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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.
Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester) (Lab): 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?
Edward Miliband: 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.
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): 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.
"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."
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."
Colin Challen: 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?
Greg Clark: 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.
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): 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?
Greg Clark: 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.
Mr. Gummer: 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.
Greg Clark: 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.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: 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.
Greg Clark: 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.
Mr. Graham Stuart: 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?
Greg Clark: 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.
Edward Miliband: 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?
Greg Clark: 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.
Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): 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.
Greg Clark: 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.
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