Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 5th January 2010.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 4:44 pm, 5th January 2010

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, and commend his efforts and those of the Prime Minister before and during the Copenhagen conference. However, is not the honest truth that many of the efforts made at Copenhagen were too little too late, and that the Copenhagen agreement will probably go down in history as one of the only occasions on which so many world leaders came together in one place to discuss one of the most important issues and came away with so little to show for it?

Do the Government not accept that there is no excuse for not having sorted out the procedural issues beforehand, and that there clearly was not enough political leadership during the months preceding the fortnight in Copenhagen? To ensure that there will be no more disappointing conferences and no more setbacks like that of last month, will the Secretary of State commit himself to ensuring that political leaders here and in the European Union will be engaged in all the steps of the process-all the interim meetings-rather than just leaving it to a glamorous, or in this case rather unglamorous, summit? If the United Nations Security Council can sit in permanent session, why cannot a United Nations climate council do so as well? If this is indeed the biggest crisis, there really ought to be a mechanism for dealing with it.

As a supporter of the EU, I am sad to have to ask why it appeared to be so ineffectual on this occasion. Why did it not play the card that it had promised, and say that it would raise its target to 30 per cent. at Copenhagen? That might have triggered a much better response elsewhere. Given that it did not do that, is there not now an opportunity for the United Kingdom to propose-and for Baroness Ashton, in her new role, to propose-that the EU set a 30 per cent. target for the new decade this month? That proposal could either be contained in the accord annexe submissions that must be in by the end of January, or be submitted at the first EU summit this year.

Why did the Commonwealth not play a more significant role? I am a huge supporter of the Commonwealth, whose fantastic diversity-ranging from the Maldives and Tuvalu to Canada, Australia and other countries-surely presents a great opportunity for countries to share their experience and be a real force for influence in the world. I hope that the Secretary of State will undertake to ensure that it plays a much bigger role in future.

What about the US and China? How are we going to get them to sign on a dotted line and be more ambitious?

Lastly, rather than what has been suggested in some of the post-Copenhagen comments in the British press-that measures on climate change response and emissions targets will make us uncompetitive in a competitive world-will the Government make it clear, as I know that the Secretary of State is committed to doing, that unless we get an agreement that binds everybody, we will miss the chance to have a sustainable future for all countries, not just ours? We will also miss the chance to have the sustainable jobs and sustainable, safe and secure energy on which the security of the world depends.

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