Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:00 pm on 5th December 2002.

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Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 5:00 pm, 5th December 2002

I will not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, because I have only three minutes left.

Do not hon. Members think that there is something seriously wrong about the situation whereby our bilateral aid to Ethiopia has totalled £12.3 million in the past 12 months, yet Ethiopia owes us £15.4 million in debt repayments? Ethiopia is not alone in that respect, its debt being 150 per cent. of its GDP. Malawi is another example of a heavily indebted country. Its world development report shows that Malawi's debt still amounts to 29 per cent. of its GDP. We cannot get away from the fact that sustainability and the question of how money should be spent to deal with climate change problems are inextricably linked with the problem of how to solve the situation of the heavily indebted poor countries. That is notwithstanding the Chancellor's admission in the pre-Budget report that the heavily indebted poor countries initiative is failing.

As other hon. Members have mentioned, we have a responsibility for the failure to reform trade rules that work against the ability of developing nations to put themselves on a sustainable footing. Ethiopia's main export income comes from coffee, the prices of which have slumped by 77 per cent. over the past four years. The European Union's and the United States' unwillingness to overhaul our heavily protectionist agricultural systems damages the capacity of countries such as Ethiopia to achieve some sustainability.

We cannot shy away from the scale of the crisis emerging in Ethiopia. The problems facing that country are directly relevant to the problems of climate change and sustainable development. James Morris told the UN Security Council that the crisis in Africa is part of a worrying new global phenomenon of shifting weather patterns that have led to unparalleled natural disasters. Drought has ravaged not only the horn and huge swathes of southern Africa and the western Sahel, but central America, Afghanistan and Cambodia. If we are to meet the millennium development goals—perhaps more accurately called targets—tackling global climate change must be a priority.