Treaty of Lisbon (No. 8)
Nick Hurd (Ruislip - Northwood, Conservative)
The Secretary of State has made it clear that the Lisbon treaty does not significantly change the powers of the EU to show leadership on climate change, so we do not have much substance to debate. However, this afternoon presents a welcome opportunity to scrutinise and debate the EU's actions in our name, and that is crucial.
As a Conservative, I have no hesitation in saying that we must work through the EU on climate change. There is clearly no national solution to the problem and we must therefore maximise our leverage in international negotiations, which means working through the EU and embracing the simple fact that it is, perhaps timidly, cast in a leadership role on the crucial issue of our age in the shameful absence of the superpower from the negotiating table. We are in the lead.
Again, speaking as a Conservative I find it easy to reconcile that positive message with traditional Euroscepticism about single currencies and federalism. Jo Swinson, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, kindly quoted from my maiden speech, in which I simply said that I felt the climate change agenda presented an opportunity for the EU to redefine its relevance to the new generation who will pay for it. The evolution of that agenda is similar in importance and scale to the development of the single market. That shows the extent of the opportunities for the EU, and I would like it to embrace them.
David Chaytor (Bury North, Labour)
To revert briefly to the single currency, does the hon. Gentleman think it would be possible to operate an emissions trading scheme on the basis of 27 different currencies in the European Union?
Nick Hurd (Ruislip - Northwood, Conservative)
The future viability of the emissions trading scheme depends on the cap that is set and whether the cap-and-trade scheme is as good as the cap. The overwhelming variability is the reason for the failure up to now and is much more important than currencies.
Mr. Morley said that the EU's work on, for example, water directives, producer responsibility directives and landfill directives provides a solid platform on which to build. However, as we look forward, it is clear that we must tackle key issues if the EU is to continue to be a credible voice on climate change.
The problem is not ambition or rhetoric. The Montreal protocol or the Kyoto protocol would not have happened without the EU's leadership. We have a set of unilateral targets that do not lack ambition. We have action plans for energy efficiency and we have developed key market mechanisms. The challenge is effective delivery, and honesty about the backdrop of collective failure to reduce emissions, not least in this country. Important issues relating to delivery need to be tackled if the voice of the EU is to continue to be heard in the United States, China, India and Brazil—key players in the debate.
I want to identify three paramount issues. The first is the future of emissions trading. As a Conservative, I strongly believe that the market will deliver the most effective solutions, but I strongly agree with Stern that the market failure to put an effective price on carbon needs to be corrected—that is a necessary condition of any global solution to the problem. Emissions trading is the policy tool of choice to deliver that price and we are at a pivotal moment in developing it. Other countries are considering the EU scheme, and the harsh fact is that it may have been successful in proving some mechanics but it has failed comprehensively in its core mission of reducing emissions. Clearly, reform is needed.
There is growing consensus in this country about the core elements of that reform. We set out some ideas in the quality of life report and the Government have presented their ideas. There is growing consensus on the need to reinforce the principle that the polluter should pay. That means ratcheting down free allowances and ratcheting up auctions. There is consensus about the need to reduce the political risk that is attached to the process and I believe that that means developing a consistent and transparent methodology for determining caps and any allowances that are not auctioned. It means expanding the market carefully. The key priority is to include aviation on terms that bite.
Secondly, I would like more urgency from the EU and the British Government in levering the single market to drive up product standards. There is an enormously important opportunity to engage developing countries because we effectively import many emissions, which are embedded in the products that we buy from countries such as China and Japan. There is a great opportunity to build on the success in labelling and efficiency standards for refrigeration and extend it to other matters. We should consider what is happening in Japan and Germany on taking a new approach to product design and standards, setting minimum rolling standards. Rolling standards mean a dynamic process whereby today's best standards become the minimum in future, in an agreed time. There is therefore a constantly dynamic process of improvement. That is good for Government because it does not involve any public money, good for industry because it creates a competitive environment in which it can get ahead and make itself more efficient, and good for consumers because it will give us a wider range of efficient products. That is a logical extension of what the EU should be doing—levering the single market.
Thirdly, I want to consider the opportunity for the EU and the member states to do more together. It is clear from the development of technology that much goes on in small silos, including carbon capture and storage, concentration of solar power and long-distance ultra-high voltage power lines. Those technologies are enormously important matters on which member states should work together if we are not to lose the commercial market opportunity to the United States and other countries.
I am not referring only to technology. European buildings are three times more energy efficient than those in China. If one considers that China will move 400 million people from the country to the city in the next 30 years and that, in that process, it will build more than half the new buildings in the world, one realises the importance of our exporting expertise in architecture and design to China to ensure that those buildings are as energy-efficient as possible. I never hear the Government talk about that.
