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‘(3A) The report must explain how the proposals and policies set out in the report will affect—
(a) global average temperature,
(b) loss of world biodiversity, and
(c) loss of world rainforests.’.
New clause 9—Duty to report on impact of climate change on biodiversity
‘(1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an annual report on the impact of the UK’s carbon budgeting on—
(a) UK biodiversity,
(b) global biodiversity, and
(c) world rainforests.
(3) The Secretary of State must send a copy of the report to those authorities.
(4) The first report under this section must be laid before Parliament and the devolved legislatures not later than 30th September 2009.
(5) Each subsequent report must be laid before Parliament not later than 30th June in the year in which it is made.’.
Amendment No. 42, in title, line 8, after ‘produced;’, insert
‘to make provisions for the reporting of the impact on biodiversity of carbon offsetting measures;’.
Although I have tabled amendments to the clause and have attempted to scatter other amendments across other parts of the Bill, they all basically say or ask the same thing.
Clause 11(2) says that
“the Secretary of State in coming to any decision under this Part relating to carbon budgets” has to take
“scientific knowledge about climate change” into account. I want to insert three proposals that would make it absolutely clear that among the scientific knowledge the Secretary of State had to take into account would be rises in global temperature, the impact of climate change on world biodiversity and the impact in relation to the loss of world forests.
In relation to other parts of the Bill, where the Prime Minister is under a duty to report on climate change, I say that he should ensure that the report includes impact on world forests, biodiversity and temperature rises. Why am I doing that? What concerns me? What concerns me is the fact that this is a highly technical Bill. It is a pretty boring Bill. It is almost like the EU treaty—totally inexplicable to outsiders. One would think that it is understood only by accountants. Like the EU treaty, the people may go one way, yet the leaders carry on.
I worry that when the Prime Minister comes to make a report—a change may be made, and the report may have to be made by the Secretary of State—and things are taken into account, if one is merely dealing with some of the arguments that we have had this morning, which are interesting but esoteric arguments about 60 or 80 per cent., I am afraid that the people in the pubs in Hexham and Penrith are going to lose interest. They will not understand the relevance of it all.
As I have been reading about this subject, I have discovered that climate change is infinitely important to our survival. Yet, from my research on the effects of climate change on England, it does not seem very frightening. Why do we have this complex Bill? Why are we setting targets that may have enormous costs for the economy and be difficult to implement? Why are we doing it when the research into the consequences for England suggests it would simply mean a little bit of warming? There would be flash floods and more violent storms—that would not be good. We are likely to have water shortages and hosepipe bans and, of course, if sea levels rose, large parts of lowland England and Scotland, and Wales too, no doubt, would be underwater. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, would not want his home to become a new Lindisfarne; a new Holy island in Suffolk. So, there are serious consequences of rises in water levels.
We would have hot spells—my research suggests that we would probably get more train lines buckling in the heat, but we would probably not have frozen points in winter. It is difficult to see things of earth-shattering importance that will happen because of climate change in England. Yet we know that the consequences of climate change can be absolutely disastrous for the survival of the whole human race, and for the survival of the human race in this country.
If there is a 2°C rise in global temperature, we will find a large decline in global freshwater resources, decreased crop yields in the world, widespread hunger and our seas will become more acid. There will be a loss of biodiversity, the mass extinction of some species and extreme weather conditions around the world. There will be widespread droughts around the world, a near-total loss of coral reefs, and perhaps the start of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. There will be a northwards expansion of the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria, and in this country we will get more non-indigenous species. Some of those species may be benign, but some may be quite malignant, such as our grey squirrels in Hexham and Penrith.
We will see the potential extinction of arctic species, including the polar bear. The polar bear is one of those wonderful icons. My secretary gives me an awful ear bashing in Portcullis House if I go out and leave the lights on, because she is trying to save the polar bear. That is something that has stuck in the public conscience. Much as polar bears are important, as I was trying to say on Second Reading, there are more important species than that, although they are not as cuddly—although I am sure that polar bears are not that cuddly—and do not look as friendly.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Kew to do a little bit of background research before serving on this Committee, and one of the things that scared me in the wonderful greenhouses at Kew was the tiny number of species of insects that pollinate in the world. We know about bees, but there are other insects that pollinate around the world. If we lose some of those rather unsexy little bugs and species, the world starves. Nothing pollinates in future.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government’s current indifference to the fate of the indigenous bee and their failure to provide for its protection from disease, shows how easy it is for these things to go unnoticed? In fact, the bee and similar insects provide an enormously important fundamental ecological job.
That is absolutely true. The job they do is absolutely vital, and I suspect that my right hon. Friend is referring to varoa and disease control. That is not a route that I wish to go down now, but no doubt the Minister will defend the Government’s record on that in due course.
That was my summary of the research on what happens with a 2ºC rise in world temperatures. If we get a 4º to 5ºC rise in due course, we will get drastically reduced crop yields around the world, and mass starvation. Diarrhoea, which is a huge killer in the developing world, will expand rapidly and kill millions more in Africa. The rise in temperature would lead to widespread species extinction and huge desertification. There would be a wholesale collapse of the Amazon ecosystem, and the complete loss of all arboreal and Alpine ecosystems. We would have the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, and in Greenland, we would see more melting of the ice sheet with huge rises in sea levels.
