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"high-powered all-party (and non-party) think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation".
Obviously that is designed to feed into the current atmosphere that the science is faulty. It is true, as he suggests, that we are making judgments on the science-all Governments are. He desires "open and reasoned debate" and was very upset about the word "trick" in the e-mail from the university-we would all be concerned about that if the imputation is right, but an inquiry is going on into that. I should say to him that this approach is exactly what we found at Kyoto: people come up with some scientific body that they say has done the research and suggested that the science is not acceptable.
I just wondered who is financing this body that Lord Lawson is setting up. We tend to find that such bodies are funded by the oil and coal industry and people like that. So I had a look and found that the Central Europe Trust Ltd is the body that he has set up and his clients are Elf, Total, Shell, BP, Amoco, Texaco-that is a lot of oil companies. From what I can see of it, it is not so much a think-tank as a petrol tank.
We must take that point into account, because Lord Lawson used to say a great deal about money from the trade unions influencing the position of the Labour party and about the people paying the piper calling the tune. It is fair to say that as this operation is being financed by the oil companies, we should perhaps look a little suspiciously at it. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden may have a future in this, because he knows the oil companies involved. There seems to be a correlation whereby if someone works for oil companies, they happen to be against the science. Saying that is perhaps a bit naughty, but people get suspicious about the conclusions that are being reached.
The point I wish to make is that the science is right, and we must act on it. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made it clear in his speech what he has to do about that. The important thing is to ensure
that there is momentum. To be fair, I should say that the Opposition spokesman mentioned the kind of changes that are under way. The view has always been that there is not going to be any change in Copenhagen, that things will break down and the issue causing the breakdown tends to be emissions.
Let us consider what is happening, even in the countries that have been mentioned. South Korea, Japan-it promised things at Kyoto and did not deliver on them, but there is a different party in power there now and its Tories have gone-Brazil, Russia and Australia have all decided that they are going to do something about cutting emissions. That is at the heart of this argument.
I was in China last week having discussions with Premier Wen and appealing to him to ensure that the Chinese leadership go to Copenhagen. It was clear from the communiqué that both America and China are considering what further offers they can make on emissions. Of course America faces a difficulty, because it has a constitutional requirement to put things before Congress, but it is nevertheless showing that it might make some judgments about that. China and America are the major emitters, and if they can come to some agreement about emissions, that would represent a major change in the argument.
While I was in China addressing a group and a conference-this was paid by me; nobody else pays the money when I go to these countries-people were discussing how they might now move on this. Where do the difficulties lie? The difficulties are whether we recognise the common but differentiated responsibilities and that the bigger burden should fall on the developed countries-clearly it should-whether we believe there should be an audit if a policy is carried out and whether there will be a timetable on such an audit. Those are very real questions and the Chinese are now discussing how we can achieve progress on them. To that extent, we are getting considerably more movement than we could have expected normally.
Mr. Swire: I understand the right hon. Gentleman is spending an increasing amount of time in China and is getting to know the Chinese. Is he concerned about China's need to extract vast amount of minerals and its raid on mineral resources in Africa? Does he regard that as a wholly benign or malign thing?
Mr. Prescott: That is an interesting point because each industrial country, as it begins to grow, has to get its resources. Every European country-Britain, France and Germany-went through its industrial development but we sent in troops and got the resources by conquest. It was called colonialism. The Chinese are going in and negotiating contracts. I happen to think that that sounds a more harmonious way to do it than the murder that we were involved in when we raped these countries of their resources. We should take a balanced view and not forget our own history, and we should not lecture them too much.
We do not have sufficient resources for the massive amount of growth that will take place in this world. Inequality between the north and the south-it is the rich countries that did the pollution-is growing and Copenhagen must recognise social injustice. Two thirds of the world are poor and do not have the growth that
we have, so any Copenhagen agreement had better find a way of introducing better social equity. That is what we have been doing in the Council of Europe, where I am the rapporteur, and I shall be at Copenhagen.
