§ 2 pm
§ Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab)
It is a pleasure to see such an array of talent here for this debate. I like to think that the quality of those seeking to catch your eye for the debate, Mr. McWilliam, reflects the importance that Parliament as a whole attributes to this issue. It has often been considered here and in the main Chamber, not least in the very full debate on climate change and sustainable development after the publication of the report of the Select Committee on International Development on 5 December 2002—that debate can be found in volume 395 at column 313WH. Since then, there has been a series of Adjournment debates. As recently as last Wednesday, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) was here debating the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's contribution to environmental objectives.
In the few days since it was announced that this debate had been secured, I have received representations from Calor Gas Ltd. about hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants; from the Energy Saving Trust about energy efficiency measures; from the Renewable Power Association about the Department of Trade and Industry's photovoltaic major demonstration programme; and from the Woodland Trust about the contribution that woodlands can make to combating climate change. In addition, WWF provided a comprehensive brief on this subject. I have read the excellent debate pack put together by the House of Commons Library and I recommend it to hon. Members.
I requested the debate after reading Sir David King's article on 9 January in Science, which is described in the media as the in-house magazine for American scientists. In his article, he rehearses what has become the orthodox view of scientists about the recent history of climate change and its causes. He describes the 0.6°C rise in temperature and the 20 cm rise in sea levels in the past century, and reminds us that the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 1991. He goes on to explain that those phenomena cannot be explained simply by natural cycles and disturbances, so he and many other scientists conclude that they are, by and large, caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels for home heating, industrial processes and various modes of transport.
Sir David and many other scientists predict that, without intervention, temperatures will go on increasing, sea levels will carry on rising, polar ice caps will shrink, there will be greater extremes of weather, and flooding will be more frequent. However, in his article he does not dwell on a particular factor that concerns me: the possible effects on biodiversity. A study published on 8 January, which was widely reported in the media that week, indicates that between 15 and 37 per cent. of land species in the area that was studied could face extinction by 2050. Sir David concludes his article by saying:In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today. more serious even than the threat of terrorism".I should add that it is also more serious than higher education funding.
In the same article, Sir David states that the UK is in the vanguard of international efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. He also complains that the United 36WH States of America is not playing its part, and points out that, although it has 4 per cent. of the world's population, it is responsible for more than 20 per cent. of harmful emissions. Sir David therefore calls on the United States to play a leading part.
Will the Minister say what his Department and the Government are doing to reinforce Sir David's message, and what actions are being taken to persuade the US Government to join international efforts to protect the world's environment for future generations? Last week, the hon. Member for Lewes put similar questions to the representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who responded to the debate. It is useful for us to keep bringing pressure to bear on all Departments that can influence the US Administration to do so.
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we have several times asked Ministers whether they have raised these matters with their opposite numbers in the United States? Almost without exception—I say "almost" in case I have forgotten an occasion—they have admitted that the subject has not come up. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it should be on the list of every Minister and civil servant to ask the question each time they meet their American opposite numbers, so that the United States becomes aware of just how seriously we view it, not only in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs but in Departments from which they would not expect it?
§ Mr. Kidney
The right hon. Gentleman amplifies my message with great power, for which I thank him. In fairness, I should add that in the response to last week's Adjournment debate, which I mentioned, and in the most recent oral questions put to DEFRA, it was confirmed that there were specific points of contact between British Government officials and Ministers and members of the US Administration. The situation may not be quite as woeful as the right hon. Gentleman would portray it, but he and I promote the same message. As well as making the point in this debate, I have written to the Prime Minister to make it at the top of Government.
We in this country are doing our best to contribute at international and local levels. Internationally, the Kyoto protocol has the Deputy Prime Minister's fingerprints all over it. At the talks, our delegation led the negotiations that led to the legally binding agreement to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases. If Russia ratifies the protocol, targets for reductions will become effective, and an emissions trading scheme can begin. Will my hon. Friend the Minister tell us, as far as he understands it, what the Russian Government's current position is on ratification, which would help us to bring the protocol into effect?
In this country, we have already passed primary legislation for the UK's national emissions trading scheme, and we have approved secondary legislation to give effect to the European Union directive on emissions trading throughout the EU. In addition to these efforts, our climate change levy is helping us to meet our obligations under Kyoto.
What scale of reductions do we need? Under the UN framework convention on climate change, we are seeking international commitment to reduce carbon 37WH dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In the developed economies, we are seeking to cut emissions by up to 60 per cent. from their 1990 levels by 2050. We also need to engage developing countries and persuade them to make efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. That will be another great challenge—one that was highlighted in a debate on the report published by the International Development Committee and in the brief given to me by WWF.
As a staging post towards that very challenging target for 2050, the EU accepted a legal target under Kyoto of an 8 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2008—12 from a base of 1990 emissions. The UK Government accepted that the UK's share is a national reduction of 12.5 per cent. In addition, Labour in government is aiming for a 20 per cent. reduction by 2010.
At home, we are working to meet these targets. National policy includes reducing energy consumption and increasing the proportion of energy supplied from renewable sources. In his article, Sir David points out that such environmentally friendly policies do not have to interfere with economic well-being, and that our economy grew by 30 per cent. between 1990 and 2000. Employment rose during the same period by 4.8 per cent., yet our greenhouse gas emissions intensity fell by 30 per cent. and our overall emissions fell by 12 per cent. The UK climate impacts programme, funded by DEFRA, helps organisations such as businesses and councils to assess how they might be affected by climate change. Of course the programme's climate change scenarios present us with four possible future climates for the UK based on different levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and the worst-case scenario is quite frightening.
The work by the climate impacts programme is picked up regionally and locally. A regional example from the west midlands is that of Severn Trent Water and the excellent midlands environmental business club. They lead a grouping of businesses that is focusing on how climate change could affect businesses in the west midlands. The aim of their work and that of similar groups around the country is to persuade businesses to adopt environmental management systems for their energy, their transport needs and their waste.
The Government are negotiating the international framework and have published their national policies on energy, transport and waste. I ask the Minister to explain today how the Government are to move on from the policy statement to implementation. What is the Minister's strategy for educating and engaging the public so that all of us take actions that help to combat climate change? By what means shall we persuade more people to think global, act local?
In that context, I ask central Government to engage with local government as powerful partners in the work. Local Agenda 21 was a great start. By the end of 2000, 93 per cent. of local authorities in England and Wales had local Agenda 21 strategies in place. While that activity has been, in effect, voluntary, developed in response to the Rio Earth summit call to arms, it is now arguably a statutory duty.
