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I beg to move,
That this House
welcomes the fact that the Prime Minister will be attending the Johannesburg Earth Summit in September, but regrets that the UK is not providing co-ordinated internal or external leadership to ensure the Summit's success, particularly given rising emission of carbon dioxide in the last two years in the UK and the apparent emphasis by the Government on UK business interests ahead of the needs of developing countries;
notes with concern the United States' role in the removal of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change's Chair and for their reneging on the Kyoto Protocol;
further notes the damage such events may have on the relationship between rich and poor nations in the run-up to the Summit and the potential negative impact on both environmental and political stability, particularly in view of the close co-operation between the UK Government and US Administration and concern by leading NGOs that the Summit, aiming to reduce inequalities between rich and poor nations and promote an improving world order, may be heading for failure;
calls on the Government to take a greater role in leading international discussions in the run-up to Johannesburg and promoting related activities in the UK, particularly the need to employ more sustainable solutions and set long-term targets for the use of renewable energy;
and calls on the Government genuinely to put the environment at the heart of government, developing the policies and conditions which will promote local action for truly sustainable agriculture, waste, water management, energy and transport.
The motion deals with the extremely important matter of the UK's role at the Johannesburg summit in promoting sustainability. We have initiated the debate because we believe that it is vital for world order and stability for rich nations—of which Britain is one—to demonstrate a clear and unequivocal commitment to alleviating world poverty. It is because we see it in that light that my hon. Friend Dr. Tonge will be winding up the debate for the Liberal Democrats. I understand that the Under-Secretary of State for International Development will then reply to the debate.
We need action world wide to prevent further degradation of the planet and reverse the damage that has been done, particularly in the past 200 years. We hold the earth in trust for future generations and should seek to use it on sustainable terms. We should not take out more than we put in.
We contend that peace and stability in the world can be achieved only if a genuine partnership between rich and poor people and nations takes a common approach to development. Developed economies must demonstrate unequivocally that we will not continue to exploit the lion's share of the world's resources and that we will create the space, in partnership, and the appropriate technology to enable the poorest people on earth to achieve real improvements in their quality and standard of life.
I observed that, with her usual courtesy, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was present at both the beginning and end of the previous debate. It surprises me not at all that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not in her place—she never shows much interest in these matters. I welcome the Minister who will reply to the debate, but the right hon. Lady does lead on the matter. No doubt she is busy packing for her trip to Bali.
There is a serious point behind this observation. There is, in our view, a moral imperative to address world poverty, but it is also enlightened self-interest. The tectonic plates of the cold war have shifted, creating a freer, more unpredictable, unstable and risky world. Some people exploit the fears of the most deprived and create resentment so that millions of people migrate around the world in the hope of a better life. That creates the considerable problems with which we are having to wrestle.
The world summit in Johannesburg is—or should be—a crucial milestone in addressing these issues. It comes 10 years after the Rio summit started a process of addressing the imbalance of poverty and confronted the need to deal with environmental pressures. It is a question not only of dealing with climate change but of creating the potential for economic development that does not freeze the status of the developed and undeveloped world. There is a fear that we, the rich, will hang on to what we have and cannot allow the poor to develop and further deplete the planet's resources. So it is essential, if we are to address this tension, that Johannesburg be a success and produce a treaty with real commitments, not just a series of bilateral arrangements.
I believe that the whole House welcomes the Prime Minister's early commitment to attend the summit. It is right that he should be there, but it is not clear what he will say or whether the United Kingdom is prepared and able to take a lead in ensuring the necessary progress.
The Secretary of State has been under fire for the apparent extravagance of her planned attendance at the final preparation committee for the summit in Bali next month. It is ironic that Ministers and their civil servants are reported to be spending about £200,000 or £300,000 to attend a preparatory meeting in a holiday paradise for a summit whose prime purpose is to provide a beacon of hope and international action for the poorest people on earth. We are not saying that the Secretary of State should not be there, but if she believes that it is important enough to take a delegation of this size to take the matter forward, surely it is also important that she make a statement to the House about why she is going and what she is hoping to achieve. Moreover, when she comes back, she should tell us what has been done to prepare the way for the Prime Minister to lead a positive engagement for the United Kingdom Government in Johannesburg. Why does she never come to the House and tell us what she is doing? Should she not explain to British taxpayers what she claims to be doing on their behalf?
The Secretary of State claims on her website and in her circulars that she wants to involve the widest range of stakeholders in the preparations for Johannesburg, yet she has refused to meet me or, I understand, the Conservative shadow Secretary of State. She does not want to involve Back Benchers in the process, but she will be taking four schoolchildren with her as part of the Government delegation to Johannesburg. If the Secretary of State is serious and we share common values, should she not, like her counterparts in many other countries, take a broad delegation and ensure that we are all consulted and that this House has a real say in the agenda? She has shown no interest in involving the House in that way.
Attached to the motion is a reference to the report of the Select Committee on Environmental Audit. I thank the Committee for its helpful report. Its verdict on the Government is mixed, as is mine. The Committee welcomes the Prime Minister's planned attendance but points to the inadequacy of DEFRA's resources and alerts the House to the dangers of the summit falling apart and falling far short of the legitimate expectations of the developing world. Indeed, some non-governmental organisations have become so frustrated at the way in which the agenda has become bogged down that they suggest it might be better if the whole event were cancelled. It is up to Governments to show that they have the commitment to make it succeed.
Specifically, the Committee calls on the Government to generate some enthusiasm for the event. I suggest that it is the lack of a clear explanation of why a large delegation is going to Bali that has attracted adverse criticism and undermined whatever case the Government wanted to make. Most people would be astonished to hear of this trip, but they would not have been if the ground had been prepared and an explanation given to show that this is a major event.
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if a full explanation had been given to the press reporting these matters, they would have given as much information to the public about the true purpose of the visit as we would all like?
My point is that it would have helped if the Secretary of State had explained to the House why she was going. She could then have benefited from pointing out that we had had a debate about it.
We accept that the Government have recorded some important achievements in shifting the balance of resources to poorer countries. We want to give acknowledgement and credit where it is due. The Chancellor's debt reduction initiative has rightly attracted wide support from the public and international agencies. The UK's aid record is better than that of many countries, and at least the commitment to a 0.7 per cent. target is welcome, although, like the Environmental Audit Committee, we would like a firm timetable as to when that will be achieved.
Of course, we support the commitment made by the Secretary of State, in one of only two statements that she has made to the House since her appointment, to ratify the Kyoto protocol. However, we are not so sanguine about the Government achieving the target and are critical that it is based on a "business as usual" approach following the dash for gas. It does not include a radical drive towards serious emission reductions as a result of innovative policies. This, in the Liberal Democrats' view, is a central issue. We have put the environment at the heart of our thinking. Environmental policies were a green thread through our manifesto. We gained credit from a number of agencies for the priority that we gave these matters.
We also believe that it has proved to be a mistake to make environment and transport the responsibilities of separate Departments, given the need to reduce vehicle emissions and the congestion that makes the problem worse. It is also strange that DEFRA, the Department responsible for implementing the Kyoto protocol, does not have the lead on energy policy, which is crucial to achieving the protocol.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the link between Kyoto and transport policies. He chides the Government for being insufficiently robust in putting their case to the public. I remind the hon. Gentleman that when there was a fuel dispute in this country, the Liberal Democrat party was the first to water down the commitments that it had made on fuel taxes.
The criticism applies to every party in the House; each of them has been prepared to water down their environmental policy commitments.
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 door—the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a master of that—and then claimed that they had raised revenue for the benefit of the environment. It never was for the benefit of the environment—it 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 decisions—shutting 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 is—contradictorily—also 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 priorities—with 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 reduce our emissions at home while giving export credit guarantees to promote emissions elsewhere—exporting the problem rather than helping to tackle it.
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.
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?
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 ourselves—by 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 home—we 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.
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.
The hon. Gentleman makes a characteristically constructive intervention. Our trip to Germany with PRASEG—the all-party group on renewable and sustainable energy—was not wasted. The Germans were almost laughing at us; they told us that 15 years ago Britain was the world leader in wind technology—a 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 idea—perhaps the Government would promote it—to 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.
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?
The Assembly Members must speak for themselves. The one thing that we learned—it was as true in Denmark as it was in Germany—is 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.
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 energy—about £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?
The difference is that I was talking about the whole environmental agenda—not 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. So it would be good to have a clear indication of the Government's attitude and their reasons for adopting it. If the United Kingdom Government were to endorse that initiative positively—if they were to run with it—they would give a clear signal of our commitment to change things at Johannesburg. That would get us out from the coat tails of apparently supporting the actions of the United States and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which oppose that initiative and seem to want to undermine 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. Pachauri—who is an Indian and is replacing Dr. Watson—is 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 credible or defensible policy that we should endorse. Indeed, I wish that Ministers had been more forthright about that.
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 them—it 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 all—business 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 made—the Government required them to make those savings—or 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 engage, as she suggests she does, with the widest range of stakeholders in the run-up to the Johannesburg earth summit, should not she start with the House?
Well, I hope that she takes her caravan to Bali. It really is the most important environmental summit for 10 years. I should like to suggest, through the Minister, to the Secretary of State—I gather that she was hovering around the door a while ago, but has not yet had the courtesy to come into the Chamber—that if she does not come to the House to tell us why she is going to Bali or what she did there, she will find no credibility for anything that she does on those issues among my hon. Friends. She cannot expect to be believed or taken seriously if she does not take the House seriously and does not engage in the debate that we alone have initiated. No one else has initiated a debate on this important subject. The debate should have taken place in Government time; they should have wanted to tell the House what they were doing, rather than waiting for an Opposition party to raise the issue.
Where is the big, distinctive idea that the United Kingdom should take to the summit? May I suggest to the Minister and the House that we are not the only people who need answers? If the Prime Minister were here, I would tell him that he needs answers. He is the guy who will be standing up for the United Kingdom at Johannesburg in September. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may say thank goodness for that, but he has nothing to say or to offer; he has not yet explained his policy. If he does not find answers to those questions, he will be in real danger of finding himself the first to sign up to the summit with the least to say on delivery. Indeed, worse than that, he might have colluded in ensuring that the summit failed when action by him and his team could have made it a success. The danger for the Prime Minister is that he could end up with a very red face at what is supposed to be the greenest of international summits.