Other opportunities include common approaches to phasing out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and to procurement. The Government spend £150 billion a year of taxpayers' money through direct and indirect procurement and that presents a massive opportunity, which is not being taken, to drive market change. All that is in the interests of building on the single market and helping us to shape a new age when we can no longer rely on fossil fuels.
As a Conservative, I want Britain to express a positive voice in pressing Europe to take the opportunities because that is in our collective and national interest. We should act in the name of anyone who is under 40 because I firmly believe that there is no greater threat to the security, prosperity and well-being of those under 40 than an increasingly unstable and dangerous climate.
Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
It is regrettable that the time available is so limited. If Front Benchers had exercised a little more self-discipline, more Back Benchers would have able to speak in this time-limited debate. However, I will restrict my remarks.
I have been looking forward to the debate for some time. If ever there was a issue that illustrates the futility of the isolationist politics of yesterday—which have been spewing forth in Members' correspondence files, and from the mouths of the more extreme Eurosceptics on the Conservative Benches and elsewhere in the country—it is that of climate change. It represents possibly the greatest threat to human life on our planet, and, as others have said today, it requires urgent action, not just national but international, intercontinental and indeed global, if we are to make any progress at all.
As my hon. Friend the Minister made plain, we are already well down the track in terms of the climate change impact with which our planet will have to deal. The Stern report lives up to its name: it is stern, and the figures that it contains are stark. At worst, 200 million refugees could be on the move owing to floods or drought, up to 40 per cent. of all known species could face extinction, the cost of climate change alone could be £3.68 trillion, and one in six of the world's population could be without ready access to drinking water. The scenario is apocalyptic: disaster on an unimaginable scale, global panic, mass movements of people, and the breakdown of civil society. It is a safe bet that if the next world war is not about oil, religion or a clash of cultures, it will be about access to drinkable water and habitable land.
We live in scary times, and our response to the challenges will shape our politics in the first half of the 21st century. Climate change is a zero sum game. We are already at a point at which its effects cannot be reversed, and we shall be lucky if we manage to restrict the rise in global temperature to 2°. A rise of 3° would result in decreasing crop yields in developed countries, including the United Kingdom, in decreasing world supplies, and in the collapse of whole ecosystems, including the Amazonian ecosystem. A rise of 4° is frankly unimaginable. The melting of the west Antarctic ice sheet would gradually increase sea levels by 5 to 6 m, putting vast tracts of land under water. In the United Kingdom alone, the number of communities at risk from coastal flooding would double to 1.8 million, while in Bangladesh, where half the population live in areas less than 5 m above sea level, permanent flooding and a shortage of drinking water could cause between 30 million and 40 million people to be displaced from their homes.
Now is not the time for isolationism. Now is the time to step up to the mark and recognise the contribution that this Parliament, this country and this Government can make by working within the institutions of the European Union, rather than claiming that everything that comes out of Brussels is fundamentally flawed and has no place in our future politics of decision making.
I have been disappointed by the quality of some of the speeches made by Opposition Members today, although some have been of a very high standard. We are not talking about six words; we are talking about whether this EU reform treaty is relevant in the context of climate change and environmental policy. Environmental policy is one of the success stories of the EU. At the time of its founding in 1957, the EU had no environmental dimension; today it has some of the most progressive environmental policies in the world. EU legislation has played a vital role in habitat and species protection, river management, and dramatic improvements in air, water and beach quality. The water framework directive of 2015, in which I know my hon. Friend the Minister is particularly interested, will be the driving force that will raise not just standards of drinking water, but the quality of water and habitat in rivers the length and breadth of the country. It is a vital piece of European legislation.
Nevertheless, there is an immense amount to be done both to meet existing EU targets and aspirations, and to agree on new targets and actions that will improve the environment and quality of life in Europe. Climate change is the most urgent of those challenges, and we must tackle it effectively if we are to sustain growing prosperity and security.
The reform treaty contains new commitments on sustainable development in its article on the Union's objective. That article is more detailed than the current text, and offers some improvement. It provides that the EU
"shall work for the sustainable development of Europe",
while the current text speaks only of
"sustainable development of economic activities".
That is a significant distinction.
The treaty emphasises the importance of climate change, and makes it easier to adopt greener energy policies. It has left core provisions on environmental policy substantially unchanged, but greater emphasis has been placed on the struggle against climate change, which has been explicitly added to the objectives of EU environmental policy. Perhaps more significant, energy policy will become formally an area of shared competence between the EU and member states. The treaty also seeks to ensure security of energy supply, and to
"promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy".
The notion, or contention, that the Lisbon treaty is somehow irrelevant to the climate change debate is fundamentally flawed. Members need only read it to see that that is so.
