[Relevant documents: Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2007-08, Reaching an international agreement on climate change, HC 355, and the Government response, HC 1055; Fourth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, Reducing CO2 and other emissions from shipping, HC 528, and the Government response, HC 1015; and Fifth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, HC 30, and the Government response, HC 1063. The Road to Copenhagen: The UK Government’s case for an ambitious international agreement on climate change, Cm 7659. The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: National Strategy for Climate Change, laid on 15 July 2009. Adapting to climate change: UK climate projections June 2009. Letter from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs dated 16 October 2009 to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee enclosing a map showing the implications for the world of four degrees of warming.]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of climate change: preparation for the Copenhagen climate change conference.
As Members will know, the United Nations Copenhagen climate change conference will open in a month’s time. At this critical time, the Government believe that it is important for the House to have a chance to discuss our preparations for the conference. In the time available to me, I want to explain why we believe that we need an agreement at Copenhagen, the sort of agreement that we wish to try to secure there, and the steps that we are taking in that respect.
Let me start by addressing the question of why we need an agreement. In the last year, I have had the privilege of meeting people in places from the northern desert of China to the Amazon rain forest in Brazil. I think that in such places we see the reality of climate change, in the sense that we are utterly interdependent. Actions in one country will affect those in another, and it is often the poorest and most vulnerable in our world, who have done the least to cause the problem of climate change, who face the greatest additional vulnerability. None of us, however, can insulate ourselves from the effects of climate change.
The urgency of climate change and, indeed, Copenhagen lies in the science. Atmospheric concentrations are at their highest level for at least 650,000 years. In the United Kingdom, nine of the 10 warmest years on record occurred during the last 15. In 2007, for the first time in recorded history, the north-west passage of the Arctic was ice-free and open to shipping in the summer. All those facts are important, and remaking the case for the science seems to me to be important as well.
We hear siren voices saying that the science is not real and that it is utterly contested and divided, and coming up with a whole range of explanations. I think that all of us in the House have a responsibility in that regard. I am not a scientist, but I am advised by a range of scientists—many of whom do not work for me, but work for organisations from the Royal Society to the Hadley Centre and a range of other institutions—and I think that remaking that case is very important.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, not least for making that last point. Just lately, a number of those siren voices have been saying that there has been a little bit of cooling in recent years. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is entirely explicable within the models and the overall trend of global warming?
My hon. Friend is right. This may be the point at which the fact that I am not a scientist will come out, but I believe I am right in saying that 1998 was a particularly warm year. That was because of the El Niño effect, and that is why I have made the point that if we look at a longer period, we are struck by the fact that nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred during the last 15.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that even if we were wrong about human intervention in climate change, the measures that we need to take would have to be taken if we are to live in this world in a sustainable way, given the increase in population and the increase in the expectations and choices that that population has?
I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He has made an important point. Let me make another, related point. On the basis of my conversations with scientists, I believe that they are as certain about this as scientists are certain about anything. Even if they were not utterly certain about it, however, would we really want to bet our future on the very slim possibility that they might be wrong?
This is the best analogy that I can think of. If I were told that my children could go on an aeroplane flight in 20 years’ time and there was a 90 per cent. chance that the aeroplane would crash, I would never send them on the aeroplane flight. In this instance, when it is being said that the probability is 95 per cent. or more, I ask: do we really want to bet our future on the very slim possibility that the scientists might be wrong, which I do not believe they are?
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his argument. I remember that, when his brother was responsible for these matters, I felt that the introduction to the Bill that became the Climate Change Act 2008 rather overstated the case. We would do better to talk about risk if we are to carry people with us, given that many of them are rightly sceptical. We should not create artificial divides between deniers and alarmists. There is a risk, and only people with peculiar and unfounded levels of certainty can be sure one way or another. That is why we must think in terms of responsible actions in the future.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I will, of course, brook no criticism of my brother. He does own up to getting a D in A-level physics, but I do not think that that explains the particular point that the hon. Gentleman has made. However, I know that he agrees with me on the question of risk.
I agree entirely with what the Secretary of State says about the science, but is not one of the difficulties that the science tells us that we must take strong action? Politicians also say that we must take strong action, but in the lead-up to Copenhagen, there seems to be a drift away from that strong action. There is a certain cynicism among the public because we say that strong action is needed, but are apparently unwilling to take it.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has nailed the scientific element at the beginning. Does he agree that if the science showed that climate change is not man-made, the problem would be that much more urgent, and our action to remedy it would be that much more urgent, because we would not know what was causing the increases in the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing temperature fluctuation?
My hon. Friend knows much about such matters, and makes an important point.
There is a strong scientific and environmental argument. The truth is that we must act. The 4° map that we have attached to the documents for this debate illustrates some of the impact of dangerous climate change that will arise if we do not act, including melting of glaciers, rises in sea levels, and increasing drought, and that applies not just abroad. There is another issue that we must nail in this debate because I was struck by research showing that only 18 per cent. of people in the UK thought that their children would be affected by climate change. That suggests a responsibility to do a better job of getting across the potential impact.
The Secretary of State is making an exemplary speech, but is it not the case that more than 18 per cent. of children believe that their future may be affected, and are not children one of our best weapons to persuade grown-ups to get off their backsides and do something about it?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important and characteristically smart point. Children really understand the issue. I believe that 50 per cent. of parents pay attention to their children when it comes to climate change, but that only 2 per cent. pay attention to politicians. That is perhaps slightly depressing. [Interruption.] I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) who said from a sedentary position that it is indoctrination. I think it is about information.
Kettering was chosen to be the UK representative in the international consultation on climate change issues ahead of Copenhagen. People were asked:
“To what extent were you familiar with climate change and its consequences”
before taking part in the consultation? In reply, 58 per cent. of those from Kettering said that they knew some, 19 per cent. said that they knew little, and 19 per cent. said that they knew a lot.
Having succeeded in getting Kettering’s role into our discussions twice in the past two hours, the hon. Gentleman deserves local coverage. He speaks proudly for Kettering’s role in climate change, and its people may be better informed than the general population, but the answers depend slightly on how questions are asked.
Does the Secretary of State agree that there is other clear evidence to support the case for following the precautionary principle? Last year, 20 million people around the world were displaced by climate-related disasters, and that figure is predicted to rise to 150 million over the next 40 years. The actions that resulted in them losing their homes and their livelihoods were real, and if that is not evidence that something is happening to our climate, no one will be believed.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point about the dangers both for those people and, frankly, for people in other countries to which they may be displaced. That point is absolutely right.
Let me move on briefly to make the other half of the argument, which partly relates to a point made earlier by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer): there is an environmental argument, but there is also the positive argument. If anything, politicians in such debates—this is not a party political point at all—have not done enough to make the positive case for making the transition to low carbon: the case for future jobs and where they come from, for energy security, which is particularly important for Britain, and for quality of life.
All those issues are very important, and an example of what this means in concrete terms is that there is a question for Europe about whether it moves from 20 per cent. reductions in 2020, compared with 1990, as part of the Copenhagen agreement—that is our unilateral commitment—to 30 per cent. reductions. Some people will no doubt say that we cannot afford the cost and that it is very difficult to do that. I hope that we can get an agreement that is ambitious enough, so that Europe can move to the 30 per cent. target, partly for climate change and environmental reasons, but also for economic reasons. If we want a more robust carbon price—I believe that we all do, to achieve the low-carbon investment that we need and to give businesses the confidence to invest—frankly, the single best thing that we can do is to get an ambitious agreement at Copenhagen, including an ambitious move by Europe.
By the way, our data suggest—in no way do I celebrate this, obviously—that the recession has made it easier for Europe to go to 30 per cent., precisely because of the impacts on emissions in 2020, as a result. So it is important to make the environmental argument, but it is also important to make the economic and other arguments.
My right hon. Friend’s attendance at Copenhagen is important, but on the economic agenda and the way in which we need to get through the recession at the moment, will he give the House an undertaking that he will work with the Regional Ministers, including the Minister for the West Midlands, so that areas such as Stoke-on-Trent can take advantage of the new environmental technologies that need to be developed? Innovation is needed if we are to meet our Copenhagen targets.
On the other arguments for sustainability, is the Secretary of State aware of the recent research done by the UK Energy Research Council that identified that it is quite likely that global oil production will peak in the next 10 years, if it already has not peaked?
Yes, there are different views on peak oil. I do not want to embarrass the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal by quoting him again, but whether or not people say that will happen on a certain date, we must make the low-carbon transition. I find that the peak oilers get very exercised about this question, for reasons that I understand, but whether we care about climate change or peak oil, the basic message is in a sense, “Let’s diversify; let’s move to low carbon.”
Let me move to the second part of my remarks. What kind of agreement are we looking for? It is important to say, as I did during questions earlier, that the UN negotiations are moving too slowly and not going well, as anyone reading the newspapers or seeing walk-outs and so on will know. That is partly because there is a history of mistrust in the negotiations between developed and developing countries, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will know, and partly because people are stuck in entrenched positions, and it is very hard to get out of them. In a sense, that feels intrinsic to those negotiations.
The paradox is that if we look around the world at what has happened in the past year—this is not to try to put on rose-tinted spectacles—we see that lots of things have changed and happened that should give us cause for hope. The new American Administration have got a cap-and-trade Bill through Congress if not through the Senate, and I will come to that later. The new Japanese Government have found much greater ambition in their emissions reductions. For the first time, a Chinese President went to the UN—again, this has been underestimated in the debate—and announced a change in his domestic policy by saying that China would make substantial cuts in its carbon intensity by 2020.
As I said to the Chinese Minister on Saturday, we now await the numbers underlying that announcement. India has also been moving on this. Therefore, there is cause for hope, and I do not think we should be too negative.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the biggest blocks to progress at Copenhagen is the fact that the developed countries—the annexe 1 countries—have not met their promises? I know that we will do so, but other annexe 1 countries have not, and that does not give space to Governments of countries such as China that represent hundreds of millions of people who live on less than $1.50 a day. Such countries are already doing quite a lot, but how can they have the political space to take action when the rich, annexe 1 countries fail to do what they formally promised to do?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Whatever agreement is struck at Copenhagen, one issue for the future will be compliance and what we do in cases of non-compliance. There are not, in truth, easy answers to that.
That point leads me on to address the core of the deal that we are looking for, about which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House agree. Ambition is important. We must get on a 2° trajectory. Lord Stern has come up with rather interesting numbers on this, which suggest that the world is currently emitting about 50 gigatonnes, and we should be seeking to get on a pathway leading to about 18 gigatonnes by 2050. To get on that pathway, we need to be at 44 gigatonnes by 2020. That is a good benchmark for thinking about the agreement we are seeking, although we will have to see whether we will get all the way to 44 gigatonnes. Lord Stern says—this is why there is a little cause for optimism—that the pledges already on the table take us down to 48 gigatonnes. That reduction might not sound like very much, but it should be noted that we would expect the numbers to rise to between 55 and 60 gigatonnes if people were carrying on with business as usual. We need to go further, however—we need to have the ambition to do so. That will have to come from actions by countries, finance for developing countries, and succeeding in areas such as reducing deforestation.
I am listening with great interest, and I am enjoying the Secretary of State’s speech. In terms of these negotiations and the need to deal with the entrenched positions and get positive movement, it is vital that world leaders attend as well as people like himself—[Interruption.] That comment came out wrong.
I am therefore very pleased that the Prime Minister has said he will go to Copenhagen and take a lead for the UK. However, what might the country be able to do diplomatically to encourage other countries also to send their Heads of State—their Presidents and Prime Ministers—as well as their Environment Ministers, because when there are such entrenched positions, that is sometimes what is required to get solutions?
I assure the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) that I took her remarks in the spirit in which they were intended. It is, indeed, important that world leaders are at Copenhagen. She made the important point that we will need such leaders in order to seal the deal, and I have repeatedly made that point to our counterparts in the United States and elsewhere. As someone who is helping to negotiate on some of these issues, I was very struck that before the leaders summit in L’Aquila in July we were making very little progress on the question of whether the major economies would sign up to the 2° target for an outcome at Copenhagen, but the intervention of leaders made it happen. That is illustrative of the role leaders can, and must, play.
There is no doubt that world leaders are taking an interest and Governments are taking a much greater interest. Does the Secretary of State accept that given the current state of negotiations, which he will know more about than me, there is a risk that the best we will get is a framework deal, not a deal with commitments? Does he also agree that it is better to have a framework deal, and speedy recall and serious commitments, than a weak deal? Also, will the UK still contemplate being bolder than the EU was a couple of weeks ago in trying to trigger further progress?
That is an important point, and I promise the hon. Gentleman that I will come to it.
We need to be ambitious, and we also need to be fair in the agreement we reach, which is why finance is so important. It is worth making the point that we are asking developing countries to do not as we did, but as we say we want them to do—that is, to grow in a low-carbon way. Let me give one example: 450 million people in India are not connected to the electricity grid and we are asking the country to leapfrog over the high-carbon way of getting electricity to people and to move to a low-carbon way of doing that. I was encouraged when I was in India. It has very ambitious plans for 20 million people to get solar power and lighting, but 20 million is a long way short of 450 million. Therefore, when people ask what finance in Copenhagen is about, this is my answer: it is in part about enabling countries such as India to move further and faster, to the benefit of the world, as it will not drive up its emissions as it would if it went down the high-carbon route; and it is also, crucially, about adaptation for some of the poorest countries in the world. I know that many hon. Members feel strongly about that.
In this context, the EU offer is very important. The offer is €100 billion in public and private finance by 2020, a global public finance offer of between €22 billion and €50 billion—that is a range, but it is a range that we will take into the negotiations—and global fast-start finance. The big task—let me be completely candid—is to try to get other countries to sign up to this. Europe has taken a lead, but we now need the United States and other countries to move on finance as well. That is not straightforward, but it is crucial.
Let me mention in passing the issue of additionality, because it is very important. Oxfam has done very good research showing the costs if, for instance, $50 billion a year was diverted from aid budgets. That is why we have said we will use no more than 10 per cent. of the existing aid budget in order to make our climate finance contribution. We have further to go to secure such additionality commitments from other countries.
We want to limit the amount of money that is spent from the aid budget, but about 10 per cent. of the aid budget is already spent on climate-related activities, because the truth is that in certain cases we cannot separate out climate change-induced issues from issues of poverty, as the two are inextricably linked. That concludes my second point, which was on fairness and finance.
My third point is on the comprehensive nature of the agreement. Many hon. Members have campaigned on forestry and deforestation, and we must make progress on that. As far as I can tell, this is one of the areas where the United Nations negotiations have been going slightly better, such as in respect of the issue of reducing emissions from deforestation and RED-plus.
Deforestation is critical in getting an overall agreement. I was therefore disturbed to read reports in the media a couple of weeks ago that the European negotiating position would be not to support the removal of palm oil in plantations. I understand that is not the case. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend would put the record straight, so that we know what position Europe is taking in the negotiations on forests.
I am glad my hon. Friend makes that point, because it gives me the chance to make it clear that The Independent is not always right in its reporting. It is not the case that we want to do what has been said in respect of the EU. We completely understand her point and the issue of necessary protection.
The agreement needs to be comprehensive. That leads me on to the point made by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) about the kind of agreement we get. The Danes, who are the hosts of the meeting, have said in the past couple of weeks that, given the pace of the UN negotiations, they think achieving a full legal treaty is unlikely. It has to be said that we would have preferred a full legal treaty.
The important thing about the agreement we seek in December is that although it may be a political agreement, it must lead, on a very clear timetable, to a legally binding treaty. In other words, in December, we must set the terms of the movement to such a treaty, because that is very important. I must make it clear that, in addition, an agreement without numbers would not be a great agreement—it would be a wholly inadequate agreement. Even though the agreement may be a political agreement, it must be as comprehensive as possible and it must contain numbers, because that is what we are talking about. It is all very well getting the architecture right—there are big issues involved in the architecture of an agreement—but the numbers are what really matter.
We must also have reduction commitments from developed countries and actions from developing countries that translate into reduced quantities of emissions—not cuts in emissions from major developing countries before 2020, but real actions that contribute to the kind of peaking of global emissions that is a central task of the agreement. Then—this is where the architecture matters—we need to find a way of transparently recording those commitments from developed countries and actions from developing countries, and have people standing behind them. It is important to say that we have made some progress on the question of developing countries needing to put actions on the table that can be quantified and that they will stand behind.
The Secretary of State is getting very much to the heart of the matter. I wish to raise the issue of numbers with him, because he will know that one of the weaknesses of the Kyoto agreement was that the figures were the result of horse-trading; they were not really the result of any kind of scientific assessment. We must not make the same mistake in Copenhagen.
My right hon. Friend, who knows so much about these questions, is right. We need to agree numbers that are not only scientifically based, but realistic. In retrospect, it is clear that some countries signed up to numbers at Kyoto—I do not know whether they knew that this would be the case at the time—that they have come nowhere close to achieving. The numbers need to be realistic and consistent with the science.
Let me say how we get to that agreement. I think that I have made it clear that the formal negotiations have their role, but will not, on their own, achieve success. That is why in June the Prime Minister made proposals on finance, and it is why it is right that the European Union has not treated this like a conventional negotiation—it has not kept its cards close to its chest until 3 am on the last evening and then revealed its finance numbers. We have got to push and we have to be persuaders, and sometimes unilateral action is important, because it drives people forward.
I also think that the EU’s role in the coming weeks is to use our commitment to go to 30 per cent. as part of a global deal as a way of levering up greater commitments from others. May I briefly say something about the situation in the United States, which is very important? Hon. Members will know that it is, in a sense, key to this deal and the situation is not straightforward at all. I believe that it is still possible that the US will come forward with a clear number at Copenhagen, despite the fact that the Senate Bill may not be through. That is very important, because the risks of failure at Copenhagen and delay are significant; I do not think that this gets any easier the longer we leave it. Thus, I think—we have conversations about this with the United States—that it is important that the US, despite its domestic issues, comes to Copenhagen with a clear set of ambitions and is able to sign up to an agreement. We know that we need the US as part of an agreement and that the biggest flaw in the Kyoto agreement was that the US was not part of it. Just to be clear, we in Europe intend to use our commitments to drive others forward.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend, who is making the case extremely well as to why the United States, and all the major powers, have a big role to play. Will he argue the case in this Chamber today for the President of the United States to be in Copenhagen, because that is the strongest way of getting the message across and actually doing something about the problem?
I have made it clear that leaders do have a very important role to play. What President Obama does is obviously a matter for him, but we have made it clear that we think that leaders need to be part of a Copenhagen agreement if we are to secure the agreement we want.
Let me conclude by repeating that we need to keep our focus on a good deal, not just any deal. A deal without numbers would be a bad deal; a deal without developed country commitments would not be a good deal; and a deal without action from developing countries would not be a good deal. The central task of any agreement is to show that we can be on, at worst, the 2° pathway, and that we have a credible way of peaking global emissions. The world has never done that before throughout its industrial history and it is a very big prize.
I wish to end on a note of optimism. There are huge difficulties, because of the scale of the task that we face. As I have said in our discussions with other countries, every country faces its compelling constraints in this, be it the US, where the debate is behind that in other countries, or India, because of the number of its people who are in poverty and the fact that it needs to grow. The truth is that we will succeed in tackling this only if we understand each other’s constraints and show ambition. If we can conclude a successful agreement in Copenhagen, I do not think that people will look back and say, “This was a mistake.” I think that people will look back and say, “This was an historic moment. It was actually easier than people thought to make the kind of changes that we need to make.” As the chief scientist in the US said to me, once we start to turn around this inexorable rise in emissions, people will say, “Actually, the quality of life can be better, our economy can be better and it was not so hard after all.” The aim at Copenhagen is not only to avoid environmental disaster, but to build a better life for people here and around the world, and I hope that we can agree something that those in all parts of the House can support.
May I say how much the Conservatives welcome this important debate at this important time? We particularly welcome the tone that the Secretary of State has brought to his remarks today. We entirely concur with it and we appreciate the bipartisanship with which he has approached this issue.
It is just 31 days until the beginning of the talks in Copenhagen and it is vital that from this debate we send out a clear message that there is complete unity of purpose across the House, and between the agenda that the British Government are pursuing and this House, so that there can be no suggestion that that is in any way at risk in the negotiations. Indeed, there has long been agreement on both sides of the House that climate change poses a real and urgent risk, both to the UK and to the world.
Some 20 years ago this week, on 8 November 1989, Mrs. Thatcher addressed the UN General Assembly on the need to tackle climate change. She said:
“The work ahead will be long and exacting. We should embark on it hopeful of success, not fearful of failure… We are not the lords, we are the Lord’s creatures, the trustees of this planet, charged today with preserving life itself—preserving life with all its mystery and all its wonder. May we all be equal to that task.”
I believe that her words will be as relevant in Copenhagen and during the weeks ahead as they were in New York 20 years ago.
Let us be under no illusion as to the historic significance of the Copenhagen conference. It may be as pivotal for the 21st century as the Bretton Woods summit was for the arrangements for the second half of the 20th century. Out of that historic gathering came a new internationally agreed order governing the way in which our economies interact with each other. It has, since the second world war, guided the way in which we interact globally and it has left us with institutions that have endured, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The Copenhagen agreement must be no less ambitious in its scope, and I hope that it will be no less influential in all our futures in respect of seeing the global shift that we all desire towards a low-carbon economy over the next 40 years.
That is why the Secretary of State was right to say that Copenhagen is so much more than just an environmental summit, important though that is. This is about our future national and international security. It is about the future of our national and international economic competitiveness. It is about securing a good future for our children and their children, and about our responsibilities to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
My party leader pointed out in a speech last month that if the Himalayan glaciers melt, more than 750 million people will be without sufficient water. We cannot deny that that would have serious consequences for us all in terms of global conflict, mass movements of people and our own national security. I do not believe that anyone here wants to see our atmosphere polluted, our lands rendered uninhabitable, or vulnerable populations denied sufficient food and water. There is something deeply unsettling about the realisation that many of our everyday acts, which we have taken for granted over the years—how we heat and light our homes and how we travel to work—have actively contributed to this grave situation. I am reminded of something that Hayek wrote:
“We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilisation except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part, and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals have apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.”
Most of us present today would agree with everything the hon. Gentleman has just said—perhaps up to the point when he mentioned Hayek—but can we get some focus here? Does he agree that the 100 billion euros or dollars of finance that should be achieved by 2020, which the Prime Minister has mooted and which the EU supports, is the right figure? Should it be more? How will that figure easily be delivered if we are living in a post-recessionary age of austerity?
