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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:42 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 12:42 pm, 8th February 2005

All human activity is key in climate change, and population growth is one factor. It is important that as far as possible our international development and other policies encourage sustainable living. Population growth is best tackled by providing security and a decent standard of living in developing countries. That will take pressure off population growth, as we have seen in Europe, where it is much lower than in Africa. The way forward is to take an enlightened approach to those countries.

I want to touch briefly on the tactics adopted by the Government towards their partners in the EU and the G8. In December, my colleague Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem shadow Foreign Secretary, and I wrote to the Foreign Secretary about the tactics to be deployed in negotiations with the United States. I appreciate that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will not want to lay bare those tactics before the House, but it is important to understand that there are two possible ways to proceed. The first is to assume that the United States genuinely does not believe the science, and to spend much time and effort to persuade the US that the science is there. The alternative is to assume that the US knows the science but pretends not to—which is where I think we are—and that it is stalling for time in an effort not to bring in measures that are inevitable. I am frightened that the British Government are spending too much time taking the American position at face value and thus neglecting the opportunity to make more progress. Kyoto will come in next week, in the teeth of US opposition, so it is important that those who have signed up to Kyoto take this opportunity to go forward together. If we go forward together strongly, the US will follow at some point. Furthermore, without causing diplomatic incidents, we should work with individual US states—in the north-east, California and elsewhere—which are actually doing good stuff.