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Climate Change: Cancun

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2010

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they will table at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun.

My Lords, the Government are committed to working for an ambitious global deal to tackle climate change. At Cancun, we want to see substantive progress made on a politically balanced package of decisions that help to re-establish momentum towards that goal.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. At Copenhagen there was an international agreement to set up a fund to assist the developing countries to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate. Can the Minister confirm that Her Majesty’s Government will honour that commitment? If so, will they at Cancun encourage other nations not to renege on their commitments?

I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. I also thank him for the work that he has done with the Tearfund and Carbon Fast, and for the leadership that the Church of England has shown with Shrinking the Footprint, which will produce a 42 per cent reduction in its carbon emissions by 2020. The leadership by all Churches is very important to this subject. I am rather delaying the great opportunity that the right reverend Prelate has given me: to be able to announce that the pledge made by the Labour Government to fast start finance of £1.5 billion between 2010 and 2013 is, I am happy to say, now a reality.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the chairman of the Government’s own Green Investment Bank commission has authoritatively stated that the cost of meeting our current carbon reduction commitments in this country is somewhere between £800 billion and £1 trillion? Does he not agree that, with the best will in the world, this mind-boggling cost cannot be justified except in the context of a binding global carbon reduction agreement? Therefore, in the absence of such an agreement being secured at Cancun, does he not agree that it is only commonsense to suspend the Climate Change Act until such time as a binding global agreement is secured?

My Lords, when I bumped into my noble friend in the Corridor and he said that he was catching the train to York I was rather relieved. Sadly, he will be catching a slightly later train than I was hoping for. I have now forgotten entirely what his question was.

Is the Minister aware that deforestation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse emissions, and that to stop deforestation would be a win, win, win position? Can he assure the House that the Government will push to relieve deforestation at the conference at Cancun?

The answer is without question, of course. Of that £1.5 billion, which is now a reality, £300 million is for the deforestation issue to which the noble Lord refers. We are deeply committed to the REDD-plus partnership that we have established working with France, Norway and Papua New Guinea.

Does my noble friend accept that the cost of not acting now is much bigger than the cost that the head of the Green Investment Bank has suggested? Will he therefore make sure that we do not stop or slow our actions against climate change?

I thank my noble friend. I am glad that he has not taken a train anywhere and that he has stayed to allow me to answer his question. I am grateful for that question from my own Benches; I am not really used to it, as a matter of fact. There is no doubt that the climate is changing: we have seen the worst ever flooding in Pakistan in its history; there have been record-breaking temperatures in Moscow; and 17 countries in the northern hemisphere alone have recorded their highest ever temperatures. It is a substantial problem. This Government are committed to being the greenest Government ever and to supporting all endeavours on climate change.

My Lords, on the question of additionality, which is the key issue in terms of how you pay for adaptation and mitigation on climate change, will the Minister confirm that on the fast-track issue the British Government will insist on additional money and not on money that has been recycled, rebadged or snaffled from the overseas development budget?

I think that the noble Baroness is referring to the fast start scheme. The fast start finance of £1.5 billion is ring-fenced and is our commitment to overseas development. It is not recycled money; I want the noble Baroness to understand that clearly.

My Lords, what proposals do the Government have to ensure that the imminent report from the United Nations Secretary-General’s advisory group on climate finance is brought within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, so that its contribution to identifying sources of funding for developing countries dealing with climate change can inform future negotiations?

I can tell the noble Baroness that we intend to work very closely. In fact, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, is on the UN advisory group on climate finance and we intend to encourage the raising of $100 billion by 2020 to support the carbon reduction.

Will the Minister please ensure that our proposals take practical account of the fact that the continent which will suffer the greatest from climate change is the continent that had the least to do with its creation, namely Africa? Its rainforests also contain our best hope for combating climate change, while the role of Africa’s agriculturalists and traditional leaders should be taken into account in all our proposals.

The short answer is yes. It is absolutely fundamental and a very important continent in this regard. A lot of our activity will be focused in that direction.