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Durban Climate Change Conference

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 12th December 2011.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh 6:02 pm, 12th December 2011

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the outcomes of the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, which concluded only yesterday. I was present for the last week and a bit of the conference, along with my colleague the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Gregory Barker, who has responsibility for climate change.

After the disappointment of Copenhagen, last year’s Cancun conference showed that the UN climate process was back on track. The Durban conference was designed to build on that outcome and our aims were therefore higher. At our most optimistic, we hoped to agree a road map to a new global legally binding agreement to replace or supplement the Kyoto protocol. Unlike Kyoto, it would incorporate emissions targets for all countries other than the poorest and least developed. It would be accompanied by agreement to a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol from 2013. We also aimed to encourage countries to strengthen their voluntary pledges to reduce emissions in the years before any new agreement entered into force and we hoped to establish the green climate fund.

I am pleased to say that, following two weeks of intense negotiations, we achieved each of those key aims. The talks resulted in the adoption of the Durban platform, a road map to a global legal agreement applicable to all parties. Negotiations for the new agreement, which will begin early in 2012, are to conclude as early as possible and not later than 2015 and the commitments in the new agreement will take effect from 2020.

The conference explicitly recognised the global gap between countries’ existing emissions reduction pledges to 2020 and the global goal of limiting average temperature increases to below 2° above pre-industrial levels. It launched a work programme for ratcheting up ambition, a process that will be reinforced by a forthcoming review of the scientific evidence.

The conference also agreed to adopt, next year, a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. Many details remain to be worked out over the coming months, including specific emissions reduction targets, the length of the commitment period and a process for dealing with surplus emissions allowances, but the headline message is clear: the Kyoto architecture—the rules and legal framework for managing emissions—has been preserved and can be built on in the future.

The conference also resolved to establish the green climate fund to support policies and activities in developing countries. The UK is one of the few countries to have pledged climate finance beyond the initial fast-start period, and we will make an announcement on the green climate fund once its design is completed.

The conference also resolved to establish a work programme to consider sources of long-term finance for developing countries with the aim of mobilising at least $100 billion a year by 2020. Progress was made on several other parts of the international climate regime, including reporting guidelines for developed and developing countries; the creation of the adaptation committee, which will provide advice and ensure coherent action on adaptation; the establishment in 2012 of the technology executive committee to facilitate the development of low-carbon technologies; further details of the framework for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and a process for establishing new market-based mechanisms to deliver effective reductions in emissions at least cost.

As well as the substantial diplomatic and technical outcomes I have outlined, the Durban conference saw a highly significant political realignment. More than 120 countries formed a coalition of high ambition in support of a road map to a global legally binding deal. Many African and Latin American states, the group of least developed countries and the Alliance of Small Island States joined the EU to argue for the road map to a new agreement. That realignment has laid a firm political foundation, grounded in common interest, on which we can build future achievements.

I am sure that the House will wish to join me in paying a sincere tribute to the British team of negotiators. Drawn from across government and supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its posts, ours was one of the smallest of the G8 countries’ delegations, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. Its members played a key role in many of the detailed negotiating groups, sometimes on behalf of the entire European Union. The UK operated within and through the EU delegation, co-operating closely with representatives of other member states and the European Commission. By working together with our European partners, we were able to deliver more effectively for the British national interest and for our shared ambitions.

In conclusion, the Durban conference represents a significant step forward. It has re-established the principle that climate change should be tackled through international law, not through national voluntarism. It has persuaded the major emerging economies to acknowledge, for the first time, that their emissions commitments will have to be legally bound. It has encouraged all countries, also for the first time, to admit that their current climate policies must be strengthened and it has established the green climate fund to support the poorest countries in tackling and responding to climate change. It has also preserved the invaluable legal framework of the Kyoto protocol while at the same time opening the path to a new, more comprehensive and more ambitious global agreement. It was a clear success for international co-operation.

We still have much to do. Durban alone will not limit global warming to 2° above pre-industrial levels, but we have taken a clear and vital step towards our goal. I commend the statement to the House.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement and join him in paying tribute to the British team of negotiators. Whatever our differences with the Government over their handling and delivery of policies at home, there is consensus across the House that the only way we will tackle climate change is by getting all countries signed up to a legally binding framework to cut their carbon emissions. In that vein, the progress made at Durban is to be applauded.

