HC Deb 19 November 1996 vol 285 cc819-21
3. Mr. Corbyn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will review his estimate of global warming for the next five years. [3118]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. James Clappison)

We are working on the basis of an estimated global average temperature increase of between 0.1 and 0.2 deg C over the next decade.

Mr. Corbyn

Is the Minister aware that a number of reputable estimates suggest that, within the next five years the average increase in global temperature will be 0.5 deg C above the 1951 to 1981 average and that, over the past 50 years, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has gone up from 300 to 360 parts per million? That suggests a substantial increase in global temperatures and, therefore, all the attendant problems of global warming. Given the conflicting evidence available to the Government, will the Minister, first, put more money into research into global warming, its causes and the likely crop effects and, secondly, do more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from this country and do his best worldwide to ensure that the agreements reached in Rio and other places are adhered to, so that we do not go into the next century with a significantly higher temperature than is already predicted?

Mr. Clappison

The hon. Gentleman will know that the estimates to which I referred are supported by the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Hadley centre. It is important for us to work on the basis of the best scientific advice, which in this case is also accepted by other developed countries that have signed up to the climate change convention. As the hon. Gentleman may also know, since we signed up to that convention, we have gone a long way towards achieving our commitment, unlike many other countries.

Mrs. Gorman

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that among the authorities that he takes note of are organisations such as NASA, which points out that the influence of sun spots, with the influence of volcanic activity, have more effect on global warming but that we can do nothing about them? Does he also agree that the amount of attention we pay to CO2 emissions, which have a deleterious effect on industry, is possibly out of all proportion to their importance?

Mr. Clappison

My hon. Friend makes some interesting points. She should be aware of the many serious implications that would follow global warming in the long term, including the effect it would have on particular regions and on sea level. It is important for us to address those implications, and we are. My hon. Friend should also be aware, as should the Labour party, that unlike many other developed economies, such as the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and most of the European Union, this country is on course to comply with the targets it agreed in the climate change convention. We are now setting challenging targets for the future to protect our climate.

Mr. Dafis

Will the Minister accept that road traffic increase is bound to be one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions? Does he agree that it needs urgent attention and that the Government could take the lead by setting targets within a strategy for road traffic reduction? Will the Government indicate whether they will support the Road Traffic (Reduction) Bill, which will shortly be introduced by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)?

Mr. Clappison

Our policies address the question of CO2 emissions from road traffic, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the increases in road fuel duties. It is important to bear in mind the overall target for greenhouse gas emissions. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we signed up to the convention with other developed countries and it is important that we should have an objective and comprehensible target so that we are able to judge our progress and that of other countries. The hon. Gentleman will note that our progress is very good compared with that of many other countries.