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Climate Change

Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 8th May 2007.

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Votes in this debate

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 4:21 pm, 8th May 2007

I beg to move,

That this House
calls on the Government to set targets for carbon emissions informed by science and not political convenience which will help to hold global warming to within two degrees of pre-industrial levels;
recognises that the best current estimate is that this requires stabilisation at between 400 and 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere;
and urges Ministers to inject a new sense of urgency into efforts at home by setting out an annual action plan to curb the UK's own carbon emissions, establishing a climate change committee of the Cabinet to ensure joined up government, tackling quickly the most rapidly growing emissions in the transport sector by a more steeply graduated vehicle excise duty and a rebasing of air passenger duty onto the emissions of each flight, offset by other tax cuts, speeding up the effort to curb the waste of energy and the high emissions from buildings not just by raising thermal efficiency requirements in new homes but also by renovating existing homes, changing the incentives on energy companies so that they make more money by saving and not selling more energy, providing comprehensive insulation packages funded mainly by energy mortgages repayable through utility bills and setting an example by ensuring that all future buildings on the Government's own estate are built to the highest energy efficiency standards.

It is good to see that Conservative Members are not too ashamed of their party's manifesto in the Scottish elections. At least some of them are attending the debate, despite the fact that their party scored nought out of 10 for its environmental commitments, according to Friends of the Earth. The toxic Tories north of the border reminded me of the analysis undertaken by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace of the voting record of Conservative Members of the European Parliament on environmental matters during the last Parliament, which found that they were not merely the worst of all the British political parties, but the worst in the whole of the European Union.

Clearly, Mr. Cameron has some sins still to repent. He has been leader of his party for 16 months and has yet to put on the table a single firm proposal that would have any impact on greenhouse gas emissions. I hope that his party will be able to support our motion as a first step to rectifying that omission. That would also fit with the ambitious agenda revealed in The Times today by the Conservatives' policy chief, Mr. Letwin, who assures us that

"Cameron conservatism, so far from being merely a set of attitudes, has a specific theoretical agenda. It aims to achieve two significant paradigm shifts.

First, a shift from an econocentric paradigm to a sociocentric paradigm. Secondly, a shift in the theory of the state from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm."

No doubt that is deep stuff, but I think that he would perhaps do better were he to speak in English.

I wish that I could argue that the Government's record on climate change has been good, but it has not. There is real concern that their aims are not being informed solely by the science of climate change, which must surely be the starting point. I think that we are agreed across the parties that a rise in global temperature of 2° C above the pre-industrial average is at the limit of what should be tolerated if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, with rising sea levels, drought, floods and extreme weather events. However, the Government have been less than open about what that temperature limit means for our behaviour. They have drifted towards a figure of 550 parts per million of carbon dioxide alone as the aim of our emissions policy globally. We now know what that would mean according to the latest—the fourth—assessment report of working group 3 of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change, which was published yesterday in Bangkok. The working group is responsible for assessing what we need to do to limit global warming. It finds that a range of 485 to 570 parts per million of carbon dioxide alone—in other words, what the Government have been suggesting—would lead to a global mean temperature increase of not 2° C, but 3.2° to 4° C. The top end of that range is nearly double the 2° C that the Government specify. The same report shows that holding global warming to 2° to 2.4° C would require a CO2 equivalent concentration of 445 to 490 parts per million.

Clearly, there is a great disjuncture between the Government's rhetoric in saying that they want to avoid dangerous climate change and the reality of the targets that they set. On the basis of the evidence of the report, if the Government continue to believe—as they should—that 2° C of global warming is the danger threshold, they must also accept a revision of their international aim and, indeed, a revision of the 60 per cent. reduction in emissions in the draft Climate Change Bill. I hope that Ministers can tell the House exactly where the Government stand on the matter, as the United Nations IPCC report makes it clear that their current position is no longer tenable.

No doubt there will be much hand-wringing in parts of British business at the prospect of a more ambitious target, but we have much to gain by being ahead of the global pack. The countries that establish first mover advantage will have the proprietary technology to give their exporters an edge in new global markets. Energy saving does exactly what any sensible business does anyway: it saves costs. The Stern review has already stated that we would benefit by moving more quickly rather than allowing higher costs to build up later. The UN IPCC report reaches similar conclusions. The costs of the most radical stabilisation proposal are put at no more than 0.12 per cent. of GDP each year, or less than 5.5 per cent. of the GDP level in 2050.

T

As one of Mr Huhne's constituents, I find it interesting that he refers to United Nations publications, and yet he supports his local authority's policy of collecting domestic refuse only once per fortnight despite the fact that this directly contravenes UN guidelines which stipulate that collections should be at least one per week.

The concept of "voluntary" is interesting, too, given that the excuse his colleagues in the local authority offer to justify their appalling record on refuse collection is that it "encourages" recycling -- when what it actually achieves is that householders are now compelled to carry their own refuse to disposal sites in their private cars -- and frequently spend long periods stuck in traffic queues to do so.

I don't drive a 4x4 myself, but I am puzzled by the logic that increasing the VED on 4x4s would be acceptable because *new* 4x4s would not be hit by his proposed punitive VED. This seems to be saying that those on low incomes in rural areas who run old Land Rovers out of necessity will be hit far harder than affluent families in towns and cities who can afford the luxury of choosing to buy shiny new "Chelsea tractors".

Attacking older vehicles -- regardless of their transmission system -- penalizes those who cannot afford a new vehicle, or whose annual mileages are so low that they do not justify frequent changes of vehicle.

Tim Bartlett

Submitted by Tim Bartlett Read 3 more annotations

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

In the light of entirely justified exhortations to improve the environmental performance of the private sector, what assessment has the hon. Gentleman made of the performance of the public sector?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman raises a matter with which I shall deal later. No doubt he knows that the Sustainable Development Commission has had some critical words to say about the Government's performance.

Even at the maximum costs for which the UN IPCC calculations allow, we would still reach the level of income that we might have attained in 2050 by 2053. That does not seem an excessive price to pay for a planet fit for future generations.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the UN figures are predicated not on unilateral action by this country, but on the assumption that we carry the whole developed world with us?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is right that we need a global agreement. It is useful that the Chancellor of Germany, as President of the European Union, did so much at the recent Berlin and Brussels summits to put that on the global agenda. However, we must plan for success and not assume that no one else will follow. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the EU agreement becomes more ambitious if other developed countries follow along with us.

The first part of the motion merely calls on the Government to bring their professed goals for carbon emissions into line with their assessment of the dangerous temperature rise.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

Is the hon. Gentleman calling for Britain to act more ambitiously on long-term targets unilaterally?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I am pleased to make it clear that we are calling for the Government to set a more ambitious target. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his recent pamphlet, in which he clearly set out some of the muddle into which the Government have got themselves on such matters. It makes a useful contribution to the debate.

The second part of the motion calls on the Government to set out an annual action plan to reduce our own carbon emissions in line with our target. If we are to persuade the developing countries to follow suit, there has to be a far greater sense of urgency about our own efforts in the developed world. That is a moral imperative, given that we rich countries may be responsible for some 70 per cent. of all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

There is also a strong case for urgent action because of the danger that, if we do not act quickly, the costs of climate change will not mount steadily, but will tip over into highly dangerous areas. Feedback effects such as the melting permafrost on northern peatlands could release large amounts of methane; drying weather could lead to accelerated dieback of tropical rainforest; glacier melt could accelerate due to under-ice streams; and the vanishing of snow and ice cover could curb the albedo effect reflecting warmth away from earth.

An annual action plan should be linked to far greater co-ordination of the Government's efforts, as the third part of the motion suggests, through a dedicated Cabinet Committee on climate change. No amount of Whitehall reorganisation can bring all the public activities that affect climate change into one Department—nor should it. The Foreign Office is responsible for climate change negotiations; the Department for International Development needs to reflect in our aid policy the challenge of climate change for the poorest countries; the Department for Communities and Local Government sets building regulations, including those on thermal efficiency; the Department of Trade and Industry runs energy policy and therefore policy on electricity generation; the Department for Transport sets airport and aviation policy; the Treasury controls the taxes that are such an important influence on decision making on fossil fuels and carbon emissions; and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for the energy efficiency of existing housing stock, not to mention the methane output of our livestock.

The potential for a good old-fashioned Whitehall shambles is well established. The Prime Minister has repeatedly told us that climate change is one of the greatest policy challenges of our time and we know that one of its principal effects is rising sea levels and worsening storms, yet last summer DEFRA cut the Environment Agency's flood defence budget. Meanwhile, the Department for Communities and Local Government is still planning more than 100,000 new homes on flood plains and the Department for Transport is planning an airport expansion that is wholly inconsistent with the need to control aviation emissions. Because the Chancellor was spooked by the fuel duty protestors, the Treasury has steadily cut green taxes as a share of GDP from 3.6 per cent. in 1999 to 2.9 per cent. in 2005. The Department of Trade and Industry was responsible for research cuts at the centres for ecology and hydrology that helped us to understand how flora and fauna would react to climate change. Even more bizarrely, there were cuts in the research budget of the Hadley centre at the Met Office, which had established itself as one of the leading world centres for the study of climate change.

The truth is that the Government do not have a well co-ordinated policy on climate change. As in many other areas, they have elevated spin above substance. They have merely a public relations campaign masquerading as a climate change policy. That is why we make the proposal in the motion for some mechanisms within Whitehall to ensure a semblance of joined-up government around an annual action plan that would help to deliver real policies, not just rhetoric.

The most urgent priority is surely to tackle the transport sector, where our emissions have grown most rapidly since the Kyoto base year of 1990. We need a more steeply graduated vehicle excise duty that will shift most car buyers to low-emission models.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

With a steeply graduated vehicle excise duty, what allowances would the hon. Gentleman make for people in rural areas, particularly farmers and crofters, who need 4x4 vehicles to run their livestock? I would hope that he would not penalise such people unnecessarily.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman knows very well, because we have dealt with this matter in previous debates, that we have proposed discounts for people in remote rural areas and exemptions for working vehicles. The key issue is to ensure that we shift our vehicle fleet towards low-emission vehicles, and we need a more steeply graduated vehicle excise duty to ensure that that happens.

We also need to abolish air passenger duty in favour of a tax based on the emissions of the flights. That would set up an incentive for the airlines to fill all the available places and to move more rapidly towards more fuel-efficient aircraft. It is certainly not the whole answer to sustainable aviation, but it would be a real start. Much of the rest, including imposing a kerosene tax and ensuring that aviation is included in the European Union emissions trading scheme, needs to be done at EU level if there are not to be adverse effects on the competitiveness of our businesses.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am still unclear as to whether, under the hon. Gentleman's proposals for the vehicle excise duty, there would be a real-terms increase for working crofters and farmers paying for their very valid working vehicles.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman knows that it would be unusual for the people whom he is describing to buy new high-value 4x4s. Our proposal would affect only new purchases, and it would be designed to shift the pattern of car buying towards low-emission vehicles. One thing that would certainly happen is that car manufacturers would move towards producing more fuel-efficient engines right the way down. In attempting to effect behaviour change of this kind, it is not quite so easy to hold the world constant as the hon. Gentleman might suggest. The whole point of our proposals is to encourage behaviour change.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

As we are discussing the effects of vehicle excise duty on people in rural areas, may I take the hon. Gentleman back to a question that I have raised about whether a city such as Inverness would fall within his definition of a remote area in which people would be entitled to a reduction in fuel duty? One of his colleagues has suggested that it would not, but another has said that it would. Does not that illustrate the difficulty of finding an excuse for a particular area being exempt from such measures if there are perceived electoral advantages involved?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman knows that if we always find difficulties—if the glass is always half empty—we will never make progress. Sometimes it is necessary to establish boundaries—income tax or inheritance thresholds, for example—and sometimes people find themselves on the wrong side of those boundaries. Such measures are not necessary popular, but unfortunately we have to make real changes in our behaviour and it is therefore important to strike out in that direction.

Crucially, every penny raised through green taxes to help us to change our behaviour collectively should be handed back in income tax cuts, thereby shifting the tax burden on to activities that we want to discourage from activities such as work, risk and effort that we wish to encourage.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

On the hon. Gentleman's previous point about exemptions for certain people in rural areas, there are parts of my constituency in Shropshire where people can live only if they have a 4x4, because they are so remote and mountainous. Would it not create huge amounts of bureaucracy and red tape to run a pilot to decide who would and would not be exempt from these extra charges?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting topographical point about the mountains in his constituency, and I look forward to travelling across them to find out for myself whether his description is accurate. He must remember that there are already new 4x4s available that are below the top emissions category. Taking that into account when considering our proposals for rural areas, I think that I can allay his fears on that score, and I hope that the Conservatives will be able to support us.