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to visit Greyfriars church in Reading, where churches had joined in a campaign to give up carbon for Lent—not chocolate, but carbon. It was an impressive initiative. Workshops from faith groups throughout my constituency and well beyond discussed climate change. There is a connection between such action and that of the big coalitions that launched the Drop the Debt and Jubilee 2000 campaigns: climate change is a moral issue, not just an environmental issue.
I mentioned Bangladesh earlier. Let me end by giving some figures. A total of 9.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted per person per year in the United Kingdom, compared to 0.24 tonnes in Bangladesh. It is ironic, is it not, that the people who have contributed least to climate change are those who will suffer most from its impact.
Michael Weir (Angus, Scottish National Party)
Today's debate on the wording of the treaty seems to me a bit like the debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. As far as I can see, there is no great dispute between the parties. We all agree that we need to tackle climate change, and we all agree that we need to tackle it through international institutions, particularly the European Union. In this country we may debate whether we will reduce it by 60 per cent. or by 80 per cent., but at the end of the day those are both ambitious targets. Following any such reduction, the economy will look vastly different from the way it looks today.
We must all play a part in these efforts. The other week, DEFRA representatives demonstrated a CO2 calculator in Portcullis House. I went along and duly answered all the questions. My house and domestic appliances were fine—the emissions were below average—but when it came to travel the figure went through the roof, and that did not include business flights. Although I have not taken a holiday flight for many years, I represent a rural constituency, and I drive a fair bit.
I was interested by what Jo Swinson said about biofuels, but my view is slightly different from that of some other Members. I recognise the sustainability problem, but I caution against throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In the "green" debate we talk in a vacuum about reducing emissions by 60 per cent. or 80 per cent., but such issues have a real impact on people in the country. There is the danger that every time we come up with a solution to a problem, someone will say that it is worse than the problem was in the first place.
I have the impression that people are beginning to get a wee bit turned off. We must take the population with us. We may say that we want an 80 per cent. reduction, but unless the people are prepared to take the necessary steps to meet that target, it is utterly pointless. The EU has a role to play, however, in that it has the ability to bring together 27 of the most industrialised nations in the world to reduce carbon emissions.
I am aware of the problems involved in the European emissions trading scheme, but when the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee travelled to Brussels last week—by Eurostar, I am glad to say; we did not fly—we had interesting discussions with members of the Commission about both energy and climate change. Big changes are coming in phase 3 of the EU emissions trading scheme. There will be an EU-wide cap on the number of emissions allowances instead of 27 national caps; I have difficulty in seeing how that will work, but it is an interesting idea. A much larger share of allowances will be auctioned off, instead of being allocated free of charge—the Chancellor should take a bigger interest in the fact that energy companies have made huge profits on the back of free allocation. There are to be harmonised rules governing free allocation, and:
"Part of the rights to auction allowances will be redistributed from the Member States with high per capita income to those with low per capita income in order to strengthen the financial capacity of the latter to invest in climate friendly technologies".
That is vital because many of the new member states from the former Soviet bloc have polluting industries and they need to come on board and reach the standards we look for in western Europe.
A number of new industries are to be included in the ETS, as are other gases. That is important, because we often talk of reductions of 60 and 80 per cent. but we are talking only about carbon dioxide; many other greenhouse gases are not included in them, and they must be included if we are to make a difference.
I have a concern about aviation. There is an exception in the next stage of the ETS for those sectors that are vulnerable to competition from producers and countries without comparable carbon restraints. That puts a huge hole in the scheme, through which many industries will be allowed to pass, particularly aviation. European airlines flying to the United States or the far east, for example, will not be covered by the ETS. I understand what the Secretary of State says about that—that Europe can only do what it can do. That underlines the need for more international co-operation on such matters. We must tackle aviation. The EU should look at whether it needs to address flights taking off from the EU regardless of where they are going.
I have mentioned the danger of discussing this matter in a bubble. Under the Commission's proposals on the ETS and renewable energy, the price of electricity is expected to increase by between 10 and 15 per cent. That is an important point at a time when fuel poverty in the UK is rising because of rising prices. We must balance addressing carbon reduction with the effect that measures have on the public and take action so that they do not pay high energy prices when companies are making massive profits. Many such balances have to be struck.
Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test, Labour)
It is a statement of the blindingly obvious, but we in Europe have to work together on climate change. It is also self-evident that carbon knows no boundaries, so we must work together to make an impact on climate change not only in Europe but in the world. It must therefore have required a great deal of mental gymnastics for the Opposition to come up with their amendment and to distinguish the six words in the Lisbon treaty from all the other necessary actions on climate change—and, indeed, from all the other provisions in the Lisbon treaty that contribute towards those actions, which we know must be taken.
