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Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): I add to the congratulations to my right hon. Friend and her colleagues on reaching the accord and on the work that supports it. Given the significant potential job opportunities in renewable technologies, in manufacturing and in rural economies that might result from support of the Kyoto accord, does she not think that, with the benefit of hindsight, the decision of the Conservative party to cut various renewable energy funding streams appears short-sighted? By contrast, will she tell the House what further support she is lobbying the Treasury to provide under the comprehensive spending review for renewable energy technologies?
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the implications of some of the mistakes that were made earlier in cutting funding for renewables. He is also right to draw attention to the considerable job and trading opportunities that the agreement creates. Indeed, one of the schemes that the Government are pursuingthe home energy efficiency schemewas delayed because there were insufficient people with the right skills and training to carry it out. That is another aspect of achieving agreement to practical and deliverable steps.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): On behalf of the Plaid Cymru-SNP group, I welcome the Government's action in ratifying the Kyoto protocol. Although there is cross-party agreement on the issue, may I invite the Secretary of State to condemn certain political parties who mouth pious words in the House about renewables but who oppose all exciting wind farm projects, such as that in my constituency?
On the opportunities provided for renewables in the domestic agenda, does the Secretary of State agree that, if we were to double the target from 10 to 20 per cent.that is completely feasiblewe would produce 80 TWh a year from renewables, which equates very closely to the 88 TWh produced from nuclear power at the moment? Not only do we not need nuclear to meet the present Kyoto protocol, but we do not need it to meet the forthcoming 2050 targets. We can meet them with a combination of renewables and low-carbon technology.
Finally, will the Secretary of State tell us what the Prime Minister did on his recent visit to Australia? Did he discuss these matters with the Australian Prime Minister, because it is important to get Australia, which is a key Asiatic economy, on board as well?
Margaret Beckett: Yes, indeed. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did discuss these issues with the Australian Government, as he does assiduously at all his international talks. He is very interested and engaged in that area of policy.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for his support. I note what he said about what I take to be the Liberal Democrats, and I do of course share the concern of those who say that it is important not only to be in favour of the principle of some of these issues but to be prepared to take and to back some of the practical decisions, even though they are not always easy.
The hon. Gentleman will know, I hope, that the PIU report did recommend that we double our target for renewables to 20 per cent. The Government obviously take that recommendation very seriously. It is one of the issues that we must consider and discuss when we contemplate our response to that report. I would only say to the hon. Gentleman that although it is desirable to increase renewables, it is also important, as I told my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ms Coffey), that we ensure that the targets that we set are practical and that we believe that we can achieve them, although the hon. Gentleman is certainly right to say that we can have a much more substantial contribution from renewables than we have had hitherto.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): The Secretary of State will recall that at the Rio summit 10 years ago there was a very clear requirement on all signatory nations to establish local sustainability groups. In this country, many hundreds of such groups have been established and have often worked with great effort and vigour towards sustainable transport plans, a sustainable built environment and sustainable employment practices locally.
What will be done to ensure that the work is better co-ordinated; that those groups are better empowered to have influence on local planning and other decisions, and above all that those people, who are putting enormous effort into this area, feel that their views are being listened to and feel that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is able to take on board many of their suggestions so that, when we reach Rio plus 10, there will be some recognition of the great work that has been done locally? At the end of the day, only local pressure will ensure that sustainable development plans actually bear fruit.
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend is correct. As he said, a great deal is happening in local communities, with local community plans and development. Certainly it is part of the focus of my Department, as we work towards the world summit in September, to encourage schoolchildren in particular to become involved in working through plans for their area and focusing on what can be done locally. I share my hon. Friend's view that this is a very important contribution. I am also mindful of the fact that, on some issues where there are difficult choices to be made, such as waste management, it is where local communities have become engaged and have had those discussions that there is the greatest agreement and support for practical proposals to solve those issues. I therefore share his view that such participation is important and we shall continue to try to work with such local groups.
Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton): In the answer that the right hon. Lady gave to the important question asked by the Father of the House, she was very careful to limit her answer to periods up to 2012. What
Margaret Beckett: I limited my remarks to the period up to 2012 because that is the Kyoto commitment period, as the hon. Gentleman clearly understands. There is a danger that after 2012, unless we take further action, there will be an increase in emissions, and it is for all of us to consider how best we can tackle that. The PIU report suggested that we should keep open the option of nuclear energy for that reason, but there are others who argue, as the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) did a minute ago, that we can meet that challenge by using renewables or other means. It is an issue that we must all consider and address, but the hon. Gentleman probably knows that at present any new proposals for any development or continuation of nuclear power would have to come from the industry, and at the moment there are no such proposals.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling): I congratulate my right hon. Friend and everyone else responsible for today's immensely important statement. Will my right hon. Friend consider how we can involve individuals in this process? It is the actions of individuals as well as those of Government that will bring about real change with respect to Kyoto. Will she consider how her Department could inform the British public and others about what the Kyoto climate change movement means, and what action they can take as individuals to bring about that worthwhile change? It is my view that as a country, as a world, as a planet, we are sleepwalking to disaster if we cannot bring about very real change in our individual behaviour as well as the behaviour of Governments.
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an important and powerful point and he will know that the Government already have various programmes in place. Through the Energy Saving Trust, for example, we offer people advice about what they can do personally to increase energy efficiency, which both lowers their costs and is beneficial from the point of view of climate change. My hon. Friend knows that at present a PIU review study is taking place on the handling of waste, and there is little doubt in my mind that when that report is published it will have something to say about how we minimise our creation of waste as well as how we deal with it. My hon. Friend is quite right that, in all these areas, there are actions that individuals as well as communities not only can take but will need to take if we are to tackle these problems. My Department will be taking forward that work and publishing further research in the developing science of the impact of climate change.
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): May I join others in welcoming the announcement and the Secretary of State's commitment to meeting the challenge of climate change head-on? However, I share the unease of my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) that the fine rhetoric does not match the Secretary of State's record. Is she aware of the submission that the Sustainable Development Commissiona commission set up by the Prime Minister in October 2000made last week to the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, which stated: