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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:17 pm, 8th February 2005

I agree with my hon. Friend's general point about the importance of plant diversity, and I understand her anxieties. We are conscious not only of the consistent funding difficulties of the United Nations Environment Programme, but of the discussions that have been taking place about the centre. Although I cannot undertake to solve its problems, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment continues to be engaged in discussions on the matter.

I referred to the programmes of action that the Government have put in place. They include the climate change levy, climate change agreements, the world's first economy-wide emissions trading scheme, the renewables obligation, our energy efficiency commitment and the work of the Carbon and Energy Saving Trusts. However, we recognise the need for further action to meet our commitments, which is why a review of our climate change strategy itself is under way.

Incredibly, it appears—I hope that we will flush out a denial during the debate—that although the official Opposition claim, I think, to share those common goals, they propose to sweep much of that away. The Conservatives' response to the biggest threat to our quality of life and our children's future has been to oppose some of the most important elements of our climate change programmes. The Conservatives opposed the climate change levy, which has effectively provided business with an incentive to cut emissions and financed new initiatives to do so, such as the Carbon Trust. All revenue from the levy is recycled to support businesses in cutting emissions, which casts doubt on any proposal for its abolition. The Conservatives have also opposed our proposals for the EU emissions trading scheme and, apparently, the Government's renewable energy programme. That is all too consistent with their wider environmental agenda, as the motion points out. Their proposals under the James review include slashing spending in some of the most important elements of our environmental protection and conservation work.