When we say “huge” rises in sea levels we do not need to talk about 10, 20 or 30 ft; a 3 ft—1 m—rise in sea levels puts half of Bangladesh underwater, and 14 million people displaced or homeless, as well as having an impact on our own country. Other parts of the world would have no agricultural production whatsoever. In addition, there is a danger that global warming could trigger further releases of methane in Siberia and the Arctic tundra. Although this is more speculative, if we had a 5ºC rise, some scientists say that that there is a 50 per cent. chance that the world’s ocean circulation systems would cease to operate, or may close down. There will be even more horrific effects that I have not quoted to the Committee.
If only half of the incidents that I have just described are true, I want the Government and the Prime Minister to put that in every ruddy report that is produced and to refer to it. We must excite the imagination of the British public into realising how serious the matter is. With all due respect, vital arguments about 60 per cent. or 80 per cent. targets do not bring the consequences home to the public. That is why I want specific mention in the reports and in the Bill of the effects of temperature rise I want the Secretary of State to acknowledge that when considering scientific knowledge.
Why do I want to see the tropical rain forests mentioned? What has that to do with the price of fish in England? It has a tremendous amount to do with our own survival in England. Rain forests are now receiving a level of international attention not seen since I was at the Earth sum in Rio in 1992. The Stern report—and thank goodness that the Government are to keep Stern working for them—showed the important link between forests and climate. This is a climate change Bill, and one fifth of the total annual carbon emissions now come from land use changes, especially tropical deforestation. In fact, cutting down the tropical forests is releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than the whole of international shipping and aircraft combined. That is why, if we want to do something about this, although we need to tackle our own industries, cars, pollution, and increasing carbon emissions, unless we are doing things to save the rain forest—perhaps in carbon trading, which is covered in later parts of the Bill—we will not succeed in meeting our climate change objectives and we will lose those precious forests.
Rain forests continue to be destroyed at a pace exceeding 80,000 acres per day—32,000 hectares per day. I cannot imagine something on that scale; that is horrendous: 1.5 acres of rain forest are being lost every second. Rain forests once covered 14 per cent. of the Earth’s land surface; they now cover a mere 6 per cent. If we continue at the present rate of destruction, the remaining rain forests will be consumed in fewer than 40 years. The current world rain forest cover of 2.5 million sq miles sounds pretty big—it is the size of about 48 contiguous states in the United States, representing 6 per cent. of the world’s surface—but the rate at which it is disappearing is frightening. If we are losing 13 million hectares of forest land every year, adding to that huge amount of carbon in the atmosphere, the rain forests will no longer be able to be the lungs of the earth, performing that vital role of soaking up carbon and giving us clean air, oxygen and water in return.
As the rain forests disappear, we are not just losing trees or the ability to soak up carbon and produce oxygen. It is not just a large bit of greenery. The most important thing is that, as the rain forests disappear, we are losing the species in them; we are losing the fauna and flora, the insect life and the animals. With them goes potential cures for life-threatening diseases. I am told by my researchers that there are currently 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide which come from plant-derived sources. While 25 per cent. of western pharmaceuticals are derived from rain forest ingredients, less than 1 per cent. of these tropical trees and plants are being tested by scientists. So 25 per cent. of the drugs we use to treat illnesses come from rain forest ingredients and we have examined only 1 per cent of those ingredients. Yet we are going to continue cutting down the rest of the rain forests. Where on earth will we get the raw material to make the drugs that will save human life in the future? I have never been a flat-earther, nor have I the reputation of being a great herbalist, but I have always believed that part of the solution to human ills lay inside the sealed globe we call the world. It does not lie in the synthesis of new chemicals by chemical companies, it lies in using the products and ingredients we have. Opium is a perfect example. Many other solutions to the ills and diseases we face are already out there, possibly deep in the ocean, in the jungles of the Amazon and Papua New Guinea, in fauna, in flora, and in animal species. If we destroy them, we can never get them back.
As I said earlier, with a huge amount of effort, we could lower the world temperature. We can reverse climate change. We cannot bring back the millions of species which may be destroyed if those forests are cut down and burned. Experts estimate that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every day, due to rain forest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. I do not mean that we are losing 50,000 of one animal, or one beastie, or one insect, but 50,000 different species. That is absolutely frightening. Deforestation of tropical rain forests has a global impact through species extinction. We will see the loss of important ecosystem services and renewable resources and the reduction of carbon sinks.
I want this in the Bill so that the people of the United Kingdom—and everyone in Penrith—can see that the loss of the rain forest affects our human health in this country. It does not just affect the Indians who might be living in the forest, or some of the animals and wildlife there—although it would be tragic if we lost some of that wildlife, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal would say, it would also be immoral—it affects us. It is in our own vital life-preserving interest that we save those things. If we could spell out more of the biodiversity consequences in the report that the Prime Minister will be asked to produce, we might be able to engage the British public so that they realise that, goodness me, this is a very serious thing. That would have more impact than just talking about carbon at 80 and 60 per cent., important though that is.