First, I welcome the recognition in the Durban agreement of the emissions gap—the difference between the action that countries have committed to and the action we need to take to prevent dangerous climate change. The gap is too large and I hope that the Secretary of State will say a little more about how the UK will be leading efforts to narrow it.

Secondly, I welcome the fact that Durban has re-established the principle that climate change must be tackled through a framework of international law that incorporates both developed and developing countries. It is undeniable that developed countries bear responsibility for significant historical emissions and, in the light of that, I welcome a second commitment period for the European Union to the Kyoto protocol. However, it is equally true, given the rate at which many developing countries’ economies and emissions are growing, that any meaningful treaty on cutting carbon emissions must be legally binding and include developing countries too. The Secretary of State will know, for example, that while developed countries are likely to meet the collective Kyoto target of a 5.2 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, global emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 45% between 1990 and 2010. The challenge now, as I am sure the Government recognise, is translating the principles and aspirations that were agreed at Durban into a treaty that can actually deliver the cuts in greenhouse gases we need.

As the Secretary of State himself has admitted:

“There are still many details to be hammered out”.

May I ask him to give the House a little more detail on the following issues? What safeguards were put in place at Durban to ensure that the next round of negotiations will deliver a legally binding global agreement by 2015? How does he intend to use our strong relationships with countries such as the United States and Canada, as well as India and China, to help to broker a global agreement? Also, and importantly, how does he plan to monitor the progress that is being made and to keep the House up to date?

Thirdly, I welcome the establishment of the green climate fund, negotiations for which started at Copenhagen under the stewardship of my right hon. Friend who is now the Leader of the Opposition. If properly financed, it will provide vital support to the poorest countries to cut their carbon emissions, mitigate the effects of climate change and underpin the positive support for a global legal framework. Again, although important details are yet to be agreed, this serves as a warning about the length of time it can take for an idea shared to become an idea implemented. On the detail of the fund, will the Secretary of State say a little more about how he expects the necessary resources to be raised so that it is up and running as soon as possible, and what contribution he expects the UK to make?

Although progress has been made at Durban, it has also shown the scale of the challenge we face and the need for a strong European voice making the case to tackle climate change. The Secretary of State himself said that the Durban conference showed that we can achieve more working with our partners in Europe than we can on our own. We can only compare that with the outcome of last week’s EU summit, which left us isolated. As the Deputy Prime Minister’s chief parliamentary and political adviser, Norman Lamb, put it:

“Our new position comes with very real risks. To be in a minority of one is not good.”

Will the Secretary of State reassure us that the UK’s voice within Europe on climate change will not be undermined as a result of the Prime Minister’s actions?

Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that reducing carbon emissions and preventing climate change are as much about example as exhortation? He has been generous enough to recognise the record of the previous Labour Government. We reduced the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 21% compared with emissions in 1990, thereby exceeding our Kyoto target. We also passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which was a world first, binding the UK Government in law to reduce carbon emissions by a third by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.

The Secretary of State will know that there is genuine concern across the House about the Government’s commitment to being the greenest Government ever, not least today when the cuts to the feed-in tariff for solar power come into effect. We hear that the Green investment bank will be delayed, and the future of carbon capture and storage is in doubt, so I ask him to reassure me and the House that alongside our international efforts to reach agreement to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change, the Government will not lose sight of the need to make the UK cleaner, greener and a world leader in the low carbon economy.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I very much welcome the right hon. Lady’s response. It is very valuable, when going into negotiations such as those at Durban, to know that there is widespread consensus across the House on the key goals we are aiming for. I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House, particularly those who have been following these issues closely, in helping to sustain that consensus.

The emissions gap is too large and we will work on it. As the right hon. Lady rightly said, one of the key issues has been the importance of monitoring. One thing that the UK Government have actively encouraged has been the development of the emissions gap report from the United Nations Environment Programme. I had a very fruitful meeting with Achim Steiner in Durban, and I know that the programme will continue to build on that. I very much hope that that monitoring will build gradually over time to become the environmental and climate change equivalent of the sort of regular reporting that we have from the OECD and particularly from the International Monetary Fund on the world economic outlook. It would be good to have a regular world climate change outlook or global climate change report.

