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Copenhagen Conference

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

13. 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. (308901)

The Copenhagen accord sets out a framework for international action to tackle climate change, in which the UK will play its full part. The UK has so far committed to cutting emissions by 34 per cent. by 2020; our low carbon transition plan sets out the pathway for achieving this.

I thank the Minister for her reply. Everybody will have noticed the splendid efforts of her Department at Copenhagen, but there was some disappointment at the United Nations framework. If these disappointments continue, will the Department consider pursuing separate bilateral negotiations with the biggest polluters, namely the US and China?

I think we would not specifically do that; we would not seek to undermine the UN process. We have not lost our hopes that we can proceed from the Copenhagen agreement. This was a kind of success—not as much as we wanted, but the fact is that there is so much on the table and we need to get on with it. The most important thing the UK can do at this point is to push forward on what we have got. We must ensure, for example, that the fast-track financing for developing countries comes on stream and we are going to make our own contribution of up to £1.5 billion on that. We also need to establish the high-level panel to look at the $100 billion financing proposals for 2020 and beyond, and we need to support the Danes in getting a critical mass of countries to support the accord. Furthermore, we have just a short time to get the most ambitious commitments put into the document by the end of this month. We will do our utmost, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, to ensure that that happens so that we do not lose the dynamic that exists, despite the disappointments of Copenhagen.

On the subject of the Government’s leadership, will the Minister ask her colleague the Secretary of State to work in close association with his close friend at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to persuade our embassies to ask the United States Congress to support the initiative, and also to persuade the European Union not to be divided on the issue?

Indeed. I pay tribute to the Foreign Office and all its staff for their enormous efforts in the run-up to Copenhagen, and we can be assured that they will continue those efforts. Our bilateral discussions are critical to progress, not least in the EU, where we continue to strive for the most ambitious possible target: a 30 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2020.

I welcome the $100 billion fund and the United Kingdom Government’s leadership in that context, particularly given that part of the fund relates to adaptation to climate change. Will those moneys be in addition to, or a substitution for, development moneys that already go to developing countries?

We have made it absolutely clear that there should be no question of countries’ saying, “Because we give overseas aid, we do not need to make additional moneys available.” We have suggested that no more than 10 per cent. of existing and promised official development assistance should be provided for adaptation or other climate-related purposes. We consider that limit very important. There are legitimate overlaps between development and adaptation to climate change, but they are limited, and we must make them so.