We know that faunas are critical to regulating the climate. We know that more than half the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in the tropical rain forest. A fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon basin. Also, although I would be highly critical of the food miles, in any huge supermarket these days—Sainsbury in Pimlico, or any other big market—we see ranges of fruit and vegetables that we did not even know existed five, 10 or 20 years ago. A total of 80 per cent. of the developed world’s diet originated in the tropical rain forest. Its gifts and the wonderful foods it has provided include avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos, tomatoes, vegetables, corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash, yams, black pepper—I am getting quite hungry now. There are many more but I will not bore the Committee by reading a huge shopping list of food from Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
At least 3,000 fruit species are found in the rain forest alone. We use only about 200 of those in the western developed world, whereas the Indians in the rain forest consume about 2,000 different species of fruit and vegetable. Who knows what solutions for the illnesses that we may face lie in those fruits and vegetables? People with my condition are told to eat a lot more oily fish. I love fish, but I hate oily fish. Initially, I did not believe that it was beneficial, but I certainly find it slightly beneficial in tackling multiple sclerosis. I think, in my little mind, that if that bit of oily fish can help me in a minor way, what else that could save people is lying in those rain forests, which are being cut down at the rate of 80,000 hectares a day?
The US National Cancer Institute has identified more than 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells. Seventy per cent. of those plants are found in the rain forest, and 25 per cent. of the active ingredients in today’s cancer-fighting drugs come from organisms found only in the rain forest. I am told that vincristine—I shall pass that name on to Hansard later—which is extracted from the rain forest plant the Madagascar periwinkle, is one of the world’s most powerful anti-cancer drugs. It has dramatically increased the survival rate for acute childhood leukaemia since its discovery, and that discovery was linked directly to the rain forest rather than to the millions of pounds spent by multinational chemical companies. That is why I want rain forests to be specifically mentioned and flagged up. We have a chance to excite the British public with the wonderful reasons why we are backing the Bill. We can terrify them—legitimately—with the consequences of cutting down the rain forests, and we can tell them why climate change, which is a terribly boring term, matters.
The final thing that I want to flag up to the Government relates to forests. We cannot discuss biodiversity without rain forests, and we cannot discuss rain forests without biodiversity. I want biodiversity to be mentioned specifically in the Bill because, as I said earlier, everyone sees that biological extinction is the most critical global environmental change that we face, because it cannot be reversed. Aaron Bernstein, a doctor at Harvard medical school and one of the authors of the book, “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity”, has stated:
“When we harm nature, we are harming ourselves...few people realise that our health is directly tied to the health of the natural world”,
The current extinction crisis is a serious threat to humanity that is equal to, if not greater than, climate change.
As I have said, although the Earth’s rain forests cover only 6 per cent. of its surface, they harbour 50 per cent. of all known life on this planet. The estimated number of creatures that inhabit the tropical rain forest is so great—between 5 million and 50 million species—that it is almost incomprehensible. The sheer range of numbers alone is mind-boggling. If the best experts—the Attenboroughs of this world—can calculate only that it is between 5 million and 50 million, it shows how little we have actually explored life on Earth. If we do not understand it, for goodness’ sake, we must not destroy it first.
Our western forests are good things, too, but whereas half a dozen tree species or fewer make up 90 per cent. of the trees that dominate western forests, a typical rain forest, I am told, may have more than 480 tree species in a single hectare, which means not 480 trees but 480 different tree species. Similarly, a single bush in the Amazon may contain more species of ant than the entire British isles. Rain forest biodiversity is not a haphazard event, but the result of a series of unique circumstances. Unfortunately, every year approximately 27,000 species of animal and plant life disappear from our planet. We hear about big cuddly animals if they are in danger of extinction, but not about the fauna, flora, bits of moss, trees and bushes. Those things may seem utterly unimportant, boring and not sexy, but they may contain chemicals that are vital for our survival. Scientists estimate that there are between 3 million and 30 million species of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and so on. Only 1.4 million have been identified so far, and we risk destroying the rest. Up to 30 per cent. of all species on earth could vanish by 2050 due to unsustainable human activities—mainly deforestation. Medicines are just a small part of the role that biodiversity plays in human well-being. Without beneficial insects, most of the land ecosystems in the world would collapse, and a good part of humanity would perish with them. We have already discussed bees and other insects, but that is an absolutely crucial point.
I will not bore the Committee for much longer, because I only want to make two points. I have made my first point on biodiversity, and my second point concerns garbage—I hope that colleagues can spot the difference. I will conclude with the cone snail. I am not sure who has heard of the cone snail—I had not heard of it before I started my research. Cone snails live only in coral reefs, and at least a third to a half of all reefs are in danger of dying off due to a combination of disease, pollution and climate change. What have cone snails got to do with anything? The first breakthrough in pain medication in years has come from those little snails. I have no idea what they look like or how big they are—I presume that they are tiny or even microscopic. Some 33 per cent. of terminal cancer and HIV patients for whom the strongest opiates were ineffective are now pain free thanks to a pain-blocking peptide from cone snail venom. I have no reason to disbelieve that point—no one could make it up—which I discovered during my research. The cone snail is a tiny little thing in the coral reef, yet people are making a highly powerful medicine—it is more powerful than opium—from a peptide that it produces for the treatment of cancer patients. That in itself is justification for saving the coral reefs. We have to save the coral reefs, if only to get that material from the cone snail for cancer and HIV patients. How do we save the coral reefs? The answer is by reducing the global temperature.