The hon. Gentleman sets out the challenge and I shall go on to address it in detail. It is very difficult to tell whether that figure is the right one, and perhaps during the winding-up speech the Minister will apprise us of its construction. I think that we are all agreed that it needs to be adequate to the task of helping countries that will be affected by the consequences of climate change to defend themselves and to adapt to that inevitability. The question of what that figure should be is pertinent. It is impossible for me to say from the Dispatch Box precisely what it should be—indeed, one of the objectives for Copenhagen is that it should be right.
May I return the hon. Gentleman to the subject of error, as mentioned in his quotation from Hayek? Does it not worry him just a little that the international consensus that we need to establish, not just for Copenhagen but beyond, requires working with partners who understand and accept the reality of climate change? Has not his party, worryingly, put itself in a position in Europe where it is allied with climate changers—[Interruption.]— sorry, climate change deniers? Is there not a genuine problem with how he is going to get the co-operation needed to tackle those problems?
I hope that the hon. Lady is not trying to sow dissent and concern where they do not exist. My party in this country and in its European alliances is completely committed to tackling climate change. In fact, we regard it as one of the essential competences of the EU. There is no difference there. Many of our allies have some of the best records in Europe. Greenpeace in the Netherlands cited our sister party there as one of the greenest parties in Europe. The hon. Lady should set her mind at rest on this point. We are committed to working closely and vigorously with our colleagues in Europe, as we have done in recent years. No one who has studied the debates on these matters in the European Parliament in recent years can have failed to notice the leadership that the British Conservative delegation there has given from our Front Bench.
My hon. Friend knows that I take a clear view on Europe. Does he agree that part of the role of us all is to convince those who are as yet unconvinced, and that we will have additional opportunities to do that in these circumstances? The real fact of the matter is that climate change is too important for cheap party political points.
My right hon. Friend always speaks with clarity, and he certainly did then. That is an important point. My experience is that the best way to persuade people who take a different view, when there is a minority, is to entice them through reason to one’s point of view, rather than to seek to denounce and create dividing lines. The latter is the wrong approach, especially on this sort of issue. We should resist creating division in an area where we should be rallying people to a cause that we all support.
My hon. Friend might want to point out to the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), who raised that rather silly and trite point, the difficulties that our colleagues in the European Parliament had in dealing with our former allies in the CDU who were intent on and assiduous in looking after their vested industrial interests in Germany.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The exercise of persuasion needs to happen in all parties and all groups. I dare say that the allies of the Labour party might contain one or two people whose position could be strengthened.
Let me be clear: I see Copenhagen as a massive opportunity for Britain and I share the Secretary of State’s optimism. The world is about to undergo a transformation in energy just as far-reaching as the revolution in IT over the past 20 years. A vast new global market is opening up in which Britain is extraordinarily well placed to prosper. The skills that are needed to lead the low-carbon revolution are skills that we have in abundance in such industries as marine engineering and the process industries. We have some of the best universities and research institutes in the world dedicated to those disciplines. We have on our east coast the North sea, which is literally and figuratively a sea of energy, abundant in wind, wave and tidal resources and with depleted gas wells and saline aquifers that are perfect for storing CO2, all surrounded by enormous energy markets on two coasts, with some of the heaviest concentrations of industrial users anywhere in the world.
In the past 10 years in Britain, the only two major sectors to have increased net employment are financial services and the public sector. It is obvious to everyone in this House that we cannot go on like that. I believe that the low-carbon industries should be at the centre of a clear and deliberate British industrial policy in the years ahead. That is another reason why Britain needs a strong climate deal to be struck at Copenhagen. Like the Secretary of State, I am confident that a deal is possible.
It is usual, and probably prudent, in advance of major negotiations for people to be concerned and to worry about the prospects for an agreement. We certainly should not take one for granted, but I believe that recent signs have been positive. One by one, the major players are coming on board: the US Administration, Australia, Japan and even China, as the Secretary of State mentioned. China is arguably the pivotal nation in these talks, and when President Hu told the United Nations in September that China would agree to substantial cuts in emissions intensity and would ensure that 20 per cent. of its power came from renewables by 2020, I thought that that was a highly significant development and one that gives us cause for optimism.
That development happened not just because China has suddenly gone green, although I think it fair to point out that its experience of current climate change has instilled in it an awareness of the consequences of climate change. The Chinese Government clearly recognise the significant opportunities for their economy—like the opportunities for ours—in making it less dependent on fossil fuels and more energy efficient.
My hon. Friend is right to pay greater attention to the actions that have been taken by China, which does not often get fair publicity for what it does. Does he agree that, when the Government said in 2003 how important carbon capture and storage was, our country was perfectly positioned to lead the world? It is not shameful that a country such as China, which is still developing, is now ahead of Britain, whereas we are still dithering about demonstration projects?
The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that this is a partisan point, but it is not. No one would be more delighted than I or more thrilled than the Conservative party if we were to establish leadership in CCS technology now. Communities with which I am familiar would benefit instantly from investment in it. It should be a matter of cross-party consensus that we should be in the vanguard of the technology, rather than lagging behind.
For his CCS policy, the hon. Gentleman has been relying on the auction revenues from the EU emissions trading scheme. Over the past six months I have been telling him that those revenues have already been accounted for in the Government accounts. We hope that the forthcoming energy Bill will include a proposal for a levy to fund CCS. Will he support that example of leadership?
The Secretary of State says that the ETS revenues are accounted for, but he has not been able to point out in the Red Book what they are being spent on, or how much he has spent. He might want to give us the answer now: how much has been allocated? I should be happy to give way to him if he can tell us how much has been allocated and spent.
Answer came there none. We will of course look at the Bill when it is published. It would be foolish to endorse the levy uncritically and sight unseen. We will give our reaction to the proposal when the Secretary of State publishes the Bill. That is the time for us to do that, but if he would like to share the details in advance, we will give him an earlier assessment of whether it passes muster. It is in the interests of China, just as it is in our own, to move to a genuinely low-carbon economy.
As I said in Question Time, with so much at stake and yet so much still to be agreed on, it is easy to be pessimistic about our chances of reaching a successful deal. We must not seek a deal for a deal’s sake—to be fair, the Secretary of State has shown himself to be cognisant of that risk and determined to avoid it. We agree that the worst kind of failure would be to trumpet a deal that was inadequate as in some way satisfying what is needed. However, even though that might be what we want now, we know that summits have a momentum. The pressures for an agreement—for the handshake that I mentioned earlier—will be intense. The Heads of State and of Government who fly in will not want to fly out again without achieving some sort of concordat. It is more important to get an agreement than it is to have a photograph at the end of the summit. I hope that the Secretary of State will be true to what he has said today and blow the whistle on any deal that is not adequate.
I support the comments of my hon. Friend, but does he agree that the Secretary of State did not mention an extremely important constituency to which a real deal at Copenhagen is vital? I am talking about the business community, which has to take now the decisions on long-term infrastructure assets that are likely to determine whether we meet our interim targets. The members of that community see muddle where they want clarity and the framework for investment that Copenhagen must deliver.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The investments that we need will come mostly from private investors and companies. They can make those investments only if they have a stable policy environment in which they can be confident. One cause of the delay in some investments is that public policy in this country and, to an extent, around the world has added to the risk, rather than reduced it. Copenhagen is an important way for us to take some of the risk away.
Any agreement that can be considered rigorous must pass a number of tests, including but not limited to the following list. First, an agreement has to be sufficiently rigorous to bind the world in a common commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures to below 2° C. That has to be explicit if any deal is to carry credibility. Secondly, the deal must establish a new international financial mechanism that will provide our brothers and sisters in the world’s poorest countries with the means to protect themselves against future floods, famine and drought. To that end, we must use funds additional to and not instead of, the resources currently deployed to fight poverty. It would be bizarre if, having agreed to help alleviate the poverty of various countries, we were then to find that an additional problem came along and made us forget about that agreement. There needs to be a recognition that climate change is an additional challenge that requires additional help.
I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said about additionality, but does he agree that additional money to make the Copenhagen agreement work should not be taken from existing UK aid budgets? Does he agree that the new money must be separate and clearly distinct, and that it should not put those aid budgets at risk?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point, and I agree with his analysis. If we regard climate change as a new and additional problem, we need new and additional resources to tackle it. In that regard, I do not understand fully how the figure of 10 per cent. has been arrived at. I know that the Secretary of State wants to be rigorous, but it seems a suspiciously round number. How can we know that 10 per cent. will be the proportion of the aid budget that is relevant for ever and a day? I would like a more rigorous basis for that number.
I believe that that must be part of the Copenhagen agreement. Unilateral commitments by individual countries will not lead to the necessary certainty of funding. Various mechanisms are already on the table at Copenhagen that might result in a flow of funds, and it is very important that we establish a deal in that regard. That will be one of the central tests of whether any agreement can stand up to the ambitions that we have for it.
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about 10 per cent., but what we really need is a commitment from all parties in this House that any help given to developing countries coping with climate change must be over and above the aid that goes to them for poverty relief.
The right hon. Gentleman makes the exact point that I have made in my remarks.
The final essential element of any outcome at Copenhagen is an urgent agreement on deforestation. Some 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are lost every year to deforestation. To put that into context, that is an area larger than England. We must secure a deal at Copenhagen to protect the global rainforests, without which it will be impossible to keep warming under a dangerous threshold.
From the beginning of his leadership, the leader of my party has made it clear that Britain must take a position of leadership on our global as well as our domestic environment. We have talked about that already in our exchanges, and it is nothing new. British Governments throughout the ages have seen it as Britain’s role in the world to be a force for progressive change. In a remarkable speech this summer that I commend to all hon. Members, my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary said:
“The citizens of Britain have always been restless in trying to improve the wider world and global in our outlook.”
That must characterise our ambition in Copenhagen.
As we get close to Copenhagen, we know that significant outstanding issues remain. The Secretary of State alluded to the question whether the deal would trigger higher contributions from other EU member states. If the deal is to be genuinely global, it is essential that it triggers that pan-European 30 per cent. emissions reduction target and ensures that it is brought into effect. Moreover, we have talked about the temperature requirement, but it is also important that we encourage—as the Secretary of State has said he will—our European partners to rise to the challenge as we have and respect the scientific view of what is required.
When it comes to the flow of funds for adaptation, it is important that we understand that the numbers used in the agreement must be rigorous. I agree with the Secretary of State that those numbers must not be made up and used just because they sound round and can be easily communicated. The numbers used in the agreement must have some substance to them.
It is clear that much work remains to be done on important aspects of the problem before Copenhagen begins. With a little more than a month to go, it is right for people to be apprehensive about the task ahead. It is not in anyone’s interest to be over-confident, but I began my speech by saying that a number of people are making a parallel with the Bretton Woods conference of 1944. On the eve of that conference, John Maynard Keynes, one of the architects of that historic agreement, said that it was
“better that our projects should begin in disillusion than…end in it”.
I think that we start off from a stronger position than he did, in terms of our optimism about what might come out of the negotiations. I wish the Secretary of State much success in the weeks ahead.
I welcome the debate and the tone and tenor of contributions from Members on both sides of the House. This is a crucial issue, and the conference in Copenhagen will probably be one of the most important international negotiations that has ever taken place. There are great implications for the future of our country and the international situation. I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the Front-Bench spokesmen for the fact that I might not be able to be in the Chamber for the wind-ups, because I have an engagement in my constituency.
I wanted to speak in the debate because the conference is so important and its outcome will be vital to us all—and, indeed, to future generations. I welcome the lead that the Government have taken. The fact that the Prime Minister made it clear that he was willing to attend sent an important signal, because I agree that getting an outcome will probably require the involvement of the leaders of countries, given its importance. I agree that the progress that has been made so far has been the result of international leaders engaging through the UN.
I also welcome the fact that the EU has reached an agreement on funding for adaptation and for help for some of the world’s poorest countries that are suffering the most. That must be part of the deal, and it gives a useful lead. It is important that other developed countries add their contributions to that to form part of the overall outcome.
I accept that the numbers are crucial. They must be based on the science. There must not be a a repeat of Kyoto when several countries chose figures because they were slightly higher than those of some of their rivals. Some countries did a better job of that, and the UK negotiations identified a more realistic number than Canada’s, for example. However, although I accept what the Secretary of State says about being realistic, some annexe 1 countries have not made a lot of effort over the years, and that must change.
In an otherwise excellent speech, the Secretary of State did not say a great deal about compliance mechanisms, and did not include compliance in the list of key points at the end of his speech. Does the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) agree that without compliance to ensure that people face a sanction if they fail to keep their promises, even if we end up with an agreement that we can celebrate, because it looks strong, that agreement might not lead to the actions that people promise?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There will clearly be an issue regarding compliance. There must be a binding international agreement. I do not underestimate how difficult it will be to apply and enforce compliance measures, but I do not dispute that there must be such a mechanism.
Developing countries, especially the major emerging economies, must show some commitment. That commitment might be different from that which we would accept, as an annexe 1 country, but nevertheless they must demonstrate that they are willing to make a major contribution towards reducing emissions.
I agree with what has been said about China. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) has joined me in many meetings with Chinese representatives, as have my hon. Friends the Members for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) and for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen). Countries such as China have made an enormous move, and engagement among legislators has been important. There have also been signs of movement from the United States, although not as great as I would like, and smaller signs of movement from India—again, not as great as I would like. It is important to get legislators on side, especially US legislators, because any agreement will have to go through Congress and be ratified. Unless we have the support of legislators, we will find ourselves back in the position at the time of Kyoto when the US was willing to sign up to the agreement, but there was no chance of it getting through Congress.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that before we can expect developing countries to make the major promises that they need to make, they must have confidence that we have accepted responsibility for causing the problem and profiting from the pollution that we are now suffering?
I absolutely accept that point. To be fair to the UK, we have always been clear that we went through a dirty phase of industrialisation and gained the economic benefits of that. We cannot deny the benefits of economic growth to others when that forms part of their policies of poverty alleviation. However, other countries do not necessarily have to go down the path of dirty industrialisation. They could go straight to cleaner technologies, and we can play a role in developing and transferring such technology to other countries.
I want to focus on the benefits of a low-carbon economy. Two themes come out of discussions with legislators from other countries, especially countries such as America: first, they say that unless there is action from emerging economies, there will be unfair economic competition that will undermine their economies; and, secondly, they talk about the cost that will fall on their individual countries due to moving to a low-carbon economy. However, we always make the point in those discussions that there is no cost-free option, because there will be costs arising from not moving to a low-carbon economy. In addition, they must consider the important factors of security of energy supply and economic sustainability, which can bring benefits in themselves, as well as the absolutely overwhelming environmental arguments.
Our country could benefit greatly from moving to a low-carbon economy. My region could receive those benefits. The steel plate for wind farm towers is already made in Scunthorpe, and a local company in my constituency maintains and overhauls gearboxes for land-based and offshore wind turbines. The Humber area could be a centre for the low-carbon economy by supporting the growing offshore wind sector, including from the ports of Hull, Grimsby and Immingham. South Yorkshire can offer engineering and design, and we have steel facilities, science and universities, and expertise in the area, including from the oil and gas industry. We also have expertise on carbon capture and storage, and I am really pleased that the EU has committed money to a carbon capture power station at Hatfield, which could form just one part of a big centre for the low-carbon economy involving many thousands of jobs in the Humber. Such a thing could happen in other parts of the country.
Following the Prime Minister’s statement on the European Council, I pointed out in my question to him that if we are to encourage developing countries, in particular, to take the required steps, they will need to see the benefits that they could get from a low-carbon economy. We need to offer encouragement, and the European Union, as a major trading bloc, is in a good position to do that. For example, we could argue for a tariff-free, low-carbon trading zone, whereby products that would benefit energy efficiency or low-carbon energy could enter a country on a tariff-free basis. That would benefit manufacturing in the UK, which is important, and encourage international trade. We already have the important developing carbon market, which brings benefits, and we need measures in the European Union, such as a zero or reduced VAT rate for insulating or low-carbon materials, to provide such encouragement. Other possible measures have recently been discussed, such as a scrappage scheme for boilers, which would generate jobs and trade.
A great deal can be done, and the European Union is in an excellent position to bring that about. It is also a way of engaging legislators in how they might see the benefits for their own areas. I met some senators from Texas, which, without being unfair, is not the most progressive part of America in the low-carbon economy. However, although they were not hugely enthusiastic about the environmental arguments, they certainly saw the economic arguments and the benefits for their local economy and for people from carbon capture and storage, solar power and smart grids. Indeed, smart grid development in Texas is very advanced. We need to emphasise those points when we hear negative responses from some countries.
I should like to flag up some issues that, although important, may get lost in the negotiations, given the main focus of the talks. They include deforestation, which has already been mentioned. There has been some welcome progress on tackling deforestation, but what I have heard and read concerns me. We need to get the details right of how we deal with deforestation through the reduced emissions from deforestation—or RED-process; we need the money to go to forest management and restoration; and the most important people to get onside, those who live in and rely on forests, need to receive some share of the investment. Any deal that puts a lot of money into the hands of Governments and never reaches forestry management or local communities could do more harm than good. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to be aware of that, because a deal is important, but a deal at any price could make things worse rather than better.
The forests issue is linked to ecosystem protection. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North has been very active on the latter, but it could also get lost in the argument. Internationally, the role of forests and deforestation has been recognised, but wetlands, peat bogs and mangrove swamps also have roles—and not only in mitigation. Some of the effects of rising sea levels, storms and typhoons have been made worse by the removal of mangroves, taking away not only potential mitigation for poor communities, but nurseries for fish, which are very important for commercial fisheries. The ecosystem issue is part of the consideration of how we manage our environment to mitigate the effects of carbon, and it has not had the attention that it deserves. The work that has been done in valuating forests has also been done for ecosystems, but we should not separate the two. They have to be seen together, and that will be one of the challenges for my right hon. Friends.
My final point is perhaps the most difficult one. Population is an issue, but it is not for us to lecture other countries. This is about improving the economics of developing countries and improving access to education, for women in particular. We have a role to play through our aid programmes, and I agree that the additional funding for adaptation must not be removed from the Overseas Development Administration budget, because we have a role to play in that, too. Part of that role is to recognise that it is in no one’s interest for the population to rise from 6 billion to 9 billion. That may not happen, but we should take into account the effects of population increase, because it has many negative effects, not least on the environment, on emissions and on sustainability.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has said and done the right things. The negotiations will be very difficult, but for all of us the long-term consequences of failure are almost unthinkable, and I wish him all the best.
I shall start where the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) finished and express our thanks to the Secretary of State. I wish him all the best, and I wish to strengthen his resolve. Indeed, I hope that today encourages him, the Prime Minister and the Government, because those in power today have a responsibility that may not fall to the next Government, and now is the time to make progress.
All of us recognise that throughout the world there has been a significant movement towards a desire to do business at the conference, which starts a month on Monday. For example, China and India have agreed to put on one side disputes about their border so as to try to reach a common view, and that is fantastic progress. The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe speaks with great authority and experience and can testify to the fact that even states such as Texas, where there is an historical reluctance to act and a conservative position, for reasons that we know, have none the less made some movement on the issue.
Looking throughout the world, I note that significant players such as the Japanese, as well as the Chinese and Indians, and the Americans, whose signature was absent from the Kyoto treaty, are all coming to the table with more commitment. However, we are a long way from reaching a deal, and I shall return to what my party and our sister parties in Liberal International and throughout Europe have sought to say. It is a great privilege for our group of politicians that the host in Copenhagen is a Prime Minister who comes from the liberal democratic tradition, and he and his colleagues in other European countries have a pivotal role to play. I wish him all the best; he knows the significance of the meeting that he will host in Denmark in a month’s time.
Unlike Mr. Speaker and other colleagues, I was unable to attend the Chamber last Friday when the Youth Parliament held its first meeting here—something that I supported and argued for. Earlier last week, however, I met for the third time representatives of the UK Youth Climate Coalition. I know that Hansard does not record objects, but I have one here with the slogan that the coalition uses all the time, and it is the question asked of all of us:
“How old will you be in 2050?”
It does so because one emissions-reduction target date that European leaders agreed was 2050. In answer to that question, I will be just short of a three-figure number, if I am given the opportunity to be around at all. I respectfully point out that there are others in this Chamber who, if they are still going, will be the other side of that three-figure number. The coalition’s point is obvious: targets for 2050, 2030 and 2020 are fine and important, but our real job is to agree something now, because only now can we begin to see those climate changes. That is why we have been so keen to ensure that the country signs up to ambitions such as the 10:10 campaign. Doing things now is important.
The Minister of State, the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), who I also wish all the best at the conference, spoke earlier about the high percentage of changes that individuals can make to this country’s carbon emissions. Individuals’ actions can account for about one third of those emissions, so, while we send our colleagues to negotiate at Copenhagen, we must remind ourselves that we must continue to ensure that we deliver the goods at home.
On the nature of the agreement, the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) chose Bretton Woods as a parallel, and the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe said that Copenhagen may be the most important agreement since the war. I had come to the view—not from any reading, but from thinking back over world history since world war two—that the climate agreement, which I hope will be reached in December, but will certainly be reached as a result of the talks, could be a significant global agreement for a generation and more. People have begun to bandy about the idea that the agreement may be our last opportunity to make decisions that turn around the tanker and reverse the pattern of behaviour, so I think that it is like the peace treaty at the end of the second world war, or Bretton Woods, because it will change the way we do our global business.
I absolutely endorse what the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe said. The outcome of an agreement will not be detrimental to the developed or industrialised world: it offers us huge potential because of our geographical position—with the tide, wave and wind that surround us and, sometimes, the sun—and because of the abilities of our science, research and engineering sectors, our academic abilities, and our industrial capacity. We have not only the Humber estuary but the Thames estuary, the Tyne and Tees estuaries in the north-east, the Scottish east coast and the fantastic capability around Scotland. We are hugely well placed to deliver the new investment in jobs and opportunities; that applies to other countries, too. I sincerely hope that we recognise that there are positive outcomes not only for us but equally for the developing world.
I want to make my first substantive point to the Secretary of State by picking up the issue on which I engaged with him in my interventions—the nature of the deal. He was very honest with us, and I am grateful to him for that. It is clear that the deal must lead to two things: a timetable and enforceability. It is no good just having words without the mechanisms for delivering on them. Let me reinforce the view that I have reached, having talked to colleagues in other countries as well as here. It would be better, if it comes to it, to get the outline of a deal in December and then insert the details, the binding agreements and the figures slightly later instead of coming away with something that does not do that.
However, I am conscious of the politics of other countries, and our own. As we know, we face elections next year, because this Parliament has to end. Next autumn, the United States will have its two-yearly elections. From what I have heard—my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who has been in the States, has described the pressure that the Administration are under on the health agenda—my judgment is that if a deal is not done that the American Administration can deliver soon, the chances of that happening recede given the politics of the second half of next year, because people are always bolder in the first half of their terms of office than later on, and America is such a key player. The message that we want to send to the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State and his colleagues is that if a final deal is not done in Copenhagen in December, we should—I see that the UN Secretary-General, the Danish Prime Minister and others are hinting that we may have to do this—adjourn and then reconvene to complete the process in the very early part of next year. I hope that the Minister who winds up can endorse that approach.
It is only fair that I should put to the House and to Ministers our considered view as a party. Our job is to support the Government on these things, of course, but also to embolden them. We have looked at the evidence, listened to the arguments, and come to certain views, some of which involve more ambitious targets than the Government have set, and I owe it to the House to put those on the table.
Everybody understands—the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells was careful in his wording—that the worst case scenario that we would want to occur in terms of a temperature rise is a 2° increase. However, that must be the outside margin, as much of the science—it does not just come from people such as Lord Stern, who has been cited—suggests that we should be aiming at something nearer to 1.7° increase. I understand that it is easier to argue for 2° because it is a round figure, but we must realise that that is the outside margin and it would be better to have an ambition for something lower.
In terms of atmospheric concentration, 350 parts per million is now regarded— again by Lord Stern and the scientists who have done the work—as the aim.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the need to keep the temperature rise to 2°. Does he share my concern that even with stretching targets such as an 80 per cent. reduction by 2015, even with the things that currently seem politically difficult to deliver, that only gives us, according to the science, a 50 per cent. chance of keeping it under 2°, which is already a pretty big risk for us to be taking on?
I agree. That is why I take the general approach that the Secretary of State said that he would apply: the precautionary principle. This is not an area where we can risk not taking the action because in the end things might not work out as badly. We have to presume that the accelerating changes will go on accelerating as they have been. My hon. Friend is right: we have to act on the basis of the most dangerous option. That is why it is also important, for example, to try to ensure that we get to 2015 as the date when we stop increasing our emissions and start to bring them back down.
The hon. Gentleman will know that in terms of atmospheric concentration we are already at 387 parts per million. Has he had a chance to consider the Royal Society’s statement of earlier this year, which established that unless we reach 350 parts per million within 40 years, we are likely to see the entire global ecosystem of coral reefs collapse? That will be the first collapse of a global ecosystem in the human period. Of the five mass extinctions that have ever taken place on this planet, each has begun with a global ecosystem collapse.
Absolutely. The general public at home will not register if we talk about percentage reductions in emissions by certain dates in the future—2050 for young people. They understand it when we get that report about coral reefs, see the fantastically effective pictures of the Maldivian Cabinet meeting underwater when they said, “Look, this will soon be our country if we go on as we are”, or hear about the sort of figures that we had this week from the International Union for Conservation of Nature—the most longstanding and well reputed organisation dealing with biodiversity worldwide—about the threat to the species of the world. They are frightening figures that say that 17,291 out of the 47,677 assessed species are threatened with extinction.
However, these things are not only relevant when they are a long way off. In my youth, there was the great World Wildlife Fund campaign for the panda. People understand that these things matter. They have concerns internationally about ecosystems, climate and species, but they are also worried when they hear that we may lose bluebells and butterflies in this country, that the east coast and the west coast may not always be there in their present form, and that villages on the Welsh coast or the East Anglian coast may be slipping into the sea. These are real issues. The more we see the effects of climatic conditions being disruptive, whether it is floods in the United Kingdom or desertification in Africa, or the figures that I put to the Secretary of State earlier about the number of likely refugees displaced—we are talking in millions—and the conflicts that could come from that, as this is as much about conflict prevention as about climate crisis being averted, the more we see that these are things we should be concerned about.
I want to make two more substantive points and then let other Members speak. I am conscious that it is important that the House gathers together to send the strongest message with all the expertise around the Chamber. Let me put bluntly to the Secretary of State the percentages that we think should be put on the table. There should be a commitment to a 40 per cent. reduction over the 1990 levels by 2020: that is where we ought to get to. The European Union has said conditionally that it is willing to go up from 20 per cent. to 30 per cent., but we think that the UK needs to be bolder than that. The Secretary of State indicated that there is opportunity for the EU to make that jump before the Copenhagen discussions. I hope that the EU will move to its stronger position but I hope that the UK may also say that it is willing to go further. We should also set a specific long-term intention to phase out greenhouse gases in this country by 2050.
Let me ask about funding, because the targets are one thing, but the money is the other. I would like to probe for answers to the questions that I asked the Secretary of State. The financial deal suggested was that €100 billion should be committed over the five years following the end of the Kyoto agreement in 2013, and that we would make our contribution to that. [Interruption.] I am sorry—the Secretary of State is saying that the period is 2013 to 2020. However, we do not yet know how, or the source of that money. It would be helpful if Energy Ministers put on record where the money will come from and the fact that more may be needed.
It would be useful if Ministers also indicated three other things. First, the money should not be paid through the World Bank, because it does not have the confidence of the developing world. There needs to be a new United Nations fund. Secondly, there may need to be new sources of revenue, and I put it to the Secretary of State that the most obvious one is a levy on the use of fuel by airlines and shipping, which are often untaxed in traditional taxation. That would be self-evidently international and could produce a new pool of resource. However, the Treasury, which is not represented in the Chamber today, would need to sign up to that. I would be grateful if the Chancellor and Treasury Ministers could say before the Copenhagen talks, “We, the Treasury, agree that the United Kingdom will have to make a contribution.” I am sure that that would help Energy Ministers.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Treasury has to be engaged, but there will need to be international agreement on shipping with the International Maritime Organisation, and aviation matters will also have to be agreed internationally. That must be on the agenda at Copenhagen.
Absolutely, and there is an awareness that those are two huge sectors of international activity that people will need to come to agreement on. I am setting out the context in which they need to deliver.
Thirdly, may I ask Ministers to be absolutely clear whether any commitments made so far by the UK, such as when the Prime Minister shared the announcement in Brussels the other day, have been announcements of new money? I have seen nothing to suggest that any new UK money has been announced as going into the kitty. I believe that they were re-announcements of earlier pledges, but I stand to be corrected, and if they were not they will be important.
The Government should make it absolutely clear to all of us—I have heard this plea elsewhere—that the money provided will be additional to overseas development assistance and does not include double counting. There is great suspicion among well informed commentators and those who follow these things that there is currently some double counting in emissions trading receipts and so on.
Over the next three or four weeks there will be continuing dialogue, and the last formal negotiating session took place the other day in Barcelona. I hope that this country will go further than it has before, and I believe the Secretary of State and his colleagues will gain credit at home and abroad for doing so. Just as we showed our leadership at the time of the industrial revolution by starting a new generation of successful economies, if the UK, as one of the two major historically responsible countries, can be really brave—even if some of the messages that we send might have cost obligations for us—the rewards will be great and the public will recognise that. We can afford to be bolder and braver than we have been, and I look forward to the Government ratcheting up the pressure and working on other countries, particularly the big ones, to deliver a braver outcome in the next few weeks.
Today’s debate is general and wide-ranging, and I will leave it to others to deal with many of the issues involved. It is clear that the climate is changing and that in most parts of the world it is changing for the worse. I wish to concentrate my attention on the one place that is most vulnerable to climate change and has the largest population at risk—Bangladesh, a country a little larger than England and with nearly three times our population.
Most of Bangladesh is formed of the delta of not one but two of the world’s major rivers, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, as they discharge their waters into the bay of Bengal. As a result, most of the people of Bangladesh live on one of the ultimate frontiers of the world—a frontier between land and water and between the works of humankind and the forces of nature.
In recent years, Bangladesh has been successful in developing manufacturing industry, but most of its people are still dependent on the products of the land. The abundant water irrigates their crops and the silt renews the soil. That is in the good times. In the bad times, the self-same waters build up, get out of control and wreak destruction and death over huge areas. To put it in some perspective, the last major flooding extended over an area almost equal to the distance between London and Manchester. The scale is enormous.
Those dangerous and damaging waters come from three different sources, sometimes at different times and sometimes in combination. The monsoon rains over Bangladesh, the meltwaters of the Himalayas and cyclones from the bay of Bengal all cause flooding. All three sources of flooding are beyond the control of the Government and people of Bangladesh. All that can be done is to try to protect against them.
In the face of those natural disasters, over the centuries the people of Bangladesh have shown a resilience unmatched anywhere else on earth with the possible exception of Holland. Land lost to the rivers or the sea has been reclaimed, new crops planted and replacement homes built. More recently, with help from the UK and other donor Governments, limited steps have been taken to provide storm refuges and lift the level of the land.
Until very recently, all that happened in response to occasional, sudden and rather unpredictable crises. Not any more. Climate change threatens to melt the snows and glaciers of the Himalayas more quickly than in the past, and it is likely to affect the monsoons and increase the frequency of the cyclones. Above all, it threatens an inexorable rise in sea level. That is not just a future threat—it is causing problems now in Bangladesh. I am glad to say that our Government, already the principal aid donor to Bangladesh, have recognised the special need for extra help over and above the funds that we contribute to the anti-poverty programme. They are already providing £75 million to support climate change adaptation and have committed to providing more than £100 million over the next few years to help people maintain their livelihoods in the areas most vulnerable to climate change.
Those are immediate measures intended to deal with the problems that are arising now, but the longer-term protection of the people of Bangladesh will require funds and attention on an altogether vaster scale. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recognised that fact when, this summer, he urged the developed countries of the world to commit themselves to providing funds rising to $100 billion a year to help developing countries cope with the problems of climate change and continue to improve the standard of living of their people without disproportionately raising their emission levels. Just as he marshalled the effective worldwide response to the crisis that the bankers created, he has given the lead in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, challenging other world leaders to accept or better his proposals and to join him in personally attending. He recently managed to get the EU Heads of Government to accept a fund of $87 billion—not the $100 billion we were hoping for, but I rather suspect that without the $100 billion target, the eventual total would have been far lower.
There is no doubt that help on that scale is needed. Otherwise, about half the population of Bangladesh—70 million people—could be affected by flooding every year and a tenth of the low-lying land could be lost for ever. Therefore, vast civil engineering works will be required: villages must be raised above flood levels; more flood and cyclone centres need to be built; embankments must be raised; and probably equally importantly, crops capable of coping with the occasional ingress of salt and brackish water must be developed.
Just one glance at the map of Bangladesh shows both the scale and the complexity of the problem and any measures intended to deal with it. Climate change will cause problems in our country, but without wishing to diminish their significance in any way, they will pale into insignificance compared with the problems of Bangladesh. The white cliffs of Dover are not likely to be engulfed, but the chars, sandbanks, mudbanks and riverbanks of Bangladesh will be unless we help the resilient and talented people of that country to build the protection they need against the disastrous and deadly consequences of climate change.
Of course, besides helping Bangladesh to cope with its problems, we need worldwide action to restrict the process of climate change. Only by combining protection and prevention will Bangladesh be saved for humankind. Nothing else will do.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson), who is absolutely right to draw attention to the way in which climate change threatens soonest and most severely some of the poorest people in the world.
This has so far been an extremely interesting debate. Incidentally, I am very happy to tell the House that earlier today, the Green Energy (Definition and Promotion) Bill, a private Member’s Bill, which I had the honour to introduce some months ago, passed its final stages in the upper House. I should like to record my personal gratitude not only to the Ministers and officials in the Department of Energy and Climate Change who helped and advised on the Bill, but to the noble Lord Whitty, who so skilfully steered the measure through another place.
We have heard already, in particular from the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), about the threat to global biodiversity and natural things. When I had the pleasure of hosting an event the other day in this place for the organisation Plantlife, of which I am a trustee—it published a new book called “The Ghost Orchid Declaration” about the plight of wild plants in our country—I was vividly reminded that one in five of our wild plants is currently threatened with extinction. Each county in our country is losing, on average, two of its wild plants every year.
Obviously, the causes of that are complex. It is to do with unsustainable farming practices, a planning system that does not understand the needs of wild things, poor management, and in some cases climate change. Above all, it is to do with neglect. There is always something more important, a more pressing agenda, or someone making a row about something other than the plight of wild plants. I mention that only because I think something rather similar has affected the debate about climate change for very many years. It is 17 years since the Rio conference, and today we are having a discussion in the Chamber almost as if it never happened.
It is also to do with the issue of invasive plants—Plantlife has done some excellent work in that field—which are particularly prevalent in the UK. The Government introduced a horticultural code of practice in 2005 that was intended to get on top of the problem, but this country’s indigenous species, particularly flora, are very severely threatened in many areas by invasive species, which need to be dealt with.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Of course, people in his part of the world suffer from invasive species every summer on a grand scale—they are usually towing caravans! He is absolutely right, and Plantlife has done important work in drawing attention to the problem of invasive species.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the example he uses is another pointer to the fact that we cannot think of climate change on its own? Climate change is merely a symptom of the fact that we, as human beings, are living in a way that is absolutely unsustainable. We have to deal with that, even if it is nothing to do with climate change.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. The fundamental point is that we need to learn again to live within the limits that nature has given us. If we continue to pretend that nature is limitless, which it clearly is not, particularly bearing in mind global population growth, which has been mentioned, we will continue to put our future and the future of everything else that lives on this planet at risk.
I drew attention to the plight of wild plants in our country to make a broader point on what has affected the global negotiations on climate change. I must say that I looked with a degree of despair at the consequences and outcome of the tortuous negotiations that took place within the European Union last week, and at the communiqué that came out of them, which did not fill me with enormous hope.
It is commonly said that sorting out climate change is about saving the planet, but as I have said before, it is not about that, because the planet is perfectly capable of looking after itself. What we are really talking about—this has been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Members—is saving human lives, civilisation, culture and the values that we human beings have tended to try to hold dear over very many centuries. Watching this slow process grinding towards some sort of fudge at Copenhagen fills me with a certain amount of despair, as I said.
It may well be that today’s generation of politicians is not up to this task, but unfortunately, only today’s generation of politicians is being asked to undertake it. After all, in the end, they are politicians and not saints. In democracies in particular, we know how easy it is for agendas to be tugged away, and for more pressing, immediate issues to dominate. All I can say to that is—we know this from Stern and other commentators—unless we take action at Copenhagen or very soon after this coming December, the difficulties that we will collectively face in dealing with the problem will only get worse and more expensive, and I suspect that they will involve a degree of coercion that many people might find unpalatable. There is a need to take action now.
I was disheartened by the comments on recent negotiations by Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who said:
“Science has been moved aside and the space has been filled up with political myopia with every country…trying to protect its own…short-term interests.”
If that is a correct reflection of the way those negotiations are going, it is a disastrous state of affairs.
Like other hon. Members, I was delighted with the Secretary of State’s speech—he was indeed honest and said that negotiations were not going well. It is not within his power to make them go well, or indeed within the power of anyone in the Chamber, but it is essential that they do so.
Even within the European Union, we have seen divisions, arguments and disputes, and the inability to come up with clear numbers because certain member countries are not really signed up—I name Poland in particular. If countries within the developed European Union cannot come up with robust numbers and instead must come up with a fudgy expression such as “paying our fair share”, how on earth can we expect the developing world to look upon us seriously? How are we going to bridge the gap between €100 billion—a figure that has been put around—for adaptation and mitigation, and €400 billion, which is the rough figure that the developing world came up with earlier this year? We are a very long way from reaching an accommodation on that.
I do not blame the Government for that. Indeed, I commend them on the way in which they have handled the approach to Copenhagen and the international context of climate change. It is the domestic arena that has seen some significant failures, prevarications, contradictions and delays. On the international agenda, the Government have done as good a job as could be expected.
However, the Prime Minister said after last week’s negotiations:
“Europe is leading the way, making these bold proposals”.
“The major decision to come out of this is we’re leading the way on climate change negotiations”.
Those words do not fill me with enormous enthusiasm. “Leading the way” is not a decision in any case, although it may be a fact. Depressingly, it may be true that Europe is leading the way, but—as I have tried to suggest—we are not doing a good job of persuading even our own people that there is a task in hand for the world leaders to consider in just a few weeks.
The US has been mentioned, and it is in danger of getting seriously bogged down in its domestic political agenda. The Bill there has stalled because of problems in the Senate. If the US comes to Copenhagen without a clear agenda, what message will that send to the developing world and, more particularly, to China? China has been making much more positive noises, and that is greatly to be welcomed, but if the Americans do not step up to the plate with some robust proposals, what incentive will China have to go the extra mile? While all this haggling is going on, the developing world is looking on with scepticism, and that is also a matter for concern.
Nobody now expects a robust or proper result from the Copenhagen discussions. Even the delightfully named Yvo de Boer, the head of the United Nations framework convention on climate change, has said:
“It is physically impossible to complete every detail of the treaty at Copenhagen”.
The talk now, as we heard from the Secretary of State, is for political agreement, not legal agreement.
So we are haggling over money—and the numbers do matter—but I come back to the question of priorities. Earlier this week, the taxpayer, courtesy of the Government, wrote a cheque for £35 billion to the Royal Bank of Scotland—in a single day, we wrote a cheque for the same amount as we are likely to spend in 2020 to deal with climate change in the whole year. That illustrates a strange sense of proportion. Important though RBS is, it is not as important in the long run as saving human values, culture and civilisation or all the other opportunities provided by climate change, such as promoting green energy, jobs, energy security and so on. Let us get the situation into perspective. When I heard about the latest RBS bail-out I was reminded of an American commentator who wrote:
“Mother Nature doesn’t do bail outs.”
If I sound a little depressed about the prospects for Copenhagen, it is because it is a depressing outlook. Copenhagen offers the best chance of a binding, clear and just agreement, but it is not quite the last chance. I wholly agree with the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey, who made the point—I think that the Secretary of State agreed—that it would be much better not to have a deal at Copenhagen if it is a bad deal. Instead, it would be preferable to have an agreement that took us seriously and quickly towards a proper deal at a later date if that is what needs to happen. At least the negotiations in the run-up to Copenhagen, and the summit itself, may remind world leaders of the science—the Secretary of State was right to remind the House of the science—and the urgency of addressing this matter.
In all of the haggling over detail, let us not forget the overarching objective. The one thing that can move the world forward to a better and safer place is the establishment of a robust global price for carbon. The European emissions trading scheme, with all its flaws, weaknesses and failure thus far to deliver, is none the less a model that can be adapted, changed and made to work, not only in Europe but around the world. If we put a price on carbon, every decision we take can be taken within a logical and rational context. We could make choices about whether we wanted expensive options that involve fossil fuels and high-carbon activities, or alternatives—which already exist in many cases, technologically—that are cheaper because they do not involve the carbon pollution of old-fashioned technologies. Such a scheme could raise many billions of pounds, dollars or euros—whichever currency one chooses—and would certainly play a key role in dealing with the problem of the rainforests, which has rightly been touched on today.
A global tax is advocated by some. Tax may well have a role to play within national Governments, but there is no global structure for taxation and that is therefore not an option. In the end, the markets will have to become a power for good. I know that that is a paradox, in that it is unbridled market activity that, over many years, has got us into the mess in the first place. But with the right framework in place—and it is politicians who need to put it there—the markets can deliver. The politicians’ only job in this debate is to get the framework right. If we get the framework right, the market, human choice and rationality will do the rest. Put like that, it all sounds rather simple.
It is appropriate that I should follow the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) in two respects. First, although his speech was rightly pessimistic, it highlighted the challenge that the world faces at Copenhagen and in negotiations to follow. Those negotiations clearly will not reach the outcome that we desired, and therefore it is right to be realistic about where we are, but also right to consider how we can move forward over the next few months.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman highlighted the importance of market mechanisms in, for example, putting a price on carbon and, as he may know, I have been doing some work with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Prime Minister on how we move towards a global carbon market. I know no one who suggests that a carbon market would provide the entire solution, but I have come to the view that putting a price on carbon through a system of tight caps on emissions by developed countries is an essential part of the package. It would also help to provide the resources that the hon. Gentleman said need to flow to developing countries.
The hon. Gentleman was right to be if not pessimistic, then realistic about the challenges that face us. I share the recognition across the House of the lead that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues have taken internationally in working towards an agreement at Copenhagen. If one speaks to parliamentary colleagues from other countries, there is no doubt that they recognise that the work that the British Government have done in trying to achieve international agreement has kept up momentum and led to recognition of the need to achieve a strong agreement at Copenhagen or thereafter.
I also welcome the cross-party consensus here today and in the debate running up to Copenhagen. There is no doubt that the position of the Government internationally is strengthened when other countries know that they speak for a broad consensus within the British political system.
The Secretary of State and his colleagues have been right to emphasise the importance of trying to seek a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. That is certainly what we need. The emphasis appears to be moving from a legally binding agreement to what is described as a political agreement with numbers—in other words, a political agreement with specific commitments from developed countries and, more importantly, developing countries to emissions reductions. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that we need to achieve a legally binding agreement or treaty.
In one respect, it could be argued that a comprehensive political agreement to which countries are genuinely signed up would perhaps be better than a legally binding agreement that we do not intend to implement—that was obviously part of the experience of Kyoto. In that sense, a political agreement at Copenhagen with clear commitments would be a major step forward. We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that in my view and that of most in the Chamber, I am sure, it has to be followed up with a legally binding agreement, with a compliance mechanism to ensure that countries fulfil those objectives.
I would be interested to hear from the Minister the Government’s view on the process that they envisage being put in place to ensure that, whatever agreement is reached at Copenhagen—lets us hope that it is a substantial one—negotiation work will continue with haste and determination thereafter. I have heard people talking about a conference reconvening in three or six months, or perhaps not until the next annual conference in Mexico towards the end of 2010. It is important that momentum continues beyond Copenhagen, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.
I am sure that all in the Chamber know that an agreement is vital. There is a number of essential elements to any agreement: a recognition of the science; a commitment to a rise in temperatures of no more than 2° C; a recognition of equity for developing countries; the provision of the finance necessary for developing countries; a clear indication of numbers for the emission reductions expected from developed and major developing countries, as I mentioned; and of course an agreement to establish it on a legal framework at an early date.
