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Copenhagen Conference

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

7. What steps his Department is taking to tackle climate change following the outcome of the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen; and if he will make a statement. (308893)

Despite the disappointment that Copenhagen did not succeed in the way we had hoped, we are determined to work with our international partners to build on the achievements of the Copenhagen accord, agreed to by representatives of 49 developing and developed countries. In particular, we will work with others to ensure that the deepest possible cuts in emissions are made, that we deliver on the financial promises made to the developing world, and that we redouble our efforts to secure a comprehensive, legally binding framework.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply, and congratulate him and the Prime Minister on the part that they played in getting as far in Copenhagen as was achieved. However, will he comment on the impression that the problems in Copenhagen were at least as much those of the decision-making process as they were matters of substance? Will he say what action the Government are taking to try to reform the decision-making process to ensure that the frustrations of Copenhagen are not repeated in the future?

My hon. Friend draws our attention to an important issue that I talked about a bit in my statement on Tuesday. The process was unsatisfactory. I have talked to the executive secretary of the UN framework convention about how we can reform that process, and I am pleased that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has said that he too will think about how the process can be reformed. We must ensure that we do not have a repeat of the process problems at Copenhagen, which obscured any differences over substance and prevented proper discussion of them. I think that the process needs to be reformed, and I think that that will happen.

Despite the disappointment of Copenhagen, there are still many practical things that we could and should be doing at home—on rain forests, for example. We will never halt their destruction if we do not choke off demand for illegal timber. Unlike the Prime Minister’s approach, an Act to halt the import of such timber by making it a criminal offence to sell it here in the UK would command widespread support on the Labour Benches, as well as on ours. So will the Secretary of State support an Act to make the sale of illegal timber a criminal offence? If he does not act, a new Conservative Government will.

We now see the Conservative party trying to play politics with international climate change—exactly what happened on Tuesday, in response to my statement—which is deeply regrettable. We are working in the European Union to deal with the problem of illegal logging, but we will also look at any other proposal that is put forward.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement this morning that we should redouble our efforts following Copenhagen and not throw our hands up in despair, even though the result was depressing. Will the Government be pressing to go ahead with the EU’s higher than intended carbon emissions savings budget, and will he ask the Committee on Climate Change to review as a matter of urgency the costs of doing so?

My hon. Friend draws attention to an important issue. Over the coming months we will need to work to use the EU’s commitment to move from 20 to 30 per cent., to lever in higher ambition from others. The commitment that the EU has made is an important one. I will be working intensively in the coming weeks, before the 31 January deadline for commitments to be lodged in the Copenhagen accord, to see how far we can get in Europe on that commitment. We have existing advice from the Climate Change Committee on the costs and benefits of moving to a higher figure—and in fact, as a result of the recession, the costs of doing so have fallen.