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Malcolm Bruce: The hon. Gentleman is factually incorrect. First, we opposed the introduction of fuel taxes without a sustainable transport strategy and voted against them for that reason. Furthermore, we predicted the problems that have arisen.
Too often, the Government put up taxes by the back doorthe Chancellor of the Exchequer is a master of thatand then claimed that they had raised revenue for the benefit of the environment. It never was for the benefit of the environmentit was for the benefit of the Chancellor's war chest.
For the past two years, emissions of greenhouse gases have been rising, contrary to the forecasts that they would fall. The Government put that down to a temporary switch to coal, but that only confirms the point that the projected reduction in emissions arose as a result not of environmental policy but of economic decisionsshutting down our coal industry and switching to gas-fired power stations. There was not a scintilla of action on the environment.
The Minister for Industry and Energy used the rise in emissions to reactivate his well-known support for nuclear power; that served only to undermine the drive for the renewable energy of which he iscontradictorilyalso in favour. To reopen the expansion of nuclear power confuses the message both at home and abroad. If that is the preferred energy source of the developed world and its priority for contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases, there would be an understandable demand for nuclear power from developing countries. The problems associated with nuclear waste, as well as the risk of accidents and sabotage, would then multiply world wide on an unprecedented scale.
By contrast, we need a clear and ambitious drive from countries such as the UK for all forms of renewable energy. That would show commitment to sustainability at home and would help to develop appropriate sustainable technology for export. Indeed, when ScottishPower lobbied me recently, I was surprised to be asked to maintain our firm commitment to phase out nuclear power at the end of its natural life, rather than holding up the drive to renewables by extending it, thus making it difficult for the company to make the commitment that it wants to make to long-term investment in renewable energy.
At the same time, the Export Credits Guarantee Department is pursuing a strategy that seems uninformed by the Kyoto prioritieswith no reference at all to the Kyoto agreement. On average, the department gives support worth £2 billion a year to fossil fuel and nuclear power generation projects. It is estimated that those projects will emit at least 52 million tonnes of carbon dioxide as long as they are in operation. Our commitment to the Kyoto process seems to be that we undertake to
In the sphere of export credit guarantees, as in those of overseas aid and development and the needs of the poor, the Government are highlighting the benefits to British business. They have even pointed out that the summit could be good for British business, instead of talking about the world's poor. We do not object to the involvement of business but that should not undermine our fundamental commitment to help the poorest people of the world.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): How would the hon. Gentleman resolve the tension between the wish for development to enable the 3 billion people on low incomes to make progress, which will mean that they burn much more energy, thereby giving rise to more emissions and pollution, and the obvious wish to reduce pollution? Is he saying that the west should make an even greater commitment to reducing its emissions to leave scope for the poorer countries to burn more energy?
Malcolm Bruce: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, although I must point out that if he had been following my argument, he would have realised that that is exactly what I was saying.
We are saying that by giving priority to the development of sustainable technology we shall benefit ourselvesby creating space under the global umbrella for us to develop without adding to the depletion of the world's resources. We shall also create space for the developing countries to release emissions if we develop sustainable technology at homewe can share things out. The global objective should be to create a framework in which total emissions are falling. As the developed world accounts for 80 per cent. of those emissions, it is self-evidently true that the developed world must make a bigger contribution. That is what helping the poor is about.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the economic benefits to this country from both developing and selling the technology are being lost because other countries, especially in Europe, are stealing a march on us? For example, in Germany a 100,000-roof programme for solar installation has been under way for several years. Furthermore, companies in Germany see their market as sub-Saharan Africa and are selling stand-alone, portable units in that area. We are missing out on that initiative; our companies do not have the opportunity to develop and to take advantage of international markets.
Malcolm Bruce: The hon. Gentleman makes a characteristically constructive intervention. Our trip to Germany with PRASEGthe all-party group on renewable and sustainable energywas not wasted. The Germans were almost laughing at us; they told us that 15 years ago Britain was the world leader in wind technologya position now held by Denmark, followed by Germany, Spain, India and the United States. Nowadays, we are nowhere because we did not support the development of that technology, while other countries had faith that it would deliver results.
It might be a good ideaperhaps the Government would promote itto get some of our leading companies to form an environmental policy committee that would identify and advance technologies specifically to develop the environmental initiatives that flowed from Rio, and extend them in Johannesburg. I fully appreciate that the technology will have to come from the private companies that drive the research, but there must be a clear framework of understanding of the objectives of the peoples of the world.
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): The hon. Gentleman makes considerable play of the need to promote renewable energy and has made several references to wind technology. Will he explain why his Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Welsh Assembly often oppose planning applications for the exploitation of wind technology in Wales?
Malcolm Bruce: The Assembly Members must speak for themselves. The one thing that we learnedit was as true in Denmark as it was in Germanyis that the Germans went for indicative planning to try to identify the areas that were environmentally the least exposed and would benefit from wind energy. By not adopting enough indicative planning, the Government leave it open to anyone to apply to build a wind farm anywhere. Unfortunately the nuclear industry is not dead and I suspect that some people promote wind farms that they know will be unpopular in the hope of generating objections so that they can prove that we need nuclear power. That is not acceptable.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that there is also massive potential for offshore wind technology, which could deliver substantial amounts of energy with much less environmental intrusion. We need the will to engage.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): The hon. Gentleman probably has not yet reached the part of his speech where he praises the Government for significantly increasing their investment in renewable energyabout £260 million. What is the difference between the energy policy committee that he proposes and the already established UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy, which the Government have enthusiastically backed and with which they have already begun to work?