It is important, when we have such discussions, to balance the correct appreciation of the seriousness of our position, which the hon. Member for East Surrey rightly emphasised, with the need not to become so pessimistic that people are driven into thinking that action is not worth taking. The Secretary of State, in his opening remarks, was right to emphasise the positive aspects of moving to a low-carbon economy. Mention was made by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) of the opportunities, particularly along the coast of east Scotland. I represent a constituency there and I know that hundreds of people are already working there in renewable industries of various sorts. They are already involved in many initiatives showing how moving to a low-carbon economy can be good for the economy and the future.
We need to emphasise to the public that changing to a low-carbon economy undoubtedly means substantial changes in the way we live, but that it does not necessarily mean moving to a hair-shirt existence. It is a question of changing our lifestyles and in some respects, one could argue, improving our lifestyles, if we change our lives to reflect the needs of a low-carbon society.
Having said that it is important to be positive, we must also recognise that public concern about the matter is driven by an understandable fear of what climate change will mean. The public are right to be frightened about what runaway climate change will mean—all of us in the Chamber, I am sure, are frightened about it too. That is another point that needs to be borne in mind when we think about what will happen after Copenhagen if there is not a substantial agreement, and if the leaders leave with no agreement or—this would be worse—a sham agreement.
I am sure that all hon. Members have been contacted over the past few months and years by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in their constituencies concerned about climate change. As we all know, there is a strong movement in society of people concerned about it. They want our leaders, political community and world leaders to ensure that we get the right type of agreement at Copenhagen. If we do not come up with a strong agreement in Copenhagen, and if we do not build the mechanisms to ensure that the agreement is followed through—with detailed agreements thereafter—we run the risk of creating immense disillusion among hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in this country and other countries who are relying on world leaders finally to face up to the challenges that must be faced if we are to tackle climate change.
If we fail to come up with an agreement at Copenhagen, we will be doing a great disservice to the political process. The disillusionment that people have, for other reasons, with the political process will spread to those who expect us to come up with solutions at Copenhagen. It is important for so many reasons that we come up with a strong agreement and that we indicate that a broader political agreement can be followed up with a specific lead agreement thereafter.
The fact that there is a strong civil society, not just in our country but internationally, that is so concerned about the issue is a source of encouragement as well. I have seen develop over the past year or so a genuine world community interested in such matters. There are movements in different countries that listen to, rely upon and work with political and environmental movements in other countries.
In a second.
That political movement is a force that will have its influence felt at Copenhagen, not just through the thousands of people from non-governmental organisations who will be lobbying leaders at Copenhagen, but because they reflect the concerns of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The leaders of the world community do not—
In a second. If the leaders of the world community do not reflect those concerns at Copenhagen, they will have to answer to their electorates and constituents. Equally, the pressure from those constituents and communities will be a powerful force to concentrate the minds of world leaders in trying to get something decent out of Copenhagen.
I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I agree with much of it. However, does he not agree that there is a bigger danger in not coming to an agreement in Copenhagen—not for those engaged with the climate change debate, but for the vast majority of people who have simply been told that we need to do this? If we come away from Copenhagen without an agreement, what will the impact be on them?
The hon. Gentleman seems extraordinarily complacent, like everyone else who has spoken so far, about the fact that the proportion of people concerned about climate change in this country is now lower than in any other country in the world and has fallen by one third over the past year. Why does he suppose that this is so, and why does he ignore it?
My hon. Friend, from a sedentary position, suggests that people such as the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) might have a role to play in that situation. The right hon. Gentleman’s observation is not my experience. I see in my constituency growing interest in such issues. Interestingly, even during an economic recession, when traditionally people are more interested in bread-and-butter issues of the economy than in saving the planet and climate change, I find that people are still as interested as they were a year or two ago. I believe that public concern is greater than ever before. That is the basis on which I proceed in Parliament and my constituency.
Although I might take a different view on the broader issue from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), I, too, think that the hon. Gentleman is being complacent about the level of public engagement. It is a very major issue for a minority of people, but it has impinged very little on the vast majority of people. Does he have any thoughts on why we have not been more successful as a society—I do not want to make a partisan point about the Government—in increasing understanding of the risks threatening us? I say risks without wanting to play down the uncertainties.
I am in danger of being diverted from the main thrust of my argument down a road that, although dealing with an important point, perhaps does not deal with the essential point that I want to make. In so far as what the hon. Gentleman said is the case, it is up to political leaders—Members of Parliament and Governments—to try to get the message across. However, my experience is that the public concern is still there and I do not think that it will go away. Indeed, the realities of what is happening in the outside world as a result of climate change will always bring the issue back into political debate as a central part of demands for action.
Given our importance in Parliament as politicians representing the wider community, it is also important that we are not, to coin a phrase, too complacent. It is good to have the degree of consensus that exists in the Chamber today, but we should always be wary of allowing political consensus not so much to mask genuine divisions, but to lead us into failing to recognise that we need to make difficult choices as political parties, or that we cannot always find an easy solution on climate change that will please everybody.
I do not want to reopen the discussion that took place in the Chamber on Tuesday, but there were times in the debate on the private Member’s Bill dealing with wind turbines when some hon. Members seemed to be trying to have it both ways, by jumping on the bandwagon of opposing wind turbines, but at the same time professing their commitment to tackling climate change. We cannot continue indefinitely in a world where we are in favour of tackling climate change, but at the same time are against wind turbines or in favour of airport expansion or whatever policy we regard from our position as more important than tackling climate change. Politicians also have a role to play in being honest with the electorate, which might answer the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) about how we re-engage the public on the issue.
However, my intention was not to introduce too much discord into this debate, even though I appear to have provoked some. I want to accentuate the positive in our discussions in the Chamber so far and the opportunities of reaching an agreement internationally. In many respects great progress has been made internationally. Mention has been made of the change in the positions of the Japanese and Australian Governments. Although the US Administration’s position is problematic, to put it mildly, last year’s change in the US Administration nevertheless had effected a dramatic change to the background to the international negotiations on tackling climate change.
As the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said in one of his interventions, if we can start turning the world round towards a low-carbon economy, we may be able to move much more quickly in that direction than some people appreciate. If we find that we can do that more easily than some people thought, we will be able to accelerate progress towards the change in our economic system and our lifestyles that is required.
Equally, as the hon. Member for East Surrey emphasised, there will be serious issues if we do not get progress at Copenhagen. We are running out of time. If the world does not come to a serious agreement within the next few months, we will undoubtedly reach the point not where we are talking about a 2° C rise in temperatures, but where even a 4° C rise might seem on the low side. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, if we are in that situation, we are talking about irreversible damage and destruction to civilisation, the planet and our very species. That must always be a reminder to us all of the urgency of reaching a decision and a comprehensive and substantial agreement at Copenhagen and in the months thereafter.
Let me first declare an interest. I represent a constituency with 74 miles of coastline. Therefore, I sometimes feel that I am talking about a local concern. Like the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), I also need to make an apology, in that I may not be here for the wind-ups. I have apologised to the Minister for that.
We have to start by accepting that climate change is a symptom of an unsupportable way of living that we, as the human race, have developed. It has become unsupportable because we have democratised it. It is possible for a few people to live totally selfishly, but that is increasingly impossible if we all operate as if we have a planet and a quarter—or three planets, if we continue in this way because it is a fact of life that democracy and the spreading of wealth demands more from our planet than it can support.
Therefore, we must recognise that, although climate change may be the thing that is prodding us, we have to find an answer to a series of things that demand a change in our lifestyle, and not only in the rich countries but throughout the world. Now that there are more middle-class people in India than in western Europe, we have to recognise that the issue is not about rich countries and poor countries, but about those who consume huge amounts and those who do not, who may both be in the same poor country.
We also have to recognise that we are under a security pressure. We should not kid ourselves about this: we are dependent for our energy on five of the least stable countries in the world. That is not a very sensible position to be in, and any sane person would try to move away from it. Whatever our views about climate change—one of my right hon. Friends will no doubt put forward his views, with which I deeply disagree—they do not matter. They do not matter because we will have to act anyway, so let us get off that argument and on to how we achieve that end. One way is to recognise the interrelationship of all the issues—what happens in the forest and what happens in the oceans, which are being destroyed by the pollution that we are putting into them. All that has to be faced in a joined-up way.
What are the challenges? First, there is a huge challenge in our view for the rest of the world. We have a historical responsibility for what is happening. Not only is a bigger proportion of current climate change the fault of us here in Britain, because of our leadership in the industrial revolution, but the way in which we operate has changed our relationship with nature, and many of the important decisions were ones that our experts and leaders made. Let us therefore face that responsibility. We have grabbed too great a share of what the planet can carry.
That means that we ought to recognise that we must make it possible not only for us to meet our responsibilities, but for others to meet theirs. That is why I said to the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe that those two things must always be said together if we are to get support from developing countries. However, not only should we think about rich countries and poor countries, or rich people and poor people within the same country; we should also remember that there is an overall concept of social justice, which is crucial if we are to deliver what we need to deliver at Copenhagen.
I know that my right hon. Friend is not always a huge enthusiast for the workings of the Church of England, but will he take this opportunity to congratulate the Archbishop of Canterbury on his leadership in bringing together representatives of all the main faiths in the United Kingdom to produce a document that calls for tackling climate change as a moral imperative?
I am certainly happy to do that, and I hope that my hon. Friend will also congratulate His Holiness the Pope on doing precisely the same thing on a world basis.
If I may say so, I was a little unhappy about the mutterings from the Secretary of State, whom I much admire, when he complained that Keynes, Hayek and Thatcher were all quoted together. I will take any support for what is so magnificent a quest, and we should be interested that so many great minds have committed themselves to dealing with the issues before us. So, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), and his point leads me to say that, even in regard to small things, we need to face these facts.
I must declare an interest: I am the chairman of a water company, one of whose subsidiaries is the only water company to be allowed compulsory metering. The reason for that is that we do not have any water. I refused to have compulsory metering until there was a socially fair tariff, because we cannot ask poor people to carry a heavier burden than those who are rich. We therefore have to accept that social justice is an essential part of delivering the climate change solutions that we need, and we need to ensure that that happens in every part of the world—[Interruption.] If I may say so, those smug faces on the Labour Back Benches should recognise that social justice is not a private deal among certain kinds of Labour Members. There are many people on both sides of the House who have talked about and worked for social justice all their political lives, so let us have a little less of that. We have to do this together in our various ways. Some of us happen to think that capitalism delivers social justice more effectively than other systems. That is a matter of argument, but let us face the fact that our aim must be the same. It is better not to belittle others when they happen to put their views forward.
That is also important in recognising the problem of population. Those who have read The Economist this week will have seen the interesting articles on the fertility rate. There are now two major parts of India—Tamil Nadu and Kerala—in which the population is not reduplicating itself, and the birth rate is below two children per family. The reason for that is the improvement in the standard of living. The only way to deal with the population issue is to recognise that it is not a question of telling poor people not to have more children; rather, it is about making poor people rich enough not to need them.
As the hon. Gentleman suggests, as people’s economic position improves, they are able to see how to improve their family life in ways other than having enough children to bring in the harvest and to look after the older generation because there is no alternative. That is a crucial issue, and women’s education is at the heart of it.
It is necessary for us to take the moral high ground, but that should not stop us thinking about the self-interest involved. If Britain wants to be in the same position in the future that the industrial revolution put us into in the past, we really must accept the green revolution. That was the whole burden of the report produced by the Quality of Life group, which I had the honour to chair. The report made it clear that there was an economic imperative to deliver a low-carbon economy.
The thing that worries me is that the United States is now beginning to understand that, and that it can win. Indeed, business in the United States is well ahead of the present Administration in that regard, and light years ahead of ex-Vice President Cheney. If we do not keep up, that latecomer will corner the very markets that ought to be ours. We ought to remember this serious self-interest—as long as we do not forget that the first and foremost issue is our moral responsibility towards the rest of the world, and towards our children and grandchildren.
That approach demands leadership, and we need to recognise how difficult it is for some people to show such leadership. After all, the United States has a large number of people who do not believe in climate change, and half its population do not believe in evolution. It is very difficult to deal with people with that kind of attitude. Just try talking to members of the Democratic Unionist party on this issue: they do not believe that life goes back more than 80,000 years, so it is impossible to talk to them about 400,000 years of proof that the climate is changing. We clearly have problems in this country, but there are certainly greater problems in the United States.
Business is demanding action, however, and this is why I want to support the point made earlier to the Secretary of State that Copenhagen is crucial for business. Businesses want to know that, when they invest, that investment will be honoured, if I may put it like that. Therefore, in the discussions ahead it is important to have an all-party consensus—there are one or two people who have a different view; that is perfectly all right; there are always a few on the fringes—but achieving that consensus must not stop us from trying to help the Minister of state move further forward.
When I was Secretary of State for the Environment, I was much helped by Greenpeace. At the time, the Labour party was not frightfully keen on the environment—I am sorry to say that there was not much pressure from the Labour party then—so I was pressured by Greenpeace. That helped me to say to my Cabinet colleagues, “Look, we really have got to move”—otherwise, they would not have seen why. Similarly, we have to help the Minister now, so I hope she will not mind my saying that there one or two things that I think the Government could do very soon—I hope in advance of Copenhagen—to show that we are doing at home some of the things that we ought to be doing.
I will not go back to the issue of the third runway for London airport, except to say that I find it incredible that anyone seriously still wants to go ahead with that in the circumstances of climate change. I hope that the Minister will recognise that a bit more joined-up government would help. I received a letter from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs explaining why it is in general in favour of doing something about hydrofluorocarbons, but not quite at the moment and not altogether, and perhaps there will be this and that. Industry is stopping using HFCs, so why cannot we follow and simply say that we will not have HFCs after a certain date and we will be leaders in Europe on that issue? The answer is no because there are many people low down in all sorts of ministries finding what I have always called “better not Ministers’ answers” to all these things. That is why I ask the Minister to do all she can to try to make us more joined-up about these matters.
I thought it a pity not to accept the 10:10. I felt that that gave out the wrong signal. It was the wrong signal when talking about biodiversity and the marine world to say that we would not protect ecosystems. The Government must be more careful to try to give the right signals on every issue. I say that as someone who has been a staunch supporter of the big things that the Government have done and as someone who will not attack Ministers for the work they have done, as recognised throughout the world. It helps, however, if one is prepared to say some of those things about the wrong signals.
When it comes to the Liberal Democrats, it helps if some of us tell them that it is no longer any good saying that we are prepared to fight climate change on every basis except nuclear power. When they say, “We can have everything else, but not nuclear power”, it suggests that nuclear power is somehow worse than climate change. I do not think that nuclear power is enough: I have two nuclear power stations in my constituency and I am looking forward to having two more, and my locality is in favour of it. I do not mind all that. Let us face it, nuclear is an interim measure, but I just think that we have to support all the things that we need to have.
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, as I have had this argument with him before. He is wrong, and I am sorry about it, but one day he will find out why he is wrong. The fundamental reason why he is wrong is that we cannot afford to put second-order issues in front of the major issue that lies before us.
That brings me to saying a few words about the Treasury. The Treasury is endemically opposed to any long-term decisions about anything. I remember winning the battle over the landfill tax when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and believed in it. I recall being there when he turned to one of those superior mandarins and said, “I am very sorry, but we are going to do it. I do not care. I am in favour of pushing the market, which is what a tax on landfill would do”. I saw the awful look on the face of the mandarin who had finally been caught out and told, “We’re going to do this, because it’s right; we’re going to do it because it is necessary in the long term”. That kind of decision making is what we need in the Government today. That is why I am always sorry that a Treasury Minister is not compulsorily placed on the Treasury Bench, which would force him to listen to this debate.
What a pity it is, too, that all those people up in the Press Gallery who chat about the minutiae and bits and pieces of the Westminster village, who write about all the silliness and who make all the jokes, are not here today to report the real issue. This is the real issue. We know exactly why the public are not frightened about climate change as they ought to be: it is because the press have ceased to realise that, as Lord Reith rightly recognised, part of their job is to inform people about matters that are important in a form that enables them to understand.
If I give way now, I will not be given any extra time.
I want to say something very hard to the Government. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has been brave in many ways, but the Department for Transport is about as brave as a chicken. It finds it terribly difficult to move on anything. Indeed, Ministers in Departments across the board are not moving at the same speed as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
I say this to the Minister of State: if we are to lead in Europe—and my goodness, we need to be in Europe and be an active part of the European Union in order to achieve these ends—we really must show people that we are doing more at home than we are at present. Let us try to match our words abroad with the reality of courage back at home. I ask the Minister to pledge a simple word: courage. Courage now, courage tomorrow, courage every day. That means asking what is the brave, right thing to do, rather than what is the electorally easy thing to do, even in the run-up to a general election.
It is a great pleasure to follow the distinguished right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who seems to hit more bases in one short speech than the rest of us put together, even if some of those bases are slightly awry. I may return to that point later. It was also a pleasure to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) talk about Bangladesh, partly because the all-party parliamentary climate change group of the Westminster Parliament is currently conducting an inquiry jointly with the Bangladeshi Parliament’s all-party climate change group. We hope to publish our report just in time for Copenhagen.
It has been said many times this afternoon that the Copenhagen process seemed likely to move—in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) during climate change questions this morning—at the pace of an arthritic sloth. We have a cartload of low expectations from a conference that was previously billed as the last chance saloon. Once the negotiations started in earnest—once the poker game had begun—all the high-flown expressions of ambition and aspiration seem to have been blown out of the window. Now that people have been asked to put their chips on the table, we find that those chips appear to be non-existent. In the words of President Obama, COP 15 is now merely a “significant step”. Others have referred to it as merely a window of opportunity, but in my view that should probably read “widow of opportunity”. It certainly seems likely to prove a missed opportunity.
As I said in an intervention earlier, in Barcelona this week the African group engaged in what some described as a walk-out and others termed a difference of opinion which caused them not to attend a meeting. In any event, the fact is that they are extremely disappointed that the annexe 1 countries are not coming up with the numbers: the chips on the table. One wonders why we should expect the African continent, or many other developing regions, to have any trust in our promises, given that—as we have seen in recent days—the European Union, while still making these great promises, has found it so difficult to deliver.
The United States, thankfully, is moving at quite a rapid pace to escape the eight years of total inactivity on climate change that occurred under George W. Bush, but what it is offering seems to me to be far too little.
The headline figure of the Waxman-Markey Bill appears to be a 4 per cent. cut in carbon emissions, against a 1990 baseline, by 2020. Given that a 5 per cent. global cut was talked about at Kyoto, the United States ambition must be set in context; it is not high enough. Even though that over-1,000-page Bill, which contains many other very good measures, has now slipped through the House of Representatives with the slenderest of margins, the overall ambition seems minimal. If the Americans do not increase their ambitions, I cannot understand why the Chinese would want to put their chips on the table. In those circumstances, why on earth would the European Union want to pursue its higher intended budgets? There are competition issues, and many business lobbies would exercise a great deal of sway over that.
What does all the delay mean? What does it amount to? Scientists are already talking about us being committed to a 2.4° increase in temperature, even if we stop all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions today. Our commitment, of course, is to try to contain the increase to less than 2°. Professor Schellnhuber, who is Angela Merkel’s climate change adviser and a main member of the IPCC, has illustrated how serious this problem is. He said that if emissions peak in 2010—next year—we will need an annual cut of 2 per cent. if we are to halve global emissions by 2050, relative to 1990. If the peak occurs in 2015, which is when the IPCC says that we should reach it, the annual cut required increases to 3.6 per cent. If we peak in 2020, which is the most likely possibility in the mind of a realistic optimist, that translates into a 6 per cent. annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions. If the peak happens in 2025, which is perhaps bordering on the pessimistic, the figure is 12 per cent. If we go to 2030, which is not that far away, the annual cut is 22 per cent. Those figures are horrendous however we look at them. Lord Stern has pointed out that what we are trying to do is more demanding than even the accidental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that take place in any recession.
Irrespective of whether the peak happens in 2015 or 2020, does the hon. Gentleman think that it is realistic to believe that the required emissions cuts can be made when no country has managed more than about 1 per cent., or at most 2 per cent., even in the case of Russia when its industries collapsed?
That would call for the most radical transformation of our economy. Many people are working on that, but they are still on the fringe, perhaps in the way that people who spoke about climate change were on the fringe 30 years ago. I do not necessarily include Margaret Thatcher, but I bet that some people in her party thought that she was a bit on the fringe when talking about climate change to the United Nations and making a big issue of it. She should obviously get credit for that. Organisations such as the New Economics Foundation, the Green New Deal Group, which includes quite a number of people, and other campaigns show that we could start the transformation far more quickly if we had the political will.
The hon. Gentleman will find that the Conservative party is hardly on the fringe and that the low-carbon economy paper that we published earlier this year is an excellent blueprint, which I commend to him, if we want to move quickly to such an economy.
I am always fascinated by cast-iron guarantees, so I shall look forward to reading that document as soon as possible.
I want now to turn to our plans. The Committee on Climate Change has been bold in the recommendations in its first annual report to Parliament. I hope that, as with the Kelly report, we will adopt the CCC’s entire recommendations without equivocation. That would call for a pretty massive transformation. However, the CCC still has a somewhat optimistic bias in its reading of the models. It is talking about projected annual carbon savings of 2 to 3 per cent., which is well beyond what we have managed in the past, without the assistance of a recession. We should carefully consider its recommendations, but also accept that they might be an optimistic basis on which to proceed.
So far, what are the grounds for optimism in terms of delivering some of these changes? In the context of our Labour Government’s overall economic investment strategy to get us out of recession, one bank assessment stated that the green component of the industrial strategy is about 7 per cent. In South Korea, it is 10 times greater. That tells us something about the difference between us, in that the South Koreans still plan their economy, rather than simply leaving it to the ravages of the marketplace.
The Government have been open and honest about where we are potentially heading and about the impacts of global warming in various regions around the world, as the maps that have appeared on the Table before us illustrate. The Committee on Climate Change says that even if all its plans come to fruition—which is a big ask—we still have only a 44 per cent. chance of success. Having recently heard more of the science—and we are halfway through an IPCC review period, so still more of it is emerging—it is clear that a 4° increase in temperature is on the cards. That will, of course, lead to different temperature changes in different parts of the world: in the Arctic region, perhaps by 8° to 10°, and it might be of a similar order in equatorial regions. We are obviously in a mess, and very swift action is required to get us out of it.