Under the Local Government Act 2000, local authorities are under a duty to prepare community strategies for promoting the economic, social and environmental well-being of their communities and 38WH contributing to sustainable development. Clearly, local Agenda 21 work should today be mainstream practice for local authorities, as part of the statutory commitment that they now have.
I want to digress slightly to say that we in Stafford have a really good local Agenda 21 team, which is exceptionally active. It has a website and I have brought a copy of its newsletter, Sundial, with a picture of the lead officer, Karen Davies, outside No. 10 Downing street at a recent reception sponsored, I think, by DEFRA.
Last November I attended the national Green Apple awards in the marquee on the terrace. National awards were given for all sorts of activities to voluntary groups, local authorities and businesses with environmental achievements. I was pleased to see that awards would be coming back to Stafford for its farm-school link education pack, its sustainable tourism tool kit "Sustainable Staffordshire", a county council computer recycling scheme and a local business, Talbotts heating, for its thermal recycling equipment.
I think I can claim that Stafford is playing its part already, but what I have outlined shows that enthusiastic individuals with the right kind of support nationally as well as locally can make a difference. I want to encourage the Minister to exploit the best practice that exists around the country, and to engage every local community in the work that we need to undertake if we are to reduce harmful emissions.
Individuals can make a considerable contribution to tackling the serious threat posed by climate change, whether by reducing energy consumption at home and at work, cutting back on the use of the car and other vehicles—converting from petrol to LPG or biofuels would help, too—composting at home or recycling waste at home. On waste and recycling, I want to mention how annoyed people are in my constituency about the amount of packaging still to be found on the goods they buy or have delivered to their homes. That is a particularly strong message from Stafford residents.
Local authorities are well placed to provide their communities with leadership, information and the tools for carrying out the necessary tasks. An obvious example is recycling: those who want to recycle are assisted by councils making kerbside collections.
Many local authorities appreciate that they can make a significant contribution to reducing the national emissions of greenhouse gases. That is why 72 local authorities have so far signed the Nottingham declaration. Last year, the Minister uttered encouraging words when launching that declaration. The declaration commits local authorities to work with the Government and to contribute locally to the delivery of the United Kingdom's climate change programme. I cannot yet directly praise the local authorities in my constituency, but several neighbouring authorities in Staffordshire are among those 72 signatories. Perhaps the Minister will take the opportunity once more to commend that local government initiative and to give it his backing. Perhaps he will say how much the Government welcome the declaration, and express their willingness to develop the relationship between central and local government for the benefit of our environment.
39WH I know from inquiries that I made of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that a sustainable buildings task group has been established to identify what are called specific cost-effective improvements in the quality and environmental performance of buildings. I understand that the task group will consider the scope for delivering higher standards of environmental performance of new and refurbished buildings in respect of the use of water and energy, timber and other construction materials, and in waste reduction.
I strongly believe that homes ought to be capable of meeting everyone's needs, including the needs of those who are disabled and those who may become disabled through injury, illness or infirmity. Those needs include affordable warmth and the least possible use of energy resources, especially of carbon-based ones. I understand that the task group's work will be fed into the next review of building regulations. I strongly urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take a close interest in that work and ensure that the fight against climate change is alive in that respect also. I know that the matter will be uppermost in my hon. Friend's mind on Friday, because the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) will be moving the Second Reading of his Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill, which makes much the same point.
Precisely what can be done to modernise housing standards can be seen at BedZED—the zero emissions development at Beddington corner in Hackbridge, which is on the line to Epsom. I visited it at the invitation of the architect Bill Dunster and Sue Venner just before Christmas. It gives a glimpse of what modern design and technology already allows us to do in reducing emissions to zero. However, an awful lot of encouragement and facilitation is needed before that sort of practice can be taken up all over the country.
§ Mr. Gummer
When the hon. Gentleman visited BedZED did he notice that the real issue is getting sufficient volume—it would not be large—to ensure that the environmentally friendly energy-saving elements of that system are competitive with what those of what one might call traditional building systems? The zero use of energy in such systems can be had at the same price as for conventional building, if not more cheaply, if only it has a sufficient headstart to get its factories tooled up to provide those elements. Would it not be beneficial if the Government helped in doing precisely that, so that we got it under way?
§ Mr. Kidney
Indeed, I picked up two powerful messages from my visit. The first was that that kind of development is outside the comfort zone of today's construction companies. Secondly, many of the component parts of the BedZED development come from other parts of the world because British industry is not tooled up to provide what is needed. Industry will need a greater market to have sufficient incentive to provide that. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Government could help by giving support and enthusiastic backing to such developments. I was about 40WH to ask whether my hon. Friend the Minister has been to BedZED for himself to pick up those messages. If not, will he arrange to do so?
§ The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley)
By coincidence, it is in my schedule to go to BedZED tomorrow with the Swedish Environment Minister, as part of the joint UK-Swedish conference that we are hosting on environmental technologies. However, as my hon. Friend will know, it might be difficult for me to get away.
§ Mr. Kidney
My hon. Friend has just spoiled what I was going to say about how effective these debates must be if I raise the subject today and he visits tomorrow.
§ Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)
I apologise for missing some of my hon. Friend's remarks. Does he agree that the other thing that is so important about BedZED is that it links energy efficiency not only with, I hope. a way of dealing with fuel poverty, but with the cycle to waste? BedZED demonstrates that waste must be central to any energy-saving approach—at least that is what I took away from my visit.
§ Mr. Kidney
The reason BedZED is so exciting is that is plugs into so many other issues. For a start, it is a partly rented, partly outright owner-occupied and partly shared ownership development, which is a good example to us all. As my hon. Friend says, the project not only features energy efficiency measures, which reduce residents' energy bills, but deals with the waste from the site internally, rather than passing it to somebody else. On top of that, some of the parking spaces for residents have charging points next to them, so that people can use electrical vehicles as well as petrol-driven ones. The whole project is very exciting indeed, but no similar developments are currently on the horizon. That is why the assistance that my hon. Friend the Minister and others can give to the architects with such vision at BedZED is so important.
I should like to turn our attention to the people alive today to whom this debate matters the most—children. The decisions that we politicians take or fail to take today will decide what kind of world they inherit from us tomorrow. Although there are many immediate demands on the minds of our young people, most take a keen interest in what their world will look like. I can give two recent examples of that from my constituency.