Finally, the motion deals with the crucial issue of the built environment: our buildings, which are responsible for half our carbon emissions. It calls on the Government to set an example by ensuring that their own massive purchasing power goes into the building of low-carbon schools, hospitals and other public buildings. Sadly, as we have already heard from Opposition Members, the Government's record is appalling. As the Sustainable Development Commission has made clear, DEFRA's ability to wag a finger at other Departments has been entirely undermined by its record on pushing up carbon emissions from its own office buildings three times as quickly as the rise in the national average. The Government's role in setting an example for the commercial sector is crucial, and I hope we hear from Ministers what firm proposals they intend to make to extend best practice in the public sector.

Equally important is a much more concerted effort to improve the energy efficiency of our own homes. Let me give just one shocking statistic that brought home to me how unambitious we have been in saving energy rather than wasting it. If the average energy bill in Britain were the same as that in Sweden, every household here would save £385 a year—we are literally burning £50 notes—yet average temperatures in Sweden in January are 7º C colder than they are in Britain.

Part of the answer is to raise thermal efficiency standards for new buildings, and the Government are moving towards such action. There is no reason why we should not proceed more rapidly to a GreenHouse standard for new homes that would cut energy use and carbon emissions by 95 per cent. This is not rocket science. It has already been achieved in Germany with the PassivHaus standard, and the intriguing experience there is that the initially high extra cost of more than a fifth has now all but vanished. Following the building of several thousand such homes, the extra cost of construction is running at just 2 per cent., and it repays itself in a few months' savings on the householder's energy bill. The GreenHouse standard would make it easier for young families to get on the housing ladder, provided that building societies take account—as the regulator should ensure that they do—of the savings in their energy bills.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Germany operates the same high standards for refurbishments as for new build. Would the hon. Gentleman advocate that here?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The hon. Lady anticipates the next section of my speech. Adding microgeneration means that energy savings can be even greater than those that can be achieved through a move to much higher thermal insulation standards in new build. Genuinely carbon-neutral homes are now attainable, but however ambitious we are with new building standards, the truth is—as the hon. Lady rightly reminds us—that three quarters of the homes in which we will be living in 2050 have already been built. We need a far more ambitious set of plans to tackle our existing housing stock than the Government's Warm Front scheme and the energy efficiency commitment. At the current rate of progress, it will take 125 years to upgrade the housing stock, and even then it will be only to modest cherry-picking standards involving, for instance, cavity wall and loft insulation.

We need to offer packages that can improve the sealing of windows, doors and chimneys, clad walls either inside or outside in solid-walled properties, and install under-floor insulation and efficient boilers—even, soon, combined-heat-and-power boilers. We need those packages to be testable, so that householders know they will get the energy savings that they have been promised. If those conditions are met—the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Home Improvement Council are interested in helping to ensure that they are—hundreds of thousands of householders will jump at the chance to cut their energy bills. The obvious way to finance such packages is through an energy mortgage attached to the property that is repaid on the same bill as that of the utility company. It is likely that about one fifth of the cost of such improvements would need to be met by the energy company to ensure that the energy mortgage could be repaid from the savings in energy made by the householder.

That is why we also suggest reshaping the energy efficiency commitment. The energy efficiency commitment is currently simply a levy on consumers to pay for energy efficiency improvements. It would make sense instead to encourage energy companies to find the most effective ways of curbing energy use by changing their incentives. They currently make more profit by selling more energy. If they were subject to a "cap and trade" scheme, such as the European Union emissions trading scheme—and, to give the Government credit, similar to a measure envisaged in an enabling clause of the draft Climate Change Bill—they could collectively have a declining sales target, and they would maximise their profits by selling even less and selling on their allocations under the scheme. If they sold more than their reducing allocations, they would have to buy that in the market. Therefore, an incentive would be established.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

I fully share the emphasis that the hon. Gentleman places on energy efficiency, but I want to be clear about the precise meaning in terms of the GreenHouse package of the proposed policy that he is discussing. From reading his stimulating pamphlet, it is my understanding that the message to my constituents is that the Liberal Democrats would require them to take out a loan of between £5,000 and £10,000 from the local utility company, which will then have a charge over their property while they pay it off. Is that really the hon. Gentleman's intention, or have I got that wrong?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

As we make clear in our proposals, for any period of time that we might envisage it would be extremely unlikely that any measure of compulsion would be necessary. One of the extraordinary results from the German scheme is that there has been such a great rush of households wanting to participate that the building industry has found it hard to catch up. We must be wary in that respect and ensure that the necessary skills are in place in the British building industry for us to be able to deal with such circumstances.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that his proposed measure will be entirely voluntary, because his pamphlet gives the impression that there will be a hard rump of people who will not take up the offer that is made and who will be forced down that route?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman can see by looking at the pamphlet, there is no proposal for the scheme to be on anything other than a voluntary basis. Clearly, in the longer run we will have to assess its progress, but we hope that it can be completed on a voluntary basis, with the necessary incentives. However, there is no doubt that we need the sort of systematic proposals that we have made if we are to tackle energy efficiency.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

The definition of compulsion is, of course, an elastic one. One of the proposals that was floated at the same time as the publication of the hon. Gentleman's pamphlet was that there should be a tax penalty—specifically a stamp duty tax penalty—for those who do not make the improvements that the hon. Gentleman mentions. Is that part of his party's policy?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

It is not part of our party's policy. At some point in the future additional incentives might be required to complete the process of improving energy efficiency. If that were the case, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman could think of a number of tax incentives—one of which might indeed be a discount on stamp duty. That would not involve raising taxes, but it would provide people with additional inducements and therefore additional incentives to go ahead with such improvements.

Climate change is the great challenge of our times. We need to tackle it with urgency because any carbon emitted into the atmosphere has a long life—a century or more. Yet far from delivering cuts in carbon emissions, the Government have presided over increases in them since 1997. As the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change report shows, we need to be much more ambitious, much more focused and much more radical. Time is now running out. I hope that the House will support the motion.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:49 pm, 8th May 2007

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"welcomes publication of the draft Climate Change Bill, which will make the UK the first country in the world to establish a long term legal framework for managing the transition to a low carbon economy, setting ambitious binding targets to cut carbon emissions by 26 to 32 per cent. from the 1990 level by 2020 and at least 60 per cent. by 2050, which can be revised in light of significant developments in international policy and climate science, and establishing an independent Committee on Climate Change to advise on setting statutory five year carbon budgets and to report to Parliament annually on progress;
further welcomes the Government's comprehensive approach to reducing emissions from all sectors of the economy and the proposals in the energy review to cut carbon emissions by up to a further 25 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020;
recognises that home energy use for heating, lighting and appliances accounts for more than a quarter of domestic UK carbon emissions;
applauds the Government's proposals to improve building standards so that from 2016 all new housing developments must be zero carbon;
recognises the Government's commitment to improving the energy efficiency of existing homes and tackling fuel poverty through Warm Front and the Energy Efficiency Commitment;
welcomes the Budget 2007 report statement that by the end of the next decade all householders will have been offered help to introduce energy efficiency measures;
and looks forward to further development of policies in this area."

Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing the human race. It is a top priority for the Government, at home and internationally. The broad cross-party consensus on the urgency of the issue is a strength of our politics. Sometimes, when people outside the House observe the partisan nature of our proceedings, they misunderstand the fact that we can have knockabout debate that is, rightly, questioning of the Government, while still reaching a broad consensus as to the policy prescriptions and action required. That is important, because climate change does not discriminate, whether in the UK, US or the rapidly emerging countries such as China, India or Brazil. Climate change is a threat to us all and, therefore, a challenge to us all.

Without global action on climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases will continue to increase. All countries will be affected. The poorest nations will be hit hardest, but the UK and other developed countries will not be immune from the consequences. We are already starting to feel those consequences, as the fourth assessment report published last Friday graphically demonstrated.

We are committed to the EU's 2° C target temperature rise to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. As Chris Huhne said, that implies a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 50 per cent. by 2050. As the EU has said, that means that, because developing countries must grow, we and other developed countries must cut emissions by between 60 and 80 per cent. We are ready for that. We already have our 2050 target of at least a 60 per cent. cut for CO2 only. In relation to other greenhouse gases, more emissions reductions will be achievable, and we will do even more if needed. We will, of course, keep our goals under review in the light of scientific evidence and international developments, and the draft Climate Change Bill contains a specific clause allowing us to do that.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Why have the Government framed their targets in terms of CO2 alone when, as we all know, the basket of greenhouse gases contains other much more potent ones? Surely there should be an overall target, not just one for CO2.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

When we were discussing our targets, we thought it right to focus on the main greenhouse gas emitted, and as the hon. Gentleman knows, the large majority of greenhouse gas emissions are CO2. That is not to say, however, that we do not need to do more in relation to other greenhouse gases. Certainly, there is scope to consider that as part of the Climate Change Bill, and I look forward to future debates with him on the subject.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Opposition Whip (Commons)

Is it not true that the Government signed up to the regulation on fluorinated gases, which will make a dramatic impact on the amount of other gases emitted? CO2 is increasingly rapidly, whereas most of the other greenhouse gases are being reduced and moderated by legislation and new technology.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the UK has made significant reductions in methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding our progress on carbon dioxide, on which we fully accept that we need to do more.

In particular, we need to do more in the light of the warnings of the intergovernmental panel on climate change from Bangkok earlier this week, and from Paris and Brussels earlier this year. The UK remains committed to demonstrating leadership internationally through our actions at home. No major industrialised country has done more than Britain to tackle climate change. Our national programme has made significant progress, through the climate change levy, the UK emissions trading scheme, reform of vehicle excise duty to encourage the take-up of low-polluting cars, differentials in fuel duties and the landfill tax. We are exceeding our Kyoto targets, and are the only country on track to double them. We have also shown real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth and high employment levels.

Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that carbon dioxide emissions and household income were related, with the wealthiest societies responsible for the highest emissions. In the UK, that link is now being broken. We are showing the world that one can have green growth—that emissions reductions and prosperity can go hand in hand. Between 1997 and 2005, our economy grew by 25 per cent. and greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 7 per cent.—or by 11 per cent., allowing for the effects of the EU emissions trading scheme.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Minister (Energy), Trade & Industry

The Minister mentioned international leadership. Will he undertake that the Government will show more such leadership by including international shipping and aviation within the terms of this country's greenhouse gas targets?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Currently, there is no internationally accepted definition for aviation and shipping emissions, which is one reason why they do not appear in national inventories under the IPPC. The UK is certainly pressing for international agreement on this issue. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we have been pressing for including aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme as quickly as possible. However, we need a global deal on aviation and shipping, just as we need one on a post-2012 framework.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Minister (Energy), Trade & Industry

I thank the Minister for giving way again. Would it not be better if the Government took a unilateral lead on this issue? Otherwise, no progress will be made. This morning, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research told the Environmental Audit Committee that it has been able to calculate perfectly reasonable estimates of the British share of international aviation and shipping emissions by using a simple 50:50 rule? Could the Government not do the same?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are showing leadership on this issue. For example, the UK will be the first country in the world to legislate for CO2 emission reduction targets. However, because aviation and shipping emissions are internationally traded, more complex issues arise. Taking action unilaterally would not necessarily produce benefits in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to get international agreement on comprehensive definitions that cover all countries and that will ensure that we have a range of policies to tackle future aviation and shipping emissions, just as we are tackling emissions from other sources through the emissions trading scheme and other measures.

Success will and does rely on the support and active participation of all sectors of society. The private sector has a vital role to play in avoiding dangerous climate change, and more and more businesses are recognising that there is a value and importance in reducing CO2 emissions. Through the emissions trading scheme, some of our biggest companies are already actively involved in a highly effective cap and trade scheme. The Government are committed to using the EU ETS as a key tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, we showed strong leadership in setting a robust cap for phase 2 that will deliver savings of 29 million tonnes of carbon per year. We have also consulted on a proposal for an energy performance commitment in the UK—a mandatory emissions trading scheme to reduce emissions from energy use by large, non-energy intensive organisations by at least 4.4 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020. The results of that consultation will be released shortly.

We continue to fund Envirowise, which has helped business to save some £1 billion through increasing resource efficiency and avoiding waste. We also fund the Carbon Trust to work with companies that want to avoid climate change. The trust has given practical advice and tailored support to some 10,000 businesses through energy audits, carbon management services and energy efficiency loans.

