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5 Nov 2009 : Column 1009

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): 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.

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the politics is behind the science. There has been some catching up in various countries in the past year, but his fundamental point that the politics is behind the science is correct.

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): 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?

Edward Miliband: 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.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): 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?

Edward Miliband: 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.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Kettering was chosen to be the UK representative in the international consultation on climate change issues ahead of Copenhagen. People were asked:

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.

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Edward Miliband: 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.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): 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.

Edward Miliband: 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.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): 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.

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Edward Miliband: Definitely, and my hon. Friend makes a very important point. Her championing of the work done in Stoke-on-Trent is extremely important, because, in terms of the economic agenda, there is huge potential in different parts of the country.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): 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?

Edward Miliband: 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.

Mr. Graham Stuart: 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?

Edward Miliband: 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.

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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.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): 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?

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I just gently say to the House that I know there is a lot of interest in speaking in this debate, and we wish to facilitate the full and free flow of debate, but I hope that interventions will become shorter as we proceed, not longer?

Edward Miliband: 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.

Simon Hughes: 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
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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?

Edward Miliband: 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.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): Is it possible to justify taking 10 per cent. out of the aid budget? Why should part of the financing come out of the aid budget? Is that not an entirely separate issue?

Edward Miliband: 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.

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Joan Walley: 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.

Edward Miliband: 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.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): 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.

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