Sadly—my Front-Bench colleagues might anticipate my next remarks, and this is where I depart from the prognosis of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal—we seem to want to adopt technologies that cannot deliver in time. Does anybody really expect either carbon capture and storage or nuclear technologies to deliver a single new green watt of electricity before, let us say, 2025? We are promised a new nuclear power station by 2017. Well, if neither the Finns nor the French can do it, are we really going to do it? I cannot see that happening. Let us say that the first will come on stream in 2025; then we will have to wait for the replacements to be overtaken before we start getting the new nuclear electricity. When will that happen—in 2030 or 2035? This is not a solution to the problem that will arise if emissions have not peaked and then started to reduce by 2025, because we will then have to make 12 per cent. reductions every year. Nuclear does not help us get to the peak point and neither does CCS—although I admit that, given the Indian and Chinese contexts, we have to confront the need for CCS. However, I think we could leapfrog its use in this country, while possibly still developing the technology.
I had an exchange in the Environmental Audit Committee on Tuesday with some representatives of the CCS industry. I put it to them that they are playing a blinder on the Government. In the first phase of the EU emissions trading scheme, the power generators made billions of pounds of windfall profit from the ETS free allocation of credits. They did not spend a penny on CCS, yet now they come cap in hand to the Government asking for a few hundred million quid to bail them out and help them cope with that massive investment, which they say their shareholders cannot afford. I urge the Government to look very carefully at the power generators’ arguments and to pin them down.
The same practice should apply to the nuclear industry. An excellent document called “Nuclear subsidies”, which is available on www.nonukes.org.uk, reveals the full extent of the nuclear subsidies. One of the biggest is the industry’s unlimited insurance, which the taxpayer would have to pick up if something went seriously wrong. However, if the nuclear industry had to pay for it itself, it would force the price of electricity up far beyond the highest price we are anticipating paying for the brand- new renewable technologies. As they are rolled out on a larger scale, the price of those technologies will come down and down, but that is not true of the nuclear industry, whose costs will go up and up—not just the cost of uranium, but all the other costs, not least the insurance and the extra costs of having to deal with proliferation.
In conclusion, the Government have shown leadership internationally. I, too, believe that they have a lot more to do on delivering concrete, practical examples of progress on the ground. It is wrong to suggest that nuclear power and CCS are panaceas, because even if they are supported, they cannot be introduced in time—at least, that is the view of the IPCC’s 2007 report, which I am sure will be superseded by a 2011 report showing that things are worse. I plead with my Front-Bench colleagues: next time they have people from the coal industry, the nuclear industry or the power generators knocking on their door, tell ‘em where to shove off.
May I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Interests? I wish to return to the theme of the £6 million advertising campaign on the television which shows a father reading bedtime fairy stories to his little girl. I do not know whether it was a Freudian slip on the part of Ministers to plant in viewers’ minds the suggestion that these alarmist stories that puppies would die, that baby rabbits would drown and that English towns would be swept away under water were fairy stories, but that is what they seem to have done. I say that because, although nobody in the House seems to wish to reflect on it, the fact is that fewer people in Britain than in any other country believe in the importance of global warming. That is despite the fact that our Government and our political class—predominantly—are more committed to it than their counterparts in any other country in the world. It is right and proper that we should reflect on that detachment between the people of this country and their leaders, and it is sad that those who have spoken in this debate so far have refused to do so.
The latest Pew survey—this survey is carried out across the world every year— shows that only 15 per cent. of people in this country take seriously, or are seriously concerned about, the prospect of climate change and almost half believe that nothing can be done. On the latter point, the corresponding figure worldwide is much lower—it is less than 40 per cent.—and on the former, the figure is much higher in most other countries, including the United States of America. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) gave his customary attack on the American people for their obscurantism, he ought to reflect, as we all ought to do, on the fact that the British people rate the issue of climate change less seriously than even the American people do.
The second bit of evidence to cite is the exhibition that has been going on at the Science museum, which purports to give people the facts about climate change. At the end, people are asked to sign up; they are asked—yes or no—whether having heard the facts, they want to send the message to the Government that they must take serious action about climate change. People were responding to that survey after they had been through the museum and seen the graphic evidence presented in the most persuasive way possible by the alarmists. By a ratio of almost 6:1, the noes, who said that they did not believe in climate change and did not want to warn the Government, outweighed the yeses. Surely that, too, is something on which this House should reflect; I am surprised that we do not. Above all, the Government should reflect on why they have been so singularly incapable of carrying the British public with them and why their arguments have cut such little ice—I hope that I may use that phrase.
I did not know about the Science museum numbers, which are truly shocking. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that illustrates that preaching at people, trying to be divisive and trying to pretend that anybody who disagrees or who has any doubts or scepticism should be treated as though they are fundamentally and obviously wrong, is counterproductive? We need to engage in constructive discussion and dialogue with everyone and not to preach. That will carry more people over to accept the risks, as I see it, of climate change, on which my right hon. Friend’s views might be slightly different from mine.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The alarmism and the overstatement have caused the problem. As a group of scientists, including the former chief scientist, have recently warned, alarmist overstatement—a refusal to acknowledge the difficulties and uncertainties—is bad for getting the message over and has a counterproductive effect.
When I raised the matter with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), he said—as did other people who prompted him—that it was all because of people like me. I would love to believe that I and a handful of others had such silver-tongued eloquence that we were able, with the minimal exposure we are given, to have converted the British people to a degree of scepticism. I do not want to convert them to scepticism about the science. The science is not a fairy tale. The basic science is that if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is doubled, before the feedbacks are considered, that will increase the surface temperature of the atmosphere by 1° C. That is the scientific analysis that any physicist will support. If that higher temperature were to result in more water vapour in the atmosphere, which it does not seem to have done, that would raise the temperature by another 2° C. A doubling of CO2 could have the direct greenhouse effect of raising the temperature by up to 2° C.
The Government and the alarmists have to concoct a lot of feedbacks that so far have not manifested themselves to predict that in future we will see far higher rises in temperature from a given increase in CO2 than we have in the past. I am neither a denier of the science nor an alarmist. I am a lukewarmist, if one likes—
A sort of sceptic, yes. Unlike my right hon. Friend, who is simply credulous.
A lot of fairy stories are attached to and latched on to a genuine scientific concern. The first fairy tale, which the Government foster, is the idea that there is total consensus in science at the alarmist end of the spectrum. The key to the science of global warming and climate change is physics. One can study the physics of global warming without having much knowledge of meteorology, but one cannot study meteorology without studying physics, someone said—and I do not repeat that just because I happen to have studied physics at Cambridge.
A recent controversy in the American Physical Society proves pretty clearly that there is no consensus among physicists, at least, about extreme versions of the theories. It was sparked off when the committee of the APS was persuaded by the great and the good to sign up to a statement that the evidence for the more alarmist views of anthropogenic global warming was
“incontrovertible…If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur.”
The committee issued that statement without consulting the society’s members, which sparked off a revolt, and 160 senior physicists—members of the American Physical Society—wrote a letter publicly disowning that statement and suggesting that it should be replaced with a more moderate statement, saying that
“while substantial concern has been expressed that emissions may cause significant climate change, measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th-21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.”
It went on:
“Current climate models appear insufficiently reliable to properly account for natural and anthropogenic contributions to past climate change, much less project”
The statement was signed by a lot of serious scientists. I am going to take the House’s time and list some of them, but I shall read out only those who are professors of physics. They include the professor of physics at the university of North Carolina, the professor of physics at Rutgers university, the professor of physics at Princeton university, the professor and chair of the physics department at Bernidji state university, the professor of chemical physics at the university of Medina, the professor of physics at the university of California, the professor and chair of the physics department at the George Washington university, the professor of physics at the university of Rochester, the professor of engineering physics at the university of Virginia, the professor of physics at the university of Washington, the professor of physics at Santa Clara university, the professor of physics at Colorado state university, the professor of the physics of geological processes at the university of Oslo, the professor of the department of chemistry and physics at the William Patterson university, the professor of physics at the Ivar Giaever institute—who won the Nobel prize—and another professor in the university of Virginia’s department of physics.
The list goes on: the professor of physics at the university at Hatfield, another professor of physics at Princeton university, the professor of physics at the university of Connecticut, another professor of physics from Washington and yet another from the university of Rochester, which seems to be a hotbed of scepticism. A professor of physics and astronomy—
With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the list will be available in Hansard. I have only three more to go, but I want to point out to those hon. Members who say persistently that only a handful of mavericks disagree, that, in fact, a lot of serious professors at serious universities do so.
With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall add the last few: the professor of physics at the university of California, the professor of physics, astronomy and geophysics at Connecticut college, the professor of physics at Tuft’s university, and the professor of physics at Midwestern university. There are rather more than I thought, I do apologise. The professor of physics—
I shall pray you in aid, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when people say that there is only a handful of dissenters and that the science is settled. I am very grateful to you for giving me your authority to do so.
The simple fact is that the science is not resolved. A lot of serious scientists think that although there is a measure of impact—I agree with that—the alarmist views are not upheld by the science. A majority may well disagree with the scientists to whom I have referred—
The right hon. Gentleman has read out a very short list, but does he accept that it would take several days to read out the list of people who have the opposite opinion about the science of climate change? Does he also accept that the whole idea of science is that it consists of hypotheses and disputes? There never is an absolute consensus, but is it not probably a good idea to take the advice of the large number of scientists who think certain things and have established a large amount of empirical evidence for, and understanding of, their hypotheses?
When Einstein came out with his theory of relativity, the Nazi authorities in Germany did not like it because he was a Jew. They got 100 professors of physics—Germany’s entire physics establishment—to sign a statement that he was wrong. He replied that if he were wrong, it would only take one to prove it.
In this case, there is a majority on one side of the argument, and a minority on the other, but it is clear that the science remains uncertain and open. That is all that I ask the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) to accept, and he should not pretend that there is unanimity where it does not exist.
The proper debate that we need about the subject will require openness and those who doubt what is said by one side to have the opportunity to try to replicate that side’s arguments—that is normal in science. I hope that the Minister will tell us what is happening about the Met Office Hadley centre’s refusal to publish the basic figures it has received from around the world that it uses to calculate its estimates of the rise in surface temperatures throughout the world. It was disappointing that the scientists initially refused to publish that material—although they made it available to scientists who agreed with them, they refused to give it to those who disagreed. The centre then gave as an excuse the alleged fact that there were confidentiality agreements with some countries that had given information, saying that it was therefore not at liberty to publish, and then refused to publish the confidentiality agreements or the names of the countries with which it supposedly had those agreements, and said that the agreements had disappeared.
If we are to have a sensible and open debate, people must have the opportunity to examine the facts and data, reproduce what others have done, and show whether or not that is replicable, as the case may be. I hope that the Minister will respond to this point in her winding-up speech; I tabled a question on the matter a while ago, so the answer must be at her disposal.
There are plenty of other fairy stories around, and I want to touch on the idea that a rise of 2° C would constitute dangerous climate change that we should try to avoid by spending unlimited amounts. That is a 2° C rise not from now, but from before the industrial revolution. We have already had a rise of 0.7° C, so it is being said that a further 1.3° C rise in world temperature would be dangerous. One reason why the ordinary public are in disbelief is because they spend their time looking for places that are 10° C warmer than here, not 1° C. The Minister was frightfully upset when I pointed out that the average temperature in north-east England was more than 2° C higher than that in Cornwall and asked whether it was dangerous for people to go from Newcastle to Newquay. We cannot pretend that comparatively modest changes to the temperature of the Earth will lead to Armageddon—they will not.
I hope that we will listen to those scientists, many of whom are in Government employ, who have warned against alarmist views, and that we will take a more consensual view of the basic minimum science that is agreed and open that up to debate and discussion, without trying to silence those who disagree by calling them “deniers” and equating them with holocaust deniers. As I said, I am not a denier—I am a lukewarmer—but even those who deny the existence of anthropological global warning deserve to be heard, just as the alarmists do, and it is sad that we have heard only one or two such views expressed in the House today.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate, but it is important that we get on with action rather than simply talking. We might hear many fine words, but action will count in the end.
We understand the importance of working with other countries. I am sure that we have all heard our constituents ask, “What’s the good of us doing anything if no one else does?” The climate change conference in Copenhagen will be crucial to efforts to get international progress. I am proud that our Prime Minister and Secretary of State have shown strong leadership.
Our Prime Minister’s initiative in commissioning the Stern report led to helpful discussions that allowed us to pass the Climate Change Act 2008, which was a world first. Recently in the EU, he has also shown leadership on trying to take three practical proposals to the Copenhagen meeting: an EU contribution to help developing countries on mitigation and adaptation measures; an attempt to agree figures for international financial support; and an agreement that that support will be given immediately. Obviously, we need to be at the centre of the EU if we are to influence such decisions. We must ensure that we take the lead not only as the UK, but as the EU, which is influential in climate change discussions on the world stage.
I am very pleased to see that deforestation is on the Copenhagen agenda. It is difficult to believe, but the emissions from deforestation each year are equivalent to the emissions from 600 coal-fired power stations, so it is a major contributor to the loss of mitigation of climate change: in other words, we need to stop cutting down forests, and quickly. The answer is not as simple as going around the world telling other countries and local communities what to do, but we must avoid providing additional incentives for deforestation. We must ensure that it does not take place to fuel rich countries’ greed—in particular, their greed for energy sources. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to persuade international colleagues to agree to the Eliasch review’s recommendation that credits for avoided deforestation be included on the international carbon market. It is difficult to work out what that means in practice, but it is important to provide incentives for people not to destroy the world’s forests, which are so vital to combating climate change.
We have recently heard a good deal about the 10:10 campaign, and I congratulate hon. Members who have signed up to it, particularly the members of the Cabinet, who have all signed up to it. However, it reminds us that in 2005 I, together with several enlightened colleagues, signed up to the 25/5 campaign for a 25 per cent. reduction in emissions over five years. I am sure that many colleagues agree that the first part is easy, involving reducing waste, switching off unnecessary appliances, using low-energy light bulbs and turning down the heating. However, it then becomes more difficult. Moving on from waste, one has to think about more fundamental changes in lifestyle, including one’s transport modes, holiday destinations and energy sources.
The same applies to Government action. We need more investment in public transport if we are to help people to cut down on individual transport use and to reduce their carbon footprint. We certainly need much more investment in renewable energy, so that, if we decide to fuel electric cars, we know that the electricity comes from renewable sources.
To deliver on climate change, strong Government leadership is essential; it cannot be left purely to market forces. We often demonstrate that leadership, but are then pilloried in the tabloid press—ridiculed for ideas that need to be implemented. A good example is some of their attitudes towards recycling schemes. We know why we need to recycle, but we encounter ridicule instead of sensible and constructive debate in some of our tabloids.
Does the hon. Lady therefore agree that it would have been helpful, first, if the Department for Transport had signed up to the 10:10 campaign, as the Department for Energy and Climate Change has, and committed itself to achieving those objectives; and, secondly, if the Government had not opposed the proposal two weeks ago?
The problem is that the 10:10 campaign represents a short time scale, and many spending plans are in place up to April next year and, indeed, beyond. We must address the question, what is a realistic time scale? We must also be honest about the things that we control and the things that private companies provide, which are not so easy to control. We must consider introducing carbon limits for procurement, and we must look at what the people from whom we buy goods and services, and the people who obtain franchises for services, actually deliver.
We have made progress on microgeneration, and we have certainly come a long way since my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) introduced his private Member’s Bill several years ago, when hardly anyone had heard of microgeneration. However, there are still difficulties and we need to put things right so that people do not face questions about how to set it up and how to get on to the national grid. We have introduced the idea of using feed-in tariffs, but it is still not quick and easy for people to get sorted out.
We also need to consider permitted development on farms and in smallholdings. We might talk about a wind turbine on a house roof, but farm users have much bigger energy needs, particularly if they run dairy sheds, and it would be more practical if they were able to install the slightly larger wind turbines that provide for their needs. They should not have to go through a long and complicated planning process.
One of the difficulties with planning is that it is a highly devolved issue. Much of the permitted development is discussed at local authority level, so that is where much of the emphasis has to be if we are to get this right. Some local authorities are way ahead of others in dealing with these matters.
We must remember how much we need to do in terms of adaptation. The draft Floods and Water Management Bill is now proposed for the Queen’s Speech, and that will do many of things that we wanted following the Pitt report. Having seen the terrible pictures on television, we are all aware of how devastating flooding can be to people across the country, but apart from those high-profile cases, many of us know of more local places where flash floods have occurred and people have had to stay out of their homes for months. In a constituency such as mine, which is very low-lying and surrounded on three sides by sea, the whole issue of dealing with climate change is very real to people as they move out of their homes to have all the work done that is necessary after flooding. That is a gruesome reminder of how close we are to some awful effects of climate change.
We need to be sure that there is a truly concerted effort by all the agencies involved to protect people’s homes from flooding so that we get better maintenance, more flood defences and much speedier action in emergencies. I welcome the measures in the Bill to secure better co-ordination between authorities. However, I am worried by the recent Wales Audit Office report stating that the Welsh Assembly Government are not spending enough money on flood defences. We need to take seriously the whole question of how we can make more funds available, so that people can be protected in their homes now.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is an onus on individual households, perhaps working in communities, to take initiatives to mitigate the worst aspects of flooding? It has been disappointing to see the low take-up of measures introduced for that purpose. Government must pay attention to that, because flooding is a key feature of climate change.
Yes, indeed. It is easy to think, “What harm will one more garage or one more patio do?” but we need to be aware of the effects that we have collectively when we do these things. We must look for ways to mitigate those effects and try to reduce the amount of surface water that we contribute.
On the low-carbon economy, we all realise how important it is that we get ahead of the game and ensure that we develop low-carbon industries, instead of ending up importing things that could have been designed, developed and manufactured in this country. We must give clear signals to manufacturers about what we want. That was certainly the evidence put to us in the Committee on the draft Climate Change Bill, where manufacturers said, “You tell us the parameters, you tell us what you want, and we will deliver.” We have to say what we want and set strict objectives, whether on emissions, fuel efficiency or producing electric cars, and manufacturers will respond.
On renewable energy, too, we cannot just leave things to market forces. We have to take a very proactive approach, and in particular not limit it to the easy-to-develop types of technology. We need to spend a lot more time encouraging and giving financial incentives to develop some of the more difficult renewables, such as the use of marine current turbines under the sea or other methods of harnessing water energy. We have tended to see things simply in terms of wind or solar and have not developed water, of which we have a huge resource in this country.
The beginnings of the industrial revolution came from water mills. We must look carefully at what we could do in harnessing a lot more of what we might call mini-hydro on many of our rivers. Some very small mini-hydro projects run into trouble because of various rules on water extraction. The Environment Agency tells people that they cannot do this or that, but it is important that we consider what can be done to enable people to develop mini-hydro projects, perhaps by increasing water capacity so that they are not seen as destroying the environment. Essentially, all they do is take water out and then put it back; the difficulty is the level that it goes down to when it is taken out. I am sure that more help could be given to people to overcome such small, technical problems. Once the resource is established and the system is in place, it can run for ever.
We must ensure that we give full encouragement to a full range of renewables, but we also need to decide how many of each facility we want. One problem with our planning system is that there can be applications all over the country, but people have not added up the sum total of what they will lead to. One example is biomass plants: many people are racing for them, but I ask whether we have enough biomass to fuel a large number of plants.
If it is simply a matter of sweeping up sawdust and using the rough materials that we can provide in this country, that is one thing. However, if we are not careful, we will end up competing for precious forest products from across the world, which makes no sense at all, given the problem of deforestation. Sadly, people are not as honest about sustainability and replanting when they are anxiously trying to get a biomass plant so that they can access the funding that is available for renewables obligation certificates. We need to examine the overall strategy for the whole country and ask whether we are getting the numbers right on the availability of biomass.
In an ideal world, perhaps we would like to give up using fossil fuels, but we have to be honest and say that currently 70 per cent. of our electricity comes from such sources, whether coal or gas. It is not realistic to want to throw fossil fuels out of the window just like that. We need to develop clean coal and carbon capture technology, because if we are to rely on coal for some considerable time to come, it makes sense to use our indigenous coal as cleanly as we can and put carbon capture measures in place. It is absolute madness to import coal or use enormous quantities of vegetation when we have a compact form of fuel in our coal. We need to consider what to do to encourage deep mining, now that Tower colliery in south Wales and others have closed. That requires more investment, or we will be left with a simple situation in which people go for open-cast mining, with its unpleasant environmental impact on local communities.
I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State all the best in securing a strong agreement at Copenhagen. I look forward to supporting him in driving forward a strong agenda for tackling climate change, and particularly developing renewable energies and providing further investment in public transport.
I am glad to be able to contribute to the debate. Few Members are in any doubt about the reality of climate change and the dangers that face us all. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has produced a model of what would happen by 2080 based on a “business as usual” scenario, and it is frightening. There would be huge changes in the world. We are already seeing changes, and they are having an impact even on us and our budgets.
I recently chaired a statutory instrument Committee on increased funding for the Caribbean Development Bank. The Minister of State, Department for International Development, cited the reason for the increase as being to deal with the effects of climate change, particularly given the increasing number and effect of hurricanes. That is one example of the impact that it is having on our budgets.
We do not need to speculate about what might happen. We can see in other areas of the world that climate change is already having an impact. The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) spoke movingly of the situation in Bangladesh and the terrible floods there. Even in my area, although I would not claim that it is equivalent to that, we have seen terrible flooding over the past week, which was perhaps at least partly due to climate change. That brings home the costs of adaptation. There are various schemes in my neck of the woods for dealing with flooding from our rivers, but if we were to undertake all the schemes that are necessary, the cost would run into billions of pounds in Scotland alone. If we add those things together, we see the huge amounts of money that are required.
Given that background, it is abundantly clear that action needs to be taken. To coin a phrase, we are all in this together, and action has to be taken on a co-ordinated, international basis. The Copenhagen conference must come up with a good deal. As I have said, I agree that it should not be a deal at any price. A deal that avoids committing the world to real action to combat climate change may be worse than no deal at all, as it would give many a false sense of security that something is being done when it is not.
Like others who have spoken in the debate, I am becoming increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of getting a good deal at Copenhagen and, as I said in interventions on the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), I am also concerned about the impact on people in this country of the failure to get such a deal. We have to fight on two fronts: we must not only secure the deal in Copenhagen, but convince people in this country of the need to tackle climate change.
The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) quoted Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, as saying:
“Science has been moved aside and the space has been filled up with political myopia with every country now trying to protect its own narrow short-term interests.”
However, the IPCC head went on to say:
“They are afraid to have negotiations go any further because they would have to compromise on those interests.”
That is worrying, because if we go into Copenhagen with each country simply trying to protect its interest, we will get absolutely nowhere, as others have said, and we are facing a very real problem.