There are no such verbal gymnastics in amendment No. 151, which we shall discuss later; its distinguished tablers simply wish to remove the phrase "climate change" from the treaty. I am pleased that Opposition Front Benchers say that they will not support the amendment, although the main amendment in the upcoming Committee stage appears to be 151-lite in its attempt to distinguish between institutionalisation and action. They are not opposed to each other. They are partners; they go together. That is the central point that we need to be clear about this afternoon.
We can see that relationship between institutionalisation and action in certain examples of things that have already happened that are related to climate change, but not necessarily obviously so. The waste framework directive, and the landfill directive within it, led to the UK introducing the landfill levy and later, through the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003, the landfill allowance trading scheme—LATS—arrangements on municipal waste. Interestingly, at the time the targets were widely criticised as being impossible to achieve because we were so addicted to putting waste in land, and it was said that the trading system would never work and the system's target would never be achieved. However, it was introduced and it does work, and landfill is decreasing substantially. That has echoes in current actions at EU level in other areas, such as the 2007 spring Council agreement on targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
It has been widely suggested that the UK renewable energy target of 15 per cent. is not achievable, but I think that, as a result of the combination of the institutionalisation, the agreement in the framework and the action, we will ensure that it is achieved through the various devices available to us, including those available through other relevant EU directives. It is, therefore, potentially very important to have the dual function of institutionalisation and action.
One of the main problems with phase 1 of the EU ETS was the self-certification of allocations by member states. Significant change came about only at the point in phase 2 when the Commission rejected all but three of the allocations that had come forward for that phase and said, through the framework of the EU, "No, these are not good enough, and the allocations have to be based on an EU-wide understanding of what those allocations consist of and how the system will work." It is essential, therefore, that we work together within the EU, in different ways and with different devices in our different countries, to bring forward the joint action that makes a real difference on climate change. It is a reflection on the confused policy of the Opposition that its Members are incapable of coming up with a statement on that process that distinguishes between taking action and words—and, indeed, the simple anti-EU position of amendment No. 151.
The Lisbon treaty is important, and we must continue to work together through the framework of the EU and member states to ensure that the climate change targets that we have set are reached by the EU collectively and by member states individually.
Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness, Conservative)
In earlier interventions I expressed frustration at the way in which the six words on climate change have been used to take over a day's debate. The debate has, however, been useful. We have heard a series of interesting and informed speeches on UK and EU climate change policy. Some contributions—including that of Dr. Whitehead, which is surprising, given his environmental expertise—have criticised the Conservatives for suggesting that tokenism could be involved in the way in which today's debate has been dealt with. That criticism is entirely unfounded. The Conservative position is quite clear: we absolutely see the EU as having a fundamental role on climate change. We embrace the EU in regard to its competence on an area such as this, and to its making a contribution on climate change. What has united all of those, regardless of party, who moved away from the constitutional points of the debate towards the wider environmental issues is the sense of frustration at the failure to turn what my hon. Friend Mr. Ainsworth called rhetoric into reality. That is what has united all of us today.
Of course, if those six words in the treaty will help the EU to put climate change further up its list of priorities, and if they will lead to policies and frameworks that start to provide the results on climate change that we all want in Europe, their inclusion will have been worth while. However, we have not seen any evidence to suggest that that would be the case.
I joined the Environmental Audit Committee a couple of years ago, probably as a bit of a climate change sceptic. I certainly did not like the zealous, almost evangelical tone used by the many people who had "got" climate change and rather divisively felt that others had been inadequate in failing to do so. I have wrestled with the subject since, although I have not spoken or written about it a great deal. Having assessed the science and heard the evidence, my position now is that there is a serious likelihood that man-made emissions could have a devastating effect on this earth and that rises in temperature caused by that could have calamitous effects in certain places, whether they would be as apocalyptic as Martin Salter suggested or not. That means that anyone with any common sense and who is used to assessing probabilities would want to take action.
I agree with Members who have mentioned the Stern report. Hard numbers have now been put on some of those probabilities. That is why, in many parts of the world, including the sole superpower, it is those in the business community—the hard-headed business people who are interested in looking after their shareholders and returning profits, and not those who are given to hand-wringing environmentalism—who have started to lead the debate. They are used to assessing probabilities.
I should like to see us all learn to use the language of risk. We should not do as the Government have sometimes done—in their papers preparing for the Climate Change Bill, for example—and state that there is no longer any debate on climate change. Of course there is; there are many uncertainties. However, the likelihood that man-made emissions are affecting our planet is growing all the time. The fact that so many of the world's leading scientists feel that way means that we need to take the issue seriously. It is right and proper to take prudent action to become more energy efficient, along with other steps.
My hon. Friend Mr. Atkinson, who is now back in his place, made an important speech on biofuels and the role of agriculture in tackling climate change. With respect to Mr. Weir, I think that it is important, if we are to carry people with us when we take action, that we take rational and sensible action. It is quite clear that the biofuels policy of HM Government and of the EU is not rational. I should like to quote from evidence given to the Environmental Audit Committee by a senior scientific adviser who sits on the scientific advisory committee to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was his view that
"if there is a scientific basis for the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, I do not know what it is and I have not seen it."
Michael Weir (Angus, Scottish National Party)
I should like to clarify that I did not mention the renewable transport fuel obligation; I was talking about the whole issue of biofuels. There is an important difference.
Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness, Conservative)
I entirely agree. Perhaps I read into the hon. Gentleman's contribution some sense that criticism should not be made of measures such as biofuels because they might do good later. If first-generation biofuels without proper sustainability guidelines—such guidelines do not exist—do more harm than good, it is not right for us to pursue them, regardless of the case for second-generation biofuels. Doing something that is wrong now because there might be something good to do later does not make any sense. I see no reason to believe—we have received no evidence to this effect—that the renewable transport fuel obligation, other EU measures and targets, such as the 10 per cent. biofuel content target set by the French, and the unsustainable activity that is being driven now will engender more sustainable activity later.
With biofuels, we have a combination of the worst forms of French protectionism and a desire for energy security. The EU and the United States are pushing for targets. In the US, that is primarily driven by energy security. The US has set a 20 per cent. target for biofuels and, by every measure, the biofuels used are bad for the environment. Set against many measures, they create more emissions in their life cycle than pulling fossil fuels out of the ground and burning them would create. That is a calamitous situation, which we should not encourage.
In the EU, on the other hand, where energy security is also an issue, the primary driver is the desire to subsidise rural development. That should not be the top priority. The top priority should be climate change. I hope that we will have a rational policy base and that the EU and the UK Government will reverse their current policies on biofuels and ensure that we have a sustainable framework in place before we promote such technology.
David Chaytor (Bury North, Labour)
Today's debate has been far more rational, outward-looking and forward-thinking than some of the previous debates on the European treaty. That is a measure of some of the individuals who have spoken from the Opposition Front Benches. I want to encourage an outward-looking, forward-thinking approach to the EU. A big challenge is facing the Conservative party if it is to formulate a sensible policy on climate change and the role of the European Union.
In the brief time available, I want to concentrate on the wording of the Opposition amendment. Two things concern me, and the amendment is rather disappointing in view of the generally positive approach to the EU that has been expressed today. First, the Opposition dismiss the role of the treaty of Lisbon as "effectively irrelevant" in advancing the cause of climate change policy. That bears no relation to reality. It is an important step forward from the constitutional treaty to have the specific reference to climate change. Of course, it is also a major step forward to have a specific competence on energy policy. The specific references to the importance of energy efficiency, renewables, energy security and the mutual interdependence of the member states in ensuring energy security for each individual state are extremely important.
On the question of the organisational changes, the amendment quotes the Foreign Secretary, who said that climate change agreements already reached by the EU
"have done more to show the relevance of the European Union than any amount of institutional tinkering".
I think that we would all agree with that remark. Nobody is in favour of institutional tinkering; that is self-evident. However, that does not mean that we cannot envisage institutional improvements.
That seems to be the central weakness in the Opposition amendment. As my hon. Friend Dr. Whitehead said, it must have required a huge amount of ingenuity to come up with that form of words. If the Opposition seriously do not believe that there can be any improvement to the EU's organisational arrangements after the expansion of the Union to 27 member states, they will have to put up a strong defence of how the current arrangements can continue to advance the cause of climate change.
Many hon. Members have described the achievements of the EU to date in improving air and water quality, in taking noxious chemicals out of the air and in improving standards for vehicles and electrical equipment, but surely no one can believe that that is the end of the matter. In fact, when it comes to improving standards and the quality of the environment, we are only beginning a long journey that will go to 2050 and beyond. It is thus almost beyond belief to dismiss as completely irrelevant the very idea of any change to the EU's organisation, which is largely what the treaty is about. I ask forward-thinking Conservative Members to consider that carefully.
David Chaytor (Bury North, Labour)
I cannot give way in view of the time.
If Conservative Members wish to dismiss the content of the treaty as mere institutional tinkering, one must ask why they feel so strongly about the need for a referendum. Either the treaty is about institutional tinkering, and thus the question of a referendum is completely irrelevant, or there is a powerful case for a referendum because the treaty has more significance. The Conservative party needs to get its act together and its thinking straight on this issue.