On the legal side, the step forward is very significant. As the right hon. Lady will no doubt have read in the press, there was an attempt, right up to the last moment, to insert into the final text the words “legal outcome”, which had been defined in the past by India and China as merely decisions of the conference of the parties. That would not have been adequately legally binding for our purposes in terms of an overall treaty. It was therefore an essential objective of the European Union’s team to take out those words and insert words that could not be interpreted as a voluntarist approach but could mean only that there was a legal agreement with real force. The compromise from the Brazilians which we finally adopted does exactly that—on the advice we received from the very able international lawyer on the

UK team. That was confirmed at the time by our legal advisers—under some great pressure, I have to say, as we huddled at 4 in the morning, or whatever time it was, in the plenary room. They also advised some of our partners in that coalition of the willing. I think that we got a good deal that means exactly what it says.

I very much take on board the key point that we need to ensure that our environmental goals are not seen as an obstacle to development. That is an agenda on which I want very much to work with the Indian Environment Minister to ensure that there are viable and effective pathways to development at every level of income per head. I was particularly proud to participate in the launch of Ethiopia’s zero-carbon growth programme with the support of the Mauritian and UK Governments. Prime Minister Meles was at the launch as well. At the middle-income level, there is the example of Costa Rica. At the high-income level, let me respond to the right hon. Lady’s point about what we are doing domestically. I was very pleased that an objective assessment of what is being done by European countries, which was produced last week by Germanwatch, concluded that the UK had the second-best framework for dealing with carbon emissions of all 27 member states of the EU, behind only Sweden. However, our ministerial team likes to come first, so we will work on that.

On the key issue concerning our allies, such as the US and Canada, the right hon. Lady is absolutely right that we need to build our relationships there and ensure that they can be brought into that agreement as well. She asked for details of the global climate fund and about our support for it. We stand ready to support it and we have already disbursed £1 billion of the £1.5 billion allocated for fast-start finance. We are one of very few countries to have a programme of financial commitments for developing countries beyond the fast-start finance period. We have allocated £2.9 billion in total for the comprehensive spending review period and, as I said in my statement, I very much hope that we will be able to make an announcement in due course when we have concluded the arrangements on the shape of the green climate fund.

Finally, the right hon. Lady rightly mentions the importance of working with our European partners. This is a particular example of the success of European diplomacy. As one member state we would not be able to achieve anything like as much as we have been able to achieve working closely with the other 26 member states and contribute to that with the undoubted expertise we have within the UK team. Importantly, when it came to the key negotiations, it was perceived in the plenary that the European Union was acting together, and that we were very much prepared to carry through on our threat. Often in these negotiations a good bit of leverage is needed, and we were prepared to carry out our threat that we would not go ahead with the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol unless we had those key assurances that the future agreement would be legally binding.

In addition to the change that I described in the politics of the conference, it is highly significant that China, India and Brazil, but particularly China and India, have moved substantially in the direction of accepting that we need an overall agreement which will reach a global solution to the problem.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

May I offer my right hon. Friend many congratulations on what has been achieved? Does he agree that one of the major achievements of Durban was that for the first time everyone in the world, including the major emitters—the United States, India and China—are now committed to the same process of a legally binding agreement? For the first time ever, everyone is going in the same direction towards the same objective. A simple machinery of government question: will the funding for the green climate fund come from the budget of my right hon. Friend’s Department or that of Department for International Development?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

We have to determine the exact way we disburse money for the green climate fund. As I say, we will make an announcement in due course. My hon. Friend is right to say important it is that everybody has signed up to that global agreement.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

I congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on what was achieved at Durban. It was a vindication of the European negotiating position. Can he provide the House with further clarity on the climate fund money after the start-up period? Will he confirm that at least 50% of that money will be provided for adaptation and that the bulk of it will not go to mitigation, as was part of the original agreement? Will he also comment, please, on the gap there will be between the conclusion of the negotiations no later than 2015 and the 2020 deadline for implementation of those commitments? There is a perception in emerging economies that the earlier they conclude the negotiation, the bigger the gap will be in what those commitments deliver in 2020.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Let me answer the last part of that question first. The most encouraging thing is that we dealt with both time periods. There is a clear commitment to dealing with a single over-arching global agreement from 2020, but there is also a clear set of procedures—admittedly, no numbers yet—for addressing the emissions gap from now through to 2020, so the process will not stop in 2015. We have achieved great progress in getting real action. The contrast is often noted between Canada, which is a signatory to Kyoto protocol but is busting all its targets, and China, which is not bound on emissions but is doing an awful lot. We are able to do an awful lot and that is very important.