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
'applauds the leadership the UK is showing domestically and within the European Union, the G8 and the United Nations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development;
welcomes the fact that the Prime Minister intends to attend the Summit;
further welcomes the UK's climate change programme which is estimated to overshoot its Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent. cut in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, reaching a cut of 23 per cent.;
commends the introduction in the UK last month of the world's first economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme;
further welcomes the commitment in the Budget to significant increases in the landfill tax to promote recycling and waste minimisation;
further applauds the fact that drinking water, river water and bathing water are at the highest ever quality;
and calls upon the Government to continue to tackle global poverty through sustainable development.'.
I congratulate Malcolm Bruce on choosing to debate an issue of overarching importance, but I was saddened that he immediately chose unerringly to lower the tone by making some cheap and over-heated references to the delegation to the Bali conference, which he trivialises by making unnecessarily personal references to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am happy to tell him why my right hon. Friend is going there, as he does not seem to know. It is an international conference of key importance to the United Kingdom. The United Nations asked for three days of high-level negotiating time, and that is exactly the duration of the high-level ministerial segment, from 5 to
The hon. Member for Gordon is right—although he could have said a lot more about it—that there is a lot wrong with our world. Since 1992, the divide between rich and poor has widened dramatically. Fifteen per cent. of the world's population, in high-income countries, accounts for more than half of total consumption, while the poorest 40 per cent. accounts for only about one tenth. Aid levels have decreased. Africa's share of the world economy has declined, while its population has grown. Desertification affects 70 per cent. of all dry lands, and threatens the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people—about one sixth of the entire world population. We lost 4 per cent. of the world's forest area during the 1990s, after Rio. More than 11,000 species are at risk of extinction. I could go on. There is no question but that this summit is about matters of unparalleled importance for all countries and all people across the world.
Given the Minister's accurate analysis of the growing inequalities across the world, particularly between the very rich and the rest of the world, is it the Government's policy that, as part of creating a more sustainable world, there should be redistribution of wealth across the planet, within all countries of the planet, and within this country, too?
It is our policy that there should be redistribution across the world, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has achieved world renown for her championship of the demand that the number of people on the Earth living in absolute poverty should be halved by 2015. That is a stunning demand to make, and she has put herself at the head of it. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the hon. Member for Gordon was kind enough to say, has again instigated major moves by the rich countries, particularly the Paris Club, on debt remission and trying to restore the capacity for growth of many of the most highly indebted poorest countries.
The summit comes on the back of the millennium declaration, which gave us the millennium development goals. They offer a set of clear targets on poverty reduction: on education, on halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and of people without access to safe drinking water, and on halting the spread of AIDS.
Will the Minister confirm that the Government are intent at Johannesburg on pushing issues such as poverty eradication and access to clean water rather than climate change and biodiversity, in relation to which frameworks are already largely established?
Yes. That is a helpful intervention. The hon. Member for Gordon spoke at considerable length about climate change. There is, of course, the UN framework convention on climate change, and there is a parallel process with the conference of the parties, which effectively deals with climate change. The emphasis of Johannesburg should and will be on other issues, such as those to which Tony Baldry referred, and particularly on fresh water, sanitation and energy.
I have a serious question that I am sure the Minister will want to answer. On debt reduction for poorer countries, does he think it wise to pay off debt in countries where there are civil wars or heavy military expenditure by the state, or does he think that those debts should not be reduced?
That is a difficult question, and no one can give a glib answer to it. There is little point in providing aid or debt remission—which come to much the same thing in the end—if that money is to be corruptly or otherwise distorted for the purposes of the ruling elite. That is an issue to which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development may refer in his reply. It is an issue for the Department for International Development in particular, and it has taken action on that basis. Good governance is an issue, but there is a real problem: such a policy can be exercised only with great care, because cutting off aid or debt remission to undermine a leadership that is perceived to be destroying a country can have unintended and inadvertent effects on the wider population that can be truly dreadful. It is a very difficult decision to have to make and it can be made only on the merits of each case and on the basis of the best available information.
Johannesburg also follows last year's Doha trade talks and the Doha development agenda, which is significant because poor countries need to be able to feel the benefits from participating in the wider global trading system. That initiated a further World Trade Organisation round, which is regarded as a pro-poor round—that remains to be seen. Developed countries committed themselves to improving market access for those goods of most interest to developing countries, including agriculture and textiles. That is vital. We live in a world in which we spend only $50 billion a year on aid but $350 billion a year on agricultural subsidies, which are very largely concentrated on the rich countries.
Surely this is the area in which we should be most critical of the United States. Its conclusion that it can save its agriculture only with a massive increase in subsidies will make an enormous difference by stopping the third world being able to trade with it. Cannot we take the lead by reforming, once and for all, the common agricultural policy to get rid of these ridiculous subsidies?
I am pleased to say that I was at Doha, and one of the best results of that conference was a commitment, which was universally agreed—India was very reluctant, but it finally agreed—to a set of proposals and decisions that included the removal of export subsidies and perverse incentives and giving developing countries much greater trade access to the rich world. I hope that that can be carried out—a ministerial declaration is one thing, but negotiating such a change is another—as those are the most profound ministerial commitments that have been made, as far as I know, so far.
We have also recently had the Monterrey conference on financing for development, which, despite not reaching the strength of consensus for which we might have hoped, at least generated a promised extra $12 billion a year of aid by 2006. That is nowhere near the figure proposed by Zedillo, the former Mexican President, who looked into the issue on behalf of the United Nations and suggested that to meet the millennium development goals an extra $60 billion a year was needed. However, the European Union again led the way at that conference and we have seen some movement by the United States.
Monterrey promised extra aid to support developing countries' efforts, so it has been recognised from the very beginning of the process that we will have to focus on actions. The outcomes at the end of the summit should be, in our view, a short political declaration and a detailed action plan. I underline the words "detailed action plan" several times. We need that or a Johannesburg programme of action. That is the litmus test by which we should judge the conference—the specificity, the range, the precision and the detail of the commitments.
A third outcome from Johannesburg—if it happens—would be novel for the UN process. It would be a range of business and non-governmental organisation partnerships that will take action on specific issues such as water and energy. It would be not just an intergovernmental agreement—we need that—but a recognition that the power structures in developed societies are now much wider. If we do not involve business and civil society, we will not achieve the dissemination of our goals so well. The UK has already brought together chief executive officers from the key sectors and NGO leaders to develop innovative strategies and to promote sustainable development in some of the issues that will come up at Johannesburg—water, energy, tourism, finance and forestry.
What about the substance of the summit? Poverty eradication will be a top priority, and that is precisely why Johannesburg in South Africa was chosen. Environmental problems are often a cause of poverty and generally hit the poor hardest. Sudden natural shocks, such as floods, and long-term trends, such as biodiversity loss—on this I disagree with Tony Baldry, because biodiversity loss is important despite the other convention—and declining soil fertility, especially affect the poor. The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent. of disease in the developing world is due to environmental causes such as unsafe water and air pollution. That is a stunning fact.
However, the summit is not just about the south. The north must put its house in order by addressing our unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. If we are expecting and, indeed, encouraging the developing world to grow economically so as to eradicate poverty, we need to be seen to be leading the way in decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. I will be the first to say that, in this country and in many others, we are only at the start of the process.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that; I am not sure whether I want to intervene now.
I was intrigued by the right hon. Gentleman's amendment to the motion. It specifically says that it expects that there will be a
"cut in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, reaching a cut of 23 per cent.".
In other words, the cut would overshoot the Kyoto targets. It was interesting that he chose to make that point in the amendment. Is he prepared to stand by that claim and will he come to the Environmental Audit Committee and be prepared to allow it to audit the Government's record on achieving that target?
I would be delighted to do that. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has referred to that issue. The hon. Member for Gordon made one point that was not quite right. He recognised that we are well past our legally binding target of 12.5 per cent., although I recognise that I am projecting forward to 2010 and that we must achieve that figure. However, if we achieve a target of 23 per cent. or thereabouts, that will be well beyond what we are required to do under the Kyoto protocols. However, it is not true that the main reason—or even part of the reason—for achieving such a target is the dash for gas and the closure of coal-powered stations. The main explanation is the whole range of measures that we have taken on transport and, particularly, energy efficiency. The dash for gas is not the explanation.
I did not suggest that the main reason was the dash for gas, only that it was a significant component. I have passed my notes to the Hansard writers, but my recollection is that the model produced by Cambridge Econometrics suggests that the regime under the new electricity trading arrangements—NETA—is forcing down fuel prices and encouraging energy consumption. As a consequence, the model predicts that we will not hit the 23 per cent. target or anything like it unless the Government pursue alternative measures. That is why I am surprised that the Government are so confident that they have put that target in their amendment. I agree with Mr. Thomas. We need an explanation.
It is odd to suggest that NETA is encouraging greater use of fuels such as electricity. Of course, as a result of the new arrangements and the replacement of the anomalous pool price, the cost of electricity has dramatically fallen by 30 or even 40 per cent. over the past few years. Since NETA was introduced just over a year ago, the price has fallen by another 15 to 20 per cent. Those are large cuts that produce huge benefits in terms of fuel poverty. The poorer sections of society benefit greatly if they can obtain fuel more cheaply so long as we insulate their homes to ensure that most of the fuel is not wasted. Improved energy efficiency in the use of fuel is important.
In welcoming the publication today of the Government's strategy for combined heat and power, may I endorse the concern about the impact of NETA on the development of CHP? It looks as though Ofgem has been dragging its feet on a solution to the problems that NETA has caused for renewable and CHP developers. I urge my right hon. Friend to pressure Ofgem to come up with a solution.
It was probably a mistake to pick up on the point about NETA. However, the answer to my hon. Friend's perfectly valid point is that NETA benefits the large generators and causes problems for the smaller embedded generators. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have asked Ofgem to carry out its first full year review of the operation of NETA and its impact on small generators. The first year ended on
I am pleased that my hon. Friend made that point, because the Government have today issued their CHP strategy. It draws attention again to the important reform that the Chancellor introduced in the Budget. We have extended the climate change levy exemption to the whole of CHP, and not just to end users but to licensed supplies. We have also enhanced the capital allowances and said that we will consider further measures if they are necessary. We remain absolutely committed to the target of 10,000 MW by 2010.
