Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Meacher: I am pleased to say that I was at Doha, and one of the best results of that conference was a

15 May 2002 : Column 847

commitment, which was universally agreed—India was very reluctant, but it finally agreed—to a set of proposals and decisions that included the removal of export subsidies and perverse incentives and giving developing countries much greater trade access to the rich world. I hope that that can be carried out—a ministerial declaration is one thing, but negotiating such a change is another—as those are the most profound ministerial commitments that have been made, as far as I know, so far.

We have also recently had the Monterrey conference on financing for development, which, despite not reaching the strength of consensus for which we might have hoped, at least generated a promised extra $12 billion a year of aid by 2006. That is nowhere near the figure proposed by Zedillo, the former Mexican President, who looked into the issue on behalf of the United Nations and suggested that to meet the millennium development goals an extra $60 billion a year was needed. However, the European Union again led the way at that conference and we have seen some movement by the United States.

Monterrey promised extra aid to support developing countries' efforts, so it has been recognised from the very beginning of the process that we will have to focus on actions. The outcomes at the end of the summit should be, in our view, a short political declaration and a detailed action plan. I underline the words "detailed action plan" several times. We need that or a Johannesburg programme of action. That is the litmus test by which we should judge the conference—the specificity, the range, the precision and the detail of the commitments.

A third outcome from Johannesburg—if it happens—would be novel for the UN process. It would be a range of business and non-governmental organisation partnerships that will take action on specific issues such as water and energy. It would be not just an intergovernmental agreement—we need that—but a recognition that the power structures in developed societies are now much wider. If we do not involve business and civil society, we will not achieve the dissemination of our goals so well. The UK has already brought together chief executive officers from the key sectors and NGO leaders to develop innovative strategies and to promote sustainable development in some of the issues that will come up at Johannesburg—water, energy, tourism, finance and forestry.

What about the substance of the summit? Poverty eradication will be a top priority, and that is precisely why Johannesburg in South Africa was chosen. Environmental problems are often a cause of poverty and generally hit the poor hardest. Sudden natural shocks, such as floods, and long-term trends, such as biodiversity loss—on this I disagree with the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), because biodiversity loss is important despite the other convention—and declining soil fertility, especially affect the poor. The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent. of disease in the developing world is due to environmental causes such as unsafe water and air pollution. That is a stunning fact.

However, the summit is not just about the south. The north must put its house in order by addressing our unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. If we are expecting and, indeed, encouraging the developing world to grow economically so as to eradicate poverty, we need to be seen to be leading the way in decoupling

15 May 2002 : Column 848

economic growth from environmental degradation. I will be the first to say that, in this country and in many others, we are only at the start of the process.

Mr. Simon Thomas: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher: Yes. I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Thomas: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that; I am not sure whether I want to intervene now.

I was intrigued by the right hon. Gentleman's amendment to the motion. It specifically says that it expects that there will be a

In other words, the cut would overshoot the Kyoto targets. It was interesting that he chose to make that point in the amendment. Is he prepared to stand by that claim and will he come to the Environmental Audit Committee and be prepared to allow it to audit the Government's record on achieving that target?

Mr. Meacher: I would be delighted to do that. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has referred to that issue. The hon. Member for Gordon made one point that was not quite right. He recognised that we are well past our legally binding target of 12.5 per cent., although I recognise that I am projecting forward to 2010 and that we must achieve that figure. However, if we achieve a target of 23 per cent. or thereabouts, that will be well beyond what we are required to do under the Kyoto protocols. However, it is not true that the main reason—or even part of the reason—for achieving such a target is the dash for gas and the closure of coal-powered stations. The main explanation is the whole range of measures that we have taken on transport and, particularly, energy efficiency. The dash for gas is not the explanation.

Malcolm Bruce: I did not suggest that the main reason was the dash for gas, only that it was a significant component. I have passed my notes to the Hansard writers, but my recollection is that the model produced by Cambridge Econometrics suggests that the regime under the new electricity trading arrangements—NETA—is forcing down fuel prices and encouraging energy consumption. As a consequence, the model predicts that we will not hit the 23 per cent. target or anything like it unless the Government pursue alternative measures. That is why I am surprised that the Government are so confident that they have put that target in their amendment. I agree with the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas). We need an explanation.

