HC Deb 12 January 1999 vol 323 cc89-90
1. Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

What representations he made at COP4—the fourth conference of the parties—on the trading of greenhouse gas emission permits as a mechanism for annexe 1 countries to meet their targets under the Kyoto protocol. [63565]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher)

During his address to the recent climate change meeting in Buenos Aires, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister spoke of the importance of domestic policies to tackle climate change, while recognising the need to continue dialogue with other countries to develop rules for emissions trading. The rules must ensure environmental effectiveness as well as economic efficiency.

Mr. Stunell

I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that mounting evidence of the severe impact of climate change means that any scheme for trading emissions must include secure monitoring and sensible transitional arrangements? Can he persuade the United States Government in particular to accept the reality of climate change and the need to take very prompt action?

Mr. Meacher

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and I played a significant role at the historic Kyoto meeting in shifting the United States from its zero target to a cut of 7 per cent. by the end of the conference. I cannot guarantee that we shall have the same success again, but we are committed to establishing a fair ceiling. It is written in the protocol that domestic action is the key issue and that flexible mechanisms must be supplementary to it. We shall be making every effort to ensure that that ceiling is in place, properly monitored and transparent.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, thanks to the previous Government's leading role in this area and his acceptance of our policies, this country is very well placed not only to give a lead, but to bring others on board, including the United States? He said something about mechanisms that he proposes to use in order to bring that about. Will he also tell the House about his timetable, thereby dispelling the accusation of Friends of the Earth that the Buenos Aires conference set an agenda for inaction?

Mr. Meacher

Our only inheritance from the previous Government in respect of climate change was the closure of more than half of this country's remaining pits, which was not, of course, in any sense aimed at an environmental objective. It had a completely different provenance. We of course intend to reach the targets. As a result of the significant role that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and I also played at the Buenos Aires conference, there is agreement for the first time among 160 countries on an action programme, which incorporates targeted deadlines. There are at least three in the work programme that was agreed. We intend to meet them—if we can, by COP6.

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