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Climate Change Conference (Cancun)

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

9. What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on objectives for the UN climate change conference in Cancun. (325613)

I have frequent discussions with my EU counterparts, including with the Spanish presidency this week, and we recently published our post-Copenhagen prospectus, which sets out our strategy for Cancun and beyond. The most important thing the world needs to do is to forge the comprehensive legal framework that eluded us at Copenhagen.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I encourage him in his continuing efforts to secure the binding agreements that will implement the Copenhagen accord. Does he agree that it would be an important show of good faith from the developed world if it was to indicate that it would be willing to extend its commitments under the Kyoto treaty beyond the initial 2012 deadline?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. That was a big point of contention at the Copenhagen talks, and we said in our post-Copenhagen document that we would enter into a second commitment period under Kyoto, provided that there was an acceptable legal framework alongside the Kyoto proposals. That is an important signal to developing countries who are reluctant to enter into a legal treaty and who are worried about the developed world’s commitment to Kyoto.

I presume that the Secretary of State or one of his Ministers will go to the meeting on climate issues in Bonn in the first week of May. If they do go, will they take the message that it is vital that we now have a 30 per cent. European emissions target and not a 20 per cent. target, and that we have a new structure at the United Nations—a climate security council or some such body that can ensure that there is momentum? Further, does he agree that in the election between now and then the British public would be very foolish to vote for any candidates who do not accept the overwhelming nature of the science showing that we have the worst climate crisis that anybody has ever known?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We do want to move to the 30 per cent. target for Europe as part of an ambitious global deal. I also agree with his remarks about the UN, and there is an opportunity to upgrade the UN post in charge of the UN framework convention on climate change. As for the hon. Gentleman’s other point, I was shocked to read in the Financial Times that only a handful of the 206 Conservative candidates who were contacted accepted the unequivocal reality of man-made climate change. That shows the stakes in respect of climate change at this election.

In congratulating my right hon. Friend and the Government on having led the world in combating climate change, may I ask what action he will be seeking in Bonn and Cancun and what action he will be taking in this country to ensure that at least 15 per cent. of all energy comes from renewable sources by 2020?

My right hon. Friend is completely right about these issues, and about the importance of showing that we here at home are moving forward as part of getting the ambitious global deal that we need. That commitment to the 15 per cent. renewable energy target is very important. It is also important that we transmit the learning here to other countries so that they can move forward. This is therefore about UK and European commitment as part of an ambitious global deal.

If we want to lead the world, we need policy, not just targets. Had it not been for Conservative leadership on the environment during this Parliament, Britain would have no feed-in tariffs, no renewable heat incentive, no ban on new unabated coal, no roll-out of smart meters and no Climate Change Act 2008. On every measure, Labour first opposed us and then adopted our policy. So will the Secretary of State say, “Thank you” to the Conservative party for achieving more in Opposition in five years than Labour’s 19 Ministers did in 13 years of dithering in office?

I will not say, “Thank you.” The reality of the Conservative party’s record in this Parliament on climate change is that it began with the stunt with the huskies, initiated by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), and it ends with the Leader of the Opposition saying, “Here are 10 reasons to vote Conservative,” and not one of them is about climate change. We find out that Conservative candidates have not changed; they do not believe in man-made climate change. So the truth is that we have a whole range of stunts but an unchanged Conservative party, on this issue and every other issue at this general election.

Order. I fear that the shadow Secretary of State was seeking to divert the Secretary of State from the path of virtue, which involves focusing on the Government’s policies, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

The trouble is that the Secretary of State is auditioning for the role of Leader of the Opposition, and we wish him very well in that effort.

The right hon. Gentleman’s most significant achievement is a mastery of the cut-and-paste function on Conservative policy, so will his manifesto match ours in establishing a floor price for carbon, a green deal for every home in the country, an offshore electricity grid, a network of marine energy parks, a security guarantee in the electricity market, a smart meter in homes by 2016 and no third runway at Heathrow? The Energy Networks Association has called that package

“the most comprehensive energy policy ever produced by an opposition.”

The hon. Gentleman has clearly learned nothing during his time as shadow Secretary of State. A list of policies does not make a strategy, and image does not make substance. That is the truth about the Conservative party. Why would the Conservatives put the green transition in this country at risk? For example, they oppose renewables the length and breadth of this country. They oppose the progress that is being made. The difference between the Labour party, and the Labour Government, and the Conservative party is that we have conviction about tackling climate change while it is all about image and detoxifying the brand.