in the months and year ahead.
I, too, was in Copenhagen, and it seemed to me that one issue behind the problems that emerged from the conference was the concern about where the relevant finance should come from and go to. The Government have rightly said that not more than 10 per cent. of our official development assistance budgets would be spent on climate change finance, but may I press my right hon. Friend to go further? Will he make a commitment that that 10 per cent. will not make up the whole of our climate change finance? Perhaps it should not, at any point, make up more than 10 per cent. of our total climate change finance. The people of Bangladesh want to know that we are not simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.
My hon. Friend speaks with great authority on these issues. He is completely right to say that we have made an important commitment to ensuring that the finance that we give will be no more than 10 per cent. of official development assistance, especially after 2013, and that there will also be additional sources of funds. He is also right to imply that we need to find revenue sources to meet our commitments. We know that promises have been made in the past: although the British Government have a good record of keeping promises, it is also necessary to find the revenue sources that can provide the flow of finance, and this is where the high-level panel that I said was being set up by Ban Ki-moon is important. In particular, we need to ensure that the $100 billion goal is not just set out but is actually met. We want the panel to report back by the time of the Mexico meeting, but we hope that it will do so earlier, for example by the middle of this year.
The Secretary of State was right to say that the meeting was disappointing, and that is fundamentally because we do not have the confident arrangements in the world that would enable business, countries and companies to make decisions to promote mechanisms to reduce emissions. Britain’s leadership in the industrial revolution means that we are responsible for a good deal of the climate change that is happening at the moment, so does the right hon. Gentleman accept that this is the moment for us to firm up on the commitments that we have made to green technology and a green future? Europe is also very responsible for today’s problems, so should not Britain take the lead in ensuring that Europe firms up on its 30 per cent. pledge? More than that, should we not seek to create, as far as possible, the most encouraging atmosphere for business to do what it has to do? The leadership of business is crucial in this matter.
Lastly, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that winning people’s hearts and minds means that we have to be very clear about the advantages of doing what is being proposed, and that we should not talk in puritanical terms about sackcloth and ashes? Only by showing people that this is a remarkable opportunity for this country, Europe and the world will they come and support us.
Let me take this opportunity to say that I know that the right hon. Gentleman has announced that he is leaving this House. We will miss his expertise and passion on these issues of climate change, and we wish him well in what he does next.
The right hon. Gentleman asked several specific questions, and I agree that the argument that we need to make is that there is much to gain from the transition to low carbon. We have made that argument already but we can do so more often, because the benefits include the jobs for people in this country and the new industries that will be created. That is true of what we in this country are doing with carbon capture and storage, and it is true in the renewables sector and across the board.
I also agree that Europe must demonstrate its leadership role by pushing others to do more. Part of the task that we face in the accord’s pledging process is to ratchet up the commitments that people make. That is something that we will be working on intensively, including in Europe this month.
I commend my right hon. Friend for the very critical role that he played in the wee small hours, when the world’s media had largely gone to bed, in ensuring that we came away from Copenhagen with something rather than nothing. Does he agree that one of the key areas in which progress can be made over the next 12 months is at national Government level? Should we not aim to align national Government policy and legislation with the GLOBE legislators forum principles set out in Copenhagen in November, before the main conference?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and thank him for his remarks about the role that I played in this difficult process. I think that GLOBE has played a very important role over the past 12 months, and that it will do so again in the future. Moreover, he draws attention to the fact that many of the targets that countries will enter into the accord will be domestically binding. Those targets will have gone through national Parliaments, and the new Indian Environment Minister has said that he wants to take legislation on India’s so-called six national missions through his House. That is a big step forward, and it is important to emphasise the crucial role of legislators in this process.
I can hardly believe that question, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The weather fluctuates, as anyone knows, and the notion that a cold spell in Britain disproves the science of climate change is something that I believe not even the right hon. Gentleman believes.
Was the delegate from Sudan right when comparing the failure at Copenhagen to a holocaust? Will not many millions be killed in this century as a result of higher temperatures and increased natural disasters including flooding and, indeed, in wars? Although the United States, China and, in my opinion, the developing world were at fault in not getting an agreement, why did the EU not put its best position on the table? What is that best position? Why is the money commitment to get the developing world on board so soft and unreliable? What are the Government going to do to strengthen that arrangement?
The remarks of the Sudanese delegate were reprehensible, as I said at the time. As I said in an earlier answer, there was not yet consensus in Europe that the commitments made by others were sufficient for Europe to move to 30 per cent. We think that Europe does need to move to 30 per cent. in the context of proper commitments from others. The process of people putting their targets on the table by 31 January is part of the process of Europe moving up.
