Climate Change — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:11 pm on 29th January 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Flather Baroness Flather Crossbench 1:11 pm, 29th January 2009

My Lords, I was totally dazzled by the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, in his opening speech. I will have to read it to understand much of it, because just by listening it was not terribly easy for someone who is not knowledgeable in the subject to understand everything. Today, as ever, there have been some amazing speeches. It is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord May. On the other occasion when I followed him, I was also absolutely gobsmacked—not a very parliamentary word—and so interested in what he said. He says it very clearly and plainly and people like me can understand him. I thank him and other noble Lords for what they have said today.

I have no expertise, experience or real knowledge on this subject, but I am going to talk about an issue which is very closely connected but which is not talked about when this issue is discussed. Today, only the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has mentioned the "P" word—population, which is what I will focus on. We are asked to change light bulbs, conserve water, recycle, have cleaner cars and so on, and we should be doing all those things anyway. They are good for us, good for our neighbours and they are good things to do. Why should we waste resources? That follows a general way of thinking. I am sure that many people are still not doing those things, and that is sad.

The PC—politically correct—lobby has made sure that we do not talk about a very important reason for the changes in the world's climate: population increase. There has been enormous population increase in the past 100 years, and it is a factor globally, particularly in developing countries. It has an enormous impact in all sorts of ways, certainly on global warming and on social collapse. How many times do you hear population increase connected with environmental degradation, water shortage and global warming? It leads to all those things, but we do not talk about it.

We are now 6.7 billion people, and it is projected that there will be 2 billion more people on earth by 2050, which is one of the target dates that we have been discussing when we talk about how we are going to reduce carbon emissions. If there are 2 billion more people, they will need to be fed and looked after, and they will need water. At the moment, there are still a lot of people who survive on food aid. Is it possible that 2 billion more people, who are likely to be in the developing and the poorest countries, will be able to survive on their own? They will not. We need to think about this and how we will look at this issue and bring it out into the open and discuss it.

I have written here that the liberals—with a small "L"—said that the poor consume less. I will not say that now, because the noble Lord, Lord May, has said it; and indeed they do consume less. But that is so because they have less. There is no more for them to consume than what they have. They are cutting down the woods and they are collecting whatever is available. A woman has to collect wood to cook food for herself and her children. She has to take water wherever the water is from, and she has to look at her life as surviving another day. It is not like she has access to things and is holding herself back from consuming; they have nothing. The deserts will grow, the amount of rainfall will reduce, droughts will come—they are already. We know what is happening in the world. Disease is increasing, particularly in Africa, and, as one of your Lordships' reports has said, that is because of population increase. People are living closer together, so there is disease. We must take these things into account when we talk about global warming and environmental degradation.

Africa's population is set to more than double by 2050. It is 1 billion now, and it is expected to become 2.3 billion. We are sending food aid now. What will our grandchildren be doing in 2050? What will the countries that now send aid be trying to do? Africa cannot feed itself now. Will it feed itself when it has more than double the population? I think not. The political will is not there in Africa to look after its people. To me, that is one of the saddest things about Africa.

A poor woman has very little access to the real necessities of life. She has very little access to take control of her fertility. Fathers do not take responsibility for family planning; they never have done, not even in developed countries. It is always the women who look after these issues, and the women in poor countries do not have access and they do not have power. In families in Africa, it is very often the woman alone who brings up the children. Would it not be better for her to have fewer children and give them better health and possibly get them to school? We need much more action on these sorts of issues.

Former President Bush unilaterally decided to stop funding the UNFPA, because it supported China's one-child policy. That was such an amazing decision. The UNFPA had nothing to do with China's one-child policy; China itself decided that policy, which has stopped 300 million more Chinese from coming into the world. When we look at China, we must accept that it would not have had the growth that it has had if it did not have the one-child policy. However, I am not advocating that. I am simply advocating that we bring this issue out into the open. It is a major contributor to all the things that everyone has been talking about. Unless we do so, there will be no change of any kind. We need to make that change.

I finish by referring to the seventh millennium development goal: to strive for environmental stability. The targets it sets are to integrate sustainable development into policies and programmes, reverse the loss of national resources, improve access to safe drinking water and improve the lot of millions living in slum dwellings. It is as plain as a pikestaff that none of those can be achieved without tackling the population issue.