HC Deb 09 June 1999 vol 332 cc559-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Dowd.]

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North)

I am grateful for the opportunity to open this debate on the most important environmental issue of our time. The threats and challenges posed by climate change do not fit comfortably into the conventional time scales of domestic politics: significant changes of policy do not have immediate effects but without such changes we will continue to walk into the unknown, facing the prospect of unprecedented social and environmental disaster in the first half of the next century.

Climate change is an issue that needs to be dealt with urgently, not only because the clock is already ticking but because, as each day goes by, the scale of the problem is steadily increasing. New research on the availability of the world's oil reserves has highlighted the need for urgent action.

I pay tribute to the work of right hon. and hon. Members who have already made outstanding contributions to the politics of climate change. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), as Secretary of State for the Environment, ensured that the implications of climate change were understood by the previous Government.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister ensured that our Government provided international leadership at the Kyoto conference through his tireless work in seeking agreement on the protocol from powerful nations whose natural interests did not automatically coincide.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment is admired by environmentalists both in the United Kingdom and throughout the European Union for his detailed understanding of the wider implications of climate change and his dogged determination to secure the implementation of the necessary policy changes.

I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis) for his work on the issue and in particular for his recent establishment of the all-party globe group—and I congratulate him on his recent election to the Welsh Assembly.

As tomorrow is polling day for the European elections, I pay tribute to the present Conservative Member of the European Parliament for Surrey who, in his capacity as president of Globe International, has ensured that climate change has been widely debated in the European Parliament and in the legislatures of many other countries. Sadly, he is not a candidate in tomorrow's elections. Had he been so, it is difficult to imagine which of the two Conservative parties he would have represented. Offering a choice of two Conservative parties is taking the belief in freedom of choice to remarkable extremes: it is freedom of choice with a vengeance, and I suspect that the emphasis will be very much on the vengeance after tomorrow's elections.

Climate change was first identified as an issue of international political significance at the Rio Earth summit in 1992, as a result of which 174 countries signed the framework convention on climate change, the substance of which allowed for a voluntary target of restoring the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2000.

As a result of the evidence produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, representing the overwhelming majority of the world's scientific community, the Kyoto conference of December 1997 established a protocol, including a legal agreement under which the developed countries would reduce their emissions of the six main greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrous oxide—to 5.2 per cent. below 1990 levels in the period from 2008 to 2012.

The international scientific community concluded that if no action were taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would rise by between 1 deg and 3.5 deg by the end of the next century. That statistic will not excite the electorate in an election campaign, but it nevertheless represents the biggest increase in temperature on this planet since the ice age 10,000 years ago.

For those who are sceptical of scientists' ability to make such predictions, I would simply point out that in the past 10 years we have experienced seven of the hottest years since records began in 1860. Climate change is with us now. I repeat that the consensus of the scientific community is that the almost exponential growth in carbon emissions brought about by our burning of fossil fuels throughout the past 200 years, and particularly in the past 100 years, is largely responsible for those temperature increases.

Climate change may not be the most exact term and perhaps we should be speaking of climate instability or climate volatility, because if no action is taken we will experience a dramatic rise in sea levels, by between 15 and 95 cm, as the polar ice caps melt. I calculate that that would result in the loss of virtually the whole of East Anglia and the fenlands, representing about 35 Conservative seats at the last count. I note the presence of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns); his seat is on the list of those that would be flooded.

The whole pattern of the world's weather will change, increasing the likelihood of heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms, and intensifying the process of desertification in certain parts of the world, so that many millions of people will no longer be able to grow their own food.

The availability and distribution of water supplies will change unpredictably, with disastrous consequences for agriculture, and biodiversity will be lost as the habitats of rare and vulnerable creatures are destroyed. The economic costs will be enormous, as many insurance companies are now beginning to realise, and the impoverishment or displacement of whole populations will lead to refugee crises of a kind that the world has not yet experienced.

It therefore seems sensible to take the necessary precautions now, to avoid those unpredictable consequences later. I reiterate my recognition of the preparatory work done by the previous Government, and congratulate the present Government not only on the international leadership shown in helping to negotiate the agreement at Kyoto, but on the speed with which policy has been developed.

It is significant that we are now committed not only to the 12.5 per cent. target—our legally binding share of the European Union's Kyoto target—but to our manifesto commitment to a domestic target of a 20 per cent. cut in CO, emissions. To their credit, the Government have moved swiftly in outlining the framework of policies that might achieve that.

The October 1998 consultation paper on climate change was preceded by the White Paper on transport, and followed last month by the White Paper on sustainable development. There have also been important Government statements on renewable energy, the review of energy sources for power generation and the recent consultation paper on fuel poverty.

The recommendations of Lord Marshall's report, which led to the establishment of the climate change levy in the 1999 Budget, as well as other measures in that Budget, will also in time play a significant part in the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the time for talk is now over; it is time for action and implementation.