First, quite a large number of schools in Stafford have achieved the environmental campaigns category of eco-schools. Indeed, Encams says that Staffordshire has the highest proportion of eco-schools of any part of England. Encouraging youngsters to show an interest in sustainable development is commendable. When I visited schools such as Weston Road high school and received presentations from those on the school council on their eco-activities, it was encouraging to hear them speak with authority not only about matters affecting their local environment, such as litter, but about the national picture, the international picture, greenhouse gases and so on.
Secondly, just last Friday I answered questions from 180 year 8 pupils at King Edward VI high school in Stafford, as part of their citizenship curriculum. A large 41WH number of the questions asked in the session, which ran for 50 minutes, had an environmental aspect. One pupil asked directly about the ozone layer and two asked separate questions about aspects of flooding policy.
Young people have a keen interest in their environment, unprompted by people such as myself. It is right to involve them in action to tackle climate change, because they have a direct stake in the results. If young people explained why we should get things right for them, that would act as a powerful incentive to adults. I invite the Minister to consider how we can reach out to young people and engage them in the important issue of climate change. The eco-school scheme is an obvious channel. I have asked questions of DEFRA about how we use that channel effectively, but there must be many other ways too.
I realise that my speech has had a broad sweep. I began with international action, then moved on to Government policy nationally, and the actions of businesses, local councils and individuals, and now I have asked the Minister to involve children. That means not that my speech has been unfocused or poorly structured but that it reflects the seriousness of the subject. Like Sir David King, I rather think that saving the world is about as big a picture as it gets.
§ Mr. Randall (Uxbridge) (con)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on securing the debate. His speech was very good and he need not apologise for it. If anything, it is me who might have to apologise to the acknowledged experts around the Chamber. I shall make my contribution quick and to the point so that we can hear their wise words. In that respect, I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), from whose presence we will all benefit. The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) and the Minister also have great expertise on this issue.
Although we hear increasingly about climate change, I am afraid that there is still a degree of scepticism among the general public about whether it exists. In the next few days, as the promised cold snap takes hold, people will say, "What are they talking about? Global warming? What do the experts know?" However, as we all know, it is not an outlandish theory that has been put forward by some academics in an ivory tower. We must all take it seriously.
In The Independent on Sunday, I read a rather worrying article, according to which the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States hasuncovered a change 'of remarkable amplitude' in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.Put rather simply, the Gulf stream could, in effect, shut down. As a result—I remember this from my days of geography at school—the UK's climate would become more akin to that of Labrador in Canada, and we would have vast tracts of tundra and winter lows of minus 20°C. Thus, some predictions say that our climate will become increasingly warm while others say that we will enter a new ice age. That is perhaps why the public are sometimes a little sceptical about what experts say. None the less, I take the issue very seriously, as do others who are taking part in the debate.
42WH Although global warming directly affects all our lives, I want to talk a little about its impact on biodiversity. Climate change is the greatest single threat to wildlife worldwide and might drive a quarter of all land animals and plants to extinction if people do not take drastic measures to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. At least one species—the golden toad in Costa Rica—has already become extinct because of climate change.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change estimates that the earth will warm by a further 1.4°C to 5.8°C in the coming century, disrupting human society, wildlife and the environment on which we all depend. That far outstrips the rate of previous temperature changes, which occurred at an evolutionary pace, giving nature time to adapt. In the 21st century, temperature rises that previously took thousands of years will take place in the span of a human lifetime. That raises the concern that, in many cases, wildlife will struggle to adapt and survive.
There is already evidence of the effects of weather changes on the life-cycle of birds and other wildlife. For 30 years, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has run a UK volunteer network to record trends in nature's calendar. People record annual events such as the budding and leafing of deciduous trees and the first appearance of bluebells, frogspawn and bumble-bees. The network's long-term data show that spring definitely arrives earlier. For instance, swallows now arrive a week earlier than they did in 1970, and butterflies such as the comma and the holly blue are also appearing much earlier. However, leafing trees, the insects that rely on fresh leaves and the birds that rely on those insects have adapted at different rates. Some have shifted out of phase. I understand that nestlings of blue tits and other species on some of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' reserves have starved because the glut of early spring caterpillars that they rely on has finished before the young have hatched.
As global temperatures increase, local weather patterns will change. In the UK, we may have more storms and the winters will become warmer and wetter. Summers will become warmer and drier, especially in the south-east. Birds will not only respond to the weather, but to the effects of weather on their habitats. Let us take the redshank as an example: a once-widespread breeding wader in the United Kingdom, its habitat has already been harmed by the drainage of land for agriculture. The redshank nests on coastal salt marshes, wet meadows and moorlands. All three of those habitats are threatened by climate change. Hotter summers will dry up moorlands and wet meadows, while rising sea levels and the increasing ferocity of winter storms pounding the coast will erode the salt marshes and flood coastal land. The poor old redshanks will lose out in all ways, and they are not the only ones.
We can map present and future areas with suitable climatic conditions for many species. Warming conditions will require birds to move to areas that resemble their usual climate space. For most species, that will mean expanding their range northwards or upwards in the UK. Birds that now breed only just inside Scotland, such as nuthatches and green woodpeckers, may now extend their range far into Scotland. Some birds that are currently limited to continental Europe could begin to gain a foothold in southern England.
43WH Such simple adjustments are not enough. The habitat must be suitable as well as the climate and it must contain all the birds' needs, such as food and nest sites. Although it is self-evident that birds can fly—although some species, like the willow tit, are sedentary and seldom fly far—heathland plants, reptiles and other species, such as the minute flora and fauna of the soil on which much other life depends, cannot fly away. They would find the move north more difficult, a problem that would be greatly aggravated because human beings use so much of the land across which they would wish to move.
Species will move at different rates, depending on how near they are to the edge of their ranges. We may lose some of the highland species in the north of Scotland, such as dotterel, ptarmigan and snow bunting, as they are squeezed higher up the hills. Eventually they will cease to breed in the UK, because there will be no suitable habitat.
Only one bird is found in the UK and nowhere else in the world, and that is the Scottish crossbill. It lives in the old Caledonian pine forests in the Scottish highlands. The precise climatic conditions and habitat that it needs will have disappeared in Scotland by the end of the century. The backbone of nature conservation policy worldwide is site based—in other words, it consists of plots of land that are set aside to conserve particular species. That policy will need to be adapted in a situation in which species are likely to move and ecosystems change. There will have to be corridors or stepping stones to permit species movement.
Unfortunately, implementing such measures may be hard in a fragmented landscape. Land use policies, such as the common agricultural policy, must be developed to extend conservation management for climate change across the wider countryside. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to raise a small aspect of the many perils of not taking the problem seriously.
§ Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) for choosing this debate, even if he did not quite realise the auspicious day on which it would take place.
I shall raise two specific points, as they need to be highlighted. I apologise again for missing some of my hon. Friend's introductory remarks. My points are crucial in providing a mechanism for action on climate change in this country. Let us give the Government credit: we are at the forefront of this subject—no other country can pride itself on having introduced a panoply of measures such as ours.
My first point relates to the apparent lack of co-ordination and the impact that that can have. Given what the Government have tried do in the related areas of energy efficiency and fuel poverty, they ought to have a good story to tell. They should not congratulate themselves—they do not need to do that—but they should receive plaudits from people who have benefited from policies such as Warm Front. It is disappointing that that is not happening as readily as one would like. That is partly because those who are benefiting are confused—the rest of the public certainly are—about 44WH how the policy is working. That is dangerous because we could find, as we did last year, that the budget is cut. I know that some, particularly Lord Whitty, fought incredibly hard to get the money back, which brought home to some of us how vulnerable the policy was. If we are to make the micro-changes for climate change that we want, we must hold the line on initiatives such as Warm Front that, in the main, affect older people in older properties, and consider big time, for the first time, how we can enable such people to have a quality of life while staying in their properties without burning energy, which is very wasteful.
It will be good to hear from the Minister what measures we can take to ensure that Warm Front gets its proper credit and is not subject to budgetary cuts, and how we can go further. I know that discussions are under way across the parties—we all want to make progress on the issue—but unlike other parts of the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Warm Front is not within the statutory framework, which means that it is always subject to the pressures of budget overspend. I am sure that the Minister gets my drift and will give me some positive news. However, we have to keep the initiative in mind or it could be sacrificed.
My second point relates to the robustness of the system. Like me, the Minister spent many hours on the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill. We probably spent about 95 per cent. of the time on the waste bit; the emissions bit went through not without scrutiny, but without controversy. The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) also spent many hours debating that Bill. It is good to have cross-party agreement, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the matter did not receive much attention because it is complex, and we need to think more about how it works.
Let us consider what happened on the back of the recent collapse of TXU. That had dramatic implications for the energy market, not least the way in which, because of the climate change levy, companies buy and sell to offload the impact of their obligation. For some months, little normal trading has gone on. That has caused some consternation about whether the system can do the things that we want it to do. Will my hon. Friend the Minister consider what has happened as a result of working with the current inadequacies—I know that the Government are addressing them in the Energy Bill that is now in another place—and how we can learn from that and make progress on emissions trading? We must try to ratchet up what we are doing so that we make a real difference in both the macro-economy and the micro-economy.
§ Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on securing the debate, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) on offering useful and salient facts about biodiversity, and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who, in my humble opinion, is very sound on these issues. The hon. Members who have spoken thus far are guilty of false modesty; their contributions have greatly contributed to the debate.
The hon. Member for Stafford began by obliquely referring to the debate in the main Chamber—I was tempted to call it another place. It is sad that what 45WH should be the main debate—climate change—is taking place here when the important, but transient, subject of student fees is being discussed elsewhere in the glare of much publicity and with the great involvement of Members. What we are discussing is perhaps the most important issue for everyone in the House and beyond.
The public, local authorities, Government and international community must be galvanised so that we can find a way to get to grips with this issue and to agree a strategy that will prevent the worst things that are in line to happen from happening. The hon. Members for Uxbridge and for Stafford rightly referred to the report on biodiversity and the horrendous possibility that up to 37 per cent. of species could disappear in the next 45 years. That we are facing that situation is salutary; it is also an indictment of mankind. What could be more serious than that? There are ethical aspects to the loss of species for ever as a consequence of mankind's behaviour. There are also issues to do with our contribution to that and the implications for human life of the disruption to the natural chain of life that will entail.
This is a serious subject. Although matters such as top-up fees are important, they pale into insignificance in comparison. We need to find a way to bring it to people's attention and to galvanise them to act. We should analyse why they do not act and why the media do not focus on the subject. I am sure that I am not the only hon. Member who speaks to journalists about environmental matters. They reply, "It is not newsworthy. It has been done. We have written the story of the world warming up and species disappearing. Where is the new angle?" It is as if once the story has been written, the importance of the subject is lost. If I want to make flippant comments about Cherie Blair's hairstyle—which I do not—I could get myself copious column inches in many of the tabloids, but if I want to make a serious point about the environment, it is an uphill struggle to get anyone interested enough to find space in their paper.
We must galvanise the Government. I do not want to knock them on climate change. There are other things to knock them for, and they have quite a good record on Kyoto and climate change. They have done some worthwhile things. They are ahead of other Governments in many respects. I want to be fair about that. However, there is a problem: they do not shout about that. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has not made a normal statement on the environment since July 2002, except to mention it at her Department's questions. We do not hear about the subject from the Prime Minister or from anyone apart from the worthy Minister for the Environment, for whom I have tremendous respect, and his predecessor. Where are the Government's announcements on climate change and the environment? It is almost as if they want to do the right thing, but are frightened of saying so in case industry, or someone else, is upset. We must fundamentally understand both the importance of the topic and the willingness of industry and the public at large to embrace it.
If we believe a report in The Independent on Sunday—not the one referred to by the hon. Member for Uxbridge, but a different one that the Minister knows about from this morning's debate on the water 46WH framework directive—there is a fear that the Prime Minister is trying to cut down the Environment Agency's expenditure on water pollution monitoring to cut bills or appease industry. What a short-term policy that is—if indeed that is the policy.
It is a false economy to think that cutting expenditure on the environment helps the economy. It does not work that way. The evidence shows that the forward-looking economies of the world link the environment and the economy together strongly and give incentives for the development of technology and basic housekeeping matters. A firm that switches off its toilets over the weekend when it is closed is also helping the environment and it sometimes saves substantial sums. We do not make enough of those simple connections. The Government have a role in pushing such things more than they do.
§ Mr. Kidney
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but will he consider whether the Government are enthusiastic about getting the message to the public? I think that the public have the appetite for the message. Is the complexity of the subject part of the difficulty? We have heard about the questioning of the science on climate change and the difficulties of understanding emissions trading. Does he think that we have an obligation to make the messages understandable so that the media will carry them?
§ Norman Baker
Yes. It is not simple. There are uncertainties. However, the Government employ a large number of people to make complex messages simple. I will not mention spin doctors, but if they were used for that purpose, I would wholly welcome their activities.