I do not want to live in a world where we have only met our carbon targets. We could meet 60, 80, 90 or 100 per cent. of our carbon targets, but that would be irrelevant because—as the Minister has said—what is important are the measures that we take to meet the ultimate target. There will be no point to a society in which we have managed to meet our carbon targets, if we have lost all the rain forests. Make no doubt about it, we can meet the carbon targets, even if we cut down every forest—it would be much more difficult, but we could do it. The danger is that we would lose millions of species that we do not even know about yet that have the potential to improve or save human life. We would lose the tiny insects, bugs and creepy crawlies—“the wee beasties” as my old mother used to say—that are so vital to our ecology and economy. I do not know what they are—nobody in the Committee knows. Nobody knows what is in the rain forests in Brazil, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, which we are losing at a rate of knots.
I am certain that the Minister will tell me not to worry about scientific knowledge on climate change. He will say, “That’s all in there David. We’ll be thinking about that.” I am merely saying that my amendment would not significantly change the Bill. It would not cause damage, and the Government would not have to impose a new target. It would merely signal what the Government will probably report on anyway. It will make the Bill slightly sexier, and slightly easier for people like me—virgins in carbon matters—to understand. It will make it easier to get the message home in the pubs of Hexham and Penrith, and around the country. People will not buy in to the boring bits of climate change, such as the stuff about dustbins in clauses 69 and 70, unless we create reasons. If my proposals were implemented, the Government would have to spell out why biodiversity and rain forests are so vital to the survival of the human species.
I warmly congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his extraordinarily eloquent speech and on his amendments and new clause. He repeatedly apologised for potentially boring the Committee, but I was not bored—I was inspired by his brilliant contribution.
My only small quibble is that the references to the rise in global temperature in the amendments would be accommodated in almost any review of the scientific evidence on climate change. It is difficult to see how such reviews could otherwise be conducted.
The right hon. Gentleman’s references to biodiversity and world forests were spot on. He has revealed a rather strange aberration in the Bill. Clause 11 states that carbon budgets will overwhelmingly be set on economic and social criteria. We all love the Stern report, which is an important document that changed the terms of the debate on climate change in this country and that has been influential worldwide. After the Stern report, it has become almost axiomatic that the cost of doing nothing about climate change will be economically greater than the cost of doing something about it, especially if we act quickly.
As the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, the economic justification is not the only justification for acting on climate change. Even if there were no dramatic economic costs, it is important to protect the biodiversity of the planet from the impact of climate change. The figures on biodiversity are truly alarming. The right hon. Gentleman gave many of them, and he went into great detail. The UN millennium ecosystem assessment reported in 2005 that approximately 60 per cent. of the ecosystem services that it examined are being degraded or used unsustainably. Those include
“fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water purification, and the regulation of regional and local climate, natural hazards and pests.”
The latest red list of threatened species in 2007 shows that one in four of the world’s mammals, one in eight of its birds, one third of all amphibians and 70 per cent. of the world’s assessed plants are in jeopardy. The UK biodiversity action plan, for which the Government should take due credit, has identified 1,149 species and 65 habitats as priorities for conservation in the UK alone.
On forests, it has been estimated that about half of the mature tropical forests that once covered the planet have been felled. That is between 750 million and 800 million hectares out of the original 1.5 billion to 1.6 billion hectares that once covered the planet. Deforestation probably contributes to 20 per cent. of world carbon emissions. The situation is extremely grim. The most obvious and simple impact is on the beauty and diversity of life on Earth, and there is a moral and a spiritual reason for trying to protect our biodiversity on that basis. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, there are massive impacts in terms of the potential for science to discover new medicines, treatments and painkillers.
Most importantly, there is an enormous impact on the ability of the world to feed itself. The right hon. Gentleman light-heartedly mentioned the price of fish. I assure him that the price of fish will be massively impacted. In February, the United Nations environment programme report pointed out that all the major world fisheries are at some risk of complete collapse within decades if the combination of overfishing, climate change and pollution is allowed to proceed unchecked. It pointed to the fact that 2.6 billion people derive most of their protein from fish. The impacts of such a loss of biodiversity are almost incalculable.
As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, if the ecosystems start to collapse, that is a feedback mechanism that will in turn make climate change even worse. The threat to the Amazonian rainforest, as highlighted in the Stern report, is such that it would enter irreversible collapse if we allow the global temperature to rise by only 2° C above pre-industrial levels. That should focus our attention. It is right that biodiversity should be a prominent concern in the Bill, and the amendments deserve our warm support. It is a matter of some embarrassment to me that we did not spot that enormous omission before and were not responsible for tabling the amendments. I warmly congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on doing so.