It is important that we get greater transparency. In my last speech, I said that we should be measuring the problem by gigatonnes instead of by emissions. Measuring emissions is fancy dancing by Europe, basically-people do not know what they are doing, but it looks as if they are doing something. The real point is whether the southern world will get a better chance of growth. When we measure by gigatonnes, we find that the figure per head in America is 20 gigatonnes, in Africa it is 1 gigatonne and in Europe it is 12 gigatonnes. If we begin to set a good example and consider how we can get fairness and equity into the system, that is how we will achieve results in Copenhagen. We have to be very clear about trying to create social justice.
I believe that we are on the way to some agreement. It will not be a matter of the dotting the i's and crossing the t's, but of finding a political framework that we can offer. There must be a timetable to it, and Mr. de Boer of the UN made that absolutely clear. He said that the political agreement at Copenhagen has to set out essential principles: first, it must focus on what is realistic and concentrate on the politics of achieving that; and it should get climate change and emissions targets that countries should agree with. I think that is crucial.
There is another factor to consider if we are to get the framework right, which I believe that we can do-we are moving in that direction. On this point, the Government are showing the leadership that they have always shown and as they showed on achieving the Kyoto targets. Leaders must go to Copenhagen. When our Prime Minister said that he was going, he gave a lead. We now have 60 countries going. I appealed to Premier Wen only last week that China must be represented. We decided at the Council of Europe meeting in Paris this week that we will write to India, China and America. The leaders of those three countries must go to Copenhagen, because at the end of the day, as was the case with Kyoto, it is the leaders who decide. It will be a political fix-whether we like it or not. Their involvement is useful because nobody wants to be accused of breaking the agreement. We need to shove them all in the same room and tell them, "If you really mean it about change, if you are talking about our children and their children, and if you are going to make effective change, you can sit in that damn room and come to an agreement. We won't let you out before that." That happened at Kyoto. Many things are being repeated from Kyoto, but we have a moral obligation to achieve an agreement.
Let me make one point that we can learn from. In the 19th century, we spent all our time in mass production. In the 20th century, that became mass consumption. We must learn to have mass sustainability in this century. That is the only key. The decisions are difficult; we must carry the great burden and we should recognise the need for social justice. Countries want to lift their people out of poverty, like we have done, and we should play our part in producing the low-carbon economy to achieve that. Copenhagen will be judged on the social justice embodied in it, and within a financial framework. I am looking forward to that debate, but I hope that I will have the key to the door so that I do not let the buggers out until they have done a deal.
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): It is a pleasure and a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who was characteristically ebullient and forceful. He has shown fantastic commitment to this issue and I pay tribute to him. Copenhagen needs people like him. I had not heard that the Council of Europe had taken the view that it should specifically request the leaders of China and India to go there. I share absolutely the view that if the leaders of the most powerful nations on the planet are in the same place, the pressure will be on them to ensure that they deliver. All sorts of good things should flow from that, and I shall come back to that point in a second.
I join the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) in recognising the suffering of the people of Cumbria in recent days. I pay tribute to PC Barker and to the police service and public services there. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) has been hugely involved, as we would expect from a county Member of Parliament. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been to see the situation for himself. The whole country will want those people to be supported. The lesson learned from Hull, Gloucestershire and other places affected by flooding is that this will be a long haul. The rest of us must ensure that, especially at this time of year, we give every support at a local and national level to the people in those communities who have to rebuild their lives.
This debate is about two substantive issues. The first is what we can achieve at Copenhagen, a subject that was rightly flagged up in the Queen's Speech as being of huge significance. The second is the legislative opportunity represented by the one Bill that the Government have put on the table-although I agree with the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells that it is a mouse of a Bill when we could have done with a much more significant mountain of a Bill.