There is also the problem at home. I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), but he made a good point about the number of people in this country who agree that there is a need to take action. Many Members will have received when preparing for this debate an e-mail on the HSBC climate confidence monitor. According to its figures, overall in the world,
“65 per cent. of people believe a new international deal to cut emissions is ‘very important’…79 per cent. of people want to see a commitment at Copenhagen that ‘meets or significantly exceeds’ a 50-80 per cent. cut in emissions by 2050”
“69 per cent. of people agree that addressing climate change is at least as important, if not more important, than supporting their national economy during the downturn.”
That is all very well and good, and perhaps quite encouraging, but the e-mail goes on to say:
“In the UK, however, we still have a significant amount of work to do to convince the public that solutions are possible. Whilst those surveyed for the Monitor in developing countries are calling loudest for strong action on climate change, the UK scored highest across the world for those who believe climate change cannot be stopped (53 per cent.)”.
That is not to say that people in the UK do not understand that there is a problem, but they are sceptical about our ability to deal with it. Ministers and all hon. Members should find that statistic very worrying indeed, because we need to take people with us if we are going to tackle climate change.
We need not only to take people with us, but to come up with a credible plan that suggests that the world is capable of making the transformative reduction in CO2 emissions. At the moment, no such credible plan exists, so if people are sceptical about our ability to deliver, that is right and proper. It is for those in the House and elsewhere to come up with more credible plans.
The hon. Gentleman reads my mind to some extent—that is what I was coming to.
The danger is that if we go to Copenhagen and come away without a plan, scepticism, and the sense that climate change is inevitable and that there is nothing we can do to stop it, will increase. Because we have spent the past couple of years or so telling the general public that something must be done, we must get this agreement. The Prime Minister said not so long ago that we have 50 days to save the planet, if I remember correctly. Much of that is true, but what will be the impact on the general population of this country if they see that the politics is not keeping up with the science and that we are not taking it seriously enough to ensure that we reach a deal that will tackle these matters?
I raised that point with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith when he talked about the activist base—those people who are very engaged with the issue and send us postcards and so on. We all have such constituents, and some of them send postcards from several different organisations at the same time. However, we have to remember that the very engaged are just a small segment of the population. Many of our constituents may have an idea that climate change is a problem, and may do a bit here and there, but they are not that engaged. The impact on them of a failure to reach agreement at Copenhagen deeply worries me.
If, after Copenhagen, we end up saying, “Och well, it was just a step in the right direction. It was a window of opportunity, but we will have another conference in three, six or 12 months”, the message will be that climate change is not such a great problem. People will think, “It’s not all that dangerous, we can afford to spend more time before we reach a deal.” I do not think that we can—we need to take action now. The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) made a very good point with his t-shirt from the Youth Parliament. If we are talking about targets for 2050, that is a very long way away, and very few of us will still be—to put it politely—active in politics then. Even interim targets for 2020 represent two Parliaments into the future before we have standards to move towards.
We have to think about the impact of failure at Copenhagen on ordinary people, as well as on activists. The Secretary of State rightly made the point that we must make the issue of jobs and the green economy central to our argument. That is another way to make the issue relevant to ordinary people and to show that it is not just about science and warming, but about how we change our economy, create jobs and come out of the current recession.
One example of what can be done is happening in my area. The Crown Estate has recently awarded exclusivity agreements for offshore wind farms. There are four off the east coast of Scotland: Inch Cape, Bell Rock, Neart na Gaoithe and the Forth Array. Altogether, 10 are planned, which will create some 6,500 MW of renewable energy. As I pointed out at questions this morning, Siemens and Vestas which manufacture wind turbines say that the construction phase creates 3,000 jobs for every gigawatt of wind energy. That is a tremendous opportunity to create new jobs. In my area, the ports that formerly served the fishing and oil industries are becoming very interested, because they can see the opportunity to diversify by servicing wind farms. We debated the Select Committee’s report on the oil and gas industry last week in Westminster Hall, and we made the point that it has a huge opportunity to diversify into offshore renewables. Given how many jobs could be involved, we can do a lot to show ordinary people the relevance of tackling climate change.
There is also a slight problem. Two of the new offshore wind farms—Inch Cape and Bell Rock—are directly off my constituency. The Crown Estate announced the exclusivity agreements back in February, but I was inundated a few weeks ago by fishermen from Arbroath, who came to see me en masse because the proposed Bell Rock wind farm is in their fishing grounds. They were worried that they would no longer be able to fish in the area. That is not the case, and the area is not to be closed off for the wind farm. However, there is sometimes a lack of communication between those developing renewables and those who might be affected by the impact.
As it happens, I have introduced the fishermen to the developers. They are now talking, and I am certain that we will get an agreement that prevents the farm from impacting on the fishermen. However, we have to be careful that we do not get into the situation with offshore wind that we got into with onshore wind, where there was almost a knee-jerk reaction against any proposed wind farm. We need to be careful in the way we go about offshore wind.
I urge Ministers to go for the strongest possible scheme at Copenhagen. I believe that we need to agree a scheme to reduce emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050, but more than that we have to show that we are serious about committing to a reduction of at least 40 per cent. by 2020. Frankly, as far as I can see, the omens are not good. Although the United States is finally moving through the efforts of President Obama, as it has been noted, a version of the US Bill has passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate, and it will not have been passed come Copenhagen. It is very unlikely, therefore, that the United States will be in a strong negotiating position at Copenhagen. Without the States, things look bad indeed.
The Scottish Parliament has also produced ambitious climate change legislation. We should not think that only this place is involved. The devolved Administrations also have a say in the matter for their own areas in producing climate change legislation. In Scotland, we have a statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent. by 2050, including emissions from international aviation and shipping, and an interim target of 42 per cent. by 2020. We have pledged to establish a framework for annual targets, because 2020 is two Parliaments away and we have to find a way of establishing how we are getting along. Along with the draft budget, the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, has produced a carbon budget. Crucially, an attempt is being made in that budget to calculate the emissions for which Scotland is responsible from goods manufactured outwith Scotland. That is also part of our true carbon footprint. We have to take that into account.
I will not pretend that meeting those—or any—targets will be easy. Again, I return to my main point: we have to take people with us. We will have to explain exactly what it means to meet the targets. The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) said that individuals have to make a lot of changes. That is why 10:10, and other such campaigns, are so important. They give guidance and help people to make the small changes that will add up to meeting our climate change targets. The ease with which we can reduce our emissions by 10 per cent. over the next year depends on where we start from. Some of us might find it quite difficult; some might find it quite easy. However, if we all make the effort, we will get there.
I end on a perhaps more controversial note. I have talked about the devolved Administrations and what they are doing to try to make reductions. The Minister talked about the need for everyone to come together and show leadership, so I find it very strange that the Government are not prepared to have representatives from the devolved Administrations on the delegation to Copenhagen. A Scottish Minister could help. The Scottish climate change legislation has been welcomed by the Government of Maldives, the President of Ethiopia and others who are directly affected. It is a great shame that the Government will not be inclusive and take a Scottish Minister to Copenhagen as well.
Like many who have spoken today, I think that climate change is the most important issue confronting politicians of our generation, notwithstanding the speech by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley). I am not sure whether his point was that climate change is not occurring or, if climate change is not the fault of the activities of human kind, that we should perhaps leave it to the polar bears to sort out. However, the problem is there for us to confront as politicians, regardless of its source.
I accept the point about public opinion. I have seen opinion polls suggesting that the issue has never been lower down people’s lists of priorities in the past 10 or 15 years than it is now. However, we still have a duty as elected representatives to address it and ensure that we try to educate people and take them with us.
As hon. Members have said, we have benefited from nearly 200 years of economic development based on a carbon economy. The heaviest consequences of that are now weighing very heavily indeed on the developing countries. I attended a symposium organised by Lord Nicholas Stern in the House of Lords a couple of weeks ago. Lord Martin Rees, the chairman of the Royal Society, made the point that an increase in the average global temperature will not affect everybody equally in each country or on each continent. An increase of 4° C, which is not the worst-case scenario, but the upper limit of what it is hoped climate change can be limited to, would mean a 10° C increase in the average temperature in Africa. We therefore have a moral duty to address the issue, as much as anything else.
An international agreement is essential. I would like genuinely to commend the Prime Minister on his activity on the issue and on his determination to get other international leaders to address it, including by turning up at Copenhagen and reaching an agreement. Without that, we will not achieve a framework to take us forward that seriously addresses the issue.
Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes a point that everyone would accept and agree with.
I shall risk being partisan for a moment, but I want to say to the Conservative party that whoever wins the next general election will have to deal with the issue. In order to do that, whoever wins will have to maximise their influence in all the major debating forums, including the EU, the UN, the G20 and wherever else the issue will be discussed. Placing yourselves at the fringes of the European Union, in the way that you have in your party grouping, is not—
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been here long enough to appreciate that I should not use the second person.
Having placed themselves where they have, the Conservatives will not be in the vanguard of those debates. In fact, people who are concerned about the issue will be alarmed that they have aligned themselves with people who deny that climate change is even a problem. The Conservatives may have concerns about the European Union and this country’s association with it, but I would suggest that it is not in this country’s best interest for the Conservative party to pull its Union Jack underpants tight up under its armpits and march off into the wilderness when the rest of us will be debating those important issues. I urge the Conservatives to consider the position that they have adopted because, should they ever—God forbid—find themselves in Government, they will have to represent this country in debates on this matter, and they will not be able to do so from the fringes of the European Union on which they have placed themselves.
The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) mentioned hydrofluorocarbons earlier, and I have also discussed them with my hon. Friend the Minister. If I were to recommend to her a way of cutting 10 per cent. of our carbon emissions, I am sure that she would be interested, and that is exactly what we could do if we cut the use of HFCs. They now constitute about 2 per cent. of our global warming emissions, but their use is projected to grow by 3 per cent. a year. By 2050, they could represent more than 12 per cent. of this country’s emissions. If we address this important issue now, we could head off the catastrophic consequences of the continued use of these gases.
HFCs came into widespread use to replace chlorofluorocarbons—CFCs—under the Montreal protocol, which addressed the issue of damage to the ozone layer. I understand that amendments are to be tabled to that protocol to bring HFCs under the same regime, and that the Government are proposing amendments calling for a reduction in the use of HFCs through the prevention of leakages, and for the promotion of energy efficiency in the equipment that uses HFCs. Those are desirable aims, but, in the long term, they will not solve the problem of the growing use of those gases.
The Government’s proposals are good for the short term, and they represent an excellent interim measure, but we need to act on them now. I have met the Minister to discuss this, and I have been told that an argument against the UK regulating in this area is that we would come up against EU competition rules. I have worked with the Environmental Investigation Agency, which has recently produced a report on the use of HFCs in supermarket refrigeration units, and the progress of that industry towards eradicating their use. The agency has also met representatives of the European Commission to discuss this, and it says that the Commission would welcome action in this area, and that European competition rules would not stand in the way of the UK’s regulating in this matter.
I urge the Government to take action on HFCs not only because eradicating their use is the right thing to do but because regulation can create a framework in which change can be brought about. An example that I would offer to the Minister is that of the introduction of catalytic converters into vehicles. Arguments against that included the suggestion that it would impose unacceptable increases in cost, which would make cars too expensive. The arguments were eventually overcome, and catalytic converters were introduced into cars with minimum impact on the industry, and certainly with minimum impact on the cost of cars to the consumer.
Does the hon. Gentleman not find it surprising that large numbers of big companies have been perfectly prepared to sign up to not using HFCs? There are no sectors in which HFCs are necessary, and they could all be got rid of without much difficulty. The British Government have in the past voted against banning them, which is a rather serious matter. Would it not be a good idea if they got rid of all these bits and pieces and, instead, stood up and said, “We will encourage a ban on HFCs by the year 2013”?
I accept some of what the right hon. Gentleman says. Some uses of HFCs will need to continue, but they are minimal. I definitely agree with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that this should not be used as a smokescreen for encouraging general use of HFCs or to prevent the Government from regulating. The supermarkets are responsible for about 50 per cent. of HFC emissions, while refrigeration units are the major source of HFCs in the country, so regulation in respect of that would be very welcome, even within the industry itself—indeed, the industry has said that it wants such regulation.
As the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal pointed out, some large companies, including Unilever, Coca Cola and McDonald’s have said that they want to stop using HFCs, so there is already a great deal of interest within the industry in such a change. The major UK supermarkets say the same, but make the point that, in order to make progress, they need a level playing field. This is a highly competitive market, in which the supermarkets are always looking over their shoulders to gain a market advantage over one another. They argue that were there a regulatory framework within which they all had to operate, they would be able to make progress, because they would then know that their competitors would have to act in exactly the same way.
We need a regulatory framework and investment in research and development to tackle this issue. In turn that provides an opportunity for our industry, as we could help to develop the new green technology required.
We must also train the technicians. The technical change involved in moving from CFCs to HFCs was minimal, but using carbon-based gases, which do not have the capacity to add to global warming, as refrigerants will require people to be trained to use different equipment. That said, none of those problems is insurmountable.
The agreement that has been secured between the industry itself and those campaigning against HFCs should provide an opportunity for the Government to act to cut the use of those gases, which are up to 20,000 more potent in terms of global warming than CO2. The fact that their use is increasing at 3 per cent. a year should provide a wake-up call to us all. I believe that the Government should take the supermarket industry at its word and regulate. They should set a date, as the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal suggested, to eradicate usage of HFCs in supermarket refrigeration units. That date should not be too distant, but 2012 or 2013, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
In conclusion, I wish the Secretary of State and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister every success in the Copenhagen discussions and I hope that HFCs will feature in them. I note from Tuesday’s edition of The Guardian that Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is quietly confident that something will eventually come out of the Copenhagen discussions, and I sincerely hope he is right. If the Minister of State is concerned about her carbon footprint, I nevertheless urge her to continue with one important part of her activities—the burning of the midnight oil to ensure that we reach an agreement at Copenhagen. I urge her and other Ministers to be bold, as others have suggested. Some things that might have been thought unthinkable in the past must become thinkable at Copenhagen, particularly if we are to avoid going down as the generation that fluffed it by failing to take the necessary action to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change. I wish all Ministers every success at Copenhagen.
It is a great pleasure to take part in the debate, and to follow the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), who made a passionate and well-informed speech about the need for the Government to do more about HFCs. I entirely agree with him, and he has cross-party support for his call for greater action and urgency than we have seen from the Government to date.
I intend to speak about China, Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment—GLOBE International—and climate change. In the context of climate change, China is often portrayed as a large, irresponsible polluter, as a country that will not come to the table, and, along with the United States, as the chief barrier to international progress on action on climate change. The question that logically follows that portrayal is, “If China—coupled with the United States—is unprepared to take real action, why should we, a country whose emissions amount to only 2 per cent. of the global total, need to take action ourselves?”
My engagement with Chinese legislators through GLOBE, an international cross-party group of parliamentarians from the major economies, has revealed that that perception of China is far from the truth. If anything, it is we who are in danger of being left behind in the race towards a more prosperous low-carbon future and the new jobs and industries that it will bring, to which many hon. Members referred.
Using some indicators, one could be forgiven for thinking that China is the developed country and the United Kingdom the developing country when it comes to tackling climate change. The Minister may smile. For many years she campaigned for greater action from the Government, and she now finds herself in the unenviable position of having to defend the indefensible from the Front Bench. However, I know that she and her colleagues —including, I hope and believe, the new Secretary of State—are bringing greater urgency to the necessity for Britain to take action at home as well as talking so ably abroad.
Let us look at the figures relating to renewable energy. In 2007, 8.5 per cent. of the total consumption of primary energy in China came from renewable sources. In the United States the figure was 7 per cent., and in the United Kingdom it was just 2 per cent. The figures for electricity production make similar reading: 15 per cent. in China, 8.5 per cent. in the United States, and just 4.9 per cent. in the United Kingdom. The source of those figures is the Department itself. For a country with some of the best renewable resources in Europe, including wind, tidal and wave, the United Kingdom’s progress—to put it kindly—looks weak.
Let us now look at the amount invested in green technologies as part of the economic stimulus packages, which offer a real opportunity to ensure not only that money flows in the economy but that we prepare for a low-carbon future. In China, the figure devoted to green technologies, including clean energy, low-carbon infrastructure such as smart grids—who would have thought that China, a developing country, might be making more progress than us on smart grids?—electric vehicles, public transport networks and the like was 34 per cent. In the United States, it was 12 per cent. Those are the figures for the two “laggards”, but the figure for the United Kingdom was just 7 per cent. That is not exactly something of which we can be proud.
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for correcting me. That helps to put in context the fact that, while in international climate negotiations and diplomacy Britain has taken a leading role of which it can be proud, when it comes to our domestic performance, again and again we lag behind the countries that are typically portrayed by many as the barriers to progress.
There is no point in just talking. We heard a reference to cobra-like speed on one hand and a sloth-like performance on the other. The reality is that we are a tiger when it comes to talking about climate change abroad, and a sloth when it comes to implementing changes at home.
Chinese cars have already reached the level of efficiency that the United States has set as its target for 2016 under President Obama’s newly established fuel economy standards. Of course, if one were to take into account measures to control population—a significant factor in determining future emissions trajectories, notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s rightful point that growth in incomes can be a contributing factor to controlling populations—the Chinese are estimated to have averted 300 million births since the 1970s, perhaps using methods that we would not universally support, thus saving an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to the entire emissions of Japan.
When one considers the relative capacities to act on climate change—a factor that is quite rightly a central principle of the UN framework convention on climate change—the Chinese actions look even more impressive. China’s GDP per capita is about $6,000. In the US and the UK, the figure is about $45,000. CO2 emissions per capita are under 5 tonnes, against almost 10 tonnes in the UK and 19 tonnes in the US. Moreover, since 1990, which we can perhaps mark as the date when the world finally accepted the problem of man-made climate change, the UK has emitted four times more CO2 per capita than China.
Clearly, China has a particular responsibility on climate change because it has a population of 1.3 billion—about a fifth of global population—but I firmly believe, having visited China with the Environmental Audit Committee, as well as meeting legislators, that China understands climate change better than most Governments around the world. It understands that it will suffer hard in an insecure climate, and it is doing all that it can to mitigate its impact on the climate within the constraints that it faces. As I mentioned in an intervention, 250 million people live on less than $1.50 a day in China. Those people are in abject poverty—nothing relative there—and China’s focus is rightly on reducing poverty, but its efforts to date deserve praise, especially given the context in which it operates.
I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s speech with interest. I very much agree with a lot of what he says about the changing commitment in China and the progress that has been made. However, does he have any figures on the number of local authorities in China that have turned down renewable energy applications? Assuming that he does not conclude that such applications are widely turned down, does he think that perhaps command economy methods to introduce renewables should be adopted in the UK?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being true to the Maoist or Stalinist past that he doubtless has—the attraction to the left in this country of the command economy of communism in full flight is enormous. I do not know the numbers on local authorities turning down such things. The Chinese have introduced incentives for those who run provincial areas not only on economic growth, but on decarbonising their GDP growth.
The hon. Gentleman, like so many people from his political tradition, regards any resistance from people as best overcome by further diktat from the centre, further driving things down. As ever, they want to characterise anyone who does not like the impact of their centralising measures on their local area as necessarily dinosaur opponents who must be ridden roughshod over. That is why he doubtless supports setting up the new quango to dismiss local people’s views. That is typical of the left. I fundamentally believe that he and the Government are wrong to believe that central diktat will lead to more wind farms.
As one Labour Member rightly said, we need greater community control and ownership of assets. We need to let communities feel that they are empowered to decide where wind farms are built. We need to consider the incentives that local communities have to allow wind farms to be built. If we use incentives, listen to people and treat them with humility and respect, instead of having arrogant centralising power, we will find that we have more wind turbines, both on and offshore, than under the current procedure, which leads to the increasing alienation certainly of my constituents, who feel that their words are not listened to because people above them think that they know so much better. That is not the way to get more wind turbines, and the people will eventually slow things down. My point is that we achieve more with honey than with a stick, if I may mix my metaphors.
I must ask for the hon. Gentleman’s forgiveness; I apologise for failing to pick that up, but it is so rare that I pick up irony from any Member of his political tradition. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) says that what we need is bribery. Bribery is, perhaps, not the right word, but if we want renewable energy we do need to look very hard at incentives. Renewable energy can have negative impacts; a lot of people do not like wind turbines, for instance, and they are perfectly free to hold that opinion. If we want people to have things they do not necessarily like, we need to ensure that incentives are in place—or bribes, if that term is preferred—so that they then want them and compete for them because they recognise the benefits to their area and judge that, on balance, they should have them. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend mentions the French system. He applauds it, of course, but I am less sure about its dirigiste nature. However, the French may be dirigiste, but they buy people off as well, so I will take that as a good point.
I was about to mention China’s engagement in GLOBE International forums. Its engagement has been led by Congressman Wang Guangtao, chairman of the environment and resources protection committee in the National People’s Congress. He previously served as construction Minister and the deputy mayor of Beijing. I believe he was also formerly close to the Deputy Prime Minister of our country, which is, as far as I can see, the only blemish on his record. Wang was the architect of China’s climate change legislation and drafted the recent resolution on climate change that was passed by the NPC’s standing committee in late August. It received very little attention, but it is a very bold document and states how central climate change is to Chinese development.
Under the auspices of the GLOBE International commission on climate and energy security, Congressman Wang, together with US Congressman Ed Markey, drafted a set of legislative principles on climate change. Those principles were adopted by consensus at the recent GLOBE Copenhagen forum, which took place in the Danish Parliament, the Folketing, on 24 and 25 October.
More than 100 legislators from 16 Parliaments of the major economies—Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, the European Parliament, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the UK and the United States—endorsed a report that showed that legislators do not need to wait for a post-2012 framework to take action in their respective countries and to set us on the path to a low-carbon economy. The report showed that up to 70 per cent. of the emissions reductions needed under a scenario that would give us a reasonable chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to 2° C can be achieved through five policy levers that legislators have access to now: renewable energy, industrial energy efficiency, buildings and appliance standards, fuel efficiency and fuel standards, and forestry.
Congressmen Wang and Markey have led the way by passing climate change legislation consistent with those principles in the Chinese NPC and the US House of Representatives—regardless of the challenges that remain to getting such legislation through the Senate—and all other delegations at the GLOBE forum gave a commitment to advance the legislative principles in their domestic Parliaments, as I am partially seeking to do today.