Adaptation is key and yes, that will be essential to the efforts of the green climate fund, particularly the public funding. It is much more difficult to get private funding for adaptation measures—that is much easier on the mitigation side. I expect that the publicly funded aspect will be higher than 50%. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the recent OECD report, which found that our existing commitments on and support for adaptation measures were among the best, and that will continue.

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives

Notwithstanding the answer that my right hon. Friend gave Caroline Flint, what lessons can we take from the conference when negotiating international agreements? Does he believe that the UK’s contribution to this welcome outcome would have been made easier or more difficult had we adopted an isolationist posture?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The Prime Minister has made his position on other matters quite clear. On negotiations, from my experience in Brussels—I know that the Deputy Prime Minister had a similar experience when we were Members of the European Parliament—I can say that it is absolutely key that one has to be in the room where one’s interests are being affected. That is essential. In Brussels there is an adage that is one of the first rules of negotiating: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. I have an awful feeling that we should bear that in mind in all aspects of international negotiations, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that when it comes to the UK’s participation in the United Nations framework convention on climate change, we were in all the key rooms at all times. At one point last year in Cancun, for example, I can assure him that we—[Interruption.] The UK delegation—the team. What generally happens is that the group of people who are deciding on the key compromises gets smaller and smaller. I can assure my hon. Friend that at every stage of the game, right the way through to the final huddle, the UK was represented. That is a central negotiating objective.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I gave a little latitude there, but I am not looking for an extension of the first statement.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

I congratulate the Secretary of State on the outcome of a conference that was widely regarded as unlikely to succeed, even in the objectives that have been set down now. It is substantially because of the EU’s negotiating position and the British role in it that that very good outcome was achieved, even though there is a great deal more to do.

Will the right hon. Gentleman expand on the role of Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, originally from the Danish Conservative People’s party, in careful negotiation, keeping the parties together and making sure that the EU presented a united front and that no one withdrew from that? Will he confirm that the EU position, which I hope will develop up to 2020, will have the full-hearted participation of the UK as the new treaty approaches a conclusion?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Yes, Connie Hedegaard led the European Union efforts very ably, drawing on her experience in Danish politics and then in Europe. That was a critical part of the success. I reiterate, however, that it is not merely a question of finding the right negotiating strategy, which is what the European Union did. The EU understood from the word go that it was crucial that we move pressure on to the big emitters, China in particular, from the other developing countries and that we establish that new relationship with a substantial number of developing countries. That was ably led by Connie Hedegaard.

The other thing that I would highlight is that when one gets into negotiations and has a number of essential asks, the negotiating counterparties have to believe that one is serious and not going to buckle. In the past it has been the case that some of the more herbivorous members of the European Union have been taken as willing to buckle. We did not do that on this occasion and as a result we got every single one of our asks.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State on the progress that has been made, particularly given that I do not think anyone really believed that there would be progress. I also welcome the declaration relating to the Congo basin—the second largest tract of rain forest in the world—which was launched by the Minister of State, my hon. Friend Gregory Barker. The Secretary of State mentioned progress on reducing emissions from deforestation, and I was hoping that he could be a little more specific.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his interest in that area and the work he has done. The Congo basin initiative is absolutely crucial. We aim to work with some interesting projects through bilateral support from the UK Government for some key forest nations, which will be in the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia. Further progress was made through the technical achievements in the working groups, which he will find set out in the full agreement.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