It is worth putting on the record that Sir David King said:In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism".The Prime Minister has rightly been active in dealing with the threat of terrorism, but I am not clear what he has done to deal with this greater threat identified by his chief scientist on climate change. I do not make that point flippantly. For example, have we used our international platforms—whether in the UN, the Commonwealth, or NATO—to push the United States in particular to give a lead? What chance is there of persuading countries such as China or India to behave as we would wish them to if the greatest polluter of them all—the United States—says "We are going to take care of ourselves. We are not really bothered about the world outside. We have this fortress mentality"?
It is worth bearing in mind that this Government and the previous Government, under the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and others, took steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We have done that in this country and, by and large, we are doing it across the European Union. However, while that is happening, the idea that the US will cut emissions by 6 per cent. has been knocked on the head. Indeed, from 1990 to 2002 emissions from the US increased by 16 per cent. The US is already responsible for 36 per cent. of carbon emissions across the world. More than one third of those emissions come from the US and they are still increasing like billy-oh. It is difficult. I do not know what the answer is. There must, however, be concerted 47WH pressure from friends of the United States—we count ourselves as one of those—to try to get that country to adopt a more responsible attitude.
The US is not playing its part. I come back to Sir David King, who says:As the world's only remaining superpower, the United States is accustomed to leading internationally co-ordinated action. But at present the US Government is failing to take up the challenge of global warming.Those are serious words from somebody who is not a politician or a member of a pressure group. Sir David is the Government's chief man in a white coat. He is there to make calm, sensible pronouncements based on fact, and that is what he says. The Government must give us a strategy to address this problem internationally with our partners. We must do more.
The Australians are also refusing to sign up to Kyoto. Then there are the Russians, who are happy because they are in a comfortable situation. Everybody wants them to sign up. No doubt they are trying to extract a price from anyone they can for them to agree to sign up to Kyoto. Kyoto is so important that if we have to pay a price to get them on board, I hope that we do. As flawed as it may be, Kyoto is the only show in town and we need it to work. As the Russians come on board, there is a chance that the Americans—dare I say it, with a different US President—might end up at some point signing up to Kyoto as well. My great fear is not the abstract notion of the treaty, but that unless we tackle this major challenge to the environment internationally, we will face all the problems that our scientists have warned us about, such as the biodiversity problems to which the hon. Member for Uxbridge referred.
We will also face something worse: unless we break our dependency on fossil fuels and have a more sensible energy policy across the world, then we will end up with resource wars, many of them involving water. In 20, 30 or 40 years' time, we could end up deploying military forces to ensure that the basic necessities of life are supplied to us and other countries that have the military might to demand them. That is not a picture of the world I want to see. We must strive hard to avoid it, and I do not see the urgency from the Government which is required.
I am not criticising the Government for not taking action, because they are, but the subject is so urgent that I want the Prime Minister to make a point of raising it. All of us in Parliament should use the opportunities we have to push the issue. When was the last time, Mr McWilliam, that you heard a question on climate change at Prime Minister's questions? I cannot remember one being asked, which is an indictment of us all. We have had very few questions on matters of significant environmental importance in that rather curious auditorium of Prime Minister's questions. We need to do rather better.
On the Government's activities, I shall be brief so that the other two hon. Members have a chance to have their say. I mentioned the targets set at Kyoto and we will, without doubt, meet our EU basket target. The question is whether we meet the Government's brave target of 20 per cent. by 2010. There was some doubt about that. Members may remember a story in the papers in 48WH December suggesting that the Trade Secretary was attempting to knock the 20 per cent. target down to 15 per cent., and the Environment Secretary was doing her best to resist it. I do not know the truth of that, but last week I noticed a statement saying that the Government were still committed to the 20 per cent. target. If there was a battle, I take it the Environment Secretary won. In any case, the target still exists, and it is important that we hold to it.
We also have to recognise that in some ways the easy work has been done. Coal, which caused so many carbon emissions, is by and large not used in power plants now. There have been easy gains from the switch to gas, which I hope is only a bridge fuel to something more sustainable in the longer term. It is not clear how easy it will be to reduce carbon emissions further without much work.
Industry is clearly doing its bit. Figures from the House of Commons Library show that industry emissions of carbon are diminishing quite rapidly. The domestic sector's emissions are reducing as well, albeit more slowly. However, there has been a doubling in carbon emissions from road transport in the past 30 years. There is no evidence that that increase is going to be curtailed. Indeed, the evidence is that transport generally, including aviation, is going to provide the real challenge for the Government if they want not only to meet their target but to prevent a reverse in the current happy trend of a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
What is the Government's strategy for reducing carbon emissions from transport generally? All the indications are that they have failed in that. The energy White Paper will deliver quite a lot on renewables and energy efficiency, provided that the Government stick to their commitments and put some money into both those things. I see no strategy, however, for dealing with carbon emissions from transport—no strategy that they could deliver, at any rate.
The Government's transport strategy involved road traffic reduction. There was a big campaign on that. Hon. Members will remember that back in 1997–98, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions said that he would reduce the number of journeys. He asked us to hold him to that pledge. Unfortunately, when we try to hold him to it, he seems to have forgotten that he made it. In any case, traffic volume is up 8 per cent. and I am afraid that, by stealth and in bits and pieces, the Government, for short-term political expediency, are resorting to the sort of road-building programme that I thought we had seen the back of, and which was wholly discredited in the 1990s. We are now seeing a return to such programmes, which of course will increase carbon emissions further by disadvantaging parallel public transport alternatives, in particular the railways. There is no strategy in place.
The White Paper on aviation predicted an increase in the number of airports, in runway capacity and in flights. It was close to being simply a supply-and-demand paper, in which the Government predict what will happen and provide for that. Aviation will increase and account for 30 per cent. of carbon emissions by 2030, although I might have that figure wrong. Nevertheless, a huge increase in emissions will come from aviation, an activity that is technically outside Kyoto. I hope that this Government or a future one will not say, "We have met our Kyoto targets," while 49WH ignoring the contribution that the airlines sector makes to carbon emissions. It would be unfortunate if they did that. We need to find a way to deal with the issue, which is one of the main domestic challenges facing Ministers.