Businesses must continue to take action to reduce their CO2 emissions, but as individuals we must also take action to reduce our carbon footprint. The Government have been working hard to help. A new CO2 calculator will soon be launched that will allow people to calculate their personal CO2 footprint and provide suggestions on how to reduce it. Guidance will also be available to help people make informed choices about the most effective carbon offsetting products on the market. Through the Warm Front scheme, we are helping people in fuel poverty to insulate their homes and to install boilers that are more energy efficient. Some 1.3 million households have benefited from that so far. Since 2001, households have benefited from £3 billion-worth of energy improvements through the obligation for energy companies to provide efficiency improvements for their customers, including low-energy light bulbs, insulation and high-efficiency appliances and boilers. The Energy Saving Trust has carried out 4.5 million home energy checks since 1993, including 450,000 in 2006 alone.

More activities are in the pipeline, but significant progress is being made. We have real achievements under our belt and we need to achieve more for the future.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

It is a good idea to try to educate the public about the energy usage of household equipment. The idea of some sort of ready-reckoner is a great one, but we must not encourage people to start switching from things that are not yet at the end of their lives. We need to take into account in the equation the energy costs of manufacturing.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree. We should first try to avoid CO2 emissions, then reduce them and then consider recycling. Only as a last resort should we look at offsetting. It is right that reuse should be an important part of our package of proposals.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Women and Equality), Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equality)

We support many of the schemes that the Minister outlines in the fight against climate change, but does he accept that the progress that the Government seek to make on climate change is undermined by their refusal to accept annual legally binding targets on CO2 emission reductions? If we had yearly targets we could see exactly what progress was being made on that vital issue and not have to wait until the end of a Parliament, when a Government may be on their way out of office, to hold them to account.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not agree with the hon. Lady. Annual targets do not work for one simple reason. We have cold winters—for example, 1996 and 2001 were both relatively cold winters—when energy consumption and CO2 emissions go up by some 3 to 4 per cent. compared with other years. By picking a five-year period, we are acting consistently with Kyoto. When other Governments considered the issue in the run-up to the agreement at Kyoto, they thought that annual budgets would not work, and that is why they chose a five-year budget period. I stress that we will have annual reporting to Parliament and it will be clear whether we are on course to meet our budget requirements. The hon. Lady and others will no doubt want to hold us to account, just as we want to be held to account for our actions.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

It is difficult to understand the Minister's point about annual targets. The assessment will be made in retrospect, after the year in which the carbon emissions happened, so we will already know what the temperature was in the winter and what the GDP growth was. Both of those are easy adjustments to make in any benchmark, and the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England makes that sort of adjustment every month. I cannot therefore understand why Ministers persist in arguing that it is too difficult for the Committee that they propose to set up for the draft Climate Change Bill.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is an economist, so he is used to dealing with many variables. The practice of having budgets that are set over a five-year period where the total amount of CO2 counts is a simple way of demonstrating what progress the Government are making. It will be clear to the public whether we are on target to meet our budget because we will report, as regularly as the information is available, on our performance against those targets and in accordance with the legislation that we hope to put before the House in due course.

I stress that more action is in the pipeline—for example, the phasing out of inefficient light bulbs and the removal of inefficient white goods from the market. We also need to continue our work to engage the public. An "Act on CO2" campaign has recently been launched to help make individuals more CO2 literate. Part of that will be an "Act on CO2" deal, which will set out how the Government and individuals can work together to reduce CO2 emissions. Everyone can make a difference, especially in their homes through improvements to insulation, the use of energy-efficient products, better energy management, increasing recycling and wasting less food.

The public sector also needs to play its part and give the necessary lead. It is important that we meet our commitment of making the Government office estate carbon neutral by 2012. I acknowledge that our performance to date has not been as good as it should have been, and the hon. Member for Eastleigh made a number of comments in that regard.

That is why the Government are taking a number of steps to improve our record and that of the wider public sector. We are working hard to make sure that buildings and products procured by the Government are energy efficient. Every secondary school in the country is being rebuilt and refurbished. As part of that, over the next three years £110 million will go into helping them reduce their CO2 emissions. Some schools will achieve carbon neutrality.

Many Government Departments have energy-efficient lighting and are phasing out the use of inefficient light bulbs. Government offices make increasing use of renewable energy, including biomass boilers, solar panels and wind turbines but, again, we need to do more. We are also reducing the environmental impact of Government travel. All official and ministerial air travel is captured under offsetting schemes, and we are committed to reducing CO2 emissions from road vehicles. We are also leading the way by reducing those emissions from the Government car fleet

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the Minister for giving way. If individual citizens of this country are to play their full part in mitigating climate change, they need to know how much energy they use every day, rather than over three months. What are the Government doing to encourage smart metering in homes, so that people can change their behaviour?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that we announced a few weeks ago that we are to introduce free real-time displays over the next couple of years. They will be available to all households that want them, and they will give clear and easily digestible information about a home's energy impact. People will be able to see what effect switching appliances on and off has, and that will make a difference. In addition, the web-based CO2 calculator will give a range of information to help people to reduce carbon footprints.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

We are trying to educate the public about how they can play their part in tackling climate change, but does my hon. Friend agree that schools have a very important role? They are educating the adults of the future, so what work is he doing with the Department for Education and Skills to encourage schools to participate more? The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website has some useful information for schools.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree entirely. As I mentioned, a sum of money has been allocated to help improve the greenness of our schools. I have visited a number of schools that already have wind turbines and solar panels fitted as standard. As we roll out our building schools for the future programme, we need to make sure that the new buildings are low or zero-carbon emitters, if at all possible. In addition, they must be well adapted for the climate change that, to a certain degree, we are bound to face in the future.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

A number of schools will be refurbished under the building schools for the future programme. Will there be as great an emphasis on the standard of energy efficiency in refurbished schools as in new ones?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Yes. The Government want the refurbishment of existing schools to receive as much attention as efforts to ensure that new schools are low or zero emitters of carbon in the future.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh talked about the existing building stock. It is clearly responsible for a large proportion of carbon emissions, but I do not want to downplay the importance that the Government place on minimising emissions from new development as, by 2050, a substantial proportion of total development will have been built after 2007. That is why it is important to recognise the Government's commitment that all new homes should be zero carbon by 2016, with a phased introduction of higher standards in the interim. The hon. Gentleman is encouraging us to do some of the things that we are already doing to raise house building standards. We may not have started from the same place as Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that have focused on thermal efficiency for well over 70 years, but we are ratcheting up building standards and making a real difference. The Government are making a real commitment to do far more for the future.

Over the next few months, we shall be saying something more about the sustainability of existing buildings, both domestic and non-domestic. There are already programmes to upgrade energy efficiency in homes—

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Let me give the hon. Gentleman the figures first.

Preliminary data suggest that household emissions have dropped by about 5 per cent. over the past two years. There is much more to be done but the early signs are encouraging, and that reduction is a welcome step forward.

Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

It is indeed welcome, but can the Minister explain why emissions from the Government estate have been rising, including those from his Department?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before, the DEFRA office estate is going through a transition phase—moving from some buildings to others—and all the buildings are covered in our carbon footprint. As I said at the outset, our performance across the Government estate has not been as good as I would like it to be and we need to make real improvements, which is why we are giving it increasing attention at ministerial and senior official level.

Sustainability in homes and buildings is not just about construction but about how we heat and power them. We want more heat and power generated locally through renewable and low-carbon processes such as microgeneration and combined heat and power. The new planning policy statement on climate change will require a significant proportion of energy supply for substantial new development to be gained renewably or from a decentralised, renewable or low-carbon, energy supply.

That is real progress, but it is by no means the last word. We need to do more and we are committed to do so. As a Government, we shall continue to give a lead in tackling climate change both at home and internationally. The UK is the first country in the world to propose a strong legal framework for tackling climate change to meet our goal of becoming a low-carbon economy. As I said, the Climate Change Bill will put into statute our targets for reducing CO2 emissions by at least 60 per cent. by 2050 and by 26 to 32 per cent. by 2020. We are talking about CO2 equivalent figures, too, which take into account the greenhouse impact of other gases.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

At the opening of his speech, the Minister said that the Government were ready to make a range of reductions of between 60 and 70 per cent. Why is not the higher figure of 70 per cent. the target in the Bill?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I said that our target was a reduction of at least 60 per cent. in CO2 emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels. I stressed that the figure was for CO2 only. The figures in the Commission document at the spring Heads of State summit referred to a 60 to 80 per cent. reduction in CO2 equivalents by developed countries, so if the impact of non-CO2 emissions is included, our approach is broadly consistent with that of the Commission.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

The Liberal Democrats appear to suggest that 70 per cent. is the right figure to go for, but does my hon. Friend agree that it would be perfectly possible to propose a higher figure in the Bill—perhaps 80 per cent.—if the science supports such a target?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I said at the start of my speech that a clause in the Bill allows us to change the targets, in the light of scientific and other international developments. That remains the case.

I must apologise for having to leave the House before the end of the debate, but I am representing the Government at the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting in New York. Regrettably, it is one of those occasions when things cannot be done by means of a video conference; we need to be there in person. We will certainly offset the carbon cost of my flight and the carbon costs incurred by the officials who are attending the meeting.

Five-year carbon budgets will require the Government to set binding limits on aggregate CO2 emissions over the budget period. We will set three successive carbon budgets, covering 15 years, in legislation. They will limit the total amount of carbon dioxide so that every tonne of carbon dioxide that is emitted will count. As I was saying earlier, we think that that is a much more sensible approach than annual targets. That more sophisticated system of carbon budgeting will be very clear to UK businesses. It will give them certainty in terms of their future planning and investment while ensuring that the Government are accountable to Parliament and to society for their actions.

A committee on climate change will advise us on the pathway to the 2050 target, on the level of the carbon budgets and the reduction effort needed across the economy, and on the optimum balance between domestic action and international trading in carbon allowances. The power and responsibility to create a low-carbon economy rests with us all and everyone will have to contribute—from businesses to Government, the public sector, consumers and civil society. What is required is action at all levels—within the UK, through the EU, and through international agreement.

The Climate Change Bill will create a more coherent approach to managing and responding to climate change in the UK. It will involve ambitious targets, powers to help achieve them, a strengthened institutional framework, and clear and regular accountability to Parliament. Together with the proposals that will emanate from the energy review and that will be set out shortly in the energy White Paper, the Bill will equip the UK for a successful transition to a low-carbon economy and enable us to act as a beacon for others internationally.

We need to see action at an international level. Without a new global deal on climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases will continue to increase. The spring European Council agreement was a landmark decision. What it had to say on emissions targets, renewable energy and energy efficiency leads the way internationally. The window of opportunity to reverse the rise in global emissions is narrowing. The science and the economics suggest that to avoid catastrophic climate change global carbon emissions must peak in the next 10 to 15 years. But climate change is not an insoluble challenge. The technologies to reduce energy demand, increase efficiency and develop low-carbon electricity, heat and transport are within grasp. As has been well demonstrated by Stern, the earlier we act across all countries and all sectors, the better it will be for us all.

We do, however, need to adapt to climate change, as advised in the working group II report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change in April. We need to plan adaptation for the future, but also for today. The impacts are already beginning to be felt. The 2003 heatwave caused 35,000 deaths across Europe and there were £6 billion worth of insurance claims for flood and storm damage between 1998 and 2003 in the UK alone. The Government take adaptation seriously, but I recognise that sometimes it is not talked about enough in the House.

We are putting the framework in place to allow Departments, local authorities, businesses and individuals to play a role. That is being done through the development of an adaptation policy framework for Government, which we will publish this year and which will be extended to other sectors next year, through the inclusion of a clause on adaptation in the Climate Change Bill, through funding for the development of groundbreaking probabilistic climate change scenarios for the UK, which will be published next year, and through continued investment in areas such as flood defence, which is an old chestnut that the hon. Member for Eastleigh keeps recycling in his speeches. However, the simple fact of the matter is that we are spending 30 per cent. more on flood defence in real terms than we were in 1997.

The Government have shown consistent leadership in the field of climate change by setting bold targets and pursuing ambitious policies. We are determined to continue to show international leadership and that drive is strengthened by our domestic programme. We can take some comfort from the fact that greenhouse gas emissions are already between 15 and 19 per cent. below 1990 levels, depending on whether emissions trading is included, and that we will double our Kyoto commitments. However, there can be absolutely no room for complacency. We need to go further domestically and at the same time work to ensure that we agree a comprehensive post-2012 framework internationally that will stabilise greenhouse gas emissions fairly and effectively. That is the task that lies ahead and we will devote all our energies towards it.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:20 pm, 8th May 2007

Any opportunity to debate action on climate change is welcome and there is a great deal in the motion in the name of the leader of the Liberal Democrats with which the official Opposition can agree. However, the Minister is also right: when it comes to global warming, the truth is that there is more that unites the parties at Westminster than separates us. There is nothing between all three major parties in our analysis of the seriousness of the challenge, even if the Government are somewhat tardy and muddled in their linking of the latest science to their policy projections. The general direction of policy is not hotly disputed—the battleground is how fast and how far.