I raised the legislative principles with the Prime Minister directly at Prime Minister’s questions last week, and I am grateful to him for agreeing to meet a cross-party delegation, as has the Secretary of State today. The Brazilian delegation is meeting President Lula on 11 November. The Danish delegation has already met the Danish Prime Minister.
This House was the first legislature in the world to pass climate change legislation including quantified emissions reduction targets, but so far the actions of legislators in the major emitting economies have not been joined up. If legislators were to move forward using a common set of principles, our actions would be magnified, competitive distortions would be minimised, and we would give Governments and leaders the confidence to go further and faster in the final negotiations at the UN, the latest round of which will take place in Copenhagen in December.
The role of legislators is crucial in tackling climate change; after all, it was legislators in the US Congress who stopped any chance of the Kyoto agreement being passed. If Governments do not carry their legislators with them, they will not be able to carry forward change. Although it is important that we do not just talk to each other, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) said in a useful and interesting contribution for which the House should be grateful, we do need to carry the people whom we represent with us, and we should not assume that they necessarily agree with the consensus in this place.
In the couple of minutes remaining to me, I wish to comment on a couple of other points. There is no pathway to the position that we all want to see in 2050 without using carbon capture and storage, because of the nature of the coal industry in China, India, the United States and the UK. I put it to the Minister that progress in this country has been painfully slow. In 2003, the Government said that action on CCS was urgent, yet we now find ourselves with a programme to have demonstration projects for CCS without being certain about the numbers—they have yet to be clarified. The idea is that the first project will be up in 2014, but that looks increasingly unlikely because of Government delay. I hope that she will look to move further and faster on CCS.
CCS offers not just an interim technology to deal with coal before we come up with cheaper, clean alternatives, but it is one of the few realisable technologies to reverse some of the emissions into the atmosphere. The combination of biomass and a CCS-enabled plant would provide the opportunity to reverse emissions from some of our electricity—and, possibly, heat—generation. Thus, CCS offers a real opportunity. Given that Britain has some of the biggest oil companies in the world, has the experience of working in the North sea—and has that sea just sitting there—and has some of the largest engineering consultancies in the world, it has a special opportunity to lead on CCS. I am afraid that we are giving that lead away because of inaction from the Government. If this Government do not act, I hope that an incoming Conservative Government next year—if that is what we have—will take quicker and more urgent action.
Like other speakers, I wish the Secretary of State and the Ministers in the team that goes to Copenhagen the best of luck in finding an agreement that is both realistic and binding—if not in December, at least shortly thereafter. We need something strong to send a signal and get the investment that we need to clean up our emissions path.
I have been both encouraged and dismayed by this debate. I was dismayed when the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) repeated, yet again, the canard that because not all scientists agree with everything about all aspects of climate change, the debate is uncertain, undecided and open. A consensus does not mean that everyone has to agree. As we can see in this Chamber, there is a very encouraging consensus about the need for action on climate change. There is a consensus of strong support and good wishes for the actions that our Government will be taking to ensure that the best agreement that can be reached at Copenhagen is reached. Of course, not everyone in this Chamber has absolutely to agree for there to be a consensus—we have heard that that is the case this afternoon.
One of the more encouraging aspects of this debate came when the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), speaking on behalf of the Opposition, emphasised the importance of the Copenhagen agreement as a key moving point in world action on tackling climate change. He likened it in some ways to the Bretton Woods agreement immediately after the second world war, and quoted what John Maynard Keynes said before that conference. I remind the House and the hon. Gentleman that John Maynard Keynes was, among other things, a strong advocate of investment in public spending and the economy in general during recovery from a recession and a strong opponent of closing services down and stopping things happening during that period of recovery. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not in any way damaged his career as a result of his advocacy of Keynes today.
Keynes said a number of other things; among them, he emphasised the object of skilled investment. He said:
“The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future.”
Although he was not talking about climate change, that seems to me to describe very accurately the skilled investment that is needed to ensure that the Copenhagen agreement works as strongly as we hope it will. In that respect, the recent discussions at the EU summit resulted in agreement on a substantial level of investment from the EU as part of the Copenhagen agreement. That will ensure that the less developed and developing countries can come to the table in Copenhagen much more secure in the knowledge that there will be genuine assistance for their economies and their development as part of the deal. That was described as a breakthrough, and it really was. A great deal of credit must go to the Prime Minister and the British Government. Although that is by no means a done deal in terms of exact figures, it is nevertheless a great step forward in how Copenhagen can now be cast.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State underlined the sort of clean development mechanisms that the investment will underpin. Such investment is of use and interest to all of us in ensuring that the development of such countries skips the experience that the developed world went through with its development of electricity and other utilities by exceptionally dirty means. Among other things, it means that the era of using mineral fuel as the prime engine for the economy of developed and developing economies is over and that the clear consequence of that—the carbon that has been placed in the atmosphere—is over. If that era is to be engineered into place across the world by means of these investment devices, that will be a good and skilled investment for us all—for this country as well as others.
The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden made an important point on the extent to which the population of this country, according to recent polling, does not appear to be fully behind the idea that action on climate change is urgent. Although there is some dispute about the figures and about the number of people who believe that nothing can be done, that does not imply that such people are not interested in or concerned or worried about climate change. It seems to me that those in that particular section of popular opinion must have underlined to them the fact that something can be done, that we can take action and that we can stabilise the world’s climate and the increase in temperature, which can follow a downward trajectory before, eventually, it stabilises. That is very important to what we are trying to achieve at Copenhagen in action on climate change.
In that context, it is very important that a message is sent out about how jobs in the new low-carbon economy will greatly benefit the people of this country. However, as the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) mentioned, we must also recognise that the investment figure proposed at the European summit will probably not be nearly enough to ensure that longer-term development arrangements for the developing world are secured.
I was interested in the ECOFIN proposal that part of the levy on bunker fuels for aviation and shipping should go towards establishing clean development mechanisms in developing countries. This country’s Chamber of Shipping and the United Kingdom Major Ports Group have worked together to set out how such a levy might be implemented. The suggestion is that international shipping could be registered from point of origin to point of destination, with the levy being imposed on the bunker fuel taken on at specific points. For the future of the UK economy, it must be underlined that it is not that difficult to impose a levy on international shipping. A successful levy would bring shipping within both climate trading arrangements and the Copenhagen considerations.
I believe that the changes that are needed will become easier over time. It is an iterative process, as is the move to a low-carbon economy in this country. The fact that the science fiction films of a few years ago that are now shown late at night feature people in high-tech, futuristic outfits holding to their ears extremely clunky mobile telephones only serves to emphasise how change from the take-up of new technology can happen much more quickly than we thought.
A significant tipping point reached in the past year has generally gone unnoticed, even though it ranks alongside a number of the other tipping points that we have discussed in previous debates. Last year, and for the first time, the worldwide investment in green energy was greater than investment in fossil fuel energy.
Would the hon. Gentleman set aside party politics for just a moment and agree with me that what we really want from the Government is some real enthusiasm about these new things? I long to hear the Minister of State get up and say with excitement, “We are pushing the shipping industry to do these things. We are the leaders on this matter.” That would be better than being told by the Danes that we are way behind. Why does she not speak about the excitement of new technology? I want some enthusiasm and excitement from her—that is what we are asking for.
I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is very enthusiastic about the new economic world in which we will live, and I am sure that that will be displayed in her winding-up speech. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the idea of a low-carbon economy has been underlined by the Climate Change Act 2008 and the material that has been produced about the route to such an economy—indeed, I am holding in my hand a copy of “Moving to a global low carbon economy: implementing the Stern Review”. The vision of moving forward to a low-carbon economy is at the heart of the Government’s economic, environmental and energy strategies for future years.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is incumbent on us to underline with enthusiasm that vision for the kind of world that we want to live in, and the reasons why the British public should not fear it, but instead embrace it. Job opportunities will be created by changing our energy sources from predominantly mineral-based fuels to predominantly renewable fuels. We will have the opportunity to improve our quality of life and to tackle problems such as fuel poverty, thanks to the ambitious plans that are afoot—although I hope that even they will be superseded—to increase the energy efficiency of our homes and the standard assessment procedure ratings of our buildings. We will see changes to the way we transport ourselves around and the emergence of different forms of transport. If a considerable proportion of our energy is generated from wind and other renewable sources, energy will probably be more or less free to the customer at certain times of day. That explains why, without unduly affecting people’s fuelling security and the availability of personal transportation, electric cars could play a substantial role in our economy.
Such changes will be fundamental to the way in which our economy works, and they will go with the grain of how the public wish to live and what they want for our economy’s future prosperity. There will not be the hurt and pain that some people believe will be the result of such changes. A combination of enthusiasm for those changes and enthusiasm for investment in those changes elsewhere in the world is at the heart of not only ensuring that Copenhagen is a success, but increasing understanding throughout the world that Copenhagen is essential to the future of the globe and that it can usher in a much better life for the globe. That must be an essential part of the negotiations, and I wish our negotiators in Copenhagen every success in that objective.
Maynard Keynes also said:
“It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong”,
and getting a deal that is as close to roughly right as possible and that leads to a legally binding outcome on world carbon emissions is a noble objective that can be achieved through the effort that is being put in. I suggest that if my hon. Friend the Minister burns the midnight biogas, rather than the midnight oil, to achieve that end, I shall be very pleased.
I apologise to Members whose speeches I may have missed during the afternoon. However, I have been able to hear a lot of the debate.
I should like to discuss palm oil, because one of the most important things that the Government have tried to meet is the renewable transport fuel obligation. I fear that, accidentally, they have increased the chances of the orang-utan, Asia’s only great ape, becoming extinct. I do not think that that was their intention, but with deforestation meaning the loss of such a vital carbon sink, and with 6.5 million to 10 million hectares of rainforest having been cleared across Sumatra and Borneo, within 15 years 98 per cent. of Indonesian rainforest could be extinct. That will have a devastating impact on climate change, on efforts to reduce emissions and on vital habitats.
There are 7,000 Sumatran orang-utans and 12,000 to 15,000 Bornean orang-utans left in the wild. Extinction could be as near as five to 10 years away. Some 80 per cent. of orang-utan habitats have been lost or altered, and unless we stop that destruction we will fail in our well intentioned efforts to save the planet. About 90 per cent. of palm oil exports are from Indonesia and Malaysia, and palm oil is found in 10 per cent. of the products in UK supermarkets. More than 900,000 tonnes of palm oil are imported by the UK, and figures are set to rise as biofuel levels increase to meet the RTFO biofuels target of 3.5 per cent. by 2010-11.
Biofuels may not be the long-term panacea, and we need to look to the Government to accelerate the development both of hydrogen, like in California, and of electric charging points. Indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, plans to introduce up to 25,000 such points in London. We need to strike a balance between palm oil as a biofuel and the loss of rainforest and the impact of biodiversity on animals such as orang-utans, rhinos and the pygmy elephant.
I happened to go to Borneo last year—it is in the Register of Members’ Interests—and I wanted to tell the House about the work of a company called Sime Darby, which took me out there and showed me how, in Malaysia, one can combine biofuel and palm oil production with a genuine conscience and on a renewable and sustainable basis. The company’s work was fantastic: it had joined the political process with the farming process—the production of that important biofuel—and it was doing so positively and brilliantly. It is time that we heard that side of the story, and about what is going on to protect the orang-utan. It is being protected in Malaysia but, tragically, not in Indonesia.
If the hon. Gentleman wants his political career to go well, he will be familiar with everything that the Leader of the Opposition does. The hon. Gentleman may therefore have heard recently that the Leader of the Opposition’s favourite biscuits are oatcakes, which of course contain a substantial amount of palm oil. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that Opposition Members eat only orang-utan-friendly oatcakes, which do not contain palm oil?
I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks that he has scored a goal, but if he buys Paterson-Arran oatcakes he will find that they are, indeed, orang-utan friendly—and no more monkey business from him while he’s at it.
Companies such as ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Cadbury’s—big, serious and sensible companies—are doing a tremendous amount to change the content of their food and other products from unsustainable to sustainable palm oil. Indeed, other companies, such as McCain, are using sunflower oil for chips, and a lot is going on to make food production more sustainable. I really welcome that and urge colleagues to encourage it in their constituencies wherever possible.
My hon. Friend is showing his expertise in this area. Does he prefer following palm oil from production all the way through to market to ensure that only sustainable oil is used; or creating certificates and selling them at the point of production, so that companies can buy them and make sure, at least for the quantity that they buy, that an amount goes forward to give a premium to sustainably produced palm oil?
We have to do both, because, although certification is helpful, ultimately we all want proper sustainability from planting through to end use. Therefore, anything that financially encourages such practice is worth having, but ultimately we should get it right from start to finish rather than buy our way out of bad practice.
In Hereford, we had a 350 campaign meeting in the town hall; it was extremely good, and I enjoyed taking part in it. Something very serious went on there that showed why we need to get the climate change debate handled properly and why we need success in Copenhagen. A lot of people, from all sorts of different political parties, brought forward their little dream lists of things they would like brought about, but they did not have much to do with climate change and were much more about their political and social engineering ideas. The bottom line is that the climate change agenda is an exciting opportunity not only to get the planet set up properly but to ensure that we do so in a way that will work. That means using the market and going with the grain of human behaviour, not fighting every inch of the way and introducing silly things such as the Tobin tax, which was raised at the meeting. That is not to do with climate change; it is to do with people having a social engineering agenda, and it is totally counter-productive to taking genuine steps forward. The countries that are accelerating fastest are not doing it through those sorts of methods.
I hope that the Minister will make some comments on the 350 campaign. If we really are at a level of 385 parts per million and going the wrong way, it would be interesting to know what message she can send to the people involved to say, “Look, if we carry on doing it right we will be able to wind those parts per million back to 350 instead of seeing them go up to 450”—we should all be fearful of that.
I worry that Britain is lagging behind. In 2007, after a decade of Labour Government, just 1.78 per cent. of energy used in the United Kingdom came from renewable sources. That is a wasted opportunity. I think that it was due not to bad intention but to bad implementation. Germany, France, Spain, Norway, America and Korea are out-performing the UK in solar photovoltaics. Germany has more than 2,500 on-farm anaerobic digesters, compared with 30 in the UK. Norway has been pioneering carbon capture and storage facilities in the North sea since the mid-1990s, while sadly only now are this Government getting serious about CCS. Combined heat and power has become the biggest source of heating in the Netherlands.
Then we get on to another matter that I hope the Minister thinks is very serious: green jobs. She is on the record as saying that every job should be a green job. I am pretty unhappy about the Prime Minister promising 400,000 new green jobs in March and then cutting that figure to just 250,000 at the Labour party conference. What happened? Where did those jobs go? Some 150,000 jobs were to be created but now they are not. That sends out all the wrong signals. I know that the hon. Lady will have difficulty defending the Prime Minister’s speeches, but we need to keep reminding the Government from all parts of the House that, as she said, jobs should be green jobs.
Thirty-five per cent. of our carbon dioxide emissions come from energy supply, 22 per cent. from other industries, 24 per cent. from transport, 4 per cent. from services and 15 per cent. from gas and oil powered heating and cooking in homes, so there is obviously a lot more that we can do.
Despite the Government’s rhetoric, their record is lamentable. In 1997, Labour claimed in its manifesto that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent. below the 1990 levels by 2010. In 2003, that target had become an aspiration to move towards a 20 per cent. reduction. In 2006, the climate change programme review conceded that the target would be missed. In 2008, carbon dioxide emissions were just 10.3 per cent. below 1990 levels—barely halfway towards the Government’s target, with less than two years to go. We know that Ministers want to do the right thing, but the Government do not have a great record on this. Therefore, anything we can say or do today to encourage them to get it right at Copenhagen is crucial.
In my constituency, there is a company called Green Energy Supplies that sells microgeneration equipment—log-fired boilers. It is suffering because the microgeneration certification scheme insists on certain standards—all good stuff so far. Unfortunately, those standards are achieved under EU regulations. With our microgeneration certification scheme, there is duplication of the same regulations plus a bit of gold-plating, and as a result there is extra cost to the companies that should be the point of the spear in the attack on climate change. Those companies want to make money by selling their products and encouraging people to do microgeneration, but they are being swamped.
I am waiting for a meeting on that matter with the Minister’s Department, as promised by the Prime Minister, but I have not yet heard when it will be. I and my constituents look forward to hearing from the Government what they are going to do to encourage companies such as Green Energy Supplies in Leominster and let them get on with doing what we all want them to do, which is help cut our carbon emissions.
The story of wind farms makes me even crosser. I passionately agree with renewable energy, but the way in which the Reeves Hill wind farm in my constituency was handled makes me want to pull my hair out. Here we have a uniquely beautiful place, and there were 1,500 objections to the wind farm applications. In my eight years as an MP, I have never seen anything like that volume of objections to such a planning application. I asked the Government to call it in and they did, but in the end it was handed back to the council, which had unfortunately already decided to approve it. None of the proper procedures to give people confidence that the planning application protected them from things that they did not want and from their lights going out were followed in the way that they should have been. We are never going to convince people that we are right about renewable energy if the planning process is not used properly—I hesitate to use the word abused. That is a huge regret.
Another wasted opportunity is the skew in renewable energy efforts towards wind, without an equally passionate effort on tidal energy. We in this country have a unique opportunity, because we are on an island. We ought to be doing everything that we can to lead the world in alternative and effective renewable energy sources. As the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world, we can do that.
We have a unique opportunity to set an example by investing in the research and development necessary to bring forward new technologies. We can prove that if we go with the new technology, we will not only live in a cleaner and better country but create jobs, wealth and energy and deliver what people want at a price they want. Other countries that follow on behind us will then get the benefit, just as they did with the mobile telephone revolution. They do not have to go through the early, painful years, and they can walk straight in and pick up the technology ready and fit for purpose. That is what leading economies should be doing and what we want the Government to do.
There is no better example of where the current system is not working than on-farm biodigestion. Farmers have picked up a bill of more than £520 million for extra regulation such as the nitrate vulnerable zones. We understand why the Government wanted that regulation, but what a shame it was not coupled with something such as biodigestion so that when a dairy farmer produced huge quantities of cow muck, instead of being made to build a vast pond to store it in he would have been encouraged to build a biodigestion unit. Then that muck would have been recycled properly and the gas would have gone back into the grid, hopefully with a proper feed-in tariff.
We can do those things, and they are being done in other countries. Why are we not leading the world on such technology? Every time we throw food away, it should go into biodigestion. We can do it. It is not rocket science, and it is happening in Germany. It is inexcusable that we hit our dairy farmers with huge bills, when they have the answers to the problems if only they were encouraged and able to invest in the right technology. It is a real tragedy.
When I needed a new boiler in my house, I wrote to every energy company and asked whether they could help me get a combined heat and power boiler. I got a straight set of replies saying that they did not do that. We had a demonstration in the Jubilee Room by a company with, I think, a sterling coil boiler, but I could not get one. That is a real shame, and I suspect that if I could not get one it must be much more difficult for our constituents.
We need to make it easy for people to do the right thing, encourage them to do it, and show them that when they do it, they win. If we press all those buttons, we will see climate change sceptics disappear because, actually, it will not be worth being sceptical about climate change. It should be profitable and sensible to go with what is right, and people should take pride in it, but it is just too difficult to do so at the moment. If we are finding it too difficult, our poor constituents must find it far, far worse.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have a conversation such as this with the Government, and to say to them, “We desperately want you to get it right in Copenhagen. We are very worried because your track record is lousy, but if anybody’s got the chance to do it, you have.” The tragedy of the debate is that it is not something that can wait.
I had the privilege of listening to Al Gore when he spoke to Conservative Front Benchers. We asked him what one thing he would do if he were in our shoes, and his answer was very helpful. He said that the only thing that really matters is getting global agreement. Although I have spoken about things we could do ourselves, to solve this global problem we need a global solution. At the time, that was about moving to Kyoto 2 and making it enforceable, but now it is about Copenhagen, and his words are as true today.
I say this to the Government: get that agreement, bind in the people who are causing the trouble and help those who are suffering, but do not come back to us and say, “We tried jolly hard but we’re awfully sorry, it didn’t work this time.” They should go out there and save the planet. After all, what better reason is there to be in politics today?
I wish that we come back from Copenhagen with a significant agreement, but whatever enthusiasm, skill and energy our delegation demonstrates there—I will be there watching and cheering them on—they cannot do it on their own. That is the nub of the problem. That is not only why we need an international agreement if we are to achieve any success in combating climate change, but why it is extremely difficult to do so.
We have watched a sort of stately gavotte in climate change negotiations for years, going round and round in circles, producing very little. We have not even had a legally binding agreement up to now. Kyoto was not an effective, legally binding agreement, and there has been no question of compliance action for countries failing their Kyoto obligations. If we get a legally binding agreement out of Copenhagen, it will be a tremendous first for the planet.
However, we have already had to accept the fact that, for reasons totally beyond the control of the British Government, a binding legal agreement is completely unlikely. That can happen only with the enthusiastic endorsement of the US Administration, who have been the stumbling block of climate change negotiations for the past 10 years. Although the Bush Administration have moved on and been replaced by an enlightened Administration under Obama, he is leading a country in which the debate on climate change is 10 or 20 years behind that of the rest of the world.
The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) may pour scorn on public concern about climate change and support for action against climate change in the UK, but compared with America, that concern and support is pretty good.
Well, I find that extremely hard to believe. The resistance to climate change in the US is very strong. I remember the first real redneck I ever met was a senator from Wisconsin. He leaned back in his chair, put his feet on his desk and said, “If it impinges badly on the American economy, there is no way we’re gonna ratify Kyoto.” The US economy comes first, second, third and fourth as far as a large percentage of the American populace is concerned.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that the best outcome that we can achieve at Copenhagen is international agreement to aim for a 2° target. We must be careful about investing too much emotional capital in Copenhagen. First, we cannot afford to let it be the last chance, because if we do not get what we want from it, we cannot just go home and stop trying. Secondly, we have to consider what a 2° target means in practical terms. It does not mean that if all the world’s Governments agree that we will limit global warming to 2°, we can all go home and sleep safe in our beds. The Committee’s reports make it clear that that target means that we would have a 50 per cent. chance of restraining global warming to 2°. That means that there is also a 50 per cent. chance of exceeding 2° and a smaller chance of warming reaching 4°. I just hope that the world’s luck is better than mine, because from my personal experience I tend to get the wrong end of a 50:50 chance. Is a 50 per cent. probability acceptable? It seems to be the best that science can offer and that even the most effective international agreement can deliver, but does it make us comfortable? No, it does not, but anything less does not bear thinking about.