I am sure that hon. Members will want me to conclude my remarks, but I want to make a highly relevant point about anti-globalisation. I do not know whether there will be riots in Johannesburg. I hope not, because they would be extremely undesirable. Anti-globalisation protesters such as those whom we saw at Seattle—I saw them there—and at Genoa rightly identify some of the problems with globalisation. The system does not automatically address all needs—the needs of the poor or of the environment. Some say that a rising tide floats all boats but not if one's boat has a hole in it or if one does not have a boat.
It must be recognised that globalisation has brought many benefits to many people, but it has also marginalised many people. If it is to become more acceptable, it must become more inclusive and driven by environmental and social concerns not just economic ones. Indeed, it has to be more acceptable economically, too.
In 1996, direct foreign investment in developing countries was about $250 billion compared with official development assistance of $50 billion. Although that is five times more, it has been concentrated on a few richer developing countries. We need to find ways to channel private sector investment into many of the poorer developing countries. At the same time, however, we need to ensure—this will not be easy—that whatever private investment we encourage works for sustainable development. That means giving real teeth to corporate, social and environmental responsibility, and getting corporate transparency by, for example, implementing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines for multinational enterprises.
What of the specific issues for the Johannesburg summit? Sustainable energy is widely regarded as one of the central sustainable development challenges. It has close links with poverty and the climate change agenda. The hon. Member for Gordon was right to mention the need for a much more rapid development of renewables in the developing countries—as well as our own—so that their path to industrial prosperity is not powered by fossil fuels, which create the problems of pollution and climate destabilisation that we generated.
Another front runner at the summit is water and sanitation, whose importance I must emphasise. Some 1 billion people lack access to fresh, safe drinking water. That is amazing when we consider the wealth in the world. Some 2.4 billion people—about 40 per cent. of the entire world population—lack proper sanitation. The most shameful figure of all is that every year about 2 million children below the age of five die because of drinking contaminated water or from diarrhoea-related diseases.
The issue is complex. Poor people need access to water and sanitation, so we should provide water services. However, to pick up on what Mr. Redwood said, if countries are not properly managing their resources, there is no point plumbing in the entire nation for the taps to run dry. As 260 river basins lie in more than one country, there is more than enough scope for conflict over how best to manage those resources in an integrated way.
I am interested in what the Minister says about not allowing Governments to control their water supplies because they are so inefficient. I recently saw an example of that Ghana. If such services are run by private companies, how can he ensure that the poor will truly benefit, and not have expensive water instead of no water?
Once again, there are no ready and easy answers to that. We want proper regulation to ensure that that happens, but the rich world also has a responsibility. Presumably our companies will be responsible for improving water supplies and the water framework in developing countries. They will overwhelmingly do that properly and, I hope, efficiently. However, there are powers to ensure that they carry out what is expected of them.
I had intended to address the problem of climate change, but time is running out. One could perhaps be forgiven for wondering whether the summit is the answer. Summit overkill—I am told that the latest estimate of those who will attend is about 65,000—is not an excuse to duck out of taking the opportunity to address the big challenges. The summits are held about once every five years. We did not make much progress at the New York summit in 1997, but this time around people are much more focused on the real issues. If the world summit can produce an ambitious but achievable programme of practical action by a partnership of Government, business and non-governmental organisations, and if its implementation is regularly monitored over the next five years in all the areas of development that I mentioned, we might just secure not only a substantive advance in sustainable development, but a major step change towards more co-operative and socially conscious world Governments, which we all want. That is certainly a prize worth striving for.
The United Nations described Rio as a defining moment. It was, but we are 10 years on and the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development is in no small part an effort to put the rhetoric of Rio into practice. As a spokesman on international development, I am conscious of the charge of hypocrisy that the developing world levels against countries such as ours that have not made as much progress as they should have since Rio, but which still dictate to others less fortunate than ourselves what measures they should take to protect the plan.
I welcome the coupling of the environment with international development. We all know that in our constituencies the burning issues tend to be those close to home, such as infringements of the green belt or campaigns about housing schemes and landfill sites. At a global level, we are beginning to take on board the fact that how we live in our 24/7 throw-away society, and the amount of carbon emissions that results from it, causes global warming with—although this is still controversial—unpredictable climatic results.
Nearer to home, a WWF briefing document contains a statistic that is worth citing. It states that we could fill the Albert hall every hour with the refuse produced in this country. The Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs published a report in March last year on sustainable waste management. It found that the United Kingdom lags behind other developed countries in recycling, showing both apathy and a profound lack of imagination. In February this year, the World Economic Forum highlighted the fact that Britain has one of the poorest recycling records in the developed world. If the UK were to achieve a similar rate of re-use of municipal solid waste as Finland is aiming to achieve by 2005, carbon dioxide could be reduced by 14.8 million tonnes, which is the equivalent of taking 5.4 million cars off the road.
We want to encourage business enterprise, both here and in the developing world, but we also want business to embrace sustainable development. The challenge is to find and support sustainable industrial practices and to persuade industry to take up green methods. That is already happening: huge companies such as Shell and BP, traditionally regarded as the villains of the piece when it comes to the environment, are doing that across the world. Although the bulk of their business still depends on the exploitation of non-renewable resources, they are increasingly investing in renewable energy—wind energy, for example, and in the hydrogen storage units that make use of the emerging science of fuel cell technology, which some say could be used to power our vehicles in the future.
Such large companies are aware of their public image. They are sensitive to public opinion, a lesson of which we politicians constantly need to remind ourselves. In the past five years, BP has cut the level of its CO 2 emissions by 14 million tonnes. It has achieved that through efficiency and technology. I mention those examples to show that change is possible and that sustainability is good for business, too. Supermarkets are increasingly stocking organic food, and fair trade products are becoming big business. Outlets such as The Body Shop have shown how business and environmentally friendly ethics can be mutually beneficial.
I am aware that the burden of climate change levies on small businesses can seem like the final straw in an area already groaning under the weight of red tape and legislation. For a small manufacturing business near me in the west midlands that is struggling just to keep going, a bill for £38,000 for the climate change levy was the final straw. There should be more finesse in the way we try to fulfil our Kyoto protocol commitment to reduce our carbon emissions. There are examples of how other countries are doing that differently.
I have spoken already of the hypocrisy inherent in richer countries lecturing poorer ones on the benefits of environmental sustainability. In fact, we can learn a great deal from the developing world about the art of sustainable living, simply because it is the way people who live in the poorest countries of the world have to live. I was struck by that fact on a recent visit to India with Oxfam. The south of India is of course vegetarian, and while we are all busy filling the Albert hall with rubbish, figuratively speaking, the people there are eating food off banana leaves with their fingers, and then feeding the leaves to their cattle. That is a nice little metaphor for sustainable living. There is also an inescapable irony in the fact that with development comes the potential for unsustainable lifestyles.
Sustainable development is a different matter. It was defined at Rio as
"development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
No one could disagree with that ideal, but it is more easily realised in some areas of the world than in others.
At a recent debate at the Oxford Union on the motion that
"foreign aid has failed the developing world", one speaker made a thought-provoking observation. He begged to differ in his definition of the developing world, which he maintained was in fact a better description of our world, as the so-called developing world is not, in reality, developing.
Christian Aid's campaign "Listen to Africa", which was launched yesterday, is saying that too. The only two African countries that have sustainable debt, as defined by the World Bank, are Mozambique and Tanzania, which both export gold, a finite resource. Because of the collapse of the prices of almost everything every commodity except gold since
I am not saying that developing countries cannot make a difference. I can think of an arresting example in India. In Delhi, motor vehicles now run on liquid petroleum gas, which although not renewable is at least fume free. So the image of Delhi choked with rickshaws and cloaked in diesel fumes is now a thing of the past.
Where does that leave us? In the developed world the moral argument has been won, but the battle to make a difference has only just begun, and we can do better. I genuinely believe that businesses will increasingly make environmentally friendly decisions on how they run their companies. Any Government should encourage those practices with carrots, rather than sticks.
We all have a part to play in this. I challenge hon. Members to go home and do an environmental audit of the way we live. I am sure I am not the only one who has had to empty the contents of a black plastic rubbish sack in a frantic search for a set of lost car keys. What do those contents tell us? It is a catalogue of convenience where green principles are sacrificed on the altar of packaging and where plastic is king.
When it comes to the ballot box, it may be the state of our public services that preoccupies voters, but there is an undercurrent of change, a growing awareness of what is precious about this planet and a commitment to its survival. We are the guardians of its future, and as Shakespeare said in "Measure for Measure",
"dressed in a little brief authority," we have a duty to nurture and maintain it for future generations both on our little patch and in the wider world.
I am grateful to the Liberal Democrats for picking this important subject for debate. However, like my right hon. Friend the Minister, I think that the rather ungracious and pious attitude that they adopted is all too familiar from their contributions in other debates on similar issues. It would have been better to hear a rather more balanced account of how all parties could do a great deal more on environmental issues. Fortunately, we are all improving in our attitude, but we all have some way to go.
I want to restrict my comments to sustainable energy and climate change. Global warming is no longer a far away fear; it is a fact. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, we could not stop the global temperature rising. All we could do is slow the eventual rate of increase. The effects of global warming on the United Kingdom are not certain. If the gulf stream were to change direction, as some predict it will, our climate would cool dramatically. We are more likely to see a warmer and wetter climate, but as sea temperatures increase, sea levels will rise and many coastal areas will be swamped. We are sure to experience extremes in weather patterns.
The countries that will suffer most from those effects are not the developed countries, which have the finance and wherewithal to adapt, but the poorest countries in the world—the very countries that the Johannesburg summit is meant to be addressing. The problems of rising sea levels and climate change will affect the way in which countries can produce food. Population movements, which may be catastrophic and dramatic, will largely affect those third-world countries that are the poorest and the least able to deal with the effects. Although the precise effects are unknown, there is sure to be an impact that will reach right across the globe.
