Climate Change: Durban Conference — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 22nd November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 2:45 pm, 22nd November 2011

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are their priorities for the outcome of the Durban climate change conference starting on 28 November, and what steps they have taken to ensure maximum possible global ownership of the agenda.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government remain committed to keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Therefore, at Durban, the Government's priority is to make further progress towards an ambitious, legally binding agreement for all countries to reduce emissions. To ensure a truly global approach in these negotiations, we have been working closely with other developed and developing countries within the EU, the UNFCCC and other fora.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

Is it not essential that at this critical juncture we do not lose momentum? If we are to sustain momentum, is it not also essential that the agenda, not just the matters being discussed, reflect the perceptions and needs of the developing countries, and that without that shared ownership we will be in difficulties making progress? Is the green climate fund not critical to all this? How soon can we expect to see it operational with women and the poorest central to its concerns?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I refer to the letter by the Secretary of State in today's Guardianbecause he clearly spells out the Government's aim at Durban this year. He said:

"The UK would like to see a global treaty signed straight away but the reality is that some of the biggest economies, both developed and developing, are not yet ready. We aim at Durban to reach agreement on the need for a new treaty and to set out a timetable for its negotiation, concluding no later than 2015".

Developing countries are essential to hitting that target and many of those countries are affected by climate change. In the negotiating process, the relationship between rich and poor countries has sometimes been out of kilter and there has been an imbalance, which is why the Government have taken two specific actions to address this. First, the advocacy fund, which was launched by Andrew Mitchell in September, provides support and training to negotiators from those countries. Secondly, the UK is very active in the Cartagena dialogue.

Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that in the absence of an agreement at Durban of the kind that she described, Her Majesty's Government will suspend all their unilateral decarbonisation targets post-2020, which damage our competitiveness and threaten our economic recovery to no conceivable purpose?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

It is a great privilege to be asked a question by my noble friend. I would like one day to be able to provide an answer that will not disappoint him, but I think that on this occasion I will have to. The Government are very committed to achieving the targets that I have already outlined and want to show leadership in this area. The Government are not signing up immediately to Kyoto 2 and want to make sure that before they commit to that, all countries are signed up to and agree to the need for the 2-degree target.

Photo of Lord Prescott Lord Prescott Labour

My Lords, the Minister may well be aware that I have tried to convince this Government that the negotiations for Kyoto 2 will not be completed at the end of Kyoto 1 in 2012. In those circumstances, is she prepared to support the European principle of "stop the clock" when negotiations have failed to meet the timetable and not join with the rich countries, as was almost suggested by the previous speaker, which want to destroy Kyoto, which is not acceptable?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord is far more experienced in negotiating climate treaties than I am. On his specific question, I have to limit my answer to restating the fact that there are two separate things going on here: Kyoto 2 and a globally binding treaty by 2015. The Government are absolutely committed to the latter. We would be willing to sign up to the former but will not do that until everybody agrees that they will sign up to that 2-degree climate change.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Sub-Committee C - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy

My Lords, almost certainly there will not be a comprehensive agreement at Durban. That comes as a surprise to no one. However, there was good progress by the RED initiative around stopping deforestation, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Can my noble friend the Minister assure me that the UK Government will particularly press for an agreement on the RED initiative so that we can stop this major source of emissions and the loss of forest worldwide?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am sure that the Government are working on that, and I am grateful to my noble friend for raising the issue. If there is anything specific that I can offer further to my answers today, I will obviously provide it to him.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

My Lords, although the UN process remains blocked by the lack of US participation, will the Minister tell us more about the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting to be held in London next year? Energy Ministers from around the world will be gathering here, and they could potentially sign up to a deal that agrees to reduce the carbon intensity of our energy as soon as possible. This would be a very clear step forward while the UN process remains bogged down by the lack of US participation.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am amazed at the expertise that is coming at me today from different parts of the Chamber. The noble Baroness knows far more about the detail of these issues than I do. On the conference next year that she refers to, our objective is to complete concrete outcomes that demonstrate progress and enhance global low-carbon energy technology development internationally.