Conservative Members seem to have forgotten that over the past 25 years every party that has been explicitly opposed to the European Union has lost the subsequent general election. That is largely because the public are far in advance of the Eurosceptic tendency. Whatever Conservative Members might think about the gut feeling of some of their party's members and their small band of core supporters, the anti-European tendency in the country today represents a minority—and not an election-winning minority. I encourage forward-thinking members of the Tory party to take that on board and to explain it to some of their colleagues. As long as the party has an intrinsic, obsessive, anti-European ethos, it will never come around to supporting the policies that are needed to deal responsibly with climate change.
It is important that the EU reflects its new expansion with the involvement of 27 members rather than 15. It is important that it changes its arrangements, such as on qualified majority voting, and that we have a single voice to the outside world. Rather than having a presidency that rotates every six months, it should last for a longer period to give continuity to policy. The EU must be the leading group of nations in the world on advancing climate change policy.
However—this will be my final point, because I know that Mr. Clappison wishes to speak—climate change cannot be advanced solely by top-down institutional structures. Mr. Stuart seems to assume that because there was a gigantic market failure, there will suddenly be a gigantic market solution, but the market alone does not hold the solution. We will need not only institutional change at the political level, the encouragement of enterprise and the development of new science and technology, but individual behaviour change and the greater involvement of local and regional government throughout the European Union. Does the Minister for the Environment agree that, on climate change, we need not only the right policies at national and EU level, but far greater involvement of local government in the United Kingdom?
James Clappison (Hertsmere, Conservative)
I make common cause with Mr. Chaytor to the extent that I have faith in the public. I wish him luck when he goes back to the public in Bury, North at the time of the next general election and explains why he voted against the referendum that was promised in his manifesto even though this treaty, by his own admission, is almost exactly the same as the original constitution, but now has the magical ingredient of six extra words about climate change.
Important questions have been asked during the debate. We have heard well-informed speeches, and I would ask the same questions that others have posed about the emissions trading scheme. The EU is staking a lot on the scheme, so we need to ask searching questions—in the genuine sense of the term, rather than the sense in which the Government use it—about it.
I share the sense of curiosity expressed by my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer. I agree with him that this is an important subject. I am happy to debate it now and to scrutinise what little there is about climate change in the body of the treaty, but I feel a sense of discomfort that we have not had the opportunity on previous occasions to scrutinise matters such as borders and immigration and defence, where—unlike in the present case—there have been substantial changes to powers, institutional arrangements and treaty provisions. The treaty makes barely any change on environmental matters—it adds just six words, which were implicit in existing provisions. The European Union is already able to do all the things that the Secretary of State told us about on the basis of existing provisions.
I am concerned about that. We are debating an important subject and I want answers to the questions that have been put, but I worry about the way in which this House is scrutinising the provisions of the treaty. It is just one more example of the inadequacy of our method of scrutinising very serious matters.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle, Conservative)
We have had a good debate—I think that we all agree on that. The first Back Bencher to speak was Mr. Morley, who has a distinguished record on environmental matters. Although I do not always agree with everything he says, I acknowledge that he made some sensible comments on the future of European reform. Joan Walley, a distinguished member of the Environmental Audit Committee, also spoke, as did my hon. Friend Mr. Atkinson, who, in a well informed contribution, spoke movingly about world food shortages and concerns about biofuels, and about how Europe should deregulate more and grow more food.
We also heard speeches from Mr. Kidney and my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer, who spoke of the positive role for the EU in environmental matters, but expressed great consternation about the Government's denying a proper debate on the treaty more generally. Mr. Meacher drew attention to Drax and the fact that one chimney emits more CO2 than more than 100 small countries—an extraordinary figure that I had not heard before. My hon. Friend Mr. Hurd spoke with his usual expertise and broad understanding.
Although I do not often agree with Martin Salter, he made his points with great passion and I found myself nodding in agreement with some of them. Mr. Weir displayed his usual knowledge. Usually when Dr. Whitehead speaks, I learn something; on this occasion, however, somewhat disappointingly, most of his remarks were about process and words, rather than the solutions with which he is normally associated. My hon. Friend Mr. Stuart, who is also a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, made an excellent speech: he has become quite an expert on biofuels.
Mr. Chaytor is also a great expert, but he, too, ended up talking about process and tinkering with institutional reform. Ultimately, his speech summed up what many of us feel about the debate, because he could not tell us one thing that the constitutional amendment will allow that the EU cannot already do or will not be able to do if the treaty is not passed. It is completely irrelevant. If any Labour Member would like to stand up now and tell me one substantive area where EU competency will be extended by adding those six words, I will gladly take an intervention. Answer there came none.