For that reason, most countries are part of the Kyoto process, trying to work together to reduce greenhouse gases. We in this country boast that we are determined to meet our Kyoto targets and that we are in the forefront of that process, and with some good reason. However, there is a danger of our becoming complacent. The amendment tabled by my party speaks of targets that we hope to reach in the future—10 or 12 years from now. I sincerely hope that the Minister is right, and that in 10 or 12 years he is rewarded for achieving those targets. I hope that he will be in at least his present position, if not a more elevated one, so that he can accept the praise of all parties in the House for that achievement.
If we look at what is being achieved now, however, we see that the picture is not so glorious. It is not clear to me that we have made much progress at all in the last few years. At the moment, 70 per cent. of our power is produced from fossil fuels; 27 per cent. is nuclear; and just 3 per cent. comes from renewable sources such as wind, wave, solar and hydro-electric. Of that 3 per cent., the vast majority is from hydro-electric production, which was developed, and to which we committed ourselves, several decades ago. We therefore have no right to demand great praise for that development. New renewable energy probably accounts for less than 1 per cent. of the total—not a glorious achievement.
Are we likely to make rapid progress towards the targets? The simple answer is, not unless we change our ways quite dramatically. I was annoyed by the Liberals' pious talk about the need for the Government to make progress, and by the response Malcolm Bruce gave when he was chided for the fact that Liberals in the Welsh Assembly had opposed wind farm energy production. I notice that not a single Welsh Liberal MP attended even the start of this debate. Furthermore, Mr. Williams, a Liberal, is vehement in his opposition to the siting of any wind farms in his constituency. Given that his constituency comprises a large proportion of the total land area of Wales, that is a bit of a problem.
I am not personalising the issue by confining my objections to the Liberals—well, I am a little bit. To be fair, we all need to examine the performance of our party, our local councils and so on. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy said, everyone is in favour of developing renewable energy in principle, but the difficulties arise when it comes to developing it in practice.
Although I support the motion, the hon. Gentleman has tempted me to enter the debate. He will know that the proposed site of the largest wind farm in the UK is in my constituency at Cefn Croes, but he might not know that the opposition to that project has come from, yes, local Liberal Democrats. Furthermore, the previous incumbent of the constituency that I now represent is one of the foremost opponents of that wind farm—so much so that he has refused to allow it even to pass electricity wires over his land.
I did not know that, but I am sure that the House is grateful for the information, which shows the difference between what the Liberals say and what they do. I do not want to be drawn into attacking only the Liberals, but as it was they who chose the subject of the debate and as their spokesman was so pious in attacking the Government, we should be informed about their actions at the local level. There is a slogan "Think globally, act locally"; well, the Liberals speak globally, then act locally in an entirely different fashion.
If we are to meet the ambitious targets that the Government have set, and I hope we do, we will have to act quickly, especially on planning issues. We must find a quicker, more efficient and reasonable way to deal with planning proposals; otherwise we will never be able to meet the targets. If we meet them without building any new nuclear power stations in the meantime, nuclear power will decline over the next 20 years. If we meet our ambitious targets, in 2020 we shall be producing about 20 per cent. of our power from renewable sources, but the 27 per cent. of our power that we currently derive from nuclear power will have declined to about 7 per cent. In other words, we will have lost the 20 per cent. accounted for by carbon-free nuclear generation and gained it back in carbon-free renewables generation. We will still be in exactly the same place as we are now—no progress made at all.
That is a difficult problem that can be resolved in only a few ways. The first is to forget about making any real progress towards the Kyoto targets. The second is to admit that those targets can be achieved only by building nuclear power stations as well. The third is to take the current ambitious renewables targets, double them, and take serious action to meet those new and much more ambitious targets. Those are the only options available. I would never accept reneging on our Kyoto targets, and I would prefer us to have the option of developing renewables at a far more ambitious rate than we are currently achieving so that we do not need to use nuclear power, but if that becomes impossible, nuclear power is a better option than polluting the world with global warming gases. We should admit that and deal with the difficult issues that arise from it.
I am glad to see that David King, the Government chief scientist, has set his mind to those difficult issues. I would like the Liberals to tell us their intentions in respect of each of those options, instead of saying all the politically popular things—
Does my hon. Friend accept that the chief scientist's recent statement referred specifically to the nuclear option as a possible interim solution, pending the full development of a renewables industry in the United Kingdom?
I am glad that my hon. Friend has made that point. That is indeed precisely what David King said, and I think that it may well be the best practical solution. The Government chief scientist also said that he hoped nuclear fusion would be developed. That is a long-held ambition—ever since I was at school, people have hoped that nuclear fusion would prove to be the answer to our power needs.
We have to examine how different parts of the United Kingdom contribute to the overall national target. Some work has been carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry, but when we look at the various targets set by the regions of the United Kingdom and at how they intend to achieve them, it is hard to see that they are all working towards the same economic, social and environmental strategy, because there are huge variations in the targets that the different regions propose to reach and in the ways they propose to reach them. Some intend to use wind power, others wave power, tidal power or biomass. The Government must provide greater co-ordination and direction on how to reach the targets if we are to have any realistic hope of success.
It is imperative that the UN conference on sustainable development should not merely become a talking shop. There is a risk that it might do so in focusing on the wrong policy at the wrong time. There is no clearer example of that than "Kyoto"—I put it in inverted commas because I use it as a piece of shorthand. If Kyoto is taken to Johannesburg, one might as well forget about real progress being made at the summit. Kyoto would divide the conference and it would mean disaster and a missed opportunity.
Developing countries are not yet even bound by the environmental targets set at Kyoto, so I was slightly surprised that, when the International Development Committee recently took evidence from officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one of the witnesses commented that the Johannesburg summit would not primarily be concerned with poverty reduction in developing countries. There is perhaps some confusion in the machinery of Government in Whitehall, because that comment was all the more surprising when one considers that the Department of International Development defines sustainable development as follows:
"livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintains or enhances its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base."
It is worth putting Johannesburg in the context of the process of arriving at a consensus on poverty eradication through a number of UN summits. The first part of the process were the millennium development goals, which sought agreement on poverty reduction, health and education, and progress on those at Johannesburg is as vital as the environment itself. The Cabinet Committee co-ordinating work on Johannesburg said in evidence submitted to the International Development Committee, which I chair, that the first priority is poverty reduction. That is essential.
The Environmental Audit Committee—whose Chairman I hope will catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker—made an excellent report to the House:
"We note that poverty eradication is emerging as a uniting theme for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We acknowledge that this issue is a prime candidate for a Summit agenda which is seeking to explore global problems in the context of their economic, social and environmental impacts".
Poverty eradication must be at the forefront and the substance of what Johannesburg is all about.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Environmental Audit Committee's report, with which, as a member of that Committee, I agree. Does he accept that also on the agenda in Johannesburg is sustainable energy, and the trick is to make sustainable energy work in favour of the poorest countries and in favour of their development? I agree with him about the real politics about Kyoto; we cannot take energy issues out of what is happening in Johannesburg.
That was why I put Kyoto in inverted commas. If Kyoto is on the agenda at Johannesburg there will simply be a bust-up, and that is why we need to approach the matter from the point of view of poverty eradication; and sustainable energy, sustainable water and sustainable livelihoods are all part of that.
From the millennium development goals we went to Doha and the Doha declaration, and from there we went to Monterrey. Monterrey was important. I am conscious that others want to speak so I shall keep my comments short. I am particularly conscious that the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee wishes to speak. Monterrey has focused national Governments on international development, but they now need to focus their minds on more money for international development.
The World Bank estimates that something up to $60 billion will be needed to meet the 2015 targets. Non-governmental organisations have estimated that figure at $100 billion. At Monterrey, the US and the EU, the developed world, pledged an investment of $12 billion by 2006, well short of what the Government acknowledge in the Budget Red Book is needed. It is worth noting that current GDP spending on overseas aid reflects only one fifth of that provided to Europe under the Marshall plan.
It is essential that countries do not simply produce a wish list of action points at Johannesburg. They must ensure that they will the means to achieve those action points. There is a clear correlation of objectives between Monterrey and Johannesburg, which is succinctly expressed in the Environmental Audit Committee's report on Johannesburg, to whose comments about poverty eradication I referred. It went on:
"We therefore hope that the Government will endeavour to ensure that any additional resources agreed at Monterrey are linked explicitly to key action programmes to be discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development rather than relegating the Summit to a rehearsal of old stalemates on development policy."
I certainly support that view.
After Johannesburg, three important UN conferences will have taken place this year. They form part of a process, but there is a danger that the international community will merely keep on coming up with new initiatives for international development. Instead of doing that, it should deliver on the pledges made at Doha, Monterrey and—it is to be hoped—Johannesburg. We should have a process that is monitored. I hope that either in an annual debate on international development or on some other occasion, we in the House can monitor the progress that our Government have made on meeting the commitments that we as a nation entered into at Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg.
We must concentrate on that process, rather than on running around for ever trying to dream up new initiatives. We need continually to ensure—this a point that we must all bang on about—that we will the means. The Environmental Audit Committee said:
I do not understand why it is not possible for the Government to find a ministerial form of words about when the 0.7 per cent. target can be met.
I understand the Chancellor's reluctance not to be hijacked into making what he might see as too early a commitment. He said yesterday in the International Development Committee that when the comprehensive spending review was published, he would give a commitment for the life of that review on the extent to which he could raise international development spending. Why not find a form of words that gives some meaningful commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target, rather than a statement that we are pledged to meet it some time? We have been pledged to meeting it some time for some very considerable time.
The Chancellor also acknowledges that the international community is short of what is needed to meet the pledges made at Monterrey. We have heard a lot about the international development trust fund, although we discovered yesterday that it is not a fund but a facility. On listening to the Chancellor's evidence, it struck me that the fund resembles a reinvention of part of the World Bank. I am not entirely sure why we need to reinvent the World Bank, because there is a shortfall in the funds that are necessary for international development. The point is simple: Johannesburg is part of a process of UN conferences and we need to ensure that we deliver on the commitments, but we will not be able to do so unless the international community collectively pledges and provides the funds that are necessary to take those commitments forward.