I begin with Copenhagen. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East mentioned Yvo de Boer, the lead UN climate change facilitator, and from my reading I know that he and all the people who have followed the negotiations are very clear about two things. The first is that the EU is one of the keyholders in this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman will have seen the comments that Mr. de Boer made yesterday in which he said:
"The EU must be clearer now about what it has in its final hand and put that final hand on the table."
Mr. de Boer spoke about the targets and about the money for mitigation and adaptation. The EU has said that, if there is a deal, there will be a commitment to a reduction in emissions of 30 per cent. from 1990 levels across the EU, but I think that we should say that now. I urge the Secretary of State to speak for the UK, to make it clear that this is our view and to try and get the EU to set the same target. If we could go into the talks with that as our commitment across the EU-and not something that is conditional, possible or dependent on an eventual deal-that would be really helpful.
By definition, the UK has to have a higher commitment to make up for other countries not doing as well. The Secretary of State knows that we on these Benches
believe that, if we are really determined, a 40 per cent. cut from 1990 levels is achievable. Yes, that will be tough and difficult but, because we are one of the countries that have been the greatest contributors, it is our obligation.
The other issue on which Mr. de Boer was very clear was the amount of money that rich countries must put in to help the poor ones. For example, I have visited Bangladesh in the past and I appreciate the difficulties that it faces. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change knows that I respect him, but I was disappointed that his remarks contained not one word about finance. I appreciate that legislation is not finance, but we are talking about Copenhagen and no mention has been made today of how any deal on adaptation and mitigation that might be reached there will be financed. I want to be tough on the right hon. Gentleman about financing and its source, so that we get some answers.
We got no answers when we last debated these matters on 5 November, when Ministers repeated what the Prime Minister had said about the need for a universal pot worth €100 billion. In that regard, Mr. de Boer said that rich countries need to declare clear emission targets, and must also commit "very large" sums to the global south for mitigation and adaptation efforts. These sums must be "stable and predictable" so that the third world can move ahead
"without having to constantly re-negotiate the burden sharing every year."
He reckoned that that amounted initially to at least $10 billion a year in immediate financing for the period of 2010-12, but that the global south ultimately would need around $200 billion to mitigate carbon emissions and another $100 billion for adapting to the effects of climate change. Mr. de Boer added that the north must also list what each country will provide and how funds will be raised.
We have not yet heard a word about how the funds will be raised. I believe that the easiest way would be to apply a levy or charge on bunker fuels used by the airline and shipping and industries. They have remained relatively untaxed globally but we know them to be a key cause of the trouble. There may be other sources of funds; it is not for me to say that my suggestions are the only show in town. I hope that when the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs winds up the debate, he will indicate that the Government's thinking has moved on, and that the Treasury are moving. Bluntly, the issue needs Treasury sign-up, but not just sign-up from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Unless the Treasury is willing to write the cheques on behalf of UK plc, no cheques will be written.
Mr. de Boer made a point about the time frame; I do not think that there is a difference between the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and me on the issue. I have often said from the Liberal Democrat Benches that I did not think that there would be a final deal in December. We should not be frightened by that, but there should not be a deferral indefinitely. Mr. de Boer was very tough:
"As for a timeframe, he felt that a strong agreement was still achievable in Copenhagen, even if not a legally-binding one."
"felt this was acceptable so long as the world's nations only took another two months to 'turn that into treaty language.'
The EU has said this could take up to another year."
There are colleagues who have been in British politics for as long as I have. The politics of the issue is that if there is momentum now, we have to see the matter through to a conclusion before long. I think that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change understands that the politics in the United States, the election cycle and other factors mean that we might lose the momentum. I am clear that the Government will serve Britain well if Ministers make it clear in Copenhagen that if we get the outline deal agreed in December, there should be a resumption early in the new year, so that we can get that deal into a legally binding agreement.
