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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 2:27 pm, 7th September 2016

I beg to move,

That this House
notes that the USA and China have both ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change;
regrets that the Government has not accepted the Opposition’s offer of support for immediate commencement of domestic procedures to ratify the Paris Agreement;
further notes that if the UK lags behind its G20 partners in ratifying the Paris Agreement it risks losing diplomatic influence on this crucial future security issue;
recognises, in light of the EU referendum vote, the need to maintain a strong international standing and the risk of rising investment costs in UK energy infrastructure;
and calls on the Government to publish by the end of next week a Command Paper on domestic ratification and to set out in a statement to this House the timetable to complete the ratification process by the end of 2016.

I am delighted to rise to move this motion.

“My country has an unwavering commitment to pursue the path of sustainable development”: those were the words of President Xi last week when he and President Obama jointly—Communist China and capitalist America—announced their ratification of the Paris climate treaty. In a quite extraordinary event, we saw the world’s two superpowers, who are also the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, locked in an embrace to try to save our species from itself—from so altering our atmosphere that we make it almost impossible for many of our fellow human beings to survive, and destroy countless other species and ecosystems in the process. A few days before they did so, I wrote to our Prime Minister urging her to begin the process of ratification of the treaty by the UK. I understand her office passed my letter to the Secretary of State. I also tabled today’s motion to discuss ratification and press for the UK to follow China and America’s lead and get on and ratify the Paris agreement. So now with the US and China making it highly likely that the agreement will formally come into force by the end of this year, I decided that if China and America can put aside their differences and ratify, surely we in Parliament could do the same and become founder parties to the agreement.

I wrote to the Secretary of State and offered to amend the motion to make it the formal vote required by the House of Commons to ratify the treaty. The process of ratification is not unduly complex. It requires the tabling of a Command Paper by the Government and then affirmative resolution by both Houses. The Government have not tabled that Command Paper. In fact, my offer has still not received any formal response. The Scottish National party agreed. The Green party agreed. Plaid Cymru agreed. When I eventually could find a Liberal Democrat to speak to, he agreed as well. Here we had Her Majesty’s official Opposition, the Labour party, offering to forgo one of its precious Opposition day debates to do something on a cross-party basis and for the wider good—to create parliamentary time for something the Government had said they wanted to do but could not find the time for—yet that offer was rejected.

Sometimes, I think that people must look at us in this Parliament and say to themselves, “Can they not, just for once, put aside their petty party differences and agree to do something together? Are they really not bigger than this?” The Government had even said earlier this year that they would do this. In March, David Cameron agreed the EU Council conclusions, which underlined

“the need for the European Union and its Member States to be able to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible and on time so as to be Parties as of its entry into force.”