I, too, congratulate and pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his amendments, research, the passion and eloquence with which he spoke and for spotting an omission from the Bill. May I also establish my eco-warrior and environmental claims, which go back to about the age of nine, 10 or 15?
The Committee may recall that Professor David Bellamy made his name as a lecturer in botany at Durham university. One of the great campaigns that he supported at that time, but which, regrettably, was not successful, was the drive to protect the blue gentian, an alpine flower that grows in this country in only one part of the north of England. This is not a private Committee meeting, but I do not mind sharing this story with the Committee. I was brought up in that place, known as Upper Teesdale, which remains relatively unspoiled, compared to the Lake district.
At that time, it was proposed that part of Upper Teesdale should be flooded to create a reservoir to help people further downstream on the River Tees, and that plan went ahead. Professor Bellamy and those who supported him failed to protect the blue gentian. Outside Austria and Switzerland, that flower grows only in Upper Teesdale, so there are few left. The tragedy is that the water that was damned by the reservoir was never needed further downstream. I hope we can all learn from that.
The amendments and new clause tabled by my right hon. Friend propose that the Secretary of State should take into account such matters when making decisions about carbon budgets and the duty to report on them. My right hon. Friend seeks to amend clause 11 so that rises in global temperature, the impact of climate change on world biodiversity and loss of world forest, with particular reference to rain forests, would be added to the list of matters to be taken into account. He wishes to put a duty on the Secretary of State to lay an annual report before Parliament on the impact of biodiversity loss on the UK and on meeting our carbon budgets and for the theme to be included in the title of the Bill.
The amendments relate to clauses 11 and 14 and the title of the Bill. It is interesting that the much-flaunted theme of sustainable development is often described as a three-legged stool, the legs being a sustainable environment, a sustainable society and a sustainable economy. It is claimed that, without one of the legs, the stool would fall over. The Minister might want to comment on why no reference is made to the impact on the environment in clauses 11 and 14 and in the title.
The case for amending the clauses and the title in order to consider the loss of the world’s forests and the impact of climate change on biodiversity is a noble one, and my right hon. Friend is right to express his concern about those vital issues. I share his mother’s concern for the wee beasties, and was moved by his reference to the cone snail, of which I confess I was not aware. I hope that it can be protected and can continue to be used for the purposes he described.
The World Bank estimates that approximately two thirds of tropical forest is under moderate to high pressure from agricultural expansion and timber industry expansion. My right hon. Friend spoke at some length about the impact on the rain forest, but I am sure he would wish to draw attention to previous incidents at Carlisle in Cumbria and at Boscastle in Devon, and incidents during last summer’s floods which, although they caused devastation elsewhere, were particularly acutely felt across Yorkshire and the Humber and the north Lincolnshire regions. Agricultural land was lost for part of the summer, as were many crops. It is important to see the issue in terms of UK losses as well.
The Minister is aware that prime agricultural land is increasingly encroached upon by the Government’s ambitious plans to build 3 million houses by 2020 and by their separate proposal for eco-towns. In considering the amendments, it is important to look at the impact that those Government plans will have on our own biodiversity.
A recent report for McKinsey estimates that the world could avoid 3.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in annual emissions from tropical deforestation by 2030 if we were able to price the carbon stored in these rain forests at less than â‚¬40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions. Such an analysis must make us seriously consider the benefits of avoiding rain forest destruction not purely as the morally correct thing to do, as my right hon. Friend argued, but because the value of the ecosystem services that those forests provide is immeasurable. If, in the years ahead, we continue to lose the rain forests at the current rate, we can almost certainly give up hope of keeping warming under 2°C.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s aspiration for biodiversity and deforestation issues to be brought to the heart of our carbon reporting procedure, which is as an eminently sensible idea, and especially for them to be taken into account in setting the carbon budgets in the annual report and in the long title of the Bill. I look forward with great interest to hearing from the Minister why she believes that there was no place for the environment in the original drafting of the Bill.
I shall be brief. We were all moved by the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border in introducing the amendment. I hope very much that the Minister will not say that those matters are implicit in the Bill, but will understand why a specific reference is so important. The reason is that it is extremely easy for these things to be forgotten because they do not happen to be the fashion of the time. I remember when the rain forests were at the centre of attention, and gradually they declined and other topics came up. It is very important that we should not miss them out. I have three more quick points.
First, we should remind ourselves that the importance of biodiversity has an additional dimension to the one to which my right hon. Friend referred. The retention of biodiversity is vital for the poor. The fish example is very strong. Rich countries steal the food of the poor. That is what happens. Local material becomes less and less available, so people look further and further abroad, and because they are rich enough they can grab a higher proportion of what is there. That is the injustice of the world, and it is crucial to those of us who recognise that social justice is at the heart of any policy to deal with climate change. We cannot deal with climate change without dealing with social justice, both nationally and internationally. Biodiversity is a key issue for social justice.
That leads to the second point, which is that we must have a degree of imagination and a willingness to extend the issues that are covered in the Bill more widely than is sometimes thought. I shall give an example. I am lucky enough to do business in Brazil and I recently returned from a conference there. One of the interesting issues raised was the work done by non-governmental organisations to provide jobs and opportunities for the indigenous people who would otherwise cut down the rain forests. It is all very well talking about cutting down rain forests, but it is often not wicked outsiders but poor people who do it, as part of the means to getting some sort of livelihood for themselves.
An excellent NGO is trying to help indigenous people to farm in a sustainable way. In doing so, they have found what is thought to be the original place where the cocoa bean comes from and are beginning to farm those original cocoa bean plantations in a way that will have a remarkably sustainable mechanism. They run into two kinds of problems. One is getting it started and teaching people; the other is being able to sell the high quality cocoa bean outside the area in which it exists, because the international organisers of such commodities do not like making the distinction between that special product and the generality of cocoa beans.
In order to meet the demands of my right hon. Friend’s proposals, we will have to look further. The matter should be talked through with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It is the kind of issue that we should be thinking through when we deal with our overseas aid. It is a Foreign Office matter, as well as something that we do at home. I emphasise that a failure to look further might undermine the broad way in which the Bill should be applied.
I agree with almost everything that the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, in a valuable contribution. As chair of the all-party group for tribal peoples, I should say that although I am sure the organisation that he mentioned is doing valuable work, traditional tribal peoples in the rain forest live on a sustainable basis, do not damage the rain forest and are widely recognised as the best stewards of the forest. Protecting their land rights is an important contribution to the battle to protect biodiversity.
I agree. The traditional mechanisms of groups living in the rain forest are some of the things that we have done much to damage and have ignored and treated badly. I am merely saying that much of the damage done to rain forests is done by people who are poor and who do so because they have no other way to ensure that they and their family’s livelihoods are protected. Remembering our responsibility in that respect is important.
I know that the Minister will have been advised that all that is included in the Bill and that reference to biodiversity may well suggest that other things are less important, may upset the balance and so on. I think I know what has been written beautifully for her. I hope I am wrong, and if so I apologise. If I am right, I suggest to her that this is an opportunity for the Government to remind the nation that combating climate change is a much bigger business than merely the mathematics of targets, budgets and the like. It requires us to try to understand our world in a wholly different way.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border has reminded us that we have been unbelievably cavalier with the riches that we have inherited. The willingness to destroy without thought is a serious statement about humankind at this moment and over many centuries. Climate change is about reminding us that the human attitude to itself and its planet has to change radically. That was why I said during the previous sitting that this is the most exciting time for us to be living, because it is a time in which we have to become different about ourselves and each other in a way that we have not had to since the huge changes of the enlightenment and the renaissance.
I hope that the Minister will set aside any temporary, narrow or less than excellent proposals that she has from her civil servants and instead say that she will rise to this, because it is necessary to remind the nation and the world that biodiversity is so important as part of the fight against climate change because it represents the area in which we can see most dramatically where humankind has behaved at its worst and where the biggest changes have to take place.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Atkinson. First, I join in the general congratulations to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border on how he presented his case. The inspiration of Rio lives in him. He has given us a huge opportunity to remind everyone who hears the debate about the extraordinary importance of the world’s biodiversity. He did that not only because its intrinsic value and moral status, but for our self-interest. I think that if climate change affected only human beings, it would not be so dangerous. It is the fact that it affects the totality of the natural world that makes it such a terrible threat.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the contribution of ecosystems and, especially, the contribution that the new natural world has made, through human discovery, to our medicines and thus our well-being. I join him in underlining that value. I will dwell a little on the threat for a few moments.
The Stern report revealed that an increase of just 1° C could lead to at least 10 per cent. of land species facing extinction, with 80 per cent. bleaching of the coral reefs, including the great barrier reef. Within the 2° C increase, which we have all pledged not to exceed, the extinction figure rises dramatically to between 15 and 40 per cent. We also know the enormous value of biodiversity in mitigating climate change. For example, the amount of terrestrial carbon stored in peat lands is equivalent to 75 per cent. of all atmospheric carbon and about 100 years of emissions from fossil fuels.
We recognise the link between biodiversity and climate change. We make a link in our efforts to tackle climate change and our efforts to tackle biodiversity loss. In a previous intervention, the right hon. Gentleman referred to “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity”, which is an extremely important report, supported by the UK Government. We are also chairing a group of experts on biodiversity and climate change for the convention on biological diversity. At home we have established a climate change adaptation work stream, as part of the English biodiversity strategy, to promote adaptation of relevant policies and programmes in all relevant sectors, which include agriculture, forestry, water management and land-use planning.
The right hon. Gentleman’s amendments focus on the loss of the world’s forests, particularly rain forests. Again, I support his passion to see that sufficient attention is given to these terrible threats. Let me give him the further assurance that that goes for the whole Government.
The UK is working actively in the EU and with our international negotiating partners to reduce deforestation in developing countries by achieving a successful outcome to the UN climate negotiations. We have also recently allocated £50 million from the new £800 million environmental transformation fund to help to slow the rate of deforestation of the Congo basin. Let me make it absolutely clear that our overall aim is to reach international agreement on the use of the carbon market for the second commitment period under the Kyoto protocol to give positive incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing countries.