Time is short, but I should like briefly to speak about the need for realism at Johannesburg. I hope that we will not see a split or spat between what one might describe as environmental NGOs and developing countries that are concerned about their development. My right hon. Friend Mr. Redwood made an interesting point that we all need to address. We in the west and north—the developed world—have had centuries of investment that continues to bring us rewards and riches. This week, Christian Aid brought to the House a number of witnesses from Africa who told us about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and Ghana. People in such countries are living in desperate poverty and for them, the debate is not about wind power, fusion or nuclear energy; very often, is it simply about how to find firewood and the means for getting through the next day. That is what constitutes sustainable development for them. We must not patronise them by suggesting that the only way of ensuring sustainable development is by somehow suppressing development in the developing countries. They, too, are entitled to sustainable development and should be encouraged to that end. I hope that we can find a language and a vocabulary at Johannesburg that ensures a truly sustainable world while allowing poor countries to break off and emerge from the grinding yoke of poverty that has borne down on them for far too long.
The journey from Rio to Johannesburg is the journey from policies to programmes. It is important for hon. Members to recognise that that is what people expect the United Kingdom delegation to contribute to and to deliver as an outcome of the Johannesburg discussions. To put it on a global scale, it is an agenda of targets and time scale. I shall not labour that point, because the Minister is aware of the importance of targets and time scale as regards a matter to do with the home front—more specifically, the warm homes front, where the issues of targets and time scale are an exact local reflection of what must be addressed globally in Johannesburg.
We should pay tribute to the achievements of this Labour Government, while not seeking to duck the challenges on the path ahead of us. For me, the starting point remains the Deputy Prime Minister's important achievement in delivering the Kyoto agreement. It was he who, at the very last minute, managed to pluck an agreement out of the fire that was constructed around the phrase "contraction and convergence". That is based on the belief that we in the industrial and developed world have to find a way of living differently: not living poorer lives, but living less wasteful, polluting and destructive lives. It is in many ways a path to a different sense of richness. The convergence principle is based on allowing the developing world to share in the sense of the possibility of sustainable lifestyles based on dignity and opportunity. There is a rightness about the symmetry of that contract.
When the Deputy Prime Minister succeeded in bringing back the Kyoto agreement for ratification and laying it before the House, that was the right thing, not only for a Labour Government, but for this country, to do. I have no doubt whatsoever that we will ratify it, nor that we will meet and exceed those targets. That will be an enormous challenge, but we will get there. We should put on the record our thanks to the Deputy Prime Minister for standing on that ground and continuing to do so.
For billions of people in the developing world, the other side of the agenda is survival. For the 1.2 billion people who live on less than $1 a day, the question of survival in a more sustainable future will be judged on whether they are there tomorrow, the day after that and the week after that. It is not possible to say that in 10, 20 or 30 years' time everything will be different. For many of those people, the difference will be between being alive and being dead.
I am sure that there will be anti-globalisation protesters in Johannesburg, and I encourage the UK delegation to attempt to understand what they are trying to tell us. They will say that the 49 poorest countries on the planet currently contribute less than 0.5 per cent. of global gross domestic product—a pitiful sum that is made even worse by the recognition that 20 years ago those countries contributed twice as much to global GDP. The protesters will also point out that the nature of globalisation has made the poor poorer. We need to understand the transition—almost a sea change—in international trade in the past 50 years.
The point where that dramatic change began was 1980. In the previous 30 years, the poorest countries on the planet had made genuine gains in per capita gross national product that improved the quality of their lives. Per capita GDP increased in Latin America by 73 per cent. and in Africa, by 34 per cent. However, in the subsequent two decades, GDP growth in Latin America was almost static—6 per cent. in 20 years. In Africa, GDP has fallen by 23 per cent. So much has been driven by the sacrifices that the poorest parts of the planet have been required to make on the altar of globalisation.
The ability of the poorest countries to say that they would produce to meet their needs first led to almost all the achievements in genuine per capita growth. They were based on assumptions about import substitution, not production for export, and on the notion that those countries could construct protective barriers. I believe that the tariffs were deemed acceptable because they were perceived as an effective barrier against the spread of communism. They were therefore allowed and encouraged, and that made the countries in question objectively richer.
Post-1980, in the era of market liberalisation, all the rights of the poorest countries have been stripped away. Consequently, the poor are now poorer. The anti-globalisation protesters will try to require the rest of us to tackle that. They will concentrate on at least four themes, and this evening I want to try to consider climate change, water, food and sustainable lifestyles rather than sustainable profits.
We must start by making our contribution to tackling climate change. I am pleased that a Labour Government provided the first fuel poverty strategy of any Government anywhere on the planet. We have set a target of eliminating fuel poverty in this country in 15 years. That is an ambitious target, which we will achieve. We will be helped to do that by passing the private Member's Bill that my hon. Friend Dr. Turner has promoted. The time scale has been slightly delayed, but the measure will be passed by the end of July. It has formed the basis of setting and fulfilling our targets. Let us consider the way in which we can share that.
I ask the Minister and the delegation that goes to Johannesburg to take with them a microcosm of a strategy that might work in a different, internationalised future for the 21st century: a lovely programme in this country called the BedZED approach. It is about changing housing standards by design. There is a twinning process between Sutton, where the programme was developed in this country, and Johannesburg. The programme results not only in a 90 per cent. reduction in domestic heating costs, but in the use of sustainable materials in the construction of housing, and building a sustainable infrastructure to support it. It is a wonderful cameo of what we have to share and the way in which approaches can be gifted internationally. I hope that Ministers will derive some credit for that twinning transaction, which we will have to replicate on a bigger scale throughout the century.
We must also tackle renewable energy, which hon. Members are right to discuss. The United Kingdom has set itself a target of 10 per cent. by 2010. It is important to achieve that and go further. Of course it is right to point out that, in the same time scale, Germany will try to develop 100,000 properties that are heated by renewable energy. At the same time, Japan has set itself a target of 1 million homes powered by renewable energy.
We must look at those targets and reconsider, because in the poorest parts of the planet, as well as in the more remote parts of our own lands, this approach will allow us to deliver real savings in terms of a reduction of greenhouse gasses. We must do that if we are to have anything credible to say to the 2 billion people on the planet who have no access to electricity of any sort. They are not in anyone's energy loop. We must reach out and connect them to the more renewable and mobile sources of energy supply.
The Minister pointed out that 2 million people die each year because they do not have access to uncontaminated water. One billion people do not have access to safe water. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has pointed out that there will have to be an 80 per cent. increase in crop production by 2030, but on current calculations, we shall have access to only a 12 per cent. increase in water supply.
That will present an enormous challenge, and we shall not be able to meet it if we saddle ourselves with the approach adopted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the debt cancellation programmes that we are attempting to pioneer. We must consider what goes alongside debt cancellation. This is not a question of whether we cancel debt in areas of conflict. Rather, we must examine the conditionality agreements that are foisted on the countries that accept debt cancellation.
Bolivia, for example, was forced to give away its water supply free of charge to a London-based water company. The result was that the company increased its water charges to the poor by 35 per cent. There were riots in the town of Cochabamba, and the armed forces were brought in to suppress a domestic population that was rioting because it could not get access to water that was being priced out of its reach. Similarly, debt cancellation conditions in Tanzania required the Government there to introduce charges for health and education. In Ecuador, the privatisation of the energy industry resulted in an 80 per cent. increase in gas charges.
That is the basis on which the World Development Movement recently issued a report called "States of Unrest II", which documented 77 issues of major conflict around the globe that countries affected by debt relief were experiencing as a result of a fire sale of their primary assets. The poor have a right to be angry with us if we are extracting that kind of price for debt cancellation. That is not debt relief; it is a different kind of indebtedness, and it gives people a different sense of desolation about what the future holds.
We have to go back to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's objective—that the priorities and the connectedness between food and water for the next century must involve our getting "more crop per drop". That is its argument on how we should approach the needs of the developing world, and it must bring with it a recognition that we should not ask the developing world to abandon sustainable agriculture systems based on meeting their own needs in favour of shifting to more water-intensive programmes for intensive agriculture, to produce for export.
A dependency on exporting their primary crops was precisely what got many of the developing countries into real debt. They produced those crops so well that it resulted in a collapse in commodity price and, unable to use hard currency earnings to buy their way out of debt, the only thing that remained unaffected was the scale of the dollar debts that they were expected to pay off in the face of those collapsed commodity prices.
The industrial world has to recognise that we must offer developing countries a different choice. We cannot judge them on the basis of their inability to feed us. They must have the opportunity to feed themselves before they think about doing that. Part of that agenda must include developing countries' right—which we support—to say no to the imposition of GM crop technologies, which will only accelerate the water demands of the intensive agriculture systems that they seek to underpin. We must give those nations the right we would assert for our own citizens: the right to say no to development that would endanger prospects of survival.
Let me say something about sustainable lifestyles as opposed to sustainable profits. In Johannesburg there will be huge corporate pressures for sustainability to be redefined around the notion of profitability. That will provide no answers for the developing world, or for us.
This is the best single example I can give. When Maneka Gandhi was India's Environment Minister, she came to this country at about the time when we were beginning to talk about chlorofluorocarbon and hydrofluorocarbon pollutants in our fridges. I know that this is another sensitive subject for the Minister, and I do not want to rub salt in the wound, but this is what the Environment Minister told us. She said, "We realise you have a problem. I suspect that if the United Kingdom set itself a serious target, it could remove all its polluting fridges within a decade. That would probably require you to replace 20 million fridges. It would create lots of work, and you would feel incredibly virtuous. At the end of the decade, you would look for international praise. At the end of the same decade, however, India alone will contain 200 million households that have legitimately sought the right to own a fridge. According to the development model of the last century, you will have palmed off all your polluting fridges on us and called it aid. What we really need is the opportunity to be part of a sustainable global agenda, but that must be a gift relationship that gives us access to technologies that will allow us to produce better lifestyles without destroying the prospects for others."
That, I hope, is the keystone of any test of any agreement that this country will stand up for and bring back from Johannesburg.
I have declared my interests in the Register of Members' Interests.
There is a central tension, referred to in the report accompanying the debate, between development and the need to clean up the planet. I do not think that we heard any serious attempt to reconcile the two—except in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend Tony Baldry, who said that, if forced to choose, he would choose development and greater prosperity for the world's poorer nations rather than meeting ever more demanding targets for control of pollution.