This debate has been a waste of time in the context of debating the Lisbon treaty. Time spent in this place talking about climate change is never wasted, however; well-informed right hon. and hon. Members can be found in all parts of the House, and I always gain from hearing what others have to say. The genuine conviction felt in all parts of the House is apparent, and when we talk about climate change, we see Parliament at its best. When they got down to solutions, many of the speeches we have heard today demonstrated that point. Conservative Members also welcome the opportunity to flag up the treaty's failings, but the EU has effectively tackled all sorts of environmental challenges up to now without needing additional binding treaties. The Government are clearly all too aware of the irrelevance of the latest EU treaty to our UK and international efforts to tackle climate change. Indeed, as my hon. Friend Mr. Ainsworth reminded us, the Foreign Secretary said as much. Despite that irrelevance, the Government have insisted on setting aside a whole day for debate on the Lisbon treaty issue of climate change. The Conservatives have argued today that it is more important to debate UK policy, and the policy delivery needed to drive down carbon emissions, delivery solutions and adaptation, than to discuss institutional reform and tinkering with treaties, which are irrelevant to the goal.
In the time remaining, I shall consider a few examples of where the Government are going wrong in their performance on climate change. In the Climate Change Bill—a Bill that I am proud to say my party has been enhancing steadily throughout its passage through another place—the Government are rightly legislating to commit the UK to a minimum emissions reduction of 60 per cent. by 2050. I think that we all accept that that figure may have to be re-examined soon, but how can the Government expect significant carbon reductions in Britain when they have consistently underspent, cut and redirected budget commitments for energy efficiency—to say nothing of other things—primarily because of shortfalls in the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs due to chronic mismanagement? How can the Secretary of State expect emissions reductions from the UK housing stock when the low carbon buildings programme, the capital grants scheme for energy efficiency, has been underfunded since its inception and is now being scrapped?
How can the Government expect the development of a renewable technology economy in Britain when they do not offer the industry any long-term market confidence? First they tried to U-turn and squash the Merton rule for microgeneration technologies; then they tried to wiggle out of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. The Government have failed to support plans to build the world's first carbon capture and storage power station in Peterhead, opting instead for yet another round of dithering and consultation, followed by a competition. It is not that they are headed in the wrong direction; it is just that they cannot move fast enough. We reject that dithering, delay and incompetence. We reject institutional tinkering. What we really need are dynamic solutions to climate change. We need more vision, more ambition, more conviction and more delivery. We need robust policies that will deliver real change on the ground and drive dynamic industrial change in the economy.
In December, David Cameron announced our party policy to introduce feed-in tariffs—[Hon. Members: "Who?"] My right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron announced the tariffs—a mechanism that has resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs across Europe. That policy could do the same for the UK by providing long-term market certainty to the British microgeneration industry and, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey noted, it could greatly enhance our energy security and lower our carbon emissions in the process.
Our feed-in tariff policies are just the beginning. This afternoon at Imperial college, the shadow Chancellor, my hon. Friend Mr. Osborne, announced three more policies that will energise UK plc to start reducing our emissions on a significant scale while helping to grow our economy by creating policy initiatives at three ends of the market. The first is in start-up and venture capital. We have some of the finest research institutions and universities in the world, yet in Britain today it is much too difficult to turn bright ideas into viable businesses. Too many technologies have failed to reach the market, getting caught in the gap between a great idea and a viable company. That is why we announced plans today to establish green technology incubators across the UK that will allow more ideas from our finest minds to become reality.
Secondly, Britain is privileged to have access to some of the world's finest financial minds and largest investors in the City of London. The Conservatives recognise what an enormous economic opportunity it would be for Britain if we could harness that talent and entrepreneurial spirit and direct it towards the dynamic de-carbonisation of the global economy. To that end, we have announced our intention to establish, in conjunction with the London stock exchange, the world's first dedicated trading market for companies focused on green technology. It will have its own listing criteria and its own set of principles and regulations. The green environmental market is designed to help London become the world's leading centre for the listing and trading of companies in the field of environmental technology. The GEM will build on the alternative investment market's success in attracting green technology companies, but will have its own distinct identity. That new market will help to drive the unprecedented levels of green investment required to transform Britain's economy. Only by unleashing the full potential of London's capital markets will we meet our ambitious goals and get the substantive investment that we require.
Thirdly, the shadow Chancellor today announced our intention to introduce green individual savings accounts, which will enable the public to save more than they are currently allowed to, tax-free, provided that the funds are invested only in the most progressive, environmentally friendly companies. The green ISAs—or GISAs, as some bright chap has named them—will engage the public in climate change issues in a new way and show them clearly the economic benefits of green investment. By providing lucrative new sources of investment, GISAs will create a race to the top, incentivising businesses to adopt environmentally friendly policies. At the moment, only 39 per cent. of FTSE 350 companies account for their carbon effectively. Hopefully the proposal will incentivise them and drive them all to do so.
