HC Deb 24 February 1993 vol 219 cc881-2
18. Ms. Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to ensure that the Government's energy review will fulfil the environmental commitments made at Rio de Janeiro last year.

Mr. Maclean

The coal review has been the subject of full consultation between my Department and the Department of Trade and Industry. The hon. Lady must await the forthcoming White Paper, but I can confirm that the Government remain fully committed to meeting the United Kingdom's international environmental obligations.

Ms. Lynne

Can the Minister guarantee that everything in the energy White Paper will meet the commitments made by the Government at the Rio summit?

Mr. Maclean

I thought that I just said so, but let me reaffirm it in different words: whatever energy mix the White Paper might recommend or suggest, the United Kingdom remains fully committed to meeting the international obligations to which we signed up in Rio. We shall meet our targets, whatever the fuel mix.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

The convention on climate change is designed to stabilise our CO2 emissions by the year 2000 to the levels that existed in 1990. Will my hon. Friend confirm that, as coal is almost pure carbon, unless there is a satisfactory review of the amount of coal we burn, it will be impossible for us to meet our international obligations?

Mr. Maclean

No, I do not accept that. I accept that coal is high in carbon. It is also high in sulphur dioxide. Nevertheless, I am confident that we shall be able to meet our international obligations, irrespective of the fuel mix that we decide to use. I admit that our targets will not be easy to reach and that things will be rather tough in the next few years. That is why we must make sure that we get them absolutely right. Some fuel mixes are slightly easier than others from the point of view of meeting targets, but, whatever the mix, we are committed to succeeding.

Ms. Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Britain could do much better in reducing global warming? Will he look at Labour's recently produced policy on energy conservation? At present, the energy generators make money by selling more and more energy. If we encouraged them to sell insulation, we would reduce global warming, create jobs and reduce people's bills. As ours is an entirely good policy, will the Government adopt it?

Mr. Maclean

I assure the hon. Lady that I have looked at it closely. I hope that Labour Members will talk more and more about it because it represents a thoroughly uneconomic policy. The costs that they envisage to bring about the small benefits that they perceive are nonsensical, well thought out and well intentioned though it may have been. We are determined to reduce the wastage of energy in this country, and I believe that there are better economic models to follow than Labour's policy of double glazing for all.