How, I asked Malcolm Bruce, would the Liberal Democrats resolve that obvious tension? The hon. Gentleman replied that he would want to see a global target for ensuring that pollution fell year on year world wide, whatever the rate of growth and whatever the rate of increase in pollution from the world's poorest countries. That is a noble aim, but a dangerous aim for anyone in government, or serious about governing, to recommend.
We cannot know how successful development policies will be, and we cannot know how many millions of Chinese or Indians will soon have fridges and cars, and far greater energy demands. It would be quite wrong of us in the rich west to tell those people that they have no right to enjoy the energy-intensive technologies that have powered our prosperity in recent decades, and it would be very difficult for us to say that we will definitely tax and regulate ourselves stringently enough—in the way that Liberal Democrats usually recommend—to offset all the potentially huge growth in energy use in the developing world.
I am sure that those who have spoken today—including the Minister—who are angry about poverty in the third world, about the deaths of children and about the hundreds of millions who have no access to fresh water of a decent standard or to energy of any kind that we would recognise are right to be angry. I am sure that our priority should be to extend the hand of friendship, trade, prosperity and technology to the hundreds of millions in the dozens of countries all over the world who have no access to the most rudimentary of the home and creature comforts that we all take for granted. That surely must be the priority of this mighty summit as, once again, 65,000 people assemble to try to put the world to rights.
If we ask ourselves what the UK Government can do to tackle the monumental poverty that disfigures our world, we realise that the issues are too numerous to mention in this short debate, but let me highlight just a few. The first is surely that where we have influence and the ability to use it for the good, we must try to stem the conflicts and move developing countries towards regimes that put economic prosperity and liberty ahead of war and of declaring war on their own people for their own political ends. There is no credit to be gained by advancing money in the form of grant or loan to regimes that use it to buy new Mercedes for the generals running the country and new military hardware to repress their poor people if they dare to complain about the rotten system under which they live.
I ask the Minister to remind the House of the Government's policy, which I support, of not offering grant or debt retirement to regimes that will clearly abuse our money and our trust. It was not easy for the Secretary of State to defend that policy and I admire the fact that she has done so, but we need to go beyond that and move from the negative to the positive.
We need to use our influence and that of the other rich countries who are our allies and friends both in the Americas and in the European Union to try to move more countries into a position where they can establish a civil society. Without a civil society and the rule of law, there is absolutely no chance of those countries having the opportunity to become better off and have decent food and water. If we cannot support Governments and regimes and forces of legitimate opposition that wish to establish a decent civil society, we will have no chance of doing all the other wonderful things that we would like to do to help their development, such as encouraging private sector investment and money flows, which are usually the best way of securing prosperity.
We should understand that not only does five times as much money flow from the private sector to the developing world as from Governments, but that the money that flows from the private sector to the private sector in developing countries is much more useful in lifting the living standards and aspirations of people than is much of the Government-to-Government money. Many good studies show how much Government-to- Government money is wasted or diverted into less legitimate causes by the Governments who receive it. Even where we believe that to some extent a regime is worth backing, corruption or misappropriation still occurs, making it difficult for the subjects of that country to benefit.
Finally, we should attempt to understand the mighty log in our eye when we look at the moral issue of the world's poor. Surely the biggest log in our eye, collectively, in the European Union and in the UK is the common agricultural policy. Many developing countries are most likely to produce crops for export before they have industrial products for export. I understand the point made by Alan Simpson, but one of the best opportunities that these countries have is to sell agricultural exports for hard currency. One reason why the global markets are so depressed is that the EU runs a protection racket in many sectors, so that a big block of the world's most mighty and rich countries is not generating sufficient demand on the world markets to encourage developing economies.
I welcome all the charities and interest groups from outside the House who have been lobbying and will continue to lobby for fair trade. It is a very good idea, but it must also be reflected in Government policy on the EU. We have heard for many years from Governments of both persuasions about reforming the CAP. We have heard from this Government that they have far more influence in Brussels than the outgoing Conservative Government had. Would it not be good if we could be told tonight that at last this influence will work and there will be some reform of the CAP that will be good for consumers and taxpayers here in Britain? It would be very good for the world's poorest countries if some of that protection racket were at last torn down and their farmers given the chance of a decent life.
I believe that we in the rich United Kingdom should make ever bigger contributions to reducing the pollution that we inject into the planet's atmosphere. We have made good strides, and we need to make more. The two most dramatic developments in recent years came about in rather surprising ways. Following the privatisation of the electricity industry, it suddenly became possible to build the combined cycle gas stations that the nationalised monopoly always refused to build. We leapt from about 38 per cent. fuel efficiency to 55 or 60 per cent., which made a huge difference to the amount of pollution that we churn out.
As Mr. Jones pointed out in a thoughtful contribution, this Government now face an even bigger challenge. The previous, Conservative Government were able to implement a super-green privatisation policy, which made far and away the biggest contribution to our success so far in reducing pollution. We now need from this Government a policy on what to do when the nuclear stations need to be replaced. If they are not going to replace nuclear with nuclear—it is very unlikely that they can replace it with non-fossil fuel of any other kind, given the pathetic efforts so far—what else do they intend to do to get us back to where we should be? We will take a mighty step backwards if nuclear stations are replaced by gas, or some other fossil fuel technology.
Paradoxically, the second area in which we have made enormous strides is the pariah—according to the Liberal Democrat lexicon on environmental matters—of the motor car. Huge improvements have been made in the performance of the typical family saloon in the past decade. Current family saloons pollute to only about 4 per cent. of the extent of comparable vehicles built some 12 or 15 years ago. That has been achieved through a combination of incentive, technology and regulation. Such massive improvement shows that technology in free markets can make a big contribution to cleaning up the planet. We now need to make a similar attack on pollution from old and dirty diesel railway locomotives, and from old and dirty diesel buses. We have not renewed the bus and train fleet as quickly as the car fleet, so proportionately public transport vehicles—particularly those that are not used by enough passengers—pollute more than do the modern versions of motor cars.
I hope that the Government want the car industry to progress from 30 or 40 mpg vehicles to 80 or 90 mpg vehicles. The technology exists, and it can be done. I hope, too, that they want to make yet further progress in cleaning up exhausts through a mixture of incentive and regulation. That brings me to a very important principle. We make so much more progress if we work with the grain of human nature by offering incentive, rather than working against it by trying to stop people enjoying our society's marvellous inventions through a mixture of high taxation and regulation. The two successes in green policy—first, under a Conservative Government, and now under a Labour Government—involved offering a tax discount for good conduct, rather than clobbering people for alleged bad conduct. The Conservatives began getting rid of lead in petrol by offering an incentive to buy unleaded fuel, and this Government are getting rid of sulphur in petrol by offering a similar discount. That is an excellent scheme; let us go on with it.
One major way in which we can contribute to greening our country—and thereby modestly contribute to greening the planet—is to use a similar range of tax incentives to tackle the dirt and pollution generated by the typical home heating system. A generation of boilers that are very old—compared with the average age of car engines—and inefficient remains in use. Many homes are not properly thermally insulated. A few small programmes exist to help people on low incomes get better insulation and achieve better fuel efficiency in the home, but we need to attack the problem much more manfully. In terms of pollution, the space heating problem is far bigger than the car problem. We also need to establish a better tax incentive policy to tackle the abuse of waste, to which reference has already been made.
I am conscious that many other hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall conclude by urging the Government to put development ahead of everything else at the summit. It is the blight of poverty that we should be most appalled at and worried by. The Government should understand that we need to contribute to stronger regimes that can create a civil society, and to back the private sector, which will be the main agent for change and improvement in such countries. We need desperately to deal with our common agricultural policy problem, and with the other remaining barriers to trade within our European trading framework.
We need to make much better strides at home towards greening our own country. However, that should be done by judicious regulation and tax discount, and not by treating anyone who drives a car or behaves in a way that the Government do not like as a pariah who must be taxed out of existence.
We can enjoy the benefits of modern technology, and we can make them ever greener. Wealth and technology will win the battle against pollution, not taxation and backward thinking.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Redwood. He is always thought-provoking and provocative, but I thought that his declaration of support for the previous, Conservative Government's energy policy omitted mention of the huge destruction caused to many mining communities by the extremely vindictive policies pursued by his party in government. That is a classic example of how not to promote sustainable development and the greening of policy in the UK.
The Government deserve considerable praise for the seriousness of their preparations for the Johannesburg summit. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was the first international leader to commit himself to attend the summit, and the way in which my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretaries of State for International Development and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have engaged in the preparations for it is hardly consistent with the lack of enthusiasm that Malcolm Bruce tried to depict.
I shall support the Government's amendment tonight, but whoever drafted it might usefully have included a series of other policy measures that the Government have introduced. They include, for example, the launch of the renewables obligation, the extra £200 million that will go to develop our renewables industry, and the publication only today of the UK's combined heat and power strategy. They are all examples of other measures that the Government have taken to promote sustainability in the UK.
I want briefly to highlight three specific issues on which more needs to be done. I welcome the good judgment shown once again by Mr. Speaker in selecting for debate in Westminster Hall next week the subject of renewable energy. The debate will be opened by the hon. Member for Harrow, West, and I hope that my hon. Friend Mr. Jones—who has rightly highlighted the need for us to stimulate the take-up of sustainable energy in a variety of ways—will participate too.
Combined heat and power is a neglected source of energy. The Government have gone some way towards addressing the matter with the publication today of their CHP strategy. However, there are other things that need to be done when it comes to implementing the strategy.
The decision of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the Budget to exempt CHP fully from the climate change levy was welcome, but it must be implemented swiftly and effectively if the mood and climate in the CHP industry are to be turned around. I understand that there could be a delay before the measure comes into force, as EU approval for such state aid is required. However, I hope that the Government will act speedily to ensure that that approval is secured.
As I mentioned in my intervention on my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, who opened the debate for the Government, there is urgent need for reform of the new electricity trading arrangements. The way in which Ofgem has tried to drag its feet in the matter is unacceptable. Representatives of the CHPA and Ofgem met only last week, but Ofgem's chief executive, Mr. McCarthy, seemed entirely unable to spell out how Ofgem intended to resolve the problem.
Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that in its evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, Ofgem said that it had not yet been issued with the statutory environmental guidelines that the Department of Trade and Industry is supposed to issue? Is he concerned that Ofgem's attitude towards NETA and renewable energy has been governed by a narrow interpretation of the legislation and not by the wider context that those statutory guidelines would have helped to create? Will he join me in urging the Government to introduce those guidelines, as there is an obvious failing in Ofgem?
As I indicated, I have grave concerns about Ofgem's behaviour in this context. I do not accept its argument that it is the Government's fault. The Government have made their views on what they want Ofgem to do very clear. Frankly, Ofgem needs to get on with it quickly.
I hope that the Government will take advantage of the powers in the Utilities Act 2000 to create a CHP obligation in the same way as the obligation has been created for renewables. I also hope that there will be a correction of what appears to be a genuine mistake that has imposed the full costs of the renewables obligation on, ironically, CHP schemes, causing unintended significant additional costs for many CHP developers.
My second point concerns steps that could be taken to promote business consideration of environmental issues such as climate change and waste minimisation. My right hon. Friend the Minister quite rightly touched on the importance of promoting corporate social responsibility. Some large businesses have, through the production of environmental reports, already begun to address sustainable development at boardroom level. Over the past 10 years, a whole industry has virtually been created around corporate social and environmental reporting. There are very good examples of businesses reporting on environmental and other issues. However, much more could be done in the business world. The Prime Minister rightly issued a challenge to the top 300 FTSE companies to produce a substantive environmental report. The truth is that some two thirds have not yet responded properly to that challenge.
The time has come for us to consider whether we need to require companies of a certain size to publish meaningful information on their environmental performance every year so that consumers, shareholders and investors can judge how they have performed in that area. It is superficially attractive to argue that voluntary initiatives should be left to work and that simply urging and chiding the business world is enough, but there have been examples of the voluntary approach not working. The energy rating scheme, for example, was developed throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The then Government declined for several years to set any standards but eventually had to intervene to clarify the confusion that was created. That is an example of the merit of requiring a certain basic level of environmental information to be published by all major companies.
When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was at the Department of Trade and Industry, she quite rightly established the company law review, which published its final report in July last year. A key recommendation of the report was to have a new requirement on most large public companies to produce an operating and financial review as part of the company's annual report. It was suggested that sets of both mandatory and voluntary information should be published in that review. Sadly, it was recommended that the voluntary category should include all policies and performance on environmental issues. I hope that Ministers will not accept that suggestion, but instead require big business to publish certain basic environmental indicators.
Last year, DEFRA published a series of environmental indicators that businesses could use. They set out how businesses could work up information and clear guidance was offered on three key points: greenhouse gas emissions; waste disposal; and water usage. It would be useful if businesses could publish information on those points and I hope Ministers will consider that requirement.
Mrs. Spelman referred to waste. Although I welcome the fact that the performance and innovation unit is considering that issue, there is scope for a debate in this place to reflect the considerable concern in many of our communities about the scourge of litter and the increasingly rapid escalation of household waste.
I hope that Ministers will respond to those points and that we can make further progress on taking up the sustainability challenge in the UK.
In February, Margot Wallstrom, the EU Environment Commissioner, said:
"We cannot keep coming back from world gatherings with impressive commitments and fine words that we then leave in a corner of our offices to gather dust."
Since Kyoto, there has been some danger that, as she feared:
"Our implementation deficit will quickly turn into a credibility gap".
It is reasonable to expect developed countries to take action before they commit themselves and to pursue economic growth in a way that does not break environmental limits.
The agenda for the world summit has moved on; it is no longer purely environmental but offers the opportunity to provide a framework for the integration of trade, development, environment and social questions. That is understandable given the rapid escalation of issues relating to trade, justice and debt that so affect the poorest countries of the world.
The Government have tended to focus their attention on support for those countries in the key aspects of water, energy, health, food security and governance. How far have we moved towards meeting our responsibilities, however? What has happened since Rio? How can we make sure that we use the impetus of Johannesburg to energise our initiatives to meet our responsibilities? We must ensure that we do not miss the opportunities offered by Johannesburg.
The UK Government must use the momentum of the Johannesburg process to strengthen their commitment to the centrality of sustainable development at all levels in the UK. We must firmly entrench sustainable strategies and their regular monitoring in national, regional and local government. Too often, there is a gap between central Government, who initiate measures—on waste management, for example—and local government which wants to implement them but does not have the means to do so.
The debate has been wide ranging, although I know that hon. Members wanted to cover many more points. We have many more questions about the Government's plans and we could have done with more time. When we consider what the Government are doing, we find that there are many principles but not much practice. The Government's website defines sustainable development. It gives the history, objectives and guiding and precautionary principles, but instruments and mechanisms, strategies and legislation are yet to come. We need them now.
We need targets and timetables for many aspects of sustainable development. As the Secretary of State for International Development said, we do not merely need the odd renewable energy project. We need to ensure that, as the poorest nations develop their economies, they do not make the same mistakes as we did with fossil fuels.
We need to strengthen our own renewable energy businesses so that we can offer development help to those who need it. We have been missing a trick; Germany has moved much faster than us and is offering such help—we should be doing the same.
We can do much more to promote green electricity, perhaps with publicity. I am sorry that Mr. Jones thinks that we are not doing enough. Perhaps he does not read our strategies for green energy by 2050—we have the long term in view. I wish that I could persuade London Electricity to do what I say and give me my green tariff. I have pleaded with London Electricity for that tariff. We want it; we try to deliver.
Energy is fundamental to economic and social development. It is fundamental to human economic activity and access to services. We need those services not just for ourselves; we must demand them for others as well. Some 2 billion people lack access to modern energy services. If they are to achieve decent standards of living by using traditional fossil fuels, the impact on the planet will be totally devastating.
What are we doing at home? We still have concerns at home. People are saying that the Home Energy Conservation Bill is wonderful. Yes, we know that it is wonderful. Like everyone else, we have been asking for the Bill, yet it is like being left waiting at the church. On Second Reading, the Government said that they support the Bill. HECA officers—the people who implement the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995—want to deliver the proposals at local government level. They are waiting for the Bill and they are saying, "What is the point if there are no targets? We might as well not bother."
We have a letter from the Minister without Portfolio in which he says that the Government have supported that Bill at every stage and will continue to do so, yet we have a problem every time that we try to include targets in the Bill. It was intended to deliver sustainable energy targets to reduce greenhouse gases, but the Government have moved amendments to remove those targets.
"The hon. Gentleman made a just point about whether the Bill was adequately funded. I am glad to assure him that, in our view, it certainly is."—[Hansard, 14 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 125.]
However, he also suggested that the Bill could not be funded because the money was not there. So the Bill will come back and we will all troop in again, but I hope that the Government will not persuade the Bill's promoter to talk it out. I hope that it will be enacted. We are debating our role on the world stage, so it will be a matter of shame if we cannot even implement the Home Energy Conservation Bill.
I realise that hon. Members are waiting to hear the winding-up speeches in this very interesting debate, but many other issues could be covered. Hon. Members have referred to waste management and the problem that waste is being created faster than the economy is developing. Plastic bottles are being recycled and made into drainage tubes, but the company that does that work in the United Kingdom is importing bottles from Belgium because the Government have failed to implement a sustainable waste strategy that works.
We still have to deal with the challenges about sustainable timber. Hon. Members will remember that the Government had to back-track on all the comings and goings and silliness about the wood that was used in the Cabinet Office.
Even DFID, of all Departments, cannot guarantee that it is using sustainable timber. There is a hell of a long way to go before we can hold up our heads. We have got tough challenges ahead. We want the Government to lead the country so that we do well. All hon. Members would support that view, but we must not fool ourselves.
It is a joke to talk about people using cleaner cars in the south-east, when they are sitting in traffic jams, going nowhere and public transport is being dismantled. Listening to people say that we need cleaner buses, when buses have been deregulated and are scarcely economic to run, will not do a lot about fuel emissions, which is an important issue. We wish the Government well; we will measure them on their performance, but we will support all that they do in their work in Johannesburg.
This has been a very good debate, but, sadly, not nearly long enough. Many hon. Members still want to speak, and I hope that, between the Bali preparatory conference and Johannesburg, the Government will have a proper debate on sustainable development on the Floor of the House. There is so much to be said which has not been said this evening.
My hon. Friend Malcolm Bruce talked about genuine partnerships between rich and poor, in which he was echoed by many other Members, and about the fact that we must not take the lion's share of the Earth's resources. He made his point strongly about the lack of consultation by the Secretary of State and the lack of information to the House about what will happen at Johannesburg, which is disgraceful, and he criticised the USA for turning its back on the poor of the world.
The Minister for the Environment, who said many good things and made a very interesting speech, was nevertheless very much on the defensive about the meeting at Bali. He told us that, amazingly, 65,000 people will be at Johannesburg. I do not know how many aeroplanes that will involve, but I do know that, in terms of CO 2 emissions, one flight to Johannesburg and back is the equivalent of one car driven for a whole year. I hope that Johannesburg is worthwhile because it will contribute hugely to global warming.
Mrs. Spelman gave her usual careful and meticulous analysis, and especially emphasised the amount of waste in the north and in developing countries. I have never lost my car keys in a black bag, but I did drop them down a street drain in Birmingham once. The street cleansing department became involved while my children bawled inside the car because they could not get at their mother. Looking back, it was quite fun.
Tony Baldry rightly said that there are too many conferences and too many pledges. The processes take place all over again, but who monitors our progress? That point was echoed by my hon. Friend Sue Doughty, who said that we must monitor ourselves and look at where all the agreements and treaties are going, rather than just making more of them.
I am glad that renewable forms of energy were mentioned by many hon. Members—the subject dominated the debate. The Minister for the Environment talked at length about renewable forms of energy, which were also mentioned by the hon. Members for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas)—he always makes a good contribution, but, unfortunately, was not able to make a speech tonight—and my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon, who mentioned the Greenpeace and Body Shop campaign for more renewable forms of energy in the third world, of which I hope that the House will take note. The issue was also mentioned by the hon. Members for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) and for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas).
The hon. Member for Nottingham, South mentioned problems with water, too, as did the Minister for the Environment. Getting clean water to the people of this world is crucial, and is as important as education. If we can rank factors in development in order of importance, clean water is certainly very high on the list.