So, why will I proceed in the way in which I am about to proceed? Let me say to the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal that officials may indeed provide me with information and even speaking notes, but I speak for myself. I have given great attention to the amendments and great thought to the vision that he and others have presented here this afternoon. However, there are two issues that we need to look at very carefully. I am the Minister who is dealing with both the biodiversity and the garbage, and I hope that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border will not find me among the garbage at the end of what I am about to say.
There are two issues. First, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border seeks to add to clause 11(2)(a), which states:
“scientific knowledge about climate change”.
No one could possibly argue that
“scientific knowledge about climate change” did not include knowledge of both the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and the way in which biodiversity might mitigate climate change. That is absolutely taken for granted; it is in every discussion and in every document. Therefore, I think that it is absolutely clear that that provision covers the issues that he has raised.
I must also say to the right hon. Gentleman, for the sake of accuracy—of course, this is all boring, technical stuff—that there are many causes of the loss of biodiversity that are not due to climate change. We could think, of course, of change in land use patterns, overgrazing, the introduction of alien species—that is a major factor that we agree might be exacerbated by climate change—and the over-abstraction of water.
Secondly, the amendments attempt to draw a direct line between the UK’s carbon budgets and the impacts of climate change on global biodiversity and forests. I am genuinely sorry to have to tell the right hon. Gentleman this, but I do not believe that that is sensible or even possible. As we have already discussed, the impacts of climate change will be driven by global emissions, not just emissions from the United Kingdom.
I hope that it will give the right hon. Gentleman some comfort if I say that there is undoubtedly a case for linking any future global climate change agreement to international biodiversity. That is why all the points that he has made are absolutely clear and valid. Indeed, at the conference looking at the convention on biological diversity that I attended last month, we decided to make closer linkages between that convention and the United Nations framework convention on climate change. Specifically, the conference agreed to highlight the role of biodiversity in mitigating climate change; to highlight the threats to global biodiversity from climate change; and to look for ways to minimise climate change. We also agreed to set up an expert group that would provide biodiversity-relevant information to the UNFCC.
Let me turn specifically to amendment No. 38. Clause 11 sets out matters that the Committee on Climate Change must take into account when providing advice on the level of carbon budgets, including economic, social and scientific factors. That will be a complex task that will require thorough analysis, advice and political judgement. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not possible to take account of the effect of rising global temperatures on world biodiversity and forests when considering specific UK carbon budgets if that assessment is to be made in any meaningful way. That, of course, should not diminish the right hon. Gentleman’s vision, and it does not diminish the fact that it is precisely because of the potentially devastating effects on global biodiversity that we want to make our contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change and to limit the increase in average temperatures to no more than 2° C more than pre-industrial levels.
To the extent that there could be any linkage between the Committee on Climate Change and such work, hon. Members should be aware that, under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, all decisions that the Government take must have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity in the exercise of those functions.
Amendment No. 40 builds on amendment No. 38 by requiring an explanation of how proposals and policies to meet a budget will affect global temperature, the loss of world biodiversity and the loss of world forests. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that just as we cannot assess what effect the particular level of UK carbon budgeting would have on these issues, it is equally not possible to say what effect our particular choices of policies would have. We need to remember that all our proposals for emissions reductions have to be implemented within existing law. The right hon. Gentleman will know the extent of existing law covering biodiversity in this country.
While we cannot directly determine, or expect a link with, what happens overseas, we can expect that when we choose our new policies in the UK, they will have to respect the habitats and birds directives and the requirements for environmental impact assessments, where they apply. Clause 13 requires that proposals and policies contribute overall to sustainable development, which includes taking environmental impacts into account.
The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about the sustainable development definitions. The whole Government have adopted a definition for the sustainable development strategy, which says that a policy is sustainable when it is in line with all five of the sustainable development principles, one of which is the key to the hon. Lady’s question: “Living within environmental limits”. That is absolutely clear and the strategy says we must have policies in line with all five of those principles.
I have no doubt about the Minister’s sincerity on this issue, as I have heard her talk about it before, but let me put it to her that as far as this is concerned, her advice is duff. Clause 11 says quite categorically that we put, as a society, a value on material prosperity and the economy because we have to take into account economic circumstances and the impact on the economy. However, when we are being presented with an opportunity to send a strong signal that we put a value on the natural resources on which that economy depends, we duck it.
On the contrary. The case that I make is that the phrase that we have in the Bill about science entirely covers those points. All the science acknowledges these points. I have to return the hon. Gentleman to the nature of the amendments—this is a technical point—which are specifically asking us when setting budgets, which are just numbers, to take account of the effect that that might have on the world’s biodiversity and the world’s temperature rises. Clearly, I am sorry to say, I could use the same word—“duff”—about the amendments, but I shall say that they at least do not work.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the kind and courteous way in which she is dealing with my amendments. While I accept that they might legally and technically be duff, given that in the places I have tried to insert the phrases “biodiversity” and “rain forest”, they may not actually work, will she accept the vision thing? She kindly said that in my speech I was making “a vision thing”. Does she not accept that somewhere in the Bill, with the Government’s excellent lawyers and civil service, they could put a bit of the vision thing in, using appropriate phraseology and at the appropriate place, to highlight the importance of rain forests and biodiversity?