It is policies and incentives such as those that will allow Britain to deliver on our climate change commitments. They will deliver dynamic industrial change and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the economy. We are not afraid of change, and we are the only party that can deliver it.
Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth, Labour)
I concur with Gregory Barker that this has been a very good debate. The knowledge and experience displayed in contributions from Members on both sides of the House on the issue of climate change has been impressive. The Opposition spokesmen's points about the treaty were less impressive. I suppose that congratulations are due to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle on reading out the shadow Chancellor's press release; he did it eloquently and efficiently. Unfortunately, as ever, things are different when one scratches the surface.
Green incubators are a good idea: we have them. We have had them at the university of Manchester for donkey's years, and have been spending hundreds of millions of pounds on them. I suppose that the idea of share listing is good. The green savings account is a good idea, and I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee for putting it forward. However, I do not want to be churlish; the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle is doing a good job of trying to square a circle, as my hon. Friend Mr. Chaytor pointed out.
The Conservatives have a problem. The debate has been on the amendment in the name of the shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Hague. The debate has presented us with a graphic display of the Conservative party's age-old problem of what to do about the issue of Europe. How is that problem to be squared with the Conservative party's new-found adherence to green policies? The Conservatives have been exposed; they are in a pickle. On the one hand, they like the six words on climate change that are in the treaty, but on the other they do not want the treaty. Later this afternoon, some of them will support the six words, and some of them will oppose them. Others want more than six words, and others still do not want any of the words. Most of them will vote against the whole treaty, even though they like the six words, but some of them will vote for it. All of them are confused.
The fact is that if the six words, and the other words to which hon. Friends have referred, are simply "tinkering", why are the Conservatives proposing a referendum on the treaty? The treaty is either developing the European Union and addressing points of principle, in which case they should have a referendum, or it is not, in which case they are wasting our time.
Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth, Labour)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that confirmation that the treaty of Lisbon is not a radical giving-up of our sovereignty, but merely adds a few words.
The Opposition spokesman accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of cynicism. How anybody could describe my right hon. Friend as cynical is beyond imagination, as anybody who knows him well would say, but the hon. Gentleman accused us of cynicism in calling the debate. He said that we were trying to mask the other issues and that six hours should not have been allocated to the debate on climate change this afternoon. The Opposition's amendment to the business motion on
Let me address some of the substantial policy and political issues. Mr. Stuart correctly stated that it was wrong to say that the scientific debate was over. There are some who still disagree. Across the world, all countries, with the exception of Burma, now accept the scientific evidence of man-made climate change as a reality. However, I am delighted to inform the House about members of the flat earth society who still deny the existence of man-made climate change. One of them is Roger Helmer, Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands for the Conservative party. Another is the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus—although not, I hasten to add, the Government of the Czech Republic.
What is the association of those two members of the flat earth society with the Opposition? Mr. Roger Helmer, a renowned climate change denier, said in 2007 that
"climate change consensus is a journalistic fiction".
He told the European Parliament in May 2007 that
"it would be cheaper to relocate the population of the Maldives than to implement the sort of emissions reductions that are proposed".
Who is the Conservative party putting on to the temporary committee on climate change in the European Parliament? Mr. Roger Helmer. [Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like having their divisions exposed. I will answer the points of substance.
Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth, Labour)
Greenhouse gases in this country have gone down since 1997 by 7 per cent. Part of the reason why the United Kingdom provides such strong leadership in the United Nations conversations is that while our greenhouse gas emissions have gone down, our gross domestic product has gone up, thus showing the world, along with other European Union countries, that the lesson of Sir Nicholas—now Lord—Stern's report that the two tracks can be decoupled is alive and well and evident in the UK.
Our record on these matters is a proud one. The Opposition spokesman said that there had been inaction. He failed to mention the carbon emissions reduction targets—the £1.5 billion that has been mobilised to transform and retrofit UK homes. He failed to mention the climate change agreements or the carbon reduction commitments to be introduced in the UK next year. He failed to mention the raft of measures that have been put in place so that we reduce the emissions in this country and so that we can, in co-operation with our partners in the European Union, provide the leadership that some Opposition Members have been graceful enough to acknowledge.
On no issue is the need for international co-operation greater than on climate change. On no issue do we need the European Union more than on climate change. That is why it is important that the treaty of Lisbon recognises that— [Interruption.] The hon. Gentlemen jeering from a sedentary position have to reconcile their attempt to con the British public, by trying to rebrand their party as the green party, with their opposition to the treaty of Lisbon.