May I start by congratulating all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today? Unfortunately, I was not in the Chamber to hear all of them, but I want, nevertheless, to congratulate them all because I know what a daunting prospect it is to make one's maiden speech in this Chamber.
In opening the debate, the Minister quoted the Prime Minister saying that he wants to make this Government "the greenest Government ever"; well, it needs to be-and so does every subsequent Government, because the scale of the challenge facing not just the UK but the whole world requires radical steps to be taken. Climate change is probably the single biggest challenge that we as a civilisation have ever faced. We should therefore try to achieve cross-party consensus on the radical measures that need to be taken. The Stern review, which the previous Government commissioned, talked about the possibility of 40% of domestic energy requirements being generated by micro-technologies, and this Government need to do everything they can to encourage and support making that a reality. If we can secure a huge increase in micro-energy technology, that will reduce the problems caused by carbon emissions and will diminish the need for nuclear power stations.
I do not agree with Caroline Lucas about the nuclear debate, although I used to. Like George Monbiot, I have changed my view on the basis that is probably the lesser of two evils. However, that does not take away from the need for significant uplift in the amount of energy efficiency work that must be undertaken to existing residential accommodation and residential accommodation now being built, as well as to the commercial built environment, as Zac Goldsmith has pointed out. In cities the commercial built environment is responsible for the lion's share of carbon emissions, so it is important to address that issue in the new green deal that the Minister is talking about.
I said that it was important for this Government to be greener than the previous Government, but that is not to diminish the huge strides made by the Labour Administration. Let me make it clear, for the record, that they were the first Government in the world to pass a climate change Act and that their Warm Front initiative introduced energy efficiency measures to about 2 million homes. Their feed-in tariff was a very important initiative, and the massive expansion of offshore wind energy announced by the previous Prime Minister is also welcome.
My hon. Friend Dr Whitehead referred to the boiler scrappage scheme. We were ahead of the game on the Kyoto commitments. Indeed, we led the world in securing them in the first place. We also led the world in trying to secure a deal at Copenhagen: that is another thing that we should be proud of, and we should applaud the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband, for the role that he played in that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test also spoke about the need for district heating schemes and how they can be used. Compared with the rest of Europe, this country does not have a great track record in that regard, but I believe that district heating schemes have tremendous potential, especially when linked to initiatives on waste. The treatment plants being developed around the country offer a way of dealing with waste that is better than burying it in the ground, and they also give us an opportunity to generate energy at the same time.
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