The Secretary of State talked about the importance of monitoring. Monitoring is important, but so is action. I am deeply worried that, unless we see much faster action, we risk going down in history as the species that spent all its time monitoring it own extinction, rather than taking active steps to avoid it. The Durban agreement will not limit global warming to 2°, as he acknowledged, which means that we are on course for exceedingly dangerous climate change, so what will he do to ensure that the EU moves as fast as possible, unilaterally if necessary, to a 30% reduction target by 2020?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. Action is the most important ultimate benchmark of what we do, but I urge her not to underestimate the importance of knowledge in informing action. One of the key gaps that we need to fill in this area is regular reporting and attention on the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do to hold the global temperature rise to within 2°, beneath the level that would create dangerous climate change. I have had discussions not only with Marcin Korolec, the Environment Minister of Poland, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, but with Martin Lidegaard, the Energy and Climate Change Minister of Denmark, which will hold the presidency for the first half of next year. I had good conversations with him in Durban and am confident that the Danes will bring forward some clear time within the Council to ensure that we make real progress towards some of the key staging posts in reaching 30%. Perhaps most progress will be made on the energy efficiency directive, because it should be relatively easy to agree and we know that energy efficiency measures tend to have benefits outright. We are thinking about how to do that and I hope that the European Union will be able to move forward on domestic action in the first six months of next year.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I thank my right hon. Friend and his team for their work. What does he intend to do to encourage other countries to sign up to the green climate fund and follow the UK’s lead?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The power of example is quite powerful, as the Minister of State and I have discovered. We have substantial credit for what this Government are doing on development among African countries and other developing countries, and I think that that power of example is carrying over to other developed countries. I very much hope that others will join in helping to fill the green climate fund. A number of countries have already been prepared to make conditional pledges, including the Government of Korea, and I am sure that there will be others.

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

At the most recent Energy and Climate Change questions I expressed my concern about progress in the negotiations. I would like to put on the record my tribute to the Secretary of State and his team for their work in helping to secure substantial progress. He mentioned the importance of monitoring and information in the period running up to 2015, but he will also be aware that there is a danger that things might go a little quiet after the negotiations in Durban and that in the run-up to 2015 there might yet again be last-minute political pressure and attempts to put decisions off to another day. What steps can be taken to ensure that there is an opportunity for a political focus from now until 2015 not only in the UK, but in other countries, to ensure that we have an agreement in 2015? For example, what review mechanisms are in place to allow politicians and Governments to have an impact on the negotiations to ensure that they result in the type of agreement we want in 2015?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The UNFCCC process provides numerous opportunities, including through the groups around it, such as the Major Economies Forum and the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting, which we will host next spring, in order to bring political leadership to the whole process. I was very encouraged by what happened at Durban and that the political leadership is increasingly there, and we need to build on that.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat, East Dunbartonshire

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and all those involved in the negotiations in Durban on a very welcome outcome, especially after so many disappointing climate change talks. I wholeheartedly agree with the remarks of Caroline Lucas on the need for the EU to step up its own emissions targets, but that will clearly be a challenge, given the global economic difficulties we face. Will my right hon. Friend tell us more about the progress being made on the Technology Executive Committee to promote low-carbon technology so that we can simultaneously boost our economy and reduce emissions?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Progress is being made in that regard. The key is to ensure that appropriate progress is made at different levels of development. Much can be achieved in some of the poorer developing countries where there are low levels of development by ensuring, for example, that people simply use more efficient forms of burning wood for cooking. We are making progress on the technological issue, but it applies at all levels of development.

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Shadow Minister (International Development)

How much funding has the international community raised towards the $100 billion green climate fund and what international leadership are he and the Government providing to ensure that other Governments make a strong commitment to meet the goal of reaching the full amount urgently, rather than waiting for 2020?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Perhaps I should clarify that the $100 billion a year commitment relates to not only the green climate fund, but other sources of finance. It is obviously due when the agreement comes into force from 2020, but in the meantime we have fast-start finance. I have already said what our commitment is. A number of websites are available that add up where we have got to in relation to international pledges. I do not have the figure at the moment, but I will be happy to respond at the next Energy and Climate Change oral questions or to write to the hon. Lady with the latest information.

Photo of Glyn Davies Glyn Davies Conservative, Montgomeryshire

For a UN treaty on climate change to be meaningful and successful, all the major emitters in the world must be part of it, so it was encouraging to hear that the United States, China, India and Brazil are part of this agreement. How satisfied is the Secretary of State that the treaty obligations are legally binding, that those nations are not just paying lip service and that they will deliver on the commitments we are expecting?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The key point on legally binding treaties is that they are not a sufficient condition for dealing with the problem. We must have follow-through in national action, but such treaties are a necessary condition. I cannot think of any international problem that has been resolved without a legal framework. For example, the idea that President Reagan could have gone to Moscow and suggested that international nuclear disarmament or the strategic arms reduction treaty process could proceed with voluntary pledges would have been regarded as laughable. We have stressed, and will continue to stress, that the key objective is to ensure that this is done through a legally binding international treaty that provides everyone with an assurance that we are all moving.

