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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.
Jo Swinson: 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?
Simon Hughes: 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.
Simon Hughes: 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.
Mr. Morley: 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.
Simon Hughes: 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.
Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): 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.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): 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.
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