In response to the admirable range of measures that the Government have already proposed or implemented, I shall raise a series of further points for consideration. First, it is crucial that the Government make clear the nature and status of the 20 per cent. domestic target. It is not legally binding, but it is politically binding. Our election manifesto said: We will lead the fight against global warming, through our target of a 20 per cent. reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2010". Last month's White Paper on sustainable development talks about moving towards a domestic goal of a 20 per cent. reduction, and I fear that there is a slight shift of emphasis there. We need clarification, because the target will determine the range of future policies not only in the first decade of the next century but beyond. It should now be possible to set interim targets for a Parliament, with strategic targets for the longer term.

Secondly, transport contributes about 23 per cent. of total emissions. The White Paper on integrated transport produced some excellent ideas around which a new consensus on transport policy can be built, but we are waiting for the means to implement many of those ideas. For example, our attitude to traffic growth is crucial, because we need to clarify the precise extent to which we aim not only to reduce the predicted growth in traffic but to reverse it. I welcome recent ministerial statements confirming the intention to achieve a genuine reduction in absolute terms.

Thirdly, the White Paper refers to a target of generating 10 per cent. of electricity from renewables by 2010. Subsequent statements have implied that that may not be quite such a precise target, so I draw the attention of the House to what has already been achieved elsewhere— for example, in Denmark, where 5 per cent. of electricity is already generated from renewables, and a much tougher target of 20 per cent. has been set for 2010.

A recent report by Greenpeace argues the case for the development of an offshore wind industry, which it says could provide 30,000 jobs. The expansion of renewable forms of energy is no longer a question of technological limitation; it is almost entirely a question of political will.

Fourthly, there is the question of energy efficiency. Four private Members' Bills on the subject have come before the House recently. The Energy Efficiency Bill and the Energy Conservation (Housing) Bill received Government support, but were blocked by Opposition Members. We have to ask ourselves how much longer we can endure a system for dealing with private Members' Bills which allows the infantile antics of a single eccentric Back Bencher to block proposals that are widely considered on both sides of the House to be sensible and positive.

I urge the Government to explore every possible means of incorporating the eminently sensible proposals in those two Bills into other legislation at an early stage. I hope also that they will reconsider the Health Care and Energy Efficiency Bill in the context of preparing the climate change programme later this year.

I welcome the Government's support for the Fuel Poverty and Energy Conservation Bill, and also the recent consultation paper on fuel poverty. There is an urgent need for co-ordination of all the Government's programmes dealing with fuel poverty and energy efficiency along the lines proposed in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation (Fifteen Year Programme) Bill. It may not be possible at this stage to propose such an ambitious programme, but the fact remains that energy efficiency programmes produce long-term savings after an initial short-term investment. Moreover, where they are specifically designed to alleviate fuel poverty, such programmes emphasise the point that the policies of social justice and the policies of environmental protection are in most cases two sides of the same coin.

Before leaving the subject of energy efficiency, I must point out the continuing anomaly whereby VAT is still levied on most energy-efficient materials. It is particularly important that the Government seek to extend the very welcome VAT exemption that they have already introduced for the home energy efficiency scheme to all energy-saving materials.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

My hon. Friend has been very candid and well informed in speaking to the House, but how can we duck the question that to achieve those objectives, nuclear capacity will be needed?

Mr. Chaytor

If over the past 50 years a fraction of the public investment that has been made in developing nuclear energy had been applied to developing renewable energy and energy conservation, we would not now need nuclear energy. I think that there is a future role for nuclear energy, but all kinds of questions surround that role, and I do not think that it will be as large as the role that nuclear power now plays. I repeat that at the moment, for reasons of safety and sustainability, I do not believe that there is a strong argument for an expansion of nuclear power.

On the domestic front, the climate change levy is one of the most important economic instruments at the Government's disposal. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is to be congratulated on the way in which he and Lord Marshall have successfully developed a consensus behind the concept of the levy. That is not to deny that there are many issues still to be resolved. There will be some lively discussions between the Treasury and the different industrial sectors before agreement is finally reached.

In that context, I draw attention to renewables, to combined heat and power, to the recycling of the revenue from the levy into energy efficiency, and to the need to protect small businesses. If the levy is to be generally accepted as a sensible measure, it must operate with consistency. It would be inconsistent if renewable forms of electricity were subject to the levy to the same extent as other forms, as that would undermine the part of the industry that, by definition, is contributing to the solution rather than causing the problem. A similar case can be made for combined heat and power because of the additional efficiency of CHP plants, although clearly such plants generate significant emissions.

The Government have been at pains to stress the revenue neutrality of the whole operation of recycling revenues. Some £50 million has been set aside for investment in energy efficiency schemes, and there is a strong case for increasing that allocation. It would be self-defeating if the demand for investment in energy efficiency schemes could not be met because of arbitrary limits on the share of climate change levy revenues to be recycled. In the long run, of course, recycling the revenues into energy efficiency could be more productive than simply providing national insurance rebates. However, the key aim underlying the levy must be to deliver whatever form of recycling of revenues will achieve the most effective reduction in CO2 emissions.

Although the domestic programme is important, when the Government draw up their final strategy, we must accept that whatever they can achieve domestically depends on international developments. However radical our local programme in this country might be, global climate change will not be halted or even slowed down without international agreement. In no other context is the limitation of the power of the nation state in today's inter-dependent world more obvious, or the need for international co-operation through international institutions more important.