Finally, it is worth remembering the key Departments that are involved. DEFRA has a role, and I have a lot of respect for it; it is the ally of those of us who want climate change to be controlled. We must ensure that the Treasury is on board. We need to establish the link between environmental protection and economic well-being, and for there to be much greater use of economic instruments. I read a recent parliamentary answer in Hansard that suggests that in our country a lower percentage of tax comes from environmental taxation than in virtually any other European country. We must get the Department for Transport on board for the reasons that I gave, and we must ensure that the Department of Trade and Industry sticks to its White Paper. This is a cross-departmental challenge that requires leadership from the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con)
I point hon. Members to my declaration of interests. It is hardly possible to have any interests that are not affected by climate change, and that is a lesson for us.
I hope that what I say will encourage and support the Minister. There is a tradition, which I benefited from in my time and which I hope he benefits from now, of bipartisanship on many of these issues. If there is such a word as "tri-partisan", I am prepared to extend—unusually—an accolade to the Liberals. I know that the Minister often feels himself to be a lonely man, because there is no doubt that the enthusiasms that he manifestly has and the bravery that he has shown in defending them are not always shared by every body else in government. That has always been true.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on securing this debate. Many of us are amazed that he is still in a position to secure a debate rather than looking after a Ministry. That is one of those mysteries that will one day be explained to me, and I would not be rude enough to list the Ministers who might find a better role elsewhere.
We are bound to be lonely in the battle because we say to the rest of the world, the rest of our parties and the rest of the Government that these issues are crucial. They would prefer the issues to be less crucial because they make demands of a kind that are not easy to satisfy. That is why I, like the hon. Member for Stafford, was particularly pleased that Sir David King wrote his article and made his declaration with such force. It is true that the world can deploy huge resources to deal with something such as terrorism, about the danger of which it is convinced. Indeed, it can provide huge resources to do wholly wrong things such as invade Iraq: it can spend vast sums of money on some things—in my view, entirely wrongly—while to a great extent it ignores the areas where expenditure might make a significant difference and do much to benefit the next generation. The world is willing to get on with a job when it is clear how important it is, yet what we are talking about links into every part of government and life, as I said in my declaration of interest.
I hope the Minister will accept that although I am putting forward a series of things that I think he ought to do, it is not because I think he does not want to do them. 50WH However, I recognise how hard such things are to do, and that he needs our support. Had the Minister been in the House yesterday, during a debate that was to some long and boring, owing to the nature of the subject—the details and the technicalities of fire service reform—he would have seen a problem rear its head. For the Government were being elegantly, but none the less powerfully, belaboured for changing their fire reduction target: in 10 months' time, they were supposed to have a target to reduce fires by, I think, 30 per cent. They are clearly not going to do that, so now they have a new target to reduce fires by 10 per cent. in 10 years' time.
That was obviously a matter for questioning, and the Minister concerned, who is another caring and good Minister, said that the real problem was people setting light to abandoned cars: this had led to many more incidents, which had been hard to deal with. I had to ask why those abandoned cars were there. They are there because the Government do not use joined-up thinking and have not properly thought through end-of-life vehicle arrangements. That problem is going to get worse because the Government gave way to the car industry. Instead of saying that the car industry had an immediate responsibility for end-of-life, clapped-out motor cars, they said that for the next seven years the last owners of the vehicles would have that responsibility. Who are the last owners? I will tell the Minister: they are people in his and my constituencies who have to have a motor car to get to work. In my constituency, such people are often on lower than average incomes. That is often the case in rural constituencies. They get landed with a car that no one wants and they have no resources to deal with it. I am afraid that some of them deal with it in the only way they know—they abandon it, and abandoned vehicles cost much more to collect than would have been the case had DEFRA's voice on the right way to deal with ELVs been heard properly.
Doing the right thing environmentally often saves money in the end. The Government are unable to recognise that if money is saved here, it may have to be spent there. They seem unable to do the sums so that the Department that has to spend gets the benefit from the saving. I do not blame this Government for the generality of that; it is true of all Governments. However, I do blame them for their promise to put sustainability at the heart of government when what they have done is push sustainability off to a side of government, to DEFRA. I blame them when they link the environment with woolly animals and the countryside instead of keeping it at the centre of things, as it was under the former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. It was right to put transport in with the environment—I honour what the Prime Minister did then. However, he went back on the excellence of that decision and gave the Minister fewer levers than one had when one also looked after local authorities and planning, and one could use various mechanisms to carry through what was necessary to deal with climate change.
End-of-life vehicles are a simple example of what we have to do across the board. In that case, the poor old fire service ended up with those vehicles on its bill. The Treasury will not link that with the fact that it made it impossible to do the right thing—to make industry 51WH progressively responsible for ELVs over seven years or to put in some Government money to ensure that we met the ELV requirements more sensibly.
I suggest to the Minister that the remarks made by the hon. Members for Stafford and for Lewes (Norman Baker) need to be taken seriously into account. The Government must be serious about such matters—on more occasions, more generally and more universally. I shall cite an example from today's newspapers. We are told on very good authority that the Prime Minister will try to scale back the amount of environmental work that is done in connection with water. As the chairman of a water company, I declare a specific interest. I can tell the Government that it is not the water companies that do not want to take such action. We shall get it in the neck whatever we do. If we put up the price to try to take such action, we shall get into trouble. If we do not do it, we shall also get into trouble. I admit that there is no winning line.
I am not talking about pressure from the water industry. We know that such action must be taken. The pressure comes from the unholy alliance of usually poor industrial examples pressing on the worst of Departments, the DTI, which gives way on every occasion to any sort of pressure. The DTI has announced that it refuses to support sensible proposals, even those it could easily support, such as the private Member's Bill that will be introduced on Friday. It will ask for compulsory reporting on environmental and social matters by each of the 350 biggest companies. The DTI's refusal is absolute nonsense. What is it doing? We only want information. It is only natural and reasonable to want to make sure where we are.
Whatever the Minister says and however elegantly he tries to prevent me from driving a wedge between his Department and the DTI, I know, as a matter of fact, that he wants such reporting. His predecessor wanted it. I pay tribute to his predecessor, who did a great deal of work in such matters; he had passion and flare. It was the usual suspects—the Treasury and the DTI—pretending that industry was not ready for it, which refused to take such necessary action. If we do not have proper reporting, we will not be doing what we need to do about climate change because we will not be able to point out to companies that are not reporting properly that they are not taking the right action. I look to the Government to change their mind. I hope that, even at the last moment, the DTI will be sensible about this week's debate.
What about the Government's estate? I have some interest in the matter, but it is an outrage that the Home Office, contrary to what it promised, has hydrofluorocarbons in the air conditioning installed in its new building. Can the Government be listened to if that is how they allow their procurement to operate? One of the reasons I have an interest in such matters is that I keep my ears open: I know what is happening. It is not acceptable for the Government to be in such a position. With each new or refurbished building, the Government should take the necessary steps to combat global warming.
