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8.50 pm

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): The journey from Rio to Johannesburg is the journey from policies to programmes. It is important for hon. Members to recognise that that is what people expect the United Kingdom delegation to contribute to and to deliver as an outcome of the Johannesburg discussions. To put it on a global scale, it is an agenda of targets and time scale. I shall not labour that point, because the Minister is aware of the importance of targets and time scale as regards a

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matter to do with the home front—more specifically, the warm homes front, where the issues of targets and time scale are an exact local reflection of what must be addressed globally in Johannesburg.

We should pay tribute to the achievements of this Labour Government, while not seeking to duck the challenges on the path ahead of us. For me, the starting point remains the Deputy Prime Minister's important achievement in delivering the Kyoto agreement. It was he who, at the very last minute, managed to pluck an agreement out of the fire that was constructed around the phrase "contraction and convergence". That is based on the belief that we in the industrial and developed world have to find a way of living differently: not living poorer lives, but living less wasteful, polluting and destructive lives. It is in many ways a path to a different sense of richness. The convergence principle is based on allowing the developing world to share in the sense of the possibility of sustainable lifestyles based on dignity and opportunity. There is a rightness about the symmetry of that contract.

When the Deputy Prime Minister succeeded in bringing back the Kyoto agreement for ratification and laying it before the House, that was the right thing, not only for a Labour Government, but for this country, to do. I have no doubt whatsoever that we will ratify it, nor that we will meet and exceed those targets. That will be an enormous challenge, but we will get there. We should put on the record our thanks to the Deputy Prime Minister for standing on that ground and continuing to do so.

For billions of people in the developing world, the other side of the agenda is survival. For the 1.2 billion people who live on less than $1 a day, the question of survival in a more sustainable future will be judged on whether they are there tomorrow, the day after that and the week after that. It is not possible to say that in 10, 20 or 30 years' time everything will be different. For many of those people, the difference will be between being alive and being dead.

I am sure that there will be anti-globalisation protesters in Johannesburg, and I encourage the UK delegation to attempt to understand what they are trying to tell us. They will say that the 49 poorest countries on the planet currently contribute less than 0.5 per cent. of global gross domestic product—a pitiful sum that is made even worse by the recognition that 20 years ago those countries contributed twice as much to global GDP. The protesters will also point out that the nature of globalisation has made the poor poorer. We need to understand the transition—almost a sea change—in international trade in the past 50 years.

The point where that dramatic change began was 1980. In the previous 30 years, the poorest countries on the planet had made genuine gains in per capita gross national product that improved the quality of their lives. Per capita GDP increased in Latin America by 73 per cent. and in Africa, by 34 per cent. However, in the subsequent two decades, GDP growth in Latin America was almost static—6 per cent. in 20 years. In Africa, GDP has fallen by 23 per cent. So much has been driven by the sacrifices that the poorest parts of the planet have been required to make on the altar of globalisation.

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The ability of the poorest countries to say that they would produce to meet their needs first led to almost all the achievements in genuine per capita growth. They were based on assumptions about import substitution, not production for export, and on the notion that those countries could construct protective barriers. I believe that the tariffs were deemed acceptable because they were perceived as an effective barrier against the spread of communism. They were therefore allowed and encouraged, and that made the countries in question objectively richer.

Post-1980, in the era of market liberalisation, all the rights of the poorest countries have been stripped away. Consequently, the poor are now poorer. The anti-globalisation protesters will try to require the rest of us to tackle that. They will concentrate on at least four themes, and this evening I want to try to consider climate change, water, food and sustainable lifestyles rather than sustainable profits.

We must start by making our contribution to tackling climate change. I am pleased that a Labour Government provided the first fuel poverty strategy of any Government anywhere on the planet. We have set a target of eliminating fuel poverty in this country in 15 years. That is an ambitious target, which we will achieve. We will be helped to do that by passing the private Member's Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) has promoted. The time scale has been slightly delayed, but the measure will be passed by the end of July. It has formed the basis of setting and fulfilling our targets. Let us consider the way in which we can share that.

I ask the Minister and the delegation that goes to Johannesburg to take with them a microcosm of a strategy that might work in a different, internationalised future for the 21st century: a lovely programme in this country called the BedZED approach. It is about changing housing standards by design. There is a twinning process between Sutton, where the programme was developed in this country, and Johannesburg. The programme results not only in a 90 per cent. reduction in domestic heating costs, but in the use of sustainable materials in the construction of housing, and building a sustainable infrastructure to support it. It is a wonderful cameo of what we have to share and the way in which approaches can be gifted internationally. I hope that Ministers will derive some credit for that twinning transaction, which we will have to replicate on a bigger scale throughout the century.

We must also tackle renewable energy, which hon. Members are right to discuss. The United Kingdom has set itself a target of 10 per cent. by 2010. It is important to achieve that and go further. Of course it is right to point out that, in the same time scale, Germany will try to develop 100,000 properties that are heated by renewable energy. At the same time, Japan has set itself a target of 1 million homes powered by renewable energy.

We must look at those targets and reconsider, because in the poorest parts of the planet, as well as in the more remote parts of our own lands, this approach will allow us to deliver real savings in terms of a reduction of greenhouse gasses. We must do that if we are to have anything credible to say to the 2 billion people on the planet who have no access to electricity of any sort. They are not in anyone's energy loop. We must reach out and connect them to the more renewable and mobile sources of energy supply.

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The Minister pointed out that 2 million people die each year because they do not have access to uncontaminated water. One billion people do not have access to safe water. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has pointed out that there will have to be an 80 per cent. increase in crop production by 2030, but on current calculations, we shall have access to only a 12 per cent. increase in water supply.

That will present an enormous challenge, and we shall not be able to meet it if we saddle ourselves with the approach adopted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the debt cancellation programmes that we are attempting to pioneer. We must consider what goes alongside debt cancellation. This is not a question of whether we cancel debt in areas of conflict. Rather, we must examine the conditionality agreements that are foisted on the countries that accept debt cancellation.

Bolivia, for example, was forced to give away its water supply free of charge to a London-based water company. The result was that the company increased its water charges to the poor by 35 per cent. There were riots in the town of Cochabamba, and the armed forces were brought in to suppress a domestic population that was rioting because it could not get access to water that was being priced out of its reach. Similarly, debt cancellation conditions in Tanzania required the Government there to introduce charges for health and education. In Ecuador, the privatisation of the energy industry resulted in an 80 per cent. increase in gas charges.

That is the basis on which the World Development Movement recently issued a report called "States of Unrest II", which documented 77 issues of major conflict around the globe that countries affected by debt relief were experiencing as a result of a fire sale of their primary assets. The poor have a right to be angry with us if we are extracting that kind of price for debt cancellation. That is not debt relief; it is a different kind of indebtedness, and it gives people a different sense of desolation about what the future holds.

We have to go back to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's objective—that the priorities and the connectedness between food and water for the next century must involve our getting "more crop per drop". That is its argument on how we should approach the needs of the developing world, and it must bring with it a recognition that we should not ask the developing world to abandon sustainable agriculture systems based on meeting their own needs in favour of shifting to more water-intensive programmes for intensive agriculture, to produce for export.

A dependency on exporting their primary crops was precisely what got many of the developing countries into real debt. They produced those crops so well that it resulted in a collapse in commodity price and, unable to use hard currency earnings to buy their way out of debt, the only thing that remained unaffected was the scale of the dollar debts that they were expected to pay off in the face of those collapsed commodity prices.

The industrial world has to recognise that we must offer developing countries a different choice. We cannot judge them on the basis of their inability to feed us. They must have the opportunity to feed themselves before they think about doing that. Part of that agenda must include developing countries' right—which we support—to say

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no to the imposition of GM crop technologies, which will only accelerate the water demands of the intensive agriculture systems that they seek to underpin. We must give those nations the right we would assert for our own citizens: the right to say no to development that would endanger prospects of survival.

Let me say something about sustainable lifestyles as opposed to sustainable profits. In Johannesburg there will be huge corporate pressures for sustainability to be redefined around the notion of profitability. That will provide no answers for the developing world, or for us.

This is the best single example I can give. When Maneka Gandhi was India's Environment Minister, she came to this country at about the time when we were beginning to talk about chlorofluorocarbon and hydrofluorocarbon pollutants in our fridges. I know that this is another sensitive subject for the Minister, and I do not want to rub salt in the wound, but this is what the Environment Minister told us. She said, "We realise you have a problem. I suspect that if the United Kingdom set itself a serious target, it could remove all its polluting fridges within a decade. That would probably require you to replace 20 million fridges. It would create lots of work, and you would feel incredibly virtuous. At the end of the decade, you would look for international praise. At the end of the same decade, however, India alone will contain 200 million households that have legitimately sought the right to own a fridge. According to the development model of the last century, you will have palmed off all your polluting fridges on us and called it aid. What we really need is the opportunity to be part of a sustainable global agenda, but that must be a gift relationship that gives us access to technologies that will allow us to produce better lifestyles without destroying the prospects for others."

That, I hope, is the keystone of any test of any agreement that this country will stand up for and bring back from Johannesburg.

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