This would seem an appropriate time to pay tribute to the Prime Minister for his tireless work over the past decade to put climate change at the top of the international agenda. Nearly 20 years ago, the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, became the first world leader to send a clarion call to the planet to wake up to the dangers of man-made climate change. It would be churlish not to recognise the current Prime Minister's considerable efforts to build on Lady Thatcher's legacy as a forceful international advocate for action against global warming. I sincerely hope that he will continue that role when, after a decade at the helm, he finally retires to make way for an older man.

It is not the general analysis of the problem that divides us from the Government, nor even many of the solutions that they advocate. It is the singular lack of urgency, after 10 years of complacency, that we find unacceptable. Erudite speeches abroad are no substitute for effective action at home. Three manifesto commitments on reducing emissions by 20 per cent. by 2012 have been quietly shelved. Everyone knows that Labour will meet its Kyoto commitments only because of the carbon dioxide cuts achieved under the last Conservative Government, largely with the dash for gas, despite the fact that when the Labour Government took office, they tried to turn the clock back with a policy bias in favour of dirty coal.

I would do a disservice to the debate if I were to wrangle over only Labour's serial failure since 1997. The new politics of climate change are about the future, not the past. The scale of the challenge requires politicians to find new ways of working together. We cannot afford the efforts of one individual Parliament, or one Prime Minister's Administration, to be anything other than part of a coherent long-term strategy to combat the greatest threat that mankind faces in the 21st century.

On Saturday night, I joined a debate on climate change with the students of the Pestalozzi college in my constituency. The Pestalozzi organisation brings disadvantaged but gifted children from the world's developing countries to the United Kingdom so that they can study for the international baccalaureate and prepare for university. Students from Asia, Africa and the Americas gave their perspective on the global challenges that we face. One of the many inspiring comments that were written on a banner that they produced at the end of the evening was, "Our approach: less accusation, more action". Thanks to the leadership of my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron, the modern Conservative party is squaring up to the daunting changes required to tackle man-made global warming, but it is doing so with a sense of hope and optimism.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

If the Conservatives are facing up to the challenges of climate change, would the hon. Gentleman care to explain why certain Conservative authorities have cut recycling facilities? How many of the recently elected Conservative authorities does he anticipate will make similar cuts, and will he defend their record in future years, after they have made those cuts?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am afraid that I do not recognise a word of what the hon. Gentleman says. He will know, if he was out on the doorsteps in the national campaign, that Conservative authorities across the country have the best record on recycling—[Hon. Members: "Not true!"]—excepting possibly Liberal-run Liverpool. He will also know that Labour authorities have the worst.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We have had plenty of opportunity to debate the merits of recycling; we came before the country with a clear slogan, which was—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps we could debate the motion, and the amendments before the House.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

As I was saying, thanks to the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney, the modern Conservative party is squaring up to the daunting changes of climate change with a sense of realism, as well as of hope and optimism. We have embarked on the most ambitious and comprehensive environmental policy review in our party's history under the leadership of Zac Goldsmith and my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer. That work is close to completion, and we will be able to find common ground with the Liberal Democrats in many elements of it. I hope that in future they can work with us more constructively than they have done in the recent past.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It was a great shame that the hon. Gentleman tore up the cross-party agreement that was so meticulously put together by Mr. Ainsworth and Norman Baker, and I hope that when he intervenes, he will confirm that he will be more constructive in his politics in future.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. He will know very well that when we suspended our participation in our agreement with the Conservative party it was because the Conservatives were unwilling to bring forward any specific policies whatever on the subject, and that continues to be the case. Before he gives us any lectures about following in his wake, or about the efforts of Mr. Cameron, he should be aware that the latter's local authority, West Oxfordshire, has just cut its recycling budget. That will have an effect on global warming, through the effects on landfill and methane. When the right hon. Member for Witney is able to show that he has some influence over his own—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that interventions must be brief.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We have had 25 minutes of listening to the dirge of Chris Huhne; that is quite enough, and I do not intend to take many more interventions from him. It is a shame that he could not be a little more constructive. Obviously, the new politics of climate change have yet to infect the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrat motion contains many good ideas, several of which have been championed by Conservative Members, but the motion is nevertheless uncosted, broad-brush and loosely worded, which is fine for a party facing perpetual opposition, but somewhat more problematic for a party clearly focused on forming the next Government. However, it is right to flag up the latest science, and absolutely right to call for a new sense of urgency. An action plan is well overdue, too, and many people will be surprised to learn that there is no Cabinet Committee charged solely with climate change policy. However, when it comes to tackling transport emissions—a subject mentioned in the motion—Conservative thinking is considerably more ambitious and comprehensive than Liberal Democrat policy on transport. In recent times, it has seemed to begin and end with an attack on 4x4 vehicles, which in reality represent only a fraction of the real problem.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would point out to Mr. Cameron that a Lexus hybrid uses more carbon per mile than a Vauxhall Astra built in my constituency?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

That is a very good point, but the key point about hybrids is that they are part of an emerging technology, and only by supporting hybrids will we support the investment that will go on to push back the boundaries to promote better and cleaner energy. A Lexus 4x4 is certainly a good deal cleaner than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo in which I saw the Liberal director of campaigns driving around in the last by-election, and which was stuffed full of Liberal MPs.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

I have to report to the House that when I recently left the Commons one evening on my bicycle, the hon. Gentleman, who was following in his car, offered to take my briefcase home for me, so he is certainly consistent in his policies. However, will he tell us what Conservative party policy is on congestion charging or motorway tolls, so that we can be clear about that?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Our position on congestion charging is very clear—it is up to local people to decide what is in the best interests of their local communities. In certain areas, it may have a place, but it is up to the local community to decide.

As my hon. Friend Chris Grayling, who is shadow Secretary of State for Transport, has made clear, we have a much more ambitious vision than the Liberal Democrats. Over the next generation, we have set a clear goal of securing a dramatic reduction in the average level of carbon dioxide emissions from cars on our roads. We want the average emission level for new cars in the UK to fall from 170 g per km to 100 g per km by 2022. By 2030, we want that figure to be an average for all the cars on Britain's roads. The only realistic and deliverable route to meet such a target is to facilitate a transformation in the types of automotive technology in use in the UK. We all need to drive greener cars.

That is not a transformation that can be delivered overnight. Cars have a life cycle, as Andrew Miller correctly pointed out. Consumers only buy new cars from time to time, and manufacturers take years to develop new models. We cannot change those realities, but we must do what we can both to incentivise consumers to buy greener cars and to incentivise manufacturers to introduce new models and technologies as quickly as possible. The next Conservative Government will introduce a programme of incentives to achieve that goal with clear milestones along the way. We have asked our quality of life policy group to make clear recommendations on the nature of a programme to set Britain at the forefront of international efforts to make motor vehicles much less environmentally damaging, and that work is due to be published later this summer.

We have an open mind about the technologies that will enable us to make that transition. We already know that hybrid technology and new generation diesel vehicles have made major steps forward in improving emission levels. Biofuels, too, will play an important part in moving towards the achievement of our goals, but only—and it is an important caveat—if they come from truly sustainable sources. We have made it clear that if we are to improve our stewardship of the environment without taking the unrealistic step of reducing people's access to motor travel unnecessarily, changing technology is an essential part of the route that we must travel, and we must begin to encourage the acceleration of that technological change right away.

Vehicle excise duty is a useful instrument to encourage consumers to switch to greener cars, but ultimately, unlike the Lib Dems, we do not begrudge successful people expensive cars, provided that they do not pollute the planet. One place where people understand that and have started to introduce an ambitious change strategy is California. Writing in The Sunday Times at the weekend, the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom we greatly look forward to welcoming to the Conservative party conference in October, said:

"Technology, that's how we should deal with global warming instead of trying to make people feel guilty. In short"—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Indeed, he is the Terminator, and he is coming after the hon. Gentleman's seat. He continued:

"In short, the technology is there. The demand is there. If governments lead, investment will follow, business will follow and jobs will follow."

He concluded:

"Global warming has presented humankind with a tough challenge. Since we all share the planet and breathe the same air, whatever our nationality or political stripe, it only makes sense to work together.

Turning the climate crisis into an opportunity—for investment, clean and green technology and jobs—is a matter of leadership."

Sadly, in the UK we do not see those qualities in Government. Despite encouraging signals abroad and sensible progress in some areas, the bottom line is that, despite the urgency, there has not been hands-on leadership at home. That must change.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Labour, Scunthorpe

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about urgency, but that is the weakness in his argument. While the programme that he is outlining on technology is all very worthy—that certainly has a role to play—applying it to new vehicles will be an incredibly slow process, and biofuels can have only a limited impact. It is a mistake to rely solely on technology, because we need a range of tools, including road pricing, whereby people could be encouraged to move on to public transport. Why has his party turned its face against that?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need a range of tools, but we are not seeing ambitious policies from this Government in any area; I have yet to see credible road pricing proposals from them. It is all hypothetical—after 10 years, there is not a single ambitious policy in place. Throwing the solutions back on to the official Opposition shows that there is a dearth of thinking and action on the Labour Benches: we will show them how to do it when we are in government.

A clearer, coherent picture will necessarily include a greater focus on high-speed rail in the UK. It will also require a greater willingness to use tax as a way of ensuring that the full environmental impact of short-haul flights is priced into the cost of a ticket. We need a tax system that discourages pollution across the board and rewards people for making the right choices. We know that the Environment Secretary agrees with us, because he said as much in his secret, but leaked, pre-Budget letter to the Chancellor. He rightly referred to the fact that aviation is our fastest-growing source of greenhouse emissions, potentially set to rise from 5 per cent. currently to 25 per cent. by 2030. Tellingly, he referred to the embarrassment of Labour's policy on airport expansion, which is totally at odds with its stated aims of reducing carbon emissions.

That brings me to green taxation. It has rightly gained a bad name under Labour, because although the share of green tax has fallen, whenever the Chancellor has levied a new tax in the name of the environment, it has been all grab, with no offsetting in terms of reductions in the tax burden elsewhere. His green tax motives sit ill with the fact that in his first eight Budget speeches he mentioned climate just once, on average, and at most twice. Then, lo and behold, following the election of the new leader of the Conservative party, it leapt to 16 mentions in 2006. Who says that an old dog cannot learn new tricks? Under this Government, green tax has become just another shade of Brown stealth tax. That has to change.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that when the Government introduced the climate change levy in 2001, that was accompanied by a 0.3 percentage point cut in employers' national insurance contributions, and that the introduction of the aggregates levy was accompanied by a 0.1 percentage point cut in employers' NICs? It is absolutely unjustified to levy the charge that there was no offsetting in this area, and I hope that he will withdraw those remarks.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am afraid that I will not because, sadly, those are simply two remarkable exceptions. What about air passenger duty? What about vehicle excise duty? The list goes on. Unfortunately, the Brown chancellorship is not green.

The next Conservative Government will not increase the tax burden on hard-working families but rebalance taxation so that the polluter pays and the non-polluter pays less. However, we do not simply need a programme of green taxes; we need a green programme—full stop. I am pleased to say that the Climate Change Bill will go some way towards tackling that. We warmly welcome it and will work as constructively as possible with the Government as it passes through the Commons to make it a better and more effective measure. However, it provides only a framework for action rather than action. Given Labour's miserable record in achieving medium-term CO2 targets, we need annual targets in the Bill to keep the Government and any future Government on course and held to account.

It is ironic that a Chancellor who has never shied away from placing ever more reporting and regulatory burdens on business balks at the idea that his Government might find themselves truly accountable annually. There is no alternative. We must start making a difference in this decade and begin achieving our stretching targets. It is our shared responsibility to the next generation to act now, not pass on our failures to our children. Labour cannot put off all the difficult decisions to some distant or unspecified date. As much as Conservative Members champion the private sector—we want the power of the markets to be fully utilised in the fight against global warming—Labour cannot simply rely on the emissions trading scheme to save its record from years of inertia.