What will happen if the US cannot come to the table with something a little more positive, in terms of numbers and determination? It looks as though that will not happen, because of the difficulties in its own backyard. Will that mean that other countries will fail to agree and walk away? I am somewhat optimistic on that point. For instance, I share the optimism of the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) about the position of the Chinese. I was also on the Environmental Audit Committee delegation that visited Beijing, and it was clear that the Chinese had just as sophisticated an appreciation of climate change science and what needs to be done as anybody else. They are also deploying renewable energy far more effectively and far faster than we are, but then of course they do not have to worry about Conservative local authorities refusing planning permission for wind farms. So they have certain advantages.
The Chinese are also concerned with alleviating poverty, hence their rush to industrialisation and their massive deployment of coal-fired power stations. The Chinese are conscious of the implications of that too. They are working on CCS far more quickly and effectively than we are, and I strongly suspect that if we do not get our act together, we will not be supplying CCS kits to retrofit Chinese power stations; we will be buying them from them. That would not be helpful.
What are we going to do? Are we going to wait until we have the whole deal in place at Copenhagen before we start to up our game on climate change and CO2 reduction, or do we start to take action anyway on the things that matter—things such as having a sensible carbon price to encourage investment in the right direction of low-carbon technologies? At the moment, carbon pricing is dependent on the emissions trading scheme, which has produced a very limp carbon price indeed. We are waiting for something to emerge from Copenhagen to provide the basis for a firm carbon price, although I am a little sceptical about the likelihood of that. We have to consider what we are to do if a sensible carbon price does not emerge as a result of Copenhagen. We will have to consider unilateral action, or action at an EU level or at the highest international level possible.
Another prime element to Copenhagen will be deforestation and the evolution of a reasonable reduced tropical deforestation regime to arrest deforestation in developing countries. That hangs in the balance, but deforestation accounts for more than 20 per cent. of current CO2 emissions in the world. Can we afford to wait? I suggest that we cannot. If we do not get from Copenhagen a binding agreement or a satisfactory political agreement, we will have to continue to work for it. If we do not get it from Copenhagen, we will have to go for it again in a few months. However, rather than waiting until we have every duck in line before we get a fully fledged legal agreement, action on aspects of climate change must be taken as soon as possible. That might mean groups of countries—led, I would hope, by the UK and the EU—acting together to start the process, even if they cannot get the consent and support of the whole world.
We cannot afford to wait. One country cannot be allowed effectively to block progress by the whole world—much too much is at stake. The one agreement at which we must not arrive at Copenhagen is one no more valuable than the piece of paper with which Mr. Chamberlain returned from Munich. In climate change, we are faced with something just as threatening as world war. It might take longer than a world war, but the effects and resulting casualties will be just as calamitous. We have to go for it at Copenhagen, and if we do not get everything that we want there, we must be prepared to start leading action on our own.
This has been a wide-ranging debate. Surveying just the contributions from those on the Conservative Benches, we went from the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who proved that he is excited, as always, about tackling climate change and who prayed in aid the Pope and denounced creationism, to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), who gave us the benefit of his list. I am only sorry that he did not sing his list, as I am old enough to remember him doing in days gone by.
However, it is understandable why we ranged across such a variety of subjects, because the issue affects us, and needs to tackled, at all levels. As this is a debate in the run-up to Copenhagen, we have considered governmental and international challenges. Before making one or two points about that, however, I would like to start with some more parochial issues, which can be dealt with at the individual and local levels.
Let me start by praising the 10:10 campaign, which has been mentioned, which is an accessible way for individuals, local authorities and the Government to make a practical short-term difference. I have signed up, as I understand the Cabinet and Departments have. More importantly, the Government have promised an additional £20 million to ensure that targets to reduce emissions can be achieved.
I will come to that when I talk about what local government is or is not doing, but I am sorry that neither Conservative council in my constituency has signed up to 10:10. I know that all Labour councils have been urged to sign up, and I am sorry that many Conservative councils are not doing that. What is required is not just to urge people to sign up, but to facilitate them. The fact that the Government are making grants available for insulation and the fact that we now have feed-in tariffs mean that it is possible for people to take those steps.
One way in which I hope that I am making an effort locally is by joining the Airplot scheme, which, for those who are not familiar with it, is the purchase of a piece of land on the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. Many of my constituents have signed up as beneficial owners, with the support of local environmental organisations, as well as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Later this month we will plant some apple trees there, because it is on the site where Cox’s apples were originally bred—is “bred” the right word? No, possibly not.
The scheme has received a lot of publicity, but it has a serious intention. Aviation, and particularly the third runway at Heathrow, is something of a blind spot for the Government. I recently read an editorial in The Economist that is exactly a year old, but which, perhaps not surprisingly, was reprinted last week. It concluded thus:
“the biggest reason why”
the Prime Minister
“should hold off deciding Heathrow’s future is that the government’s own Competition Commission ruled…that BAA’s monopoly of London airports should be broken up. Anticipating a direct order, the airport operator has…put up Gatwick for sale. Any new owner is likely to seek permission to build a second runway there to compete with Heathrow…That would give London…new capacity at a lower environmental cost than expanding Heathrow.”
It is no surprise that that has come true, as it pretty obviously would. As soon as Gatwick was out of BAA’s hands, the potential for expansion there was clear.
That does not mean that I am advocating a second runway at Gatwick, although that would obviously be much more sensible and environmentally friendly than having another one at Heathrow. However, what has happened shows the complete confusion in the various views on aviation that we hear, and that goes for both parties. For example, the Greenpeace website says:
“cabinet ministers Ed Miliband and Hilary Benn…and an increasing number of Labour MPs have all spoken out against the plans to build a third runway at Heathrow,”
whereas we had one Opposition Front Bencher saying only a couple of months ago that the plans for a third runway would be revisited if a Conservative Government were elected. At the same time, we had Boris Johnson initially saying that Heathrow would be closed and a new airport built in the Thames estuary, whereas he now says that that new airport will be in addition to a two-runway Heathrow, and that we will have an additional four runways in the south-east. This is a chaotic situation for aviation policy to be in, for all the parties.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the success of the high-speed link to the channel tunnel and the high-speed rail connections beyond it, along with the newly improved St. Pancras station in my constituency, demonstrate that the best way to deal with the demand on capacity at Heathrow is to ensure that people do not want to make short-haul flights to Europe? The sooner we build high-speed connections in the rest of Britain, the sooner we can eliminate most domestic flights as well.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. I am sure that a number of Ministers would agree, too, including the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
I do not want to make a whole speech about Heathrow, but it is impossible to ignore issues of this kind if we are to have a coherent policy across the board on climate change. The Opposition’s policy, despite their volte face at the Conservative party conference a year ago, is just as confused and disingenuous on this issue.
The hon. Gentleman says that, but we hear siren voices saying very different things. I also remind him that, three months before the instructions to the then shadow Transport Secretary at the Tory party conference, half the shadow Cabinet were lecturing my constituents on why it was in the country’s economic interests to have a third runway. I do not think that many people, including most people in the environmental movement, believe what the Conservatives are saying for a moment.
As the hon. Gentleman has introduced that theme, I want to suggest that he read another interesting article on the Greenpeace website, entitled “Do the Tories get climate change?” It is based on the fact that the 10 leading Conservative bloggers on the subject—some very influential people—all happen to be climate change deniers.
Is my hon. Friend also aware that a number of leading Conservative councils have chosen not to back the 10:10 campaign and not to give local leadership on climate change? In fact, on Wednesday night, Westminster city council refused to support a motion accepting 10:10.
Indeed, and I have just mentioned that both my Conservative councils take the same view. That is not surprising, because most London Conservative councils are off the scale when it comes to opposing environmental projects. My local authority is the only riparian borough that opposes the Thames tunnel or any relief scheme for sewage going into the Thames.
It is not surprising to find these views wherever we look across the Conservative party. For example, the shadow Business Secretary had some interesting views on wind farms, but the wind changed direction and he changed his mind overnight, and the shadow Chancellor did not mention climate change once in his speech to the Conservative party conference, perhaps because he thinks that there is no economic aspect to climate change. As the Secretary of State pointed out, the Conservative party refuses to clarify whether the aid budget would suffer in order to spend money on climate change, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) mentioned that the Conservatives’ closest ally in Europe is Václav Klaus, who is a notorious—possibly one of the world’s leading—climate change deniers.
I shall read a few sentences from President Klaus’s interesting book, “Blue Planet in Green Shackles. What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?” The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden might be interested in this, because it sounds very like part of his earlier speech. The book claims that climate change is a “false myth”. It states:
“The greatest challenge facing mankind today is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Global warming has become a symbol of this clash”.
These are the sort of people who are the Conservative party’s natural allies. It might be said that while the Conservatives are safely in opposition, it does not really matter, but it does. Unfortunately, given the way the political cycle goes, a large number of town halls around the country are now controlled by the Conservative party, yet the role of local government in taking practical measures to resist climate change is very important.
Let us take recycling, for example. This morning, when I went down to get my post, now hopefully restored, I found what I first thought was a personal letter, but it had in fact gone out to every household in the borough. There is perhaps some irony in sending out in envelopes so many letters about recycling. It was from my local council and it said, “Recycling: it’s a duty, not a choice”, telling off the residents of Hammersmith and Fulham for not doing enough to recycle. I was quite surprised to receive it, as it is the first thing that I have ever had in four years from the Conservative council on the subject of recycling. For a moment, I thought that I was perhaps not doing enough, but then I thought that one of the main reasons was that my Conservative council provides virtually no recycling service whatever.
When the council was Labour-controlled, it provided a garden waste collection service, but that was subsequently charged for and then abolished, so that over the last two years for which figures are available, composting went down from 4.5 to 3.5 per cent. The council refuses to provide any food recycling service. When one of my constituents asked about it, the council said that it was illegal, which is strange because Ealing council next door provides such a food recycling service and I am not aware that it is illegal.
The current council has continued a recycling service that was started by the previous Labour council, whereby one puts mixed recycling into an orange sack. A scheme has been introduced where that is now collected at the same time as general refuse. It might be said that there is nothing wrong with that, except that I have often sat behind the refuse vehicles and watched the recycling sacks being put in with the general refuse and mixed up with it. It is perhaps not surprising that the net result is that a London borough with a population that is educated and aware as far as recycling is concerned—frankly, it does not need to be told, at great public expense and waste, that it is a duty to recycle—is now recycling only 26 per cent. of its waste, which is about half of what the best councils are achieving. Before Conservative Members start lecturing the Government, as I have heard them doing this afternoon and on many other occasions, perhaps they should take the beam from their own eyes and look at what their own local authorities are doing around the country, which is on the whole, I am afraid, very little.
Let me start to conclude—I have only a few minutes left—by dealing with one or two other subjects that have been raised, which I would like to put as questions to Ministers. The first is the issue of green jobs. The Government have said, it is true, that 1.2 million people will be in green jobs by 2015. That is surely one of the key issues both for energy and the manufacturing sector. It seems to me that this is a win-win-win situation. First, investment in renewables and green manufacturing will help the country out of recession. Secondly, it will improve our security, as the ability to generate energy domestically is a far better alternative than relying on uncertain, unreliable and expensive sources of fossil fuels from overseas. Principally, however, if we are going to tackle climate change, it is a clear and absolute requirement massively to increase the percentage generation of power through renewable sources. I am pleased to say that the target of 40 per cent. from low-carbon sources by 2020 is there and clearly stated.
I do not agree with everything that the environmental groups have to say. I do not agree with them about carbon capture and storage or, indeed, about nuclear power, because those methods will clearly be necessary. In the short term, however, the Government should make the investment in green jobs—whether they involve wind turbines, electric vehicles, hydroelectric schemes or nuclear projects—a priority. It is clearly not a priority for Opposition parties. Currently, 60 per cent. of applications for wind farms are turned down by Conservative councils. I do not think that the Government need to be lectured, but I do think that they need to do more in that regard.
Finally, let me refer my hon. Friend the Minister to the briefing for Copenhagen from Friends of the Earth. It makes two points. One relates to the need for developed countries to help the developing world to make strides. The Minister may not need to be told that, because the Prime Minister’s statement on the European Council meeting earlier this week showed that once again he is leading the field in ensuring that money is made available to that end. The other issue, which is perhaps more contentious, is offsetting, which Friends of the Earth thinks should not be part of the climate change agenda. I might not go that far, but I would say that the developed world has an obligation not simply to offset—not simply to rid itself of its burden through deforestation programmes or other means—but actually to cut emissions. The Government need to address that at Copenhagen.
I believe—I think that this has been acknowledged on all sides—that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have been doing a fantastic job so far in leading the international agenda, but it is clearly necessary to go further. The developed world must take more of a lead in ensuring that climate change is tackled.
This has been an excellent debate. It is rather a shame that it had to end with some rather incoherent rambling and on a slightly sour note, but I do not think that we will let that spoil our enjoyment of the afternoon.
I was in Copenhagen for the GLOBE meeting two weekends ago and returned feeling rather more encouraged than I had expected. There has been a great deal of negative press coverage about the prospects for the Copenhagen summit, but when briefing the GLOBE conference, the Danish Prime Minister was much more upbeat than I had expected him to be, and his Conservative colleague, the Danish Environment Minister, was truly inspirational. I think we can be comfortable in the knowledge that the summit could not be in better hands than those of the Danish Government. They are doing all they can to make it the greatest success that it can be, given the size of the challenges that it has still to overcome.
As the city’s hotels, shops and local media hold their breath for the invasion by world leaders—and it is to the Prime Minister’s credit that he was among the first to declare that he would be going—along with, of course, the circus of international lobbyists, non-governmental organisations and global media, it is by no means certain that, however well prepared the Danes are, there will be the successful outcome for which we hope. The world is holding its breath for a summit that will be seen through the eyes of history either as the great turning point described by many Members today—a point at which the nations of the world overcame their differences to tackle a huge challenge—or as a tragic step over a precipice of our own making.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) reminded us, it was 20 years ago this week that Margaret Thatcher first told the United Nations that we needed concerted global action to tackle climate change. While the science has become ever more compelling, the reality is that, particularly since Kyoto, global leaders have failed to rise to the challenge of decarbonising our economies. So when the international community meets in Copenhagen, we will need to be more realistic and much tougher about the need for real, short-term and immediate action and delivery plans, and not just end up with more loose commitments to targets. It really will be a summit about delivery, and I was encouraged by the Secretary of State’s words about the need to include specific numbers in any agreement.
Private sector finance will be absolutely key to all those solutions. It forms a key part of the EU contribution, but given the trillions of dollars that need to flow into decarbonising the global economy, we will look for leadership at Copenhagen and for the international frameworks that will provide the business certainty that we need if we are to achieve those investment flows.
When listening to contributions by some Labour Members, we could be forgiven for thinking that investment by companies can be taken as a given. However, we have Europe-wide and sometimes global companies, and there is limited money to invest—in fact, there is a competitive position. It is important that we get the investment in this country, so we must understand the incentives to get the private sector to invest. If we do not do that, we will have what we have now: confusion and a lack of investment, owing to the poor framework set up by the Government.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we take Europe as an example of how the world might look and consider the different regulatory regimes and the various methods of incentivising renewable energy, we can see that great strides forward have been made in some parts of Europe, such as Germany and Spain, because they have the right framework and incentives in place and the well of money has been fed primarily by the private sector. However, as many hon. Members have said today, we in the UK, where we have tremendous natural assets, ought to be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.
We have huge potential in our coastline and the North sea. We have amazing expertise and research and development in our universities. We have the City of London, which it is fashionable to trash, but which is a hub for raising green capital, both debt and equity, which will be vital in future. Yet we still trail lamentably behind other countries in Europe because we have not had the right framework for the past 10 years and have not been able to give businesses the confidence that they need to invest. We need to learn those lessons in a very pragmatic way and we must ensure that, at Copenhagen, we start to build the global frameworks that let us learn the lessons of the past decade or two and start to trigger the trillions of dollars that need to flow if we are to get anywhere close to our aims.
On international trade and opportunities for profit, surely the frameworks in Germany and Spain that the hon. Gentleman suggests are superior should be able to attract investment from British entrepreneurs and people in the City, who are apparently falling over themselves to fund green developments.
I do not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman’s point. Substantial UK and international investment goes into those countries, but it does not come here. We want it here in the UK, but we need it to flow around the world.
Let me talk briefly about the many points that have been made in this excellent debate. The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) spoke about the opportunities for business, particularly the manufacturers in his constituency, and the carbon capture and storage infrastructure opportunities. He is right that there are real opportunities, not just in his constituency but throughout the UK. He also said that the rain forest needs a really important boost at Copenhagen: there cannot be a successful Copenhagen outcome if it does not include a significant boost for rain forests. Ecosystem protection across the board needs to be incorporated into any framework agreement, recognising the job that wetlands and mango groves do.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) was right to call for action now. I totally agree with him that now is the moment when we need to come together to act, for political, scientific and business reasons. If we do create that framework, hopefully investment will start to flow.
The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) spoke with great knowledge and passion about the immense climate challenges facing Bangladesh. He truly informed the debate about that country’s particular challenges. My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells will visit there in the near future. Conservative Members are certainly very aware of the country, but the right hon. Gentleman has enlightened me on the subject today.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) is to be congratulated on the Green Energy (Definition and Promotion) Bill, which he championed and took through the House of Commons and which passed through the House of Lords today. He is also to be congratulated on the work he does as a trustee of Plantlife. He introduced an interesting dynamic to the debate by saying it is not really about the preservation of a planet, but about the preservation of human civilisation and the culture, values and history that we hold dear. He is absolutely right. He may have sounded depressed at times, but I think he helped to instil a high degree of urgency through his call for a robust global framework, and in particular a global price for carbon.
The hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) spoke about the need to focus on carbon technologies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) struck a slightly discordant note, but he is always articulate and very well informed.
I stand corrected. Let me make a serious point, however. I know that my right hon. Friend is very genuine in his beliefs, but if we were talking about the probability of our children or grandchildren suffering not from climate change, but from cancer, would he indulge in the same rhetoric about probabilities and ratios? If we were talking about a 60 per cent. probability of our kids contracting cancer in the 2020s or 2030s, or a 50 per cent. probability of our grandchildren contracting cancer in the 2050s, would he engage in that same academic rhetoric? I think not, but as sure as eggs is eggs, for so many people around the world climate change, if it goes unchecked, will result in death and destruction as surely as cancer would. That may be an inappropriate comparison, but for a lot of people, particularly in the developing world, checking climate change will be a matter of life or death, and we must remember that.
My hon. Friend asks a question. May I respond in the form of a question? Does he not realise that most medical research is conducted on precisely that sort of statistical basis, in that a product that has only a small chance of causing cancer goes into the public domain, whereas we legislate against products that have a large chance of doing so? I think that global warming is likely to cause lukewarming, not serious problems. My hon. Friend asks whether I would raise concerns about cancer on a statistical basis in other spheres. Indeed, I have done so: I argued in favour of the legalisation of cannabis, because the chance of getting cancer from cannabis is negligible, while the chance of getting the disease from tobacco is very great.
I appreciate the points my right hon. Friend makes, but even if we are at the lukewarm end of the range of probabilities, that is still a very substantial problem. If I thought there was any chance of actions taken by myself or a Government of whom I was a member leading to a 10, 20 or 30 per cent.—let alone a 60 or 70 per cent., or, as the IPCC believes, a 93 per cent.—probability of such an outcome, I would strain every sinew and not begrudge spending any money that I thought was necessary to avert that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) informed me that he would not be here now because he has another engagement to attend, but I should mention that he spoke with his usual passion and informed the debate with his particular expertise. The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) spoke about hydrofluorocarbons, and I agreed with a great deal of what he said on that subject. He only has to wait for a Conservative Government to see robust action on regulating HFCs out of the system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart), who does a huge amount of work on this agenda in his role as the international vice-president of GLOBE International and as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, spoke at length about China. He is one of the more knowledgeable China-watchers in the House—
Indeed. My hon. Friend discussed a lot of the developments in China that people do not appreciate—for example, the fact that it is ahead of us in the amount of renewable energy that it generates and that, sadly, it is increasingly ahead of us in the deployment of CCS technology. If we are not careful, we could be patting ourselves on the back for agreeing to stretching, long-term targets, while in the meantime the Chinese are taking practical action in the near-term that will be more meaningful in fighting man-made climate change.
The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) spoke about deforestation and made some excellent points on micro-hydropower with which I fully agree. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) mentioned that there remains a job of work to do to educate and inspire the public, and I must agree with him. Ultimately, that comes down to political leadership: nobody can dodge the fact that if we do not inspire, motivate and educate from this place, we cannot blame or push that off on to anybody else. All of us in this place have some responsibility for that.
The hon. Member for Eltham was making some good points until he stumbled into an incoherent ramble about the EU and the role of the Conservative party. So much nonsense is talked about that. This Government claim to have a very good working relationship with most of the Governments in Europe, including those of the French, the Germans, the Italians and the Spanish. Those countries all have centre-right Governments of parties with whom members of our governing party do not sit in the European Parliament; they sit in opposing political alliances, but that does not stop our Government forming very good working relationships, and we would look to build on that. Trying to see the whole European climate change agenda through the prism of the seating arrangements at the Strasbourg Parliament is absolute nonsense.
I was just about to agree with the hon. Gentleman because France does have a centre-right Government. That makes the criticism of his party all the more potent, given that it comes from one of the main centre-right countries of the EU. That underlines my point about how his party has isolated itself from the mainstream of Europe—[Interruption.]
As my hon. Friends point out, that was certainly no criticism of the climate change agenda. As we have repeatedly pointed out, Europe is ideally suited to deal with climate change. We want to work closely with our European partners on climate change and not on other issues.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) held the House spellbound—at least, there was not a great deal of movement while he was speaking—with his own distinctive form of enthusiasm. My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin) made a typically well informed contribution. He is our leading expert in the House on the orang-utan and he spoke with real passion about his visit and his first-hand experience, and about the destruction of the great ape’s natural habitat. He also highlighted how we are lagging behind our competitors in developing new technologies and green jobs.
There is no clear divide between our position on the Copenhagen talks and the Government’s. There are different areas of emphasis, but I do not want to finish by being churlish or criticising the Government for their lack of progress over the past 10 years. I look across the Chamber at the DECC team and I know that they are personally very committed to securing the best possible agreement. I do not underestimate the challenges that they will face, but I hope that they realise that they will go to Copenhagen with the full support of Her Majesty’s Opposition. If we can help to convince the world that Britain is sincere, determined and ambitious to seek the most robust and far-reaching agreement, the Secretary of State only has to ask.