I think the right hon. Gentleman has enough parliamentary experience to know that we do not put such visions into Bills. We debated a preamble in a previous sitting. When great speeches come to be made, as they will as a consequence of the Bill becoming an Act of Parliament and all that will flow from that, including the reports that come in to Parliament, people will undoubtedly surround whatever they have to say of a technical nature with that vision, because nobody can doubt that that vision is why we are doing this. Why have the Government brought a Bill of this nature to Parliament? Because we understand that our whole planet is in great danger and we must make our contribution to dealing with it. However, as my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has had to say on several occasions, we deal with only what we have the possibility to control, and that is our own carbon emissions and the way in which we decide on them and report on them.
I shall dealing now with the new reporting requirement that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border would like to place upon us. We are in the business of reporting on UK biodiversity and I assure the Committee that there are regular reports. If hon. Members have not seen them, they should look for them, because they are comprehensive. The hon. Member for Cheltenham congratulated us on our UK biodiversity action plan. That is entirely transparent and a way in which people can follow the efforts that are being made to conserve UK biodiversity.
Regular reporting occurs and, in particular, DEFRA leads on the natural environment public service agreement, which includes targets for the Government’s approach to action on biodiversity. Progress against the PSA is, of course, published annually in the departmental annual report to Parliament. I suggest that any additional reporting requirement would be unnecessary in any case, but clearly would not work for this Bill.
To summarise, the Government’s view of the group of amendments is that scientific knowledge about climate change is wide enough to ensure that the matters raised by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border are taken into account in relation to carbon budgets, in so far as that is possible. The Government are deeply committed to promoting biodiversity in the UK and overseas. I meant to mention, but forgot, that the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal referred to the need to link indigenous lifestyles with the conservation of biodiversity. I refer him to the Darwin initiative, for which he can take some credit, which has funded hundreds of projects in developing countries where we are doing precisely that. I am glad to say that I recently launched a new round of funding for that so that we can help developing countries with our scientific expertise, particularly on climate change and the way in which lifestyles need not threaten biodiversity and we can all work together.
I do not believe that the amendments would add value to the Government’s existing reporting to Parliament on biodiversity and I do not believe there is a meaningful causal relationship between the UK’s carbon budgets, or our policies to meet them, and the level of global temperatures and loss of international biodiversity. I tell the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border that I therefore cannot accept the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for her kind and courteous reply. She said at a couple of points in her response that of course it is implicit in considering “scientific knowledge” that loss of biodiversity, the rain forest and other matters will be taken into account. She said that it would be inconceivable to consider new scientific knowledge without considering those matters. I accept that, but she said towards the end that, as far as was possible, the Government would take loss of biodiversity into account. She says, and I accept, that the Government would not wish to set a target for the United Kingdom based on what was happening in the Amazonian rain forest or in Papua New Guinea.
I had no intention of seeking to tie British policy to things of which the Government are not in charge. It would be utterly wrong to attempt in any way to tie the Government’s hands by including a legal obligation in respect of rain forests and biodiversity, and therefore requiring a carbon target to be set for the United Kingdom on matters that are way outside the Government’s control. I was seeking to incorporate a little bit of vision in the Bill because I think that it lacks it.
One of the reasons why we are here is because people have a vision of the disastrous consequences of climate change if it goes unchecked. I was merely seeking—in a technically inadequate way, I know—to introduce some concepts that the Minister says are already implicit in the reporting mechanism. I would merely wish the Minister and her civil servants to think again. Are there ways to flag up the two phrases, perhaps in a reporting mechanism—possibly not a reporting mechanism on carbon budgets, but elsewhere in the Bill—in addition to all the current reporting that the Government may do, and in addition to any other report laid before Parliament? Is it possible to include somewhere in this Bill—the most important one for a generation—on climate change and saving the planet phrases about the loss of biodiversity and rain forests, or preservation of biodiversity and rain forests?
The Minister is right. No doubt when politicians make great speeches in the future, they will talk about biodiversity and rain forests, not just 60 and 80 per cent. targets. However, I am afraid that when my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle is sitting in the Department as the Minister of State, possibly in a couple of years’ time, and he goes off to make a major speech, he will want to talk about biodiversity and rain forests but his officials will say, “No, Minister. You must stick to the terms of the Bill, which is all about climate change. We have a very exciting speech here for the UN about 20 per cent. targets,” or 80 or 60 per cent. targets. That might be fanciful and it might not happen—it is fanciful that my hon. Friend would accept the advice, because I am sure that he would not.
The Minister and hon. Members sitting with her can tell from what I have been saying that I have no intention of putting wrecking provisions into the Bill, or of including provisions that are impossible to achieve, or meaningless legally or technically. I do not wish to press the amendment to a Division because that would be against the spirit of consensus—we are almost in agreement on this—but I hope that the Minister will think again and try to find a way of coming back on Report with a proposal to include in the Bill an obligation to talk about the things that she says are implicit in it.
I am sorry if my colleagues are disappointed that I will not press the amendment to a Division, but I suspect that I would not win and I would not win for the wrong reasons. I might anger the Minister such that she does not come back on another occasion with an amendment that is not duff, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.