The Government cannot simply rely on the ETS and, as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, "leave aviation untouched" for the best part of a decade. That is not tenable. Labour cannot cross its fingers and hope that nuclear power alone will provide all the miracle answers. However, the Government would be right to examine the way in which we generate and use energy as a source of huge savings in carbon dioxide. With or without nuclear power, we believe that there is huge potential to cut CO2 in the domestic energy sector. By and large, the sector has remained pretty much unchanged since the Chancellor was a boy in the early 1950s. However, we will unleash a new energy revolution and harness the huge efficiencies made possible by uniting our demand for both heat and power only if we decentralise to the most local level.

Decentralised energy runs counter to the Government's instinctive centralising tendencies. It goes against the grain of the Chancellor's old, 1980s mindset. However, the answers to 21st century energy problems lie not in a drawer in Whitehall but in our local communities. We need the Government to hack away at the red tape and overbearing regulation that currently inhibit decentralised energy. We need the Government to make it not only easier but advantageous for new local payers to enter local electricity markets, whether they are large businesses such as Tesco, public sector institutions such as schools and hospitals or simply a family trying to do their bit through photovoltaic roof tiles.

We need to be far more ambitious in targeting energy saving, and innovative in providing solutions. Chris Huhne is right to say that we need to make energy service companies a reality in the United Kingdom. To do that, we need to change the culture of the Government's regulators to put the reduction of CO2 emissions at the centre of their mission. It cannot simply be an add-on. We need the Government to empower local communities to make a difference, to set new standards locally, to blaze a trail and thus allow local communities to go further than the clunking fist in Whitehall currently deems fit.

If we are to make up for lost time and start to make strides in the next decade towards an enterprising, low carbon economy, we need genuine leadership at the centre and local delivery. As last Thursday's massive gains of nearly 900 seats in the English local elections show, when people want something delivered locally—cleaner streets, warmer homes or local action against climate change—they will vote blue and go green.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Labour, Scunthorpe 5:44 pm, 8th May 2007

I welcome the opportunity to discuss what is clearly one of the most pressing environmental issues—if not the most pressing—that we face this century. Clearly, a great deal is riding on the issue of climate change, which indeed unites both sides of the House. I welcome that.

I would say gently, however, to Gregory Barker that he really should not set as much store as he does by the dash for gas. There are two reasons, the first being that what he said is not true. If my memory serves me correctly, the dash for gas accounts for about 30 to 40 per cent. of carbon dioxide reductions. Secondly, what he said gives encouragement to people outside this country who do not wish to take difficult decisions and implement the necessary action. They say that the UK's progress is simply a result of the dash for gas. That is not true. The UK's achievement is the more remarkable because most of it took place in a period of sustained economic growth—not in a recession, as was the case under the previous Administration. The achievement is remarkable, and it demonstrates that it is possible to reduce emissions without ruining the economy. That is a very important message to get across, particularly to the United States and other countries. I urge the hon. Gentleman not to give comfort to those who argue against taking action.

I also disagree with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle about targets. Targets have a role and a place, and they can be used in all sorts of different ways. However, I much prefer the option suggested in the Climate Change Bill, which is carbon budgeting. I prefer that because it takes us in a much more radical direction. Carbon budgeting brings about the kind of cultural shift that we need, both in this country and internationally. Carbon budgeting can align the budget targets with financial budgets relating to the business of government, and allows the use of all the different levers that the Government have available.

To achieve the reductions that we need, we must have a cross-government approach in which every Department is involved, and tackling climate change becomes part of the culture of Government. I believe that there is a danger in arguing straightforwardly for targets, which is too unambitious. Budgeting also provides an incentive to maximise savings in any one year, because it provides some bankable carbon in case there is a poorer performance in another year. I therefore disagree with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle about targets.

I agree that the Government have to lead by example, and I believe that they have done so in all sorts of areas. I welcome the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle to the Prime Minister's role, and particularly to his influence in providing international leadership. Climate change is, of course, an international issue, and we need international solutions, which I shall touch on again in a few moments.

Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman was waxing eloquent, and rightly so, about the benefits of carbon budgeting. Most businesses—and, indeed, Government Departments—set budgets ahead for one year, not five years. Why, then, do we have five-year budgets for carbon?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Labour, Scunthorpe

The argument for five years—although it is not for me to make it—is that it aligns itself with the process of the UN framework convention on climate change. There may be an argument for having a three-year carbon budget, which would align itself with the comprehensive spending review, for example, so there is perhaps a debate to be had on the cycle, but I certainly believe that the budgeting approach is much better than simple annual targets, particularly bearing in mind the all-important annual report and assessment provided by an independent committee, as set out in the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that if there is an annual report, there must be a benchmark against which progress can be assessed? Would it not be better to make that explicit in an annual target rather than implicit in the work of the committee?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Labour, Scunthorpe

The problem is that there is some confusion among those who advocate annual targets. Even they recognise that in any one year it is possible to face circumstances that are outside the Government's control. There could, for example, be a dramatic shift in prices—we have seen that in recent years—whereby coal becomes much more attractive as a fuel than gas. The levers of control over that are extremely limited, in terms of what the Government can do. Some people say that it would be possible to make an allowance for that within an annual target. The difference between that and carbon budgeting has thus become very narrow.

I would rather be a bit more honest about this, and recognise that carbon budgeting gives the kind of flexibility that any Government require and that it takes us towards the concepts of carbon markets, of caps and of budgeting for carbon within all our lifestyles, right down to personal lifestyles. I know that Chris Huhne does not share my views about the radicalism of personal carbon allowances; I disagree with him on that matter. We should keep an open mind on how we approach this issue, as part of the all-important cultural shift in which we begin to think about carbon in the same way as we think about the price of electricity or gas. That shift has to come.

The Government can provide a lead in that regard. The move towards smart metering is extremely good, for example. I have had a prototype smart meter fitted in my own home recently. By the sound of things, it is not as good as some of the meters that will be available in the next few years, but it nevertheless allows me to see exactly what my real-time electricity use is, and I have taken steps to reduce that as a result.

I also welcome the extra money for building in high sustainability and low carbon to such programmes as building schools for the future. I am keen on that, not least because Scunthorpe is in the current wave for that programme, involving a £74 million programme of new schools and refurbishments. What better opportunity could there be not only to build in standards for low carbon but to use the results as a teaching tool, so that the pupils can see real-time read-outs of renewable power use and understand the value of passive heating and ventilation? Those are the kinds of standards that can be built in, and I welcome that. I am pleased that the Government have seized the opportunity to do it.

Government procurement, too, is a powerful tool. I know that this subject has been examined, but we are only scratching the surface. We could make a lot more progress through the power of Government procurement, and also local government procurement, which is not used as it should be in this context.

I agree with some of the points that have been made about energy companies becoming providers of energy services rather than simply selling energy; that change must happen. I should like to suggest to my hon. Friend the Minister that renewable energy certificates are among the most successful vehicles for the encouragement of renewables. They have worked well, and helped to take the use of renewable energy from a very low level towards achieving our targets.

Given what Germany has done with feed-in tariffs, however, perhaps we should consider moving away from renewable energy certificates. We would have to do that over time, because people have invested in the scheme and we cannot undermine that investment, but I believe that we should be thinking about feed-in tariffs that depend on the level of technology involved. For example, if a power station is investing in carbon capture, which involves very expensive technology at the moment, feed-in tariffs for that power station should reflect that level of investment. In the domestic energy sphere, people who fit micro-power to their own homes should certainly get a better feed-in tariff than they do at the moment, although I welcome the Chancellor's proposal to make that income tax-free. He has sent out an important signal by doing that.

I want to turn to the international issues that relate to climate change, because they will be the key factor. There is a lot that we can do, and we should lead by example. We should demonstrate that an advanced industrial country can reduce its emissions without affecting its gross domestic product. However, we shall have to persuade other countries to do more. We need to look for an agreement post-2012, at the end of the present Kyoto protocol, and we have an awfully long way to go in getting the necessary buy-in from a number of countries.

I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Eastleigh said about the range of 450 to 550 parts per million. We should be aiming for the bottom end of that range, because I worry about the impact that being at the top of the range would have on the global climate. Hon. Members will be aware, however, that a number of countries think that 550 parts per million is an unrealistic target. We still have a long way to go to convince countries that 550 would be straying into the area of dangerous climate change.

One way of getting greater international support would be for the developed nations to place more emphasis on including aid packages to developing countries as part of a climate change agreement relating to adaptation. I would like to suggest to the Minister that we need new funding for that. We need to ally these issues to our aid programmes. I know that the Department for International Development has been giving a lot of thought to the matter, but we need new money on the table to get those agreements, particularly from the emerging economies. One way of doing that would be to ensure that money was available in the framework for clean energy and development, which came out of the Gleneagles action plan. That potentially powerful vehicle is being set up by the World Bank, and it needs our encouragement and support.

It is important that carbon markets develop, because although proposals for smart taxation that encourages the use of new technologies, for lower emission vehicles and for offsetting the emissions from planes are all perfectly legitimate arguments, I worry that there is a potential for the prices involved to be rather elastic. For example, the fuel surcharges on air tickets range from about £30 to £60, before we add the increased departure tax. Those taxes have not had a great effect. Neither of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen has told the House what figure they would propose that would actually deter people from flying. I have never seen such a figure. I would like my hon. Friend the Minister to consider that, if there were a cap on emissions, the aviation sector would not be able to exceed that cap. That would be a much more effective way of ensuring that aircraft emissions did not rise, and that new technologies and the efficient use of existing aircraft were encouraged.

Carbon markets are not yet mature—they are still developing—but there is an argument for taking a levy on each tonne of carbon traded. This has been discussed in Germany, and the figure of 10 cents has been suggested. That money could go into a fund that could boost adaptation funds. There would also be a strong element of social justice involved, because the money would come from the people producing the carbon and go to those who, because of their poverty, were not. Given the rate of growth of the markets, there is the potential for a huge fund that could be directed towards adaptation and new technologies. The proposal is not without its problems, but it is something to think about in terms of raising large sums of money that could make a real difference. It could encourage adaptation and the decarbonisation of our societies.

I have a final point to put to the Minister, and it is one that I can make more easily than he can. If there were a lack of progress towards international carbon markets or, heaven forbid, towards a framework, post-2012, by some countries—some have legitimate claims because they are emerging economies; others should know better—would he give some thought to a concept that I regard as very much a second choice? If countries such as ours, or markets such as the European Union, are imposing the justifiable burdens and costs of carbon markets that encourage the use of new technology and innovation, could a carbon levy be imposed on imports from countries that are not part of any international agreement and are not taking action to control carbon? That levy could then be recycled back to the developing countries to support technology transfer and new technologies.

I understand the controversy involved in moving into such an area. I know all about the kind of opposition that such a proposal would get from the World Trade Organisation, and I must make it clear that that is not something that I want to see. I want to see an effective outcome, post-2012, involving a proper and effective framework agreement that has been signed up to by the United Nations forum on climate change. If there is no progress, however, there should be no free riders. It saddens me to say so, but, in those circumstances, a carbon levy is something that we should consider.

Several hon. Members:

rose —

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

May I make a plea for brief contributions? There is a limited amount of time available for the rest of the debate.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 5:59 pm, 8th May 2007

The original title of this debate was "Action on climate change begins at home". The latter part of that title is the most important in relation to what we have discussed today, not least because of the pressing need to persuade the public and individuals that they can make a difference by changing their own habits and lifestyles at home.

All of us, as politicians, should do more to help instil in the minds of the population the belief that their actions can and do affect levels of air, water and light pollution. We need to believe that ultimately, only the collective efforts of individuals at home, in their jobs, and perhaps even in their capacities as leaders of the community in business and in Government, will be able to tackle the problem of climate change and the devastating effects that we can already see it bringing.

There are many fine examples of individuals taking the lead. I recently visited a gentleman in Cheadle Hulme, in my constituency, who had installed solar panels on his house to do his bit to help stop climate change, at considerable expense to himself. That was a fantastic initiative, which should be held up as an example to others. I was, however, appalled by what he told me about the lack of Government support for such schemes. The Government need to give individuals incentives to take "green" action.

The fiasco of the low carbon building scheme, reported in recent months, only serves to prove that the Government are failing to keep up with the public demand for greener solutions to energy problems. In March the monthly capped grant for the scheme was allocated to householders in only 75 minutes, which clearly showed the Government's dismal failure to fund the scheme properly. With solar panels costing up to a possible £7,000, many households will simply not be able to afford to take the drastic action necessary to tackle global warming. Despite the promise from the Environment Secretary that householders would have better access to renewable energy funds, the low carbon building scheme effectively shut up shop from March until later this month. No wonder so many people are asking how on earth this is helping to tackle climate change.

Buildings in the United Kingdom are responsible for nearly half our total carbon emissions, yet the Government still fail to create incentives for people to improve the carbon footprints of their own homes. Not only do we need tough new standards to be set for new build; we need to provide incentives for home owners to improve older properties by installing insulation and other energy-saving devices. The Liberal Democrats' energy mortgage policy would deal with the problem of cost by lending home owners money for the initial outlay, which could then be paid back in money saved from lower energy bills.

Doorstep recycling is yet another example of the way in which changing patterns of public behaviour can be seen to have a real effect on climate change and the environment. My own council, Stockport—where, incidentally, the Liberal Democrats increased their majority last Thursday at the expense of the Conservatives—has a better recycling record than any other metropolitan borough council in the country, with 33 per cent. of all household waste now being recycled, but even there we know that we can and must improve. When the council rolled out its pioneering "green waste" wheelie bin programme it was flooded with requests from residents asking for the bins, and struggled to keep up with the public demand. With its excellent environmental record, Stockport puts many other local authorities to shame.

Recycling is a low-cost option for the public, and a simple way in which individuals can make a difference to climate change. Local government has a vital leadership role to play in environmental issues and should be doing its utmost to encourage recycling and other environmentally conscious behaviour, but, it can do that only with the active support and encouragement of central Government. The Government may have made a start, but they need to do much, much more if they are to deliver on their promises.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson PPS (Mr Liam Byrne, Minister of State), Home Office 6:04 pm, 8th May 2007

I think Labour Members can all agree that we are grateful to the Liberal Democrats for choosing to highlight the Government's ongoing work in combating climate change.

I do not believe anyone would take issue with the idea that the fight against climate change, like charity, must begin at home. Much has been made of the small changes that we can all make to our lifestyles, which when added together should make an enormous difference. However, we must remember that "home" is not just something that belongs to the individual or the private person. New homes that are not yet occupied are an important consideration. Companies have their own homes, perhaps even several homes across the country, and we as Members of Parliament have our own home here in the House of Commons. I want to spend a few minutes examining what is being done, and in some cases what needs to be done, in all those different homes across the country.

I expect that all hon. Members have heard a fair few "light bulb" jokes in their time, but I doubt that anyone has heard the one that asks, "How many MPs does it take to change a light bulb?" The answer, on this occasion, is 77—the number of Members who signed my early-day motion 947, which called for a ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs.

Some of my constituents suggested to me that I was doing my patch a disservice, as the first light bulb was invented in Gateshead, in my constituency, by Joseph Swan, who was born in Sunderland, another part of my constituency. For me, however, that proves that both Gateshead and Sunderland have been at the forefront of the energy agenda in the past, and I have every faith that they will continue to be so in the future.

I would not presume to claim that what happened next was an immediate response to my early-day motion, but needless to say I was delighted when the Chancellor announced that the sale of old-fashioned energy-hungry light bulbs would be phased out by 2011. That represents a clear commitment from the Government to lead people in the right direction, and to enable all of us to make the small changes that will deliver a big difference.

I know from spending time in my constituency that although the message is getting through, there remain significant obstacles for the Government to tackle. It is all very well preaching from our parliamentary pulpits, but we must remember that for families who are surviving on low incomes, pursuing a green lifestyle carries a sometimes unsustainable cost. The Government have announced that from next year, every household will be able to monitor the amount of energy being used at any given time. That is exactly the sort of simple innovation that should be supported: such aid will help people to stop wasting not only energy but money, and will therefore be especially useful in low-income areas.

The Warm Front scheme forms a vital part of the Government's energy efficiency commitment, and will have provided consumers with 40 million bulbs by 2008. I know that the Government are also working hard at European Union level to try to find a way of reducing VAT on energy-efficient goods such as low-energy light bulbs. I hope that, with the support of Members in all parts of the House, we shall be able to find a solution that will make energy efficiency affordable for all.

We do not want to see the development of carbon inequalities, especially if they closely reflect income inequalities. If we cut carbon costs, we must ensure that everyone can meet their own efficiency targets. The Liberal Democrats do not seem to have solutions to that problem. Prescribing top-down standards, targets and subsidies such as energy mortgages will only lead to additional costs being passed on indiscriminately to consumers, and that will again hit the poorest hardest.

It is clear that the Government are committed to leading the field across the world in combating climate change. In fact, many other countries are already having to play catch-up, and I suppose it is no surprise that Opposition parties find themselves having to do the same.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is not just individuals and families who have homes. Businesses throughout the United Kingdom have several hundred thousand homes of their own. It is welcome that, on the whole, United Kingdom business is accepting that it must take responsibility for the changes that are taking place, and adjust its own role to accommodate that. Although EU carbon emissions trading is merely in its infancy, it is testimony to the commitment of our Government that the UK is—again—at the forefront of the scheme and continues to set an example of best practice to the rest of the EU.

No matter how much we recycle, for the time being at least, no home can be without the common dustbin. I never knew that dustbins could be a hot topic of conversation, but refuse collection was one of the biggest issues on the nation's doorsteps during the last few weeks and months. Dealing properly with our rubbish is causing increasing logistical problems, and I can certainly sympathise with those who think that a fortnightly rubbish collection is not sufficient to remove the refuse produced during that period by, for instance, a family of five. Both my local Labour-led councils are evaluating ways in which they can maximise recycling across their two metropolitan boroughs. They will find that task much easier thanks to the draft Climate Change Bill, which locks into statute changes that will enable Britain to adapt with sufficient flexibility to the challenges that lie ahead.

I agree strongly with one aspect of the Liberal Democrat motion. We have already established that the challenge of combating climate change begins at home, and it is imperative that we as elected representatives make sure that our own house is in order. We must take steps to ensure that Parliament is as energy-efficient as possible. Ideally, it will—like all new homes—be carbon-neutral within the next decade. A raft of possible changes could be made. I am told that last Christmas, after I had tabled parliamentary questions, the House authorities used low-energy bulbs to light the Christmas trees. From memory, I think that that saved about £4,000. Although that is laudable, I am sure that we all agree that combating climate change is for life and not just for Christmas. Targets are in place to cut Government emissions by more than 30 per cent. before 2020, but I believe that we need to act with greater urgency. This issue can transcend party boundaries, and I am in no doubt that it would do the world of good for the Houses of Parliament to lead by example. By doing so, we can avoid having a "Do as we say, not as we do" attitude.

Of course I will not support the motion, despite the fact that much of it appears to support Government positions. However, I hope that our debate on what is undeniably one of the supremely important issues of our time will inspire us all to go home to our constituencies and prepare to save power, and that that in turn will combat climate change.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:12 pm, 8th May 2007

I thank Chris Huhne for picking this subject for debate on behalf of his party. I was a little disappointed by some of his comments at the start of his speech about the Conservatives in the European Parliament. Having been a colleague of his for five years, I recall working closely with the Liberal Democrats and their group in the European Parliament putting together a number of compromises, which would have been undermined by some of the luddite policies that the Green parties tended to promote there. However, I shall forgive him and put his remarks down to him still smarting at the "vote blue, go green" phenomenon that was seen to such a great extent around the country on Thursday.

Any action plan to curb our carbon emissions must take account of how green some new technologies being touted as panaceas really are. Solar panels are often touted as the answer. Although water-heating panels can make some contribution, photovoltaic cells are less difficult to justify from an environmental point of view. Toward the end of last year, I was talking to one of the founders of Greenpeace and he said that although his house is in New Mexico the photovoltaics on the roof did not manage to produce all the energy needed for that house. Although Scarborough is renowned for its sunny climate—especially during the holiday season—its sunshine levels are nowhere near as high as those of New Mexico.

The Minister mentioned that he will be flying to New York and that he will offset the carbon, but we need to look carefully at some carbon offsetting schemes. Tree planting would only really count if those trees were allowed to become fossils. If they merely rotted down and in due course the CO2 was liberated again, that would not be genuine carbon offsetting. Simple measures such as installing insulation, turning off the standby function on one's video recorder, and turning down the thermostat in one's house are likely to have a greater effect.

Yorkshire has a number of power stations that burn renewable fuels. Despite a hesitant start, we also have farmers in Yorkshire planting willow coppice, as well as elephant grass or miscanthus. That can be easily justified as making a contribution. However, I am less convinced of the environmental or even the economic advantages of importing olive pressings from north Africa to burn in power stations in Yorkshire, which is happening at present.

The European Union has set a target of 5.75 per cent. for biofuels in transportation by 2010. Germany and France are confident that they will reach that target early, and bioethanol and biodiesel are being promoted there. There is tremendous potential within the EU to produce those fuels, given that 10 per cent. of our arable land is currently in set-aside, but we must look at the environmental impact of taking land out of set-aside. I and many other farmers have entered into the entry level scheme. That will be fairly easy to reverse, but the environmental improvements from it are, perhaps, less tangible than those of higher level schemes. However, it will be much more difficult to take land out of those environmental schemes, and although we will produce energy from that land there will be an environmental fallout.

We also have a lot of waste oil in the EU, which is used for cooking chips and in catering. Previously, that oil was used as animal feed so it had a positive value. Sadly, since the implementation of an animal by-products directive such oil can no longer be used for animal feed. We need better incentives to stop cooks and chefs pouring oil down the drain and to ensure that it can go into making biofuel.

My family is trying to make some impact. I have a green cemetery, which I hope cuts down emissions from crematoria. I have also entered into a biofuel contract. Sadly, however, there is no biodiesel plant in the UK. Somewhat bizarrely, my 45 acres of oilseed rape will not go for biodiesel but will be entered in a complex offset scheme with German crushers. My rape will not actually go to Germany, but rape in Germany will be used for biofuel and be offset against mine. It is likely that my rape will not be processed for fuel in Hull or Erith in Kent, but that rape that is offset against mine will be processed by ADM in Hamburg or Bunge in Mannheim. Germany has taken the lead in this area because it has given capital grants and fuel rebates to kick-start the technology.

In the UK, we have the energy aid scheme—a subsidy to encourage farmers to produce biofuels. Of the €45 per hectare available, €22.5 goes to the crusher. The problem that we in the UK have is that we have signed up to the highest level of modulation. As a result, 17 per cent. of the aid that is meant to promote biofuels is being clawed back by the Government. To detach the energy aid scheme from modulation would be a good way of promoting biofuel in the UK. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that.

Biofuels are being promoted throughout the world. Recently, there were riots in Mexico City, with people complaining that the price of their staple, maize-based diet had increased because of maize being turned into ethanol in the United States of America. In terms of the overall energy balance of producing ethanol from maize, there is merely a 13 per cent. reduction in CO2 after account is taken of factors such as the fuel used in the fertiliser, the cultivation and the transport and processing. That is a fairly minor increase. For biodiesel, various figures have been touted about —50 per cent. energy gain is one figure that I have heard. That does not take into account the non-direct CO2 produced. For example, if my tractor driver takes a holiday abroad and flies to get there, that is not included in the figures on the impact.

Much of the fuel that Europeans use will be imported from places such as Brazil. Rain forests have been cut down to produce sugar and soya beans. In south-east Asia, oil palms are being grown, which is contributing to the destruction of the orang-utans' habitat. Many of the commodities being used to produce biofuels are commodities that can also be used as food. I recently read that a Range Rover's tank of ethanol would be equivalent to the amount of food consumed by a person in a year. Whenever there are chaotic famines around the world, we are able to send food aid, but that might not be the case in the future as more of the arable land in the developed and developing world is turned over to biofuel production and we do not have the grain surplus to send to aid third-world countries.

What are the answers? First, we need a good eco-audit of biofuels. We do not want to find that the biodiesel that we use in our cars is deforestation diesel, so we need to consider the energy balance. Secondly, we need to examine more closely technologies that utilise the cellulose and lignin in straw and waste products for which we currently have no use. More emphasis on such research is necessary. Thirdly, we need to utilise that tremendous resource in the EU of unproductive set-aside land. If we can bring that into production in a way that does not damage other environmental concerns, that will be good. We should stop grabbing the headlines, and start embracing some of the emerging science that can deliver the type of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that we all want.

T

"My family is trying to make some impact. I have a green cemetery, which I hope cuts down emissions from crematoria"

Mr Goodwill MP you are also the owner of several steam engines which gobble ever larger quantities of coal and leave an amazing carbon footprint.

Submitted by Thomas Brodrick Read 3 more annotations

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee 6:20 pm, 8th May 2007

I disagree on a couple of points with Opposition Members who have spoken, although there is a huge amount of agreement across the House, which is good. Chris Huhne reeled off a series of alleged cuts in science investment. I am sure that he would acknowledge that a substantial increase in all science investment—including on climate change—has taken place under this Government. As for the speech of Gregory Barker, I loved the little twist of the blues going green. I wonder, however, whether he has made the "polluter pays" argument to a gentleman whom I met at the beginning of the fuel protest in my constituency, and who now happens to be a Conservative Welsh Assembly Member. He certainly did not believe in blues going green; perhaps the message has not yet fully got across to the Conservative party.

My first point is on national security, which has not been mentioned in the debate. Fresh water, rising sea levels and uncertainty of food supply raise significant national and international security issues, which will help to drive forward this important debate. It is no coincidence that some of the best scientists and experts in the field are now lecturing at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and that people from 40 nations, including Members of the House who have had the opportunity to participate in its fabulous course, have engaged in discussion there of the effect on security over a number of years. That needs to be promoted more strongly. I have made that point to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and I make the same point to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as it is critical that all Government Departments engage with that group of experts in that international forum. Britain undoubtedly has a lead there; otherwise, the 40 nations, including the United States, who send senior personnel to study at the college would not do so.

My second point is about planning, on which the hon. Member for Eastleigh made several important points. Energy efficiency certificates were discussed earlier in relation to the home information packs programme. I believe not only that the principle of HIPs will drive down the buying and selling costs of property—the only siren voices against it are the vested interests represented in different parts of the high street—but that it will ultimately put net downward pressure on house sales. It is important, however, that we drive forward the concept of energy efficiency certificates with some vigour.

The planning cycle also needs to include real vision on how we deal with future sustainable homes. That is not just about sticking a windmill on the top of some bijou residence in Notting Hill; it is about serious strategic planning to change our approach to living. With imaginative planning, sustainable energy manufacturing could take place within small rural communities.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Minister (Energy), Trade & Industry

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments on that subject. Does he therefore agree with the Bill brought forward by his hon. Friend Mr. Caton, which would allow local authorities to set higher standards with regard to energy efficiency in local planning than central Government are setting?

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

The principle of devolving the responsibility has some merit, but leadership from the top is also needed, because imaginative work will be required in respect of some sacred cows such as the green belt. I do not mean that we will build over the whole green belt in my constituency, but imagination should be applied to the question of how some of those rural communities can become more sustainable through the growing of crops and use of solar and wind energy.

That leads me to my third point, which is on energy. A couple of Members, including the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, appeared to take an anti-nuclear stance. Nuclear power cannot solve all the problems—far from it. Simple arithmetic, however, shows that it is impossible to ignore the nuclear cycle. I hope that the Liberal Democrats will contemplate that carefully. The economic growth of China and India alone will wipe out any potential gains from Kyoto, so our energy policy will—

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

No. The hon. Gentleman wants 15 minutes to wind up, so he can use some of that time.

Our energy policy will have to reflect the need for a properly balanced energy structure that provides for a base load. To be carbon-free, part of that base load must be nuclear, whether we like it or not.

My final point is on public understanding, which we take for granted. As my right hon. Friend Mr. Morley said, we have tended to consider pound sterling values and not carbon values. I last used my log tables when I needed to calculate the thermal efficiency of the walls in my house in order to assess which radiators to install. That calculation was done on the basis of pounds sterling, not tonnes of carbon. With hindsight, that was the wrong calculation to use. We need to educate people to think in a different way. To a certain extent, we are succeeding in recycling and, in some respects, in the procurement of vehicles. I am told by dealers that people are now asking what the carbon emissions of vehicles are. Education is working, and we need to drive that forward.

To conclude, I agree with the hon. Member for Eastleigh that greater co-ordination across Government Departments is needed to cover almost every aspect of the Government's activities. Her Majesty's Government should be commended, however, for their bold position and leadership role throughout the world.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:30 pm, 8th May 2007

Members will be pleased with the overall tone of this debate, which has demonstrated a great deal of agreement on the direction of travel that we should all be going in, even if we cannot all agree on whether we should indulge wealthy urban 4x4 owners in their chosen mode of transport.

My hon. Friend Chris Huhne opened the debate in a spirit of friendly competition by reminding us that the only Conservative national election manifesto yet produced under the leadership of Mr. Cameron scored zero out of 10 for green initiatives, according to Friends of the Earth. My hon. Friend also rightly warned us against Government complacency and the drift in Government policy, which Conservative Members also mentioned, toward the toleration of 550 parts per million as an acceptable carbon dioxide concentration target. The Stern report had very cautionary words to say about that, although in a sense, that report has been part of the problem in tolerating that figure.

Stern pointed out that according to the Hadley Centre's assessment, a worldwide figure of 550 ppm gives rise to a 69 per cent. probability of exceeding 3C of global warming. Elsewhere in the report, Sir Nicholas pointed out the possible consequences of such an increase, such as the onset of collapse of part or all of the Amazonian rain forest, many species facing extinction, rising intensity of storms, and forest fires, droughts, flooding and heatwaves. Those dramatic and apocalyptic consequences will begin to kick in quite fast. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh said, given the feedback mechanisms that are liable to accelerate global warming, we might be in an uncontrollable situation much earlier than we thought. I caution the Government to move away from the idea that 550 ppm is an acceptable target; it is in fact an extremely high-risk one.

What we need is ambition. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh said, we need to give the UK first-mover advantage and to bring real urgency to all Government Departments. We need an annual action plan and a dedicated Cabinet Committee to bring together the worthy ambitions often heard from DEFRA Ministers—I count Mr. Morley as a past distinguished example—but which often do not seem to translate to other Departments. The Treasury certainly failed to introduce anything particularly convincing in the recent Budget.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, moreover, has failed to promote energy efficiency to anything like the time scale necessary. As my hon. Friend David Howarth pointed out, it talked out a Bill that would have guaranteed the ability of local councils to set energy efficiency and microgeneration standards higher than the national standard. That was a shameful performance; the DCLG allowed its control-freak tendencies to get the better of its green instincts. We have seen nothing from it as imaginative as the warm homes package that we Liberal Democrats suggested —[Interruption.] Members may laugh, but I should like to see something equally imaginative from the DCLG; however, nothing has been forthcoming. Ours is a really radical proposal that would release funds over a long period, guarantee householders lower bills and release the funds required to tackle the energy efficiency of existing housing stock, as well as new homes. That policy area badly needs to be addressed.

Nor have we seen anything from the Department for Transport that really addresses the problems associated with vehicle excise duty and the expansion of aviation. We still perhaps face the toleration of extra runways at Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow airports, even though—in addition to the taxation measures that we have debated today—the constraint of supply of aviation spaces is another way to limit aviation's growth.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh also emphasised the important role of the public sector. We Liberal Democrats suggest using the decent homes standard as a vehicle to offer a green revolution to the least well-off in our society—as well as to the homeowners whom we often talk about in these debates—by, for instance, promoting community renewable energy on a much larger scale.

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment replied to my hon. Friend by claiming that there was great cross-party consensus on the urgency of this issue. Some of the initiatives that he described we have supported and would indeed welcome. I would certainly welcome the free household smart meter displays that the Minister appeared to commit to in his speech, but it is therefore a mystery as to why he will not commit to a more ambitious target in the Climate Change Bill. Why is he still talking about including a target of only a 60 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2050, given that he said in his own speech that the Government were ready for 70 per cent? We Liberal Democrats consider 80 per cent. or even higher to be the realistic and necessary target.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister shakes his head. I will happily give way if he wants to explain why the target in the Bill is so low.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. It is unfortunate and puerile to keep on making that sort of attack. He knows full well that the Bill stipulates that the target is at least 60 per cent.; that it is for CO2, not greenhouse gases; and that when it translates into parts per million of greenhouse gas emissions, it is substantially higher than 60 per cent. He is also aware that according to part 1 of the Bill, it is open to the Secretary of State to amend the target in the light of science, as scientific knowledge progresses. I hope that that will put an end to this—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The Minister must not anticipate his own winding-up speech.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am very grateful for the Minister's lengthy intervention. When I was in business, a target was a high point that one aimed for, not the lowest that one thought achievable. If what he says is right, I see no reason why he would not accept an amendment in Committee to increase the figure to at least 80 per cent.

The truth is that there is too much complacency in government. As Sir Nicholas Stern makes clear, the Government's repeated claim to be meeting their Kyoto target on overall greenhouse gases is a bit of a myth. Page 204 of the Stern report attributes the historic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to the dash for gas. The real trend now is rather more worrying. An examination of CO2 emissions, rather than of the basket of greenhouse gases, shows that the Government's record since taking office is an increase of 2.4 per cent. If we compare the provisional figures for 2006 with those for 2002, the trend since 2002 is an increase in CO2 emissions of 3.3 per cent., and an increase of 0.6 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions as a whole. We have to accept that the figures on which the Government are working are inadequate, and that in continuing to claim that they are on course to meet the Kyoto targets, they are displaying worrying complacency. In a sense, they are fiddling while Rome burns—along with, potentially, the rest of us.

There were some interesting initiatives. I hope that the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment will make available to his own Department the carbon calculator that he referred to. A recent report by the National Audit Office on the Government estate states:

"There is widespread failure to meet targets for sustainable construction and refurbishment...Departments and agencies are not assessing the environmental sustainability of projects despite instructions to do so...Departments and agencies are failing to achieve the required assessment ratings...Eighty per cent of projects would fail to meet the required environmental assessment standards".

It is therefore no wonder that, as other Members have pointed out, DEFRA's own record for its own estate shows an increase in carbon emissions and an 11 per cent. reduction in energy efficiency. The Minister said that that is because it is in a transitional stage—aren't we all?—but the transition that the Government must make is from carbon complacency to urgent action. That attitude is typified in the briefing given to the Joint Committee on the Climate Change Bill. I should say at this point that we Liberal Democrats would not have bothered with that stage; the more urgent need is to get a Bill before this House. However, the Government suggested that the Joint Committee address the briefing, which asked what the main aims and purposes of the Bill should be and why it is needed. I thought that we had got beyond the stage of worrying about why the Bill is needed; surely we all know the answer to that by now. We need to inject a much greater degree of urgency.

Gregory Barker praised both the Prime Minister and Mrs. Thatcher, obviously two of his political role models. Mrs. Thatcher is a warning from history. Twenty years ago, she called the Conservatives the real friends of the earth and raised, in her own way, green issues high up the agenda, just as the right hon. Member for Witney is doing at the moment. However, in the subsequent 20 years, Governments of both colours have presided over spiralling emissions, a poverty of investment in renewable energy, increasing car use and increased aviation.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

For the record, can the hon. Gentleman tell us what happened to carbon emissions under the last Conservative Government from 1992 to 1997?

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The problem is the same as the Government have had with the Kyoto targets, because other factors are at play. In that case, it was the Conservative Government's mismanagement of the economy and the recession. Russia has achieved one of the best carbon reductions of any European country, for similar reasons. The hon. Gentleman lamented the lack of cross-party agreement and specifically mentioned transport and the quality of life commission that is working on the issue. I tried to look up the Conservatives' quality of life commission's policies on transport before the debate. They have obviously spent a lot of time on the website, which is very beautiful with pictures of green grass. One can find the introduction and the terms of reference, but the policy is a little thin. There are three paragraphs—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

That could possibly be because we do not report until the summer.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

So there are no actual policies. It is difficult to maintain a cross-party consensus on policy because the Conservative party does not actually have any. The hon. Gentleman also accused us of begrudging people expensive cars. We do not, but we begrudge them the most polluting cars and will reward those who have the least polluting cars. We have specifically agreed a policy of raising green taxes to change behaviour and to give tax breaks to the least well off with the proceeds.

I have great respect for the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe, and I agree with some of his remarks about Government and local government procurement and the idea of feed-in tariffs as a more useful policy tool. However, he strangely defended five-year targets on the basis that they give more flexibility to Government, but that is the fundamental problem with them. They give far too much flexibility and apply too little pressure. How are we to judge the performance of the Government at the next general election when the five-year target will be on the other side of it? If voters cannot judge that performance, how can we expect human politicians to take the actions necessary?

The right hon. Gentleman also raised another important issue, which is the need to address those nations that do not take part in the Kyoto, or even the post-Kyoto, process. That point was also raised by Sir Nicholas Stern. It is interesting to note the remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy, who has just been elected President of France. He may be a soul mate for the new Labour leadership. He said of the US:

"I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need it, but I also want to tell them that friendship means accepting that your friends may think differently and that a great nation such as the United States has a duty not to put obstacles in the way of the fight against global warming, but on the contrary to take the lead in this fight, because what is at stake is the fate of humanity as a whole."