Mr. Meacher: It is odd to suggest that NETA is encouraging greater use of fuels such as electricity. Of course, as a result of the new arrangements and the replacement of the anomalous pool price, the cost of electricity has dramatically fallen by 30 or even 40 per cent. over the past few years. Since NETA was introduced just over a year ago, the price has fallen by another 15 to 20 per cent. Those are large cuts that produce huge benefits in terms of fuel poverty. The poorer sections of society benefit greatly if they can obtain fuel more

15 May 2002 : Column 849

cheaply so long as we insulate their homes to ensure that most of the fuel is not wasted. Improved energy efficiency in the use of fuel is important.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: In welcoming the publication today of the Government's strategy for combined heat and power, may I endorse the concern about the impact of NETA on the development of CHP? It looks as though Ofgem has been dragging its feet on a solution to the problems that NETA has caused for renewable and CHP developers. I urge my right hon. Friend to pressure Ofgem to come up with a solution.

Mr. Meacher: It was probably a mistake to pick up on the point about NETA. However, the answer to my hon. Friend's perfectly valid point is that NETA benefits the large generators and causes problems for the smaller embedded generators. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have asked Ofgem to carry out its first full year review of the operation of NETA and its impact on small generators. The first year ended on 27 March—about two months ago—and Ofgem will publish a report, I believe, in July. It will be important to consider what further measures can and should be taken to protect the position of CHP.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend made that point, because the Government have today issued their CHP strategy. It draws attention again to the important reform that the Chancellor introduced in the Budget. We have extended the climate change levy exemption to the whole of CHP, and not just to end users but to licensed supplies. We have also enhanced the capital allowances and said that we will consider further measures if they are necessary. We remain absolutely committed to the target of 10,000 MW by 2010.

I am sure that hon. Members will want me to conclude my remarks, but I want to make a highly relevant point about anti-globalisation. I do not know whether there will be riots in Johannesburg. I hope not, because they would be extremely undesirable. Anti-globalisation protesters such as those whom we saw at Seattle—I saw them there—and at Genoa rightly identify some of the problems with globalisation. The system does not automatically address all needs—the needs of the poor or of the environment. Some say that a rising tide floats all boats but not if one's boat has a hole in it or if one does not have a boat.

It must be recognised that globalisation has brought many benefits to many people, but it has also marginalised many people. If it is to become more acceptable, it must become more inclusive and driven by environmental and social concerns not just economic ones. Indeed, it has to be more acceptable economically, too.

In 1996, direct foreign investment in developing countries was about $250 billion compared with official development assistance of $50 billion. Although that is five times more, it has been concentrated on a few richer developing countries. We need to find ways to channel private sector investment into many of the poorer developing countries. At the same time, however, we need to ensure—this will not be easy—that whatever private investment we encourage works for sustainable development. That means giving real teeth to corporate,

15 May 2002 : Column 850

social and environmental responsibility, and getting corporate transparency by, for example, implementing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines for multinational enterprises.

What of the specific issues for the Johannesburg summit? Sustainable energy is widely regarded as one of the central sustainable development challenges. It has close links with poverty and the climate change agenda. The hon. Member for Gordon was right to mention the need for a much more rapid development of renewables in the developing countries—as well as our own—so that their path to industrial prosperity is not powered by fossil fuels, which create the problems of pollution and climate destabilisation that we generated.

Another front runner at the summit is water and sanitation, whose importance I must emphasise. Some 1 billion people lack access to fresh, safe drinking water. That is amazing when we consider the wealth in the world. Some 2.4 billion people—about 40 per cent. of the entire world population—lack proper sanitation. The most shameful figure of all is that every year about 2 million children below the age of five die because of drinking contaminated water or from diarrhoea-related diseases.

The issue is complex. Poor people need access to water and sanitation, so we should provide water services. However, to pick up on what the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said, if countries are not properly managing their resources, there is no point plumbing in the entire nation for the taps to run dry. As 260 river basins lie in more than one country, there is more than enough scope for conflict over how best to manage those resources in an integrated way.

Next Section

IndexHome Page