Sustainable Development (Mozambique)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 30th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire 11:30 am, 30th January 2003

What arrangements she has made to discuss matters of sustainable development and climate change with the Government of Mozambique.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

We do not have any immediate plans to discuss sustainable development or climate change with the Government of Mozambique.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire

Might it not be fruitful for the Government to engage in such discussions? The Government of Mozambique overcame tremendous problems caused by floods in that country about two years ago so, given our experience of flooding in this country, there might be a useful cross-fertilisation of ideas. For instance, the Speaker of the Mozambique Parliament organised a fund to assist people in Yorkshire, so we should be doing everything that we can to ensure that lessons are learned on both sides.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

Of course, I entirely agree with that. Offhand, I do not know how much aid was provided by the Department for International Development at the time of the severe flooding in Mozambique in 1999 and 2000, as a result of the extreme climatic conditions, but I have no doubt that it was considerable. I should certainly welcome further collaboration between our countries. The key point, as to whether climate change is a significant factor in the increased magnitude and frequency of flooding throughout the world, is the importance of ratification of the Kyoto protocol. I am hopeful that that will be achieved in the first half of this year. Russia is the only country that still needs to ratify for the treaty to come into operation. President Putin has already given a commitment that he wishes that to happen and we are hopeful that the formalities will be achieved by the middle of the year. If they are, it will certainly be of considerable importance to Mozambique and many other sub-Saharan African countries.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of Mozambique made a most generous contribution to the people of the Vale of York following the severe flooding in parts of the area in November 2000? Would it not be appropriate, therefore, for the Department to seek an early meeting with the Mozambique Government with a view to undertaking joint research into the causes of climate change, which is leading to more flooding on flood plains such as the Vale of York?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

Of course, substantial research is already being undertaken—the United Kingdom is a world leader in this—by the combined capabilities of the Hadley research centre, which is part of the Met Office, and the university of East Anglia. I am keen that there should be closer co-operation between our two countries. Mozambique made a remarkable and very welcome offer to the Vale of York and to the constituency of my hon. Friend Mr. Barnes. I am happy to discuss with the Department for International Development how we can deepen that co-operation to the benefit of both countries.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead

Given that my right hon. Friend's Department has a significant number of environmental and agricultural scientists, would it be appropriate for him to try to ensure that scientific expertise is made available more widely? In particular, will he channel some of that expertise through DFID to ensure that countries such as Mozambique may tap into it, as expertise is often precisely what they lack?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I very much support that proposal. There is no doubt that the way in which we can most help the developing countries is through more quickly and effectively building up capacity there, with more technological transfer and the spreading of scientific and technical expertise. Britain has a real offer to make. We already do such work. As hon. Members have mentioned Mozambique, I will certainly speak to my colleagues in DFID to find out how much further that work can be taken.