That is the kind of constructive but critical approach that allies need to take. I fear that this Government have sometimes taken too relaxed an approach to the White House and its attitude to global warming.

My hon. Friend Mark Hunter combined green idealism with a practical grasp of the problems associated with the low carbon buildings programme, which he rightly described as a fiasco and which is still suspended. He paid tribute to the pioneering work of Stockport Liberal Democrat council and its record on recycling, which I happily applaud.

Mrs. Hodgson called for a ban on incandescent light bulbs and I would be happy to support that in due course. She appeared to think that green mortgages were likely to prove an arbitrary cost to consumers, but the whole point of the warm homes package that we propose is that it will save consumers money. It would not work otherwise on a voluntary basis.

Mr. Goodwill spoke from great experience about biofuels, and the virtues of miscanthus and other biofuels that are actually energy efficient and lead to a substantial reduction in global warming if used. That underlines the need for the Government to get on with a proper certification scheme, so that we can tell the difference between those biofuels that are making a contribution to fighting global warming and those that are not.

Andrew Miller talked about security of supply. It is true that green generation is also often secure. It is much more difficult to bomb a tidal array or 1,000 microgeneration sites than it is to bomb a nuclear power station. He also criticised China, as he appeared to believe that it is outside the Kyoto framework, but it is not. In some ways, the Chinese Government have made radical moves towards carbon neutrality in the community at Dongtan.

The Liberal Democrats have set out a radical and coherent plan. We want to see powerful, long-term incentives for renewable energy; a green tax switch; annual targets for CO2 reduction; a tax on flights, not people; no new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted in order to constrain the supply of aviation; smaller, more efficient cars paying much less in excise duty than urban 4x4s; green mortgages; greener homes sooner; more community heat and power; and more pressure on the White House. We want clear green policies, not blue sky waffle or Brown fudge.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs) 6:46 pm, 8th May 2007

In the global battle to combat climate change, no Government have done more than this Labour Government, both domestically and internationally, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or raise the level of international consensus that is required if we are to hold anthropogenic climate change below 2°C. I say that not as a complacent boast, but as a warning to the world. If we who are acknowledged to lead internationally have still so much more to do to change our domestic consumption of energy—and we have—those nations which have so far failed to address climate change may find that the distance they have to travel cannot be covered in the time that the planet is prepared to allow them.

Such a mistake is more than bad timing, it is injustice—injustice between the generations and a shameful disregard for the security and future well-being of our children. It is injustice too in that it is we in the developed world who have contributed most to the current 430 ppm concentration of CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere, but it is those living in the developing world who stand to lose most should those concentrations rise to push temperatures up by more than 2°. The poorest people in the world will suffer most, as Africa loses 4 per cent. of its GDP for every 1° rise in temperature; as India loses 17 per cent. of its wheat yield in tropical areas for the 2°( )rise in temperature predicted above 450 ppm; and as the populations of China, India and south-east Asia experience drought because the seven great river systems originating in the glacial plateau of the Himalayas run dry. Within the next half century, 40 per cent. of the world's population could face the loss of half of all their drinking water.

It is because of the injustice of that greater threat to the livelihood of the poor that we have developed the notion of common but differentiated responsibilities for all countries. Developed nations, who bear greater responsibility for the problem, must bear a greater share of the costs of tackling it. Let us all hope that that is a principle to which the planet's richest country will soon subscribe.

It used to be thought that there was an environment agenda and a development agenda, both good but separate. Climate change has taught us above all that that is a lie. The environment and the development agenda are one, indivisible. Climate change has taught us that the proper name for development without sustainability is extinction.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs)

I would like to do so, but I cannot, given the plethora of responses that I need to make to points raised in the debate. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman was here for the entirety of it.

The Environmental Audit Committee did this House a great service when it produced its report on the millennium ecosystems assessment. It highlighted the degradation of whole ecosystems. Throughout the entire history of life on our planet, species extinction has occurred at the rate of one every 1,000 years. That was until now. During the past few hundred years, the rate has accelerated to the extent that we lose one species each and every year. Fluctuations in climate that evolution could accommodate when they happened over millennia now happen so fast that species cannot adapt. The result is the loss of biodiversity and habitat that provide the very ecosystem services on which we as a species depend.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget earlier this year a new fund worth £800 million over three years to support development and poverty reduction through environmental protection, and to help developing countries respond to climate change. The fund will be governed jointly by my Department and the Department for International Development. The first £50 million of the environmental transformation has been earmarked for a multilateral fund to reduce unsustainable deforestation in the Congo basin.

The fund will not divert money away from our existing spending on overseas development. It is additional to current aid and will be used to fund development activities with local as well as global benefits.

The proposed title of this debate was "Action on Climate Change begins at Home". Some Opposition Members have tried to present a false dichotomy between domestic policy and international action, but they have lacked either understanding or vision, or both. Some have made narrow party attacks, as cheap as they were wrong. In truth, we have but one, fragile home—this planet. The Government must act to ensure that four things are done domestically to tackle emissions. We must reduce demand for energy, improve efficiency, use lower-carbon technologies, and tackle non-energy emissions from waste, agriculture and land use.

We are doing all that in statute, in the most detailed and comprehensive way ever attempted by any Government. The Climate Change Bill provides the framework, and is the start, rather than the end, of this Government's ambitions. We will modify and improve the targets and methods as the science and the economics change.

Internationally, we are working towards the Bali conference at the end of this year, at which the UN framework convention on climate change needs to begin negotiating the elements of a long-term framework after 2012. We are acutely aware that we must reach agreement by 2009, at the latest, if we are to avoid a gap between the first Kyoto period and the second.

It was action by this Government in 2005 placing climate change at the centre of the G8 agenda at Gleneagles that broke through the stalemate that had developed around Kyoto. The G8 summit at Heiligendamm in June will continue the Gleneagles initiative by trying to secure a package of measures that could be used to achieve consensus at Bali.

In Paris earlier this year, the intergovernmental panel on climate change established the scientific argument for anthropogenic climate change beyond doubt. Last week in Thailand scientists went further than ever before in quantifying the effects, and last year's Stern report commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out the economic basis for action. At Bali, the UK would wish the UNFCCC to agree long-term stabilisation goals. In our view, that means securing a CO2 equivalent of no greater than 550 parts per million, and an average global temperature rise no greater than 2°.

I turn now to some of the issues raised in the debate. The energy standards for new homes in England and Wales have been raised steadily, by about 40 per cent. from pre-2002 levels and by 70 per cent. from pre-1990 levels. A new home now uses about a quarter of the average energy for space heating. In December, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced the Government's proposal for further improvements in 2010 and 2013, with the aim of reaching zero carbon by 2016. The new buildings will be energy efficient and highly insulated, drawing their energy from zero or low-carbon technologies and therefore producing no net carbon emissions from all energy use over the course of a year. The buildings will help to reduce carbon emissions as well as lowering fuel bills for households.

That is a very ambitious goal, and the Government have taken several steps to help the industry prepare to deliver the transition. We have published the code for sustainable homes, which will assess new homes against a six-level star rating, giving homeowners better information about the sustainability of their homes. From April 2008, we are minded that all new homes should be required to have the mandatory code rating, indicating whether they have been assessed and their home's performance against the code. In this year's Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced that from October this year all new homes that reach the zero carbon level will be exempt from stamp duty up to a maximum of £15,000.

The Government have set up a zero carbon 2016 taskforce and are also working with English Partnerships to deliver a carbon challenge, to encourage developers to raise design and construction standards to deliver high-quality zero and near-zero carbon communities that are both affordable and sustainable.

We recognise that tackling new homes is only part of the picture. The Government also have an ambitious programme to improve the energy performance of existing homes. Building regulations apply to replacement boilers and windows. Around 70 per cent. of a home's energy use is for heating and hot water, so the requirement for all replacement boilers to be the most efficient condensing type will have a huge impact as the stock is replaced.

Under the energy efficiency commitment, energy suppliers are making substantial investment in consumers' homes. We think that the current phase of the EEC will deliver more than £1 billion of investment, which will more than double under the EEC's third phase that starts next year. The Warm Front programme targets the fuel poor, with more than £800 million being invested in the current spending period. The decent homes programme is also delivering real improvements in the energy standards of social housing. Energy companies will be required to give customers real-time energy displays on demand from January 2008, enabling consumers to have better information about their home's electricity consumption.

I want to pay tribute to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend Mr. Morley. His contribution was as informed and imaginative as we would expect, and it proposed real solutions to the problems that we face. Like him, I do not want the carbon tax on imports to ensure no free riders, but we are working to ensure the international consensus that we both desire and which will mean that such a tax would be unnecessary after 2012. However, it was characteristic of my right hon. Friend to raise such an interesting, imaginative and technical point.

My right hon. Friend also talked about feed-in tariffs. He may know that energy suppliers are developing a scheme to reward household microgeneration better. The Government have said that they will impose such a scheme if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the development by suppliers. Feed-in tariffs are a recognised form of renewable support, but they represent an approach that is fundamentally different from the UK's market-based renewables obligation.

My hon. Friend Mrs. Hodgson alluded to her early-day motion about outlawing incandescent light bulbs. I congratulate her on the success of her campaign, and even more I welcome her realism in warning about the effects of tackling climate change on some of the poorest people in our society, and about the disproportionate amount of their resources that goes to heating and basic insulation.

My hon. Friend Andrew Miller rightly talked about climate change as a security issue. There will be significant impacts as a result of climate change, even if we take urgent action to mitigate the effects. That is why the Government are taking the lead in adaptation. The welfare, economic and environmental outcomes between now and the middle of the century will depend on our ability to adapt to the impact of climate change, as my hon. Friend suggested.

The most significant phrase in the motion is

"offset by other tax cuts".

The hon. Member for Eastleigh has made it clear in his recent speeches what those other tax cuts would be and where they would occur: 2p off income tax and 2 million low earners out of tax altogether. To give that commitment there has to be an element of certainty. To achieve that certainty the green taxes have to keep rolling into the Exchequer. To keep the revenues rolling in people have to keep doing the polluting activity that generates the tax income. The perverse message put out by the Liberal Democrats is that their policy undermines itself: go green and force taxes up. Green taxes should be used to change public behaviour, not to provide alternative sources of core Government revenue.

It is a fact that climate change is an international problem. It is a fact that 98 per cent. of emissions arise in the international community outside the UK. It seems pretty clear to all but a party of political dinosaurs that if we are to avoid the same fate as the dinosaurs we must focus on solutions that can be agreed by the international community, and not just on action in the domestic policy arena. That is why, alongside the UNFCCC and the Gleneagles dialogue, the Government have concluded in the past year bilateral partnerships with China on clean coal and with Brazil, Mozambique and South Africa on biofuels. We have agreed clean energy investment with India and co-operation with Norway on carbon capture and storage.

Domestic policy initiatives give us the moral basis to provide strong international leadership but they address only a fraction of the 2 per cent. of global emissions produced by the UK. We are the generation of politicians to whom has fallen the greatest political and moral challenge since the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. I welcome that opportunity and acknowledge the deep responsibility it places on us all.

Our responsibility is to work together, setting aside narrow party faction to ensure that the UK realises its domestic targets by 2020 and 2050. More than that, we have a responsibility to engage the world community, to make it seize the problem and to encourage, cajole, caution, facilitate and inspire all the nations that share our true and only home—this planet—to rise to the challenge together.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 59, Noes 298.

Division number 107 Climate Change — new sense of urgency — rejected

Aye: 59 MPs

No: 298 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 285 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House welcomes publication of the draft Climate Change Bill, which will make the UK the first country in the world to establish a long term legal framework for managing the transition to a low carbon economy, setting ambitious binding targets to cut carbon emissions by 26 to 32 per cent. from the 1990 level by 2020 and at least 60 per cent. by 2050, which can be revised in light of significant developments in international policy and climate science, and establishing an independent Committee on Climate Change to advise on setting statutory five year carbon budgets and to report to Parliament annually on progress; further welcomes the Government's comprehensive approach to reducing emissions from all sectors of the economy and the proposals in the energy review to cut carbon emissions by up to a further 25 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020; recognises that home energy use for heating, lighting and appliances accounts for more than a quarter of domestic UK carbon emissions; applauds the Government's proposals to improve building standards so that from 2016 all new housing developments must be zero carbon; recognises the Government's commitment to improving the energy efficiency of existing homes and tackling fuel poverty through Warm Front and the Energy Efficiency Commitment; welcomes the Budget 2007 report statement that by the end of the next decade all householders will have been offered help to introduce energy efficiency measures; and looks forward to further development of policies in this area.