Paris Climate Change Conference — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:54 pm on 17th December 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 3:54 pm, 17th December 2015

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Miller for securing this very timely debate and for her long commitment to this field. I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Sheehan for her excellent maiden speech, and that of my other noble friend Lady Featherstone, in which she also mentioned climate change.

We know that the poorest will be affected the worst by climate change, but we all will be. Climate change plays its part in the conflict in Sudan, which we discussed earlier. Drought preceded conflict in Egypt and Syria. Every day we see results of that, as my noble friend Lady Sheehan just made clear. The agreement in Paris must be a major step on the way to tackling this.

Together with the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, I attended a parliamentary meeting, hosted by the national assembly and senate in Paris alongside the main Paris conference. I was immensely encouraged by what I heard and the commitment that countries were making. I was struck by the emphasis on those who are particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as the Pacific island states, or indigenous people in South America, represented by, among others, a wonderful Andean MP, whose name, Hilaria Supa Huamán, sounds—appropriately for her—like superwoman. We know that we need some outstanding statesmen and stateswomen if we are to implement what was agreed at Paris. It is good to see women playing that part as women will be especially vulnerable.

There seemed to be an iron determination in Paris that this global conference should succeed, with what it means for future generations, especially given the recent terrible atrocities in Paris. There are some hopeful signs. Use of renewables in developing countries looks set to leapfrog what is happening elsewhere, just as the mobile money M-Pesa system did. Bloomberg puts investment in renewables in Africa almost level pegging with that in the West, and it is soon to overtake it. It does indeed mean, as Hillary Clinton made clear after the conference, that development does not have to be sacrificed for climate change.

That is why the Government’s stance in the United Kingdom since the election has been so surprising and, frankly, disappointing. They cite the Climate Change Act, but it is not an Act that they initiated. They cite what was done over the last five years, but that was by a Lib Dem-led department that had to fight the Treasury all the way under different leadership. The Government’s actions since May have taken the country backwards. That is deeply worrying, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out.

Recently, I met a young Kenyan entrepreneur whose firm, SunCulture, focuses on solar power in agricultural irrigation. He lost investment from a UK firm when the UK Government reversed their support for solar. This is an area where UK companies could lead the field. We have the science and engineering skills. I am sure that the Minister has a very strong personal commitment here, so will he assure me that no UK ODA money will go towards supporting fossil fuels? Most especially, can he take back to the Government the need to match their rhetoric in Paris? The UK must once again lead in tackling climate change.