We should ban HFCs and give industry an opportunity. With modern technology, it is perfectly possible for refrigeration and air conditioning to 52WH operate without the use of HFCs. If we ban them, we could make a major impact on global warming gases. Between now and 2012, 4 per cent. of our global warming gases will come from HFCs. At present, none comes from them because they are not used widely enough and they are not that leaky. The Minister must reduce our global warming gases by 16.5 per cent., not 12.5 per cent., because he must make up for the 4 per cent. extra gases that will come from HFCs.
The Minister could take the lead in Europe. The Austrians are ready to go. as are others in the Europe Union. The Minister could say that we want a date when HFCs will be banned. The motor industry has said that it would like a ban in 2012 on HFCs used for air conditioning in cars. Well, if it can suggest a ban in 2012. we know that it can do it a darn sight earlier than that. Toyota and other motor manufacturers already have the appropriate machinery in place. The Department must ask the Government to impose a ban and not to listen to the little group of people for whom everything is too much, for whom nothing can be done and for whom everything is always a matter of "competitiveness"—a wonderful word. Britain's competitiveness depends on our being ahead, not behind, on environmental issues. That is what the Minister and the Secretary of State herself believe, so I am not fighting them. I am simply trying to help them fight the real enemies—the people who constantly prevent them from making the necessary choices.
The Government must put their money where their mouth is. Indeed, they do not even need to put any money there; they need only say here and now, in 2004, that no new equipment will be allowed to use HFCs from, let us say, 2008 and that no top-up will be allowed from 2012. The UK could do that on its own, so long as everyone is covered; we need not wait for the European Union. We could then be the clean man of Europe and start leading the rest of Europe. It is a simple matter.
There are other issues. I do not like the war in Iraq, and I voted against it. It is wrong, and I do not understand how we got into that situation. Looking around the Chamber, I know that I am not on my own in that. However, nothing that I hear from Basra suggests that what we are doing to reconstruct Iraq meets the highest environmental standards. When I look at the south and at the American areas, I do not see us taking a distinct course, although we could.
I see the same problem in the Government's dealings with the United States of America. It is true that the United States is changing our climate, and that is a matter of real sovereignty. How can we allow 25 per cent. of the world's pollution—I am afraid that Sir David King underestimated the proportion—to come from 4 per cent. of its population? How can we allow that 4 per cent. to go on changing our climate and that of our children? The European Union is right in that respect, and we should be far more concerned about supporting united EU demands so that the Americans listen to us on this issue.
There are many such steps that we could take and, in my remaining three minutes, I want to tell the Minister what I would like them to be. He can insist that every local authority and Department use their procurement system to advance such general and particular issues. Under European Union rules, he can insist that, when contracts go out to tender, every oil company is asked 53WH for details of what it is doing about climate change. We need a situation in which Exxon gets no contracts at all because it has had to show that it is undermining the battle against climate change throughout the world. The only thing it cares about is what goes into its pockets, so let us say, "If you want to trade in Britain, you've got to meet the corporate social responsibility standards that we demand." After the Helsinki bus decision in the European Union, we know that such proper demands can be made in the course of procurement.
We also need to reconsider the climate change levy, whose operation was ill thought out and whose effect has been disappointing. The only reason we have not attacked it is that it is difficult to attack something called the climate change levy if one happens to be in favour of doing something about climate change. However, now is the time to reconsider it.
It is also crucial that we understand the cost of not taking the necessary steps. The Minister was kind enough to allow me to see him on Thursday to talk about coastal erosion. I have just looked at maps of my constituency and seen the speed with which erosion has increased as a result of climate change. Five separate parts of my constituency are under threat from the sea, but the Government have rewritten the rules on measuring the need for coastal support and have diverted money from it. The Minister promised last summer that a whole series of things could be done, but, under the new rules, the word "urgency" has been removed from the measurement. One can no longer seek extra help for urgency, which means that all my areas are excluded from help. The Minister must put the urgency component back in. I put it to him that unless the public understand the cost of not doing something about climate change—whether ELVs or coastal erosion—they will never pay the price. The Minister must stand fast and insist that we do pay the cost of not doing something about climate change. That is the only way he will get support for doing something about it.
§ The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on securing the debate and on his excellent and detailed speech. It was so detailed and so well delivered that there is little to add, except on the technical side. I shall use the time to respond to the points raised by hon. Members.
I welcome the debate. I also welcome its tone, as contributions have been excellent. It is not often that we find such agreement on an issue, although some may question how far or how fast we should go and what measures should be applied. We heard some of those questions today, and I shall try to respond.
I warmly agree with my hon. Friend about the remarks of Professor King. The professor has done a great service for us all—indeed, internationally—not only by focusing on the science of climate change but by making a strong and powerful statement that attracted media attention. It is not easy to get such complex issues over to the media.
My hon. Friend asks what we are doing to reinforce Professor King's message to the United States. It is a fair question. We have already heard that the US is the biggest single polluter and that it has a responsibility to 54WH combat climate change, but is not doing so. There are no two ways about it: it is not pulling its weight. That is not to say that it is not doing anything—I shall touch upon that in a moment—but we are engaging with the US.
We must recognise that the US is a science-based society. It has good scientists, who recognise a good scientific case. We are engaged at all levels of science, putting our case, for which we have overwhelming evidence from such places as the Hadley centre and the Tyndall centre on long-term measurements and the evaluation of global warming. I also see the odd article—not usually from this country, although there was one in the Daily Mail. Indeed, I can see that the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) has a copy. In that article, Melanie Phillips denies that such things are happening. She denies the fact that sea levels are rising. The evidence, however, is overwhelming. We have moved away from having to prove the case; we now need to deal with the most appalling consequences. In that, Professor King is absolutely right.
We seek areas of co-operation with countries such as the United States. The Prime Minister raises the matter directly with President Bush at his frequent meetings and face-to-face contacts. Right hon. and hon. Members may recall that he included the need to address climate change in his speech to the US Congress when receiving the Congressional medal. However, it was the only point in that speech that did not receive a standing ovation. Nevertheless, he rightly made it clear that it is one of his priorities.
It is Government policy to raise the matter during all bilateral talks. I was surprised to hear that Ministers are not always in a position to say that they have discussed the matter with the United States. It is certainly true that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is always raising the subject with the US. We have bilateral talks—most recently, a few months ago, at the COP9 meeting on the climate change programme—and we have also spoken to the Americans about a follow on from the Evian action plan for environmental technology. That is one area where the Americans are keen and enthusiastic.