Malcolm Bruce: The difference is that I was talking about the whole environmental agendanot just energy. I do not disagree with the validity of the hon. Gentleman's point. I am trying to widen and broaden the debate in a helpful way, so that business is a partner in the delivery of international policy.
I am sure that the Minister for the Environment will not be surprised if I ask him to explain the Government's position on the Greenpeace and Body Shop initiative, on which an early-day motion has been tabled. Several NGOs support that campaign and want to secure a commitment at the Johannesburg summit to deliver clean, renewable energy to 2 billion of the poorest people.
The Minister for Industry and Energy seems to support that initiative in the quotes that I have seen, but the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs seem to play down expectations not only of that, but of the whole summit.
I want to refer to the recent events in which Dr. Robert Watson was removed as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That was a shame. The British Government said that they supported Dr. Watson, but we all know that his removal happened under pressure from the US Administration and, apparently, at the instigation of Exxon. If a man is opposed on climate change by Exxon, I suggest that that man is doing a pretty good job. His removal has sent out a negative signal.
The argument, which the Government have substantiated, that Dr. Pachauriwho is an Indian and is replacing Dr. Watsonis a representative of a developing country does not go far. Indeed, that is the first time that I have heard the Americans claim that they wanted anyone from a developing country to be the chairman of anything at the United Nations, and it suggests that arms have been twisted and that the issue has been fixed.
All this reinforces the resentment, which I hear in many quarters, about the fact that the US is trying to undermine the Kyoto protocol. Not only is the US not participating; it is actively trying to undermine it. It wants to resist any further commitments in binding treaties on the environment or on the distribution of resources in rich and poor countries.
I am told that the US is working up a series of probably quite imaginative bilateral initiatives. There is nothing wrong with those initiatives in themselves, but I warn the House to see them for what they are: an effective smokescreen for the US efforts to ensure that Johannesburg does not produce any real advance. Frankly, bilateral agreements do not require summits. Summits are designed to produce international binding agreements on Governments, not bilateral trade arrangements.
In the circumstances, the House has to consider the fact that the United Kingdom Government's close association with the Bush Administration will leave us deeply damaged if the proposals are undermined. We are right to press the Government to take their own position and to give a clear signal that the United Kingdom is determined to work for a positive outcome determined not by the US or the United Kingdom, but by the developing countries.
It is more than sad that the world's only superpower is turning in on itself and turning its back on the poor of the earth. It will be even sadder if a country of the United Kingdom's stature and wealth is so intent on maintaining good relations with Washington that we are marked as colluding in this selfish, ugly, wrong-headed and ultimately counter-productive stance.
Some people say that the Americans are engaging in the climate change process, but I suggest that that is a deception. The US says that it is interested in emissions trading, but on the basis of lifting current regulations and allowing emissions to rise dramatically. That represents a total negation of everything that the Kyoto protocol is about, and we should not for a minute suggest that that is
In the end, the United Kingdom will be credible in the world only if we energetically pursue consistent policies at home and abroad. I have already referred to the shortcomings of our energy and transport policies and inconsistencies in the ECGD.
Our motion is not intended as a broadside on Government policy. There are areas of common agreement, and we share the objectives that the Government are pursuing. However, it is completely proper for a party that describes itself as the effective Opposition to show that, although we share the Government's intentions, we express real concern about the risk that the Government will face failure and embarrassment.
The Minister for the Environment has been widely praised for many of his commitments and initiatives. I certainly do not question his commitment. However, as I said last Friday in the debate on the Home Energy Conservation Bill, I am not sure that he is well served by all the people around him, or above him. He is constrained in securing the policies that would make a genuine difference and would give the Government the credibility that I know, from his rhetoric and his energetic hard work behind the scenes, he wants to deliver.
In that context, the Government amendment smacks of complacency. It seems to imply that setting targets for the Kyoto protocol achieves themit does not. In any case, those targets should be much more ambitious. Cambridge Econometrics shows in its model that it does not accept the Government's contention in the amendment that CO 2 will rise and that the Government will miss the Kyoto protocol targets unless they take concerted action now. That is the problem for the Government because they were suggesting, "Of course we will stand up for Kyoto. It involves no pain, but some gain. We have already achieved the reductions, so we have to do nothing at allbusiness as usual will deliver." The indications are that business as usual will not deliver, but the Government amendment implies that they still think that it will, but they will miss the target if they do nothing.
The gas emissions trading scheme mentioned in the Government amendment is a first, but it is flawed. At a cost in excess of £200 million of taxpayers' money, companies have been credited with savings that they have already madethe Government required them to make those savingsor are committed to make. In effect, the Government have said, "Here is £200 million. Go out and trade it." Any market will be a success if the Government give it that amount of free goods to float it. That does not prove that anything has been delivered. The scheme is voluntary. It does not fit the European Union scheme and it will consequently have to be phased out in a short period.
The Minister will know that we chided the Government's poor record on waste minimisation and recycling. More money seems to have gone into church restoration than into waste reduction. Waste reduction targets are being missed, unprocessed fridges are pilling up and tens of thousands of abandoned cars are being set alight regularly at huge cost. If the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs really wants to