My hon. Friend is right to refer to the commitments on finance. I would not quite describe them as soft because they are clear commitments from leaders in the accord, but we need to have extra confidence in them by establishing the vital revenue sources. That is why the high-level panel set up by the Secretary-General is so important.
May I ask the Secretary of State a question as a vice-chairman of the all-party group on China? It was disappointing that China sought to strip out any language that would have led to Copenhagen being a treaty and to strip out any figures at all. How do the Secretary of State and colleagues in the Foreign Office see us now engaging China constructively in such a way that next time we come to this issue China engages in it rather more constructively and ambitiously?
The hon. Gentleman speaks with authority on these issues. China has moved some distance in the past two years on climate change. The very notion of a target—it set out a target of 40 to 45 per cent. reductions in carbon intensity—is important. We look forward to seeing what it lodges as part of the agreement on 31 January. We face a continuing effort, and we are determined to continue with it, to persuade China that a legal undertaking should give it confidence about others meeting their commitments, and that it will not face the constraints on growth and development that it fears. That is part of the persuasion that we need.
The new coalition that was evident at Copenhagen between the developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change—I mentioned Ethiopia and the Maldives, but there were others including other small island states and African countries—is important. That coalition wants a legal agreement. We need to find ways in which that voice can be heard and to persuade others who are more reluctant that it is the right way to go.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that we are trying to establish what will probably be the largest carbon capture and storage project in Hatfield colliery in Doncaster in his constituency by 2015. How important is the achievement of that goal to the future economy of Yorkshire and to meeting our obligations under the climate change agenda?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is very important that we make progress on carbon capture and storage, including in Yorkshire, where there are exciting plans to move forward on that process. It is also worth saying that internationally many countries are moving towards carbon capture and storage. Again, that is a change we have seen over the past couple of years; countries understand the importance CCS will play and the importance of making coal a clean fuel of the future.
I am very pleased that the Secretary-General of the UN recognised that there are procedural problems and I sympathise—even empathise—with the right hon. Gentleman in his task of a few weeks ago. Clearly a standing council would be one idea worthy of note, but in the meantime is the Secretary of State aware of the fact that some officials from developed countries are talking about pressing ahead with a smaller group of 20 —a coalition of the willing for the climate? If that is so, should the UK not be taking part as well?
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting question. My immediate response is no, in the following sense: we should stick with the UN framework, because the truth is that although it has its frustrations—not least the need to operate by consensus, and indeed, in some sense, unanimity—unless we get all countries bound in, we will have less chance of tackling the problem in the way we need to do. Our instinct, which I think is right, is to stick with the UN process and find ways of improving it, but not to go off in smaller groups, as that will not give people the assurance they need and it will not give us the environmental integrity we need.
Like my right hon. Friend, I believe that the challenge that faces mankind is climate change, and I commend him for his work in Copenhagen. There is an enormous distance in moving from an accord to a legally binding agreement. How does my right hon. Friend see the development of steps towards that legally binding agreement? Although the UN is involved in a very positive way, there is still a need to keep that momentum. What steps does he see being taken to keep up the momentum towards a legally binding agreement?
My hon. Friend asks the most difficult question of all about how we proceed. It is important to restart the negotiations, because as I said earlier, if we leave it until June we shall find the same problem of being timed out as we found at the end of the conference. Two tracks are still operating under the UN framework—the Kyoto track negotiated among the Kyoto parties and the other track on long-term co-operative action. Those two tracks could still form the basis of a legal treaty, incorporating many points from the accord. The task for us is to restart the negotiations and find a way—it really comes down to persuasion—of reassuring the relatively small number of countries worried about a legal treaty that they can actually gain from one and that they have nothing to fear from it.
No one set out for Copenhagen looking for an accord between 40-odd countries, so it is more than disappointment—Copenhagen is a failure, and the Secretary of State should not understate that. Does he agree that the opprobrium visited on China in the negotiations may be unfair and that the United States remains, if anything, the primary barrier to a global deal? What steps does he think can be taken to engage the United States more effectively if we are to see a global agreement?
The hon. Gentleman and I have talked about Copenhagen in the past. In a way I think he undersells the efforts, not necessarily of the Government but of himself and legislators all round the world. To say that an agreement that for the first time captures targets not just from developed countries but from developing countries is no step forward and represents no gain is wrong and undersells the efforts of legislators and people who have campaigned for a positive outcome.
On the hon. Gentleman’s question about the United States, all countries face difficulties in getting to the kind of ambition we need. There are two separate questions. One is about the level of ambition in any agreement—we want the maximum ambition, including from the US. The second is about the form of the agreement. My understanding of the United States position is that it is content to see movement to a legal treaty. There are others we need to persuade that a legal treaty is in their interests.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that without Copenhagen there is a danger of a lack of focus for campaigners and others, to target their attention and pressurise their Governments to come to a legal agreement? What specific measures does he propose to put forward to the high-level panel? Although fantastic figures of $100 billion are mentioned, those of us who campaign on international development issues know, following Gleneagles, that very little of the money flows to where it is required. What lessons learned from past agreements can we deploy to ensure that $100 billion flows by 2020?
Those are two important questions. I am glad that my hon. Friend asked the first one; I should have mentioned it. It is very important that the campaign carries on—that is the lesson of Make Poverty History. We made the progress that we did, not just because Governments wanted it to happen but because people made it happen. That is why it is so important that we send an honest message about what happened at Copenhagen, but not a defeatist message that it was all in vain. I do not believe that it was all in vain.
On my hon. Friend’s second question, there is a range of options for the high-level panel to look at. People have put forward proposals on bunker fuels and on funding for some of the multilateral development banks. There is a range of options for the panel to consider, many of which were raised in the months leading up to Copenhagen.
Despite the Secretary of State’s best efforts, the failure of Copenhagen surely increases the risk that an international legally binding agreement to prevent climate change may never happen. Given that risk, at what point do the Government reprioritise efforts to adapt to climate change, rather than trying to prevent it?
It would be defeatist to say, “Let’s give up on this.” I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we give up now, but the lesson of the past year is not that the problem is insoluble. The world has come a long distance. In a way, part of the optics of Copenhagen and some of the things that we failed to get mean that it was a disappointment, but to interpret the past year as suggesting that we are not going to tackle the problem is defeatist. The past 12 months have proved that progress can be made and that further progress can be made in the years ahead.
Although I recognise that it may have been overly ambitious ever to expect a legally binding agreement from Copenhagen, the fact remains that manufacturing industry needs certainty, as my right hon. Friend said in his statement, and international uniformity if we are not to lose manufacturing to non-compliant areas. Will he undertake to have a close dialogue with manufacturing industry in the UK in order to do our best to ensure that our manufacturers do not lose out as a result of the failure to get a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen?
My hon. Friend is right. There is the protection that we need to give to higher carbon manufacturers, which is partly to do with the provisions under the new emissions trading scheme for free allowances, for example. With reference to the comments of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and others in the House, there is also the assurance that we need to give to the low carbon manufacturers of the future that a clear signal has been sent by the world on low carbon, and we want to strengthen that signal. Both of those are important, and I absolutely undertake to do what my hon. Friend asks.
I congratulate the Government on their efforts so far and, in particular, on their commitment to carbon capture and storage for power stations. However, will they redouble their efforts? The time scale for introducing large-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants is not ambitious enough, and we need to do more on that.
The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to be as ambitious as we can be. That is why we are bringing forward a carbon capture and storage levy as part of our Energy Bill. We hope that all parts of the House will support it and pass it as soon as possible so that we can start to fund carbon capture and storage projects.
As part of a cross-party delegation I recently visited some of those islands in the Pacific and saw at first hand the difficulties faced by many of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Following the Copenhagen discussions, can my right hon. Friend offer any hope or support to those poor communities to stop them sinking even further into the sea?
My hon. Friend speaks very eloquently about his experiences, and I knew that he had taken that trip. He is absolutely right to say that one of the most important voices at the Copenhagen summit and, indeed, in the months before was that of the small island states. They are the most vulnerable, and all of us will remember the Maldives cabinet meeting that took place underwater to signal the dangers that they face. The finance part of the accord is important, providing immediate resources—I hope—for adaptation and mitigation, and the longer-term finance is important, too. However, the world must also take action on emissions, because in the end that as well as adaptation is what will save those small islands. That is why we need to redouble our efforts on cutting emissions.
The Secretary of State has credited the House with a forensic analysis of the difficulties that led to the disappointment at Copenhagen, but is there perhaps someone to blame? Was it a lack of political will on the part of politicians; was it China; was it the strength of the American Congress; or was it, as he suggests, just a problem of process?
No, I do not think that I should give the impression that it was a problem of process. At a meeting early on in the negotiations, I said that every country faced compelling constraints that inhibited action on climate change. If there is a reason why we did not reach the agreement that we wanted, it is that every country faced those compelling constraints and we could not overcome them sufficiently. It was not an accident and there was no question, simply, of a badly organised meeting. There are difficult issues, but I come back to this point: the past year has shown that such compelling constraints can be overcome, and we need to spend the months and years ahead overcoming the other constraints that countries faced at Copenhagen.