There is a lot of national action. One of the great myths is that we are the only country doing anything, by which I mean that when I talk to fellow Energy and Climate Change Ministers I find that they all say, “But we’re the only country doing something.” In fact, there is a tremendous amount of action. One useful initiative I participated in was the launch of the GLOBE international study of parliamentarians interested in this area, which set out clearly the amount of action being undertaken through legislation right around the world. We will ensure that that process continues.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

There is a gap between promise and delivery not only on emissions, but—as often happens at international conferences—on the amount of money pledged for funds. The green climate fund is important, because climate justice demands that many countries suffering from climate change need help now, but who does the Secretary of State expect to put money into the fund, how soon it will be in place and how soon will money be given to such countries to help them out? I am concerned about his comment that few countries other than the UK have contributed to the fund so far.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I should make it clear that no one has contributed to the green climate fund so far, because it has not been set up. The agreement at Durban, which after all was reached only yesterday morning at 6 o’clock, was to set up the fund, so the hon. Gentleman is being slightly churlish in expecting us to have sorted out all the details and got the fund up and running within 24 hours or so of reaching the agreement. I have no doubt that it will happen; there are a number of pledges already and, as I have said, we stand ready to make announcements in due course. I said to Rushanara Ali that I would write to her on the latest state of play on international commitments generally to fast-start finance, for example, and I am happy to copy in the hon. Gentleman on that answer.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee

As president of GLOBE in the House of Commons, may I thank the Secretary of State for attending the launch of the second GLOBE climate legislation study, which shows tremendous action taking place in many countries and most of all in developing countries? Does he agree that there is an enormous benefit to the UK economy from closer bilateral work with India and, perhaps in particular, China in the light of the visit, hosted by GLOBE recently, of Xie Zhenhua, the Chinese Minister with responsibility for such matters?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Yes, I agree very much that the relationships that we are increasingly building with China and India are very valuable and absolutely key to the agenda’s success. We have to make it clear that there is no conflict between the absolutely legitimate expectation of developing countries to be able to raise the living standards of their people and our need to protect our children and our grandchildren, and their children and their grandchildren, from the effects of climate change. One of the most passionate and moving speeches that I heard in Durban was from a Bangladeshi Minister, who described the real threat that there is to his country and to his people if we do not get a grip on climate change.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I commend the Secretary of State for his statement and the ongoing work that it reflects. He mentioned the resolution on a work programme to look at long-term sources of finance for developing programmes. When does he anticipate the programme commencing? Does he believe that the UK’s input will be on an EU axis, and do the possible sources of finance include in that context a financial transaction tax?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

The work programme will kick off, and it is up to the UNFCCC secretariat to arrange the details, but I do not anticipate any time being lost in setting it up and getting it under way. The details of those represented on it will be settled through the process, but we as a Government are keenly interested and have a lot of expertise in the area, so I hope that we will be able to play a full part and, depending on how that is determined, be represented on any group that pushes the work programme forward.

On the financial transaction tax, the hon. Gentleman will know that we as a Government support financial taxes in general. We have moved on our own banking levy, for example, further and faster than other European countries, and we take the view that we can have further taxes on financial services, but that if such a tax touches areas that are very mobile, as a financial transaction tax obviously would do, it must be concluded at a global level. It cannot be done in only one country, because if it is the activity switches to other centres, and one simply loses out on all the revenue that one anticipated.

With that very important caveat of realism, the issue certainly has been talked about, but I do not believe that it is very likely to make progress, given the stand that other key parties have made against a financial transaction tax—and I am thinking in particular of the United States.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

The Secretary of State will be aware that in the last year of the previous Government we were 25th out of 27th on the percentage of our energy that came from renewables, ahead only of Malta and Luxembourg in the EU. Did that impair his ability to lead by example in Durban; and will he confirm that by the end of this Parliament we will have gone a substantial way to correcting that?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I thank my hon. Friend for that point. He is absolutely right that the record that we inherited from the previous Government placed us 25th out of 27 EU member states on installed renewables, and I am determined that, having worn the dunce’s cap for some time, we shall make all the best efforts to get out of the dunce’s corner and be the fastest-improving pupil in the class.