Trade and the common agricultural policy were dealt with by many hon. Members, but particularly by the Minister for the Environment and Mr. Redwood, who made a useful and thoughtful contribution.
One of the less publicised international development goals in all our documents and White Papers is the implementation of national strategies for sustainable development in all countries by 2005 to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed, at global and national levels, by 2015. That is very difficult in poor countries. My gut reaction, which I am sure that other hon. Members who have been to third world countries share, is to want to give those countries as much as possible as quickly as possible.
As the right hon. Member for Wokingham said, people in third world countries want electricity, fridges, hot water and cars, just as we do. The lifestyle that they lead may sometimes look picturesque to us, but it is not much fun for them. If we point out the problems of sustainability, environmental damage and child labour to them, they will say, "You did all those things in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nobody preached to you about the damage you were doing to the world. We want what you have." If they are to get those things—which they deserve and should get—we must make sacrifices ourselves. We must give way and use less energy. Above all, we must lead by example on issues such as renewable sources of energy.
How many of us have seen examples of projects that have been supported by UK Government aid or by Export Credits Guarantee Department and World Bank loans and have not been sustainable? I remember that members of the Select Committee on International Development visited the Jinja dam in Uganda. It was a fine project, but the dam was crumbling because it had not been properly maintained. Only last week, I was studying the water supply system in Accra which, over the past 30 years, has been funded by the World Bank and the UK. The Ghanaian water authority is maintaining the system so badly that 52 per cent. of the water is wasted. No wonder the World Bank and the Department for International Development are talking about looking for private contractors.
However, as I have said, there are difficulties with privatisation. It is fine but we must remember the poor. There is no point in privatising if the poor cannot afford the commodity provided. That point must be borne constantly in mind. All future projects must be sustainable over the long term. The main aim should be sustainability and relief of poverty and not profit for companies in the north, although I appreciate that that is a factor.
We have not heard much about the behaviour of transnational companies and the multinationals. I want to touch on that point briefly, because some of them have a turnover that is much larger than that of many countries. Those companies have a huge responsibility on their shoulders for the future of the environment, global warming and the planet. Many guidelines, compacts and codes of conduct deal with their behaviour, but they must be made compulsory. In particular, the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development must be enforceable. Could they not be incorporated into the criteria for licence applications considered by the ECGD? There must be some way of ensuring that large companies behave.
I thought that there was going to be no mention of forestry, but my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford referred to the subject just before I rose to speak. I thank her for that. I and other Members will remember the regions and rivers in Colombia where illegal logging and deforestation is going on apace. It is difficult to travel on the rivers in Colombia because they are silting up. Whole tracts of south America have become filthy marshland because the trees can no longer hold back the soil. Enormous environmental damage is being caused and the trees are not there to absorb the CO 2 that we produce.
The forests in that region are not sustainable. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford alluded to the wood used in the Cabinet Office and the Department for International Development. We do not wear furs, even though the animals are already dead, and we should not use wood from unsustainable forests even though the trees have already been cut down. That only encourages others to do likewise.
This has been a good debate, but I hope that we shall get some sense from the Government of the big idea. What lead will they take in Bali and Johannesburg? Let us not have another talking shop with nothing to show for it in five years' time. Let us have a treaty with firm commitments on water, energy, tourism and forestry. There are so many things to do if we are to save the planet. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us on all the points raised.
Like my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, I congratulate the Liberal Democrats on initiating the debate even if part of the speech of Malcolm Bruce and the words in the motion have been rather churlish in not recognising the role that the Government have played in supporting the world summit for sustainable development. The views expressed did not square with the good report produced by the Environmental Audit Committee. It sets out clearly the facts about the leadership that the Government are providing. For instance, referring to the fact that the Prime Minister was the first major world leader to say that he would attend, the report said:
"Such high level leadership is crucial to advancing the sustainable development agenda both domestically and abroad."
It also said:
"We find UK preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be comprehensive and well organised . . . we commend the Government for its strategic and inclusive approach."
That clearly reflects our approach.
I agree that Malcolm Bruce might have over-egged the argument about preparations, but the Bali conference, which the Minister for the Environment said might be even more important than Johannesburg, is vital to how we consider the role of the summit. Will the Under-Secretary ensure that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gives a statement after the Bali conference, to which we have the opportunity to respond?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will carefully consider the suggestion that the House have a further opportunity, before Johannesburg, to consider what we want the summit to achieve.
The debate has been valuable because it has given the House a chance to focus on the two biggest challenges that we face: reducing world poverty and ensuring that that is done sustainably. Every contribution reflected on those challenges: how can we as human beings live within the earth's environmental means and, at the same time, tackle the problems of poverty, inequality and injustice? It is not a choice between the two. That came across clearly. We have to do both, which is what the world summit is all about. If it is to succeed, it will have to embrace both perspectives.
We have moved on from the days when it might have appeared that conservation was more interested in the trees than in the people who lived in the forests where those trees grew. We understand the importance of finding ways of earning a living that are consistent with sustaining the environment. As many hon. Members, including Mr. Redwood, said, providing opportunities for trade will make a major contribution to lifting people out of poverty.
My hon. Friend Alan Simpson mentioned genetically modified crops. That is a matter for all Governments—our Government, the Governments of developing countries or wherever—to make their own decisions on, weighing up the benefits and risks of their approach.
We also know that the poor suffer most from environmental problems. Let me give one statistic. Every year 2 million children under five die from acute respiratory infection. Two thirds of those deaths are thought to be related to indoor air pollution, which is caused principally by burning fuel in confined spaces for cooking and heating. That is a form of pollution that many people in the rich and developed world would not know of as a risk, yet it kills all those children every year.
My hon. Friend Mr. Jones rightly referred to the rise in the sea level. If it rises around Bangladesh, the homes of the people who live on the delta will disappear. The people who live on the shifting sands of the shorelands of Bangladesh experience that every year. When the rains fall in the north and the water floods down, they have literally to pick up their homes and move. When I was in Bangladesh recently, I met a woman of about 45 who told me that she had moved 30 to 35 times in her life because of flooding.
Over the next generation, we will also have to face the urban challenge in developing countries. Most people in the rich world live in urban areas. In the developing world, with the exception of Latin America, there is a relatively low level of urbanisation, but that is about to change. While the rural population of developing countries is expected to remain at roughly 3 billion over the next 25 years, their urban population will double from 2 billion to 4 billion. To illustrate that, let me use as an example the city of which I have the honour, in part, to represent. That increase is the equivalent of 112 new cities the size of Leeds being created each year, every year, for the next 25 years across the globe.
One has to pause for a moment to contemplate the need for water, to which many hon. Members referred. I agree with Dr. Tonge that water has to be affordable. We must also recognise the role that water provision plays in other aspects of development. If one puts a pump in a village, more girls will go to school because they will not have to spend time fetching and carrying water—a burden that falls particularly on women and girls.
We must think of the need for sanitation and of the need for energy, which was mentioned by many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend Mr. Thomas and Sue Doughty. On energy, if we can get investment into developing countries—it is investment, and the ability to earn a living and to trade, that they need above all—the technology, which we now have the ability to use because of advances in science and understanding, will follow.
Is not one way of accelerating the investment to which my hon. Friend refers to build on the commendable progress that we have made in meeting the UN's target for aid of 0.7 per cent. of GDP? Does he agree that economically we are in a strong position to set an international lead by developing and publishing a timetable for this country to achieve that target? Is not that a possibility in this Parliament?
As my hon. Friend will know, after 20 years in which the UK aid budget declined as a share of our national wealth, we have started to reverse that trend and are now on an upward path. I hope that the comprehensive spending review will demonstrate further progress towards the UN target, which we want to achieve.
I am referring, however, to the investment that will make a major contribution to improving economic prospects in developing countries. Much of the aid that we give focuses on assisting Governments who want to get their kids into school, and on helping them to improve their health care and to achieve the right framework and environment so that investment will come to the country and give their people the opportunity of a better future.
We know from this debate that we in the rich world have to use less of the world's resources so as to create the environmental space for poorer countries to develop. I was much taken by the elegant phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South, who talked about the need to take
"a path to a different sense of richness".
As a number of hon. Members have rightly said, developing countries will not for one second buy the argument that because we in the rich world have used up so much of the Earth's resources, they must wait for another life to enjoy the same benefit.
The other point to remember about the world summit is that it is part of a process, and we need to get our expectations right. It is not a make-or-break event, but part of a series. Tony Baldry, who chairs the International Development Committee, rightly pointed out that it is part of a process in which the world is trying to address sustainability and poverty reduction. We hope that it will be able to build on the success of Doha in launching a new trade round, and on Monterrey, which has produced more aid.
Above all, we want to see practical outcomes. In a thoughtful speech, Mrs. Spelman reminded us that change is possible. I want to take just one example, which concerns the issue that the hon. Member for Richmond Park raised at the end of her speech, timber and forestry. Illegal logging is a major problem that uniquely brings together the two issues that the world summit is all about.
Illegal logging is estimated to involve the loss of resources from public land in those countries affected by it of between $10 billion and $15 billion a year, which is more than all the aid that the world gives for health and education, so it really matters and it is a big issue. It involves corruption and it affects the livelihoods of people who live in the forest and rely on it for their existence. There is rising public concern about illegality and sustainability. The recent experience of two Departments has shown how difficult it is to turn the good intentions that we all have into practical action. With illegal logging, however, we have a chance to do that. The Government of Indonesia, which is a very good example of a developing country that has taken a courageous lead on the issue, are seizing shipments. Indonesia's new Forestry Minister is keen to change the way things work in that country, but in the end there will have to be a deal—
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question accordingly negatived.
Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to
Mr. Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House applauds the leadership the UK is showing domestically and within the European Union, the G8 and the United Nations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development; welcomes the fact that the Prime Minister intends to attend the Summit; further welcomes the UK's climate change programme which is estimated to overshoot its Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent. cut in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, reaching a cut of 23 per cent.; commends the introduction in the UK last month of the world's first economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme; further welcomes the commitment in the Budget to significant increases in the landfill tax to promote recycling and waste minimisation; further applauds the fact that drinking water, river water and bathing water are at the highest ever quality; and calls upon the Government to continue to tackle global poverty through sustainable development.