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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

Indeed. Those states and countries are moving forward on emissions trading and tackling climate change. American business, too, increasingly recognises the opportunities in the world from tackling climate change. That is what is happening from the grassroots up in the US, but it has not yet reached the White House.

We need to encourage those elements. What we must not do, in any circumstances, is to try to find a halfway house that brings the Americans on board but would involve abandoning key targets to get them to sign a piece of paper that the Prime Minister can wave Chamberlain-style saying, "Climate change agreement in our time." We must avoid that at all costs.

I am worried. Although I believe that the Prime Minister is well intentioned, I am not convinced that he has the diplomatic skills to get the right result in his negotiations with President Bush. A whole range of issues, whether the International Criminal Court, Iraq or even the Chancellor's laudable attempts to secure debt relief, are being stopped, stymied, blocked or opposed by the United States. It is difficult to think of anything that the US has done recently that is helpful to the UK. Our special relationship with the United States is peculiar; it is all give on one side and all take on the other. That seems a peculiar arrangement. I wonder whether it is seriously worth pursuing the idea that we can secure any agreement from the Americans. That is not to say that we should not talk to them. We can agree on matters such as technology and investment in technology and we can agree to share science and so on, but we must not in any circumstances allow the US to be a brake on the post-Kyoto arrangements. We must ensure that those arrangements are put in place with the countries that are willing to agree to them. We must also ensure that they include targets.

The Secretary of State will be aware of a report in The Observer that suggested that in the December Council the British Government made an attempt to abandon the 2050 target for a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. We were told subsequently that that was a tactic by the British Government and that in March the policy would come back in.