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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:52 pm, 8th February 2005

My hon. Friend is right. The situation is nothing short of scandalous. Those of us who regularly travel by train are aware of how many opportunities there are around the country to use stations and the land immediately around them for development purposes.

The four changes in domestic policy that I mentioned would add up to a coherent programme to get Britain back on track. With evidence of Britain's determination to tackle climate change at home, we would once more be able to resume our leadership on the issue abroad. Internationally, we should have three aims. First, and most obviously, the Prime Minister should press President Bush much harder, not only on Kyoto but on climate change generally. It is painfully clear that the Prime Minister will not say boo to a goose when it comes to President Bush. What on earth has Britain got in return for its unquestioning support of the United States in the past three years? It does not appear that our influence has been exercised over any important policy area.

Secondly, as the hon. Member for Lewes said, Britain should be more active in reaching out to those elements in the United States who do take climate change seriously. Some states, industries and companies are clear-sighted enough to see that climate change cannot be ignored. They realise that whether or not the United States ratifies Kyoto, there are advantages to America in taking part in emissions trading, in helping to shape the post-Kyoto framework, and in developing the technologies that will lead to the win-win situation of continued economic growth and steadily falling emissions.

Thirdly, although it is crucial to engage the United States in the process, it is equally crucial to bring China and India on board. One way in which Britain could put pressure on the United States is to start negotiating international standards with China and India. I am pleased that the Government's chief scientist has recently been in Bangalore. The growth of those giant economies inevitably means that more energy will be consumed, and in particular coal power. The challenge is to accelerate progress towards minimising the environmental impact of that consumption.

The post-Kyoto framework should have the positive aim of promoting climate stability. The achievement of that aim will not harm business or slow down economic growth, nor will it impede the progress that developing countries make towards greater prosperity. Indeed, climate change is the very background against which developing countries will grow sustainably, and the only background against which that growth will be secure.

I regret that the Liberal Democrats chose to insert a point-scoring phrase into their motion, because without it I would have been able to give the motion my support. However, I can and do confirm that the Conservative party is wholly committed to the actions needed at home and abroad to achieve climate stability. When we were last in government, we took those actions. While we are in opposition, we will support the Government when they propose policies to promote climate stability, and a future Conservative Government will have those policies right at the top of their agenda.