We think that environmental, low-carbon technologies are part of the solution. The mistake would be to think that they are the only solution. Hon. Members are right to think that one must do other things—for example, reduce present outputs—but environmental technologies could have a role. The Americans are prepared to put very large sums of money into them, which is something we should welcome. We have agreed with the Americans that they should take over the next chair of the G8. They want to take forward the Evian action plan on low-carbon technologies. We follow the USA in chairing the G8, and we shall continue in that way. The idea is to keep a continuous theme through the G8, so that we can try to take things forward. That is highly desirable.
Many American states are doing quite good work on combating climate change. Some of the eastern coast states, for example, are involved in cap-and-trade schemes and we are active in a range of meetings with the USA on climate change forecasting and science. However, a political lead from the federal Government is needed. There are sometimes differences between the federal and state governments on those issues. Still, we seek to co-operate with the Americans where we can, to 55WH push them forward in tackling the dangers of climate change, and where they are doing good and useful things, particularly in environmental technologies, we are prepared to work with them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford asked about the move from policy to strategy and how to raise awareness. That is an important issue. We need to forge partnerships with councils and non-governmental organisations. With the Department of Trade and Industry, we financed the "Are You Doing Your Bit?" campaign, which was very useful. We need to use exhibitions and conferences, and all the various tools available to us as a Government for our communications programmes.
In our bid in the spending review 2004, we are looking at further funding for major awareness-raising campaigns in the coming years, because we recognise that this is important. I agree with my hon. Friend that combating climate change means a range of policies, including those on waste recycling and packaging. Those are serious issues and, because of what local authorities are doing, we are making progress with the impact of the packaging directive and the targets. I am encouraged by what I see, although I am not complacent.
I welcome the Nottingham declaration, and did so at the time, as my hon. Friend acknowledges. We welcome the thinking behind it and its thrust. It is important as part of awareness raising for local authorities to take it seriously. I also agree about building standards. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State joined the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to launch, jointly, the better building campaign and task force, to work on raising standards. I hope that I get the chance to see BedZED tomorrow, but if I do not I shall certainly make arrangements to go to see it later.
I agree too that it is important to engage young people. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that in my role of chairman of the Green Ministers group I have a bilateral arrangement with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, who has declared himself the Green Minister for his Department. He takes that very seriously. We want to talk about how we can use our education programmes to raise awareness among young people, which I welcome.
I welcome the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). I know of his interest in and experience of ornithology. I confess that when he used the words "Britain's endemic", I thought he was going to talk about the red grouse, which is recognised as an endemic subspecies of willow grouse. However, he is right to say that the Scottish crossbill, which is a subspecies of the parrot crossbill, is recognised as a British bird and is under threat, like a number of species in this country and globally. There are species that, as he said, this country will lose, and although they may continue to breed in other countries—some of the arctic species, for example—they are under threat in those places too.
Everything—plants, mammals, birds and insects—is under threat from global warming, as the article in Nature stated.The extent of the effect goes from the 56WH greatest—such as the polar bear, which is under serious threat of extinction, because of its life cycle and the changing pattern of ice movements—to the smallest, such as insects. Perhaps species that we do not even know about in this country are affected. The threat is real and present and not to be taken lightly, as I know the hon. Members who have taken the trouble to attend the debate understand.
The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) began by acknowledging that it is difficult to get coverage in the mass media of complicated scientific issues such as climate change, but then criticised the Government for not getting that media coverage. The reasons we do not get coverage are the same. We must keep banging away and it is important to make such points. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State got a lot of publicity when she attended the conference of parties to the climate change convention and successfully drove home the Government's message. There was quite a lot of coverage of that in the national press, but we cannot be complacent and I accept that we need to persist with the issue.
We must also engage business more. I was pleased with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford made, because it is something that, as Environment Minister, I wish to develop further. I have talked about the environment at a number of environmental business clubs and business breakfasts around the country. I have made the important point, which the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal made, that although environmental management is often associated with bureaucracy, red tape and burdens on industry, it can promote efficiency and savings and be good for business. We have groups such as Envirowise, the Energy Saving Trust, the waste and resources action programme and the task force on sustainability that are engaged with business.
We also recognise the need for international action, which was mentioned. Countries such as China and Japan are doing good things, but we need Russia to ratify the convention. I think that Russia will do so in the end, but we should make the case and demonstrate that it is in her economic interests to do so. We are actively engaged in that.
There are of course transport issues, but we are making progress, including tax cuts on LPG and biofuels, support for hydrogen fuel cell public transport, which involves quite expensive experiments, and changes to reduce taxation for cars with smaller engines. Most new cars bought are company cars, so the tax bands have been changed to encourage the purchase of low-emission cars. We have seen some quite big changes with those financial drivers. Companies such as Jaguar have made a big thing about their low emissions and fuel economy. Those things were never associated with Jaguar before, but new Jaguars are now made with light metals, are fuel efficient and have low emissions. That is being driven by some of the financial instruments that we have introduced.
§ Norman Baker
Will the Minister predict whether emissions from the road transport sector will increase or fall in the next five years?
§ Mr. Morley
I think that in the short term emissions are likely to increase and I would not want to pretend 57WH otherwise. We must address that and I believe that we are doing so, through huge investments in rail, for example. We have seen a record number of passengers using the railways, but we have a big job to do and will attempt to attract more people to rail. The need to include aviation in financial instruments was recognised in the aviation White Paper. We shall have to take that forward.
§ Mr. Gummer
Why did the Government not announce in their aviation policy that they would introduce severe restrictions on internal flights and use the money from that to improve internal rail traffic? Doing so would make a huge difference.
§ Mr. Morley
I do not rule out that approach, but it is always difficult to take a unilateral approach in a global and European market. It may not be impossible to reach an agreement on aviation or bring it within the carbon-trading scheme at the EU level.
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's support. He is known for the quality of his contribution to debates on the environment. What he says is important and needs to be listened to. He made a number of points worth pursuing about using procurement policy, which the Government are following, looking at the climate change levy—carbon trading will probably supersede that—and emphasising the costs of climate change. I shall speak in more detail on coastal policy later; suffice it to say that some people claim that the new system benefits coastal defence rather than fluvial defence. We shall go into that in more detail, but the right hon. Gentleman's important point is that the costs of not tackling climate change are huge. People who baulk at some of the restrictions and costs, of which there are many, need to take that into account.