Of course, the United States has to come in on the issue-it has indicated that it might-and so must China, India, Brazil, Russia and Japan, all of which are now being helpful and are giving signs of movement. They have to be part of the process from the beginning. That is not what happened with Kyoto, to which they were not all signed up from the beginning.
Mr. Weir: I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I very much agree with him on the need for speed. My concern about not getting an agreement at Copenhagen is that we have spent the past two years going on about the importance of getting a deal that seals in action on climate change. I am deeply concerned about the impact on public opinion if we fail to get a deal. If politicians are seen not to grasp the nettle at this stage, we are in danger of losing momentum with the public, whom we need to take with us on the issue.
Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. His point applies particularly to young people, but huge numbers of people in this country will be interested. My postbag, like that of other hon. Members, shows that there is huge interest in the issue. Climate change is important here, for reasons that people in Cumbria may think are obvious, but it is far more important for countries such as Bangladesh and the Maldives. There are other places for which it is a life or death issue, too, so momentum is vital.
We wish Ministers well, but we hope that we will hear higher targets announced before Copenhagen, as an indicator from the UK. The UK could then lead; that would be to the credit of the Government. It would unite us across Parliament and politics if the Government were bolder. The Treasury has to come along, too, but the obligation to ensure that that happens rests with Ministers.
The Energy Bill effectively does two things. First, it provides for the authorisation of the development of carbon capture and storage. I shall not speak at length about that. That is, inevitably, the way that we must go. We will need coal, but it has to be clean coal. However, we need to move far more quickly. One of my frustrations is that so many of the issues have been on the agenda for as long as I have been in this place-a quarter of a century. The issues are not new, and the Government are really slow to give them any urgency.
In some ways, the second issue dealt with in the Bill is the more important issue-the one that people in the country are concerned about. It is the question of whether there will be fair fuel prices in this country, something that we have not had in our lifetime. As for the call for social justice across the world that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East made, there is still a long way to go in this country, for his constituents, mine and others. The poor and people who use less fuel still have to pay relatively more.
I want to give Ministers some direct questions to answer when the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs winds up. I have looked carefully at the Bill, and understand that it will provide a statutory basis for subsidy for poorer households, once the voluntary deal finishes in a year's time. I also understand that it will change the wording of the obligations on the regulator for gas and electricity supplies. It is not clear to me whether that will guarantee that, in future, every utility company has to have a tariff that does not discriminate at all on the basis of method of payment, and whether it will guarantee that poorer households and low users will always pay at a lower rate than the people who consume more. That is the iniquity. As Ministers know, the unit cost for the low user is higher than the unit cost thereafter. All sorts of fiddles, to put it bluntly, mean that no one can work out the system, because there are 4,000 different tariffs. I should be grateful to know whether Ministers are happy to accept amendments to the Bill that will make that absolutely clear in the measure itself-not in regulations that may, or may not, deliver-so that we can ensure that those things happen.
Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that oil and liquefied petroleum gas should be covered by those measures, because many people in rural communities face severe oil bills? A lot of rural poverty arises from the fact that individuals cannot get mainstream gas or electricity.
Simon Hughes: My hon. Friend and many other colleagues have consistently made that point to Government. Not only is the situation unfair for people who are not on the gas supply or whatever but there are other iniquities which mean that they have to buy a tank, pay extra charges and so on. It is absolutely right that provisions to deal with that should be included in the Bill.
There was a blinding omission from the Queen's Speech and the proposed legislation, which was touched on by the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Paul Holmes) is in the Chamber, and he spoke about this the other day. In 1983, the Social Democratic party was created, and it fought the election in alliance with the Liberals. I fought that election, and one of our commitments was for warm homes for everyone throughout the country. It was obvious then that most British homes were badly insulated, and that was bad for the poor, because they were paying a lot of money, which was literally going out of the window and the roof. As a result, their bills increased, their homes were not heated properly, and harm was done to the planet. Twenty-five years later, we have barely made progress. According to the latest figures, only one in 100 homes is energy efficient.
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