Therefore, I wish to comment on the state of negotiations on the Kyoto protocol, which will be enforced only when the signatory nations choose to ratify it. Currently, there is a problem with the position of the United States and of the major blocs representing the developing countries. The Americans will not agree to reduce emissions unless the Chinese and others agree to a reciprocal reduction, while the developing countries do not see why they should have to prejudice the chance of economic growth when the problem of climate change has been created by emissions from the industrial countries. It is crucial that we find a way forward to which the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians and the African nations can agree.

In many analysts' opinion, a policy of contraction and convergence provides the way out of the logjam. Under such a policy, each nation would be allocated a quota of emissions based on population, and set in the context of agreed environmental limits. Over time, industrial nations would be required gradually to reduce emissions, while developing countries would be permitted gradually to increase theirs, until a point was reached at which the emissions quotas of all countries were relatively equal.

That seems to provide the only practical and principled resolution of the conflicting interests of the developed world and the developing world, based on equal rights for all human beings. I urge the Government to present the case for contraction and convergence as a realistic means of facilitating the ratification of the Kyoto protocol. I commend the research conducted by the Global Commons Institute in developing that model.

Another issue related to the Kyoto protocol has to do with the so-called flexibility mechanisms, and in particular with the use of emissions trading, whereby countries can buy pollution credits from other countries. Realistically, that is a necessary device to enable the United States to ratify the protocol and achieve some progress in reducing emissions. However, unless a framework of contraction and convergence is agreed, there remains the problem of the proportion of any country's total emission reductions that can be achieved through emissions trading. Above a specific figure—50 per cent., for example—it would be unlikely that any global emissions reduction would be achieved, as countries would merely buy and sell each other's permissions to emit. Emissions trading can provide an incentive to reduce emissions, but it could also be a device to defer indefinitely the reduction of emissions. To avoid the latter possibility, it is essential that a policy of contraction and convergence is established in advance of agreeing an emissions trading regime.

I have spoken widely about the domestic and international dimensions of the policy changes needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Some people will say that it is an unnecessarily complex, bureaucratic and cumbersome set of responses to a single scientific assertion—that accumulated carbon deposits are the direct cause of climate change—and ask what would happen if that theory were to be disproved in a few years' time.

My answer would be simple. Even if the collective wisdom of the intergovernmental panel on climate change were subsequently to be disproved, and even if the political judgment of almost every nation in the world were to be reversed, it would still make absolute sense to start now to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels because, by definition, they will not last for ever. If sustainable development means anything, it surely means that we do not leave the next generation without the means to power factories or heat homes, schools or hospitals.

The finite nature of fossil fuels is most evident with oil. Industrial progress and economic growth in the 20th century have been built on the assumption of infinite supplies of cheap and accessible oil. Empires have been built on the back of cheap oil, and wars fought to maintain its supply. As older oil fields dried up, new ones were discovered and it was assumed that the process would continue indefinitely.

Until recently, it was assumed that current reserves of oil would be plentiful until about 2050. Unfortunately, some of the latest research—and I refer to the work of Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere, published in the past few months—indicates that that assumption was based on inaccurate figures generated by a dubious methodology that stemmed from the need of oil companies and oil-producing nations artificially to inflate their reserves for their own political and economic purposes. Global oil production is now forecast to peak before 2010.

There are two consequences of that. First, it is inevitable that the price of crude oil will start to rise, as has happened quite dramatically in the past few months. Secondly, given that North sea production will start to peak even earlier, probably within the next two years, in the early years of the next century the industrialised world will once again be largely dependent on oil from the middle east. Therefore, the geopolitics of the next century will allow only two scenarios: either we start now drastically to reduce our consumption of oil through energy conservation, the exploitation of renewable forms of energy and the development of alternative sources of fuel, or we find ourselves involved in a semi-permanent conflict with Iraq—or another country—throughout the early years of the next century.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change and the possibility of future military conflicts fought in a vain attempt to continue the illusion of infinite supplies of cheap oil, we must initiate now a radical programme of energy conservation, renewables and the development of alternative sources of fuels.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud)

I am sorry that I missed the very start of my hon. Friend's speech, but he has concentrated on the role of producers of energy. Will he comment on the role of consumers? In my constituency, consumers have attempted to form a co-operative so that they can buy renewable energies. Is that not a valuable addition to the movement away from our traditional treatment of our climate?

Mr. Chaytor

That is an extremely important point. People's willingness to act depends on the extent to which they understand the scale of the problem, which in turn depends on the extent to which the Government are prepared to introduce a significant programme of political education on these matters. My gut feeling is that many people in Britain have a general understanding that something called global warming is taking place, but that they have not yet understood fully the scale of the problem. There is a major responsibility on the Government and industry not to shy away from the reality of the situation. I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks. I know that many similar bottom-up schemes exist elsewhere in the country, where people understand the need to take action at local level.

Mr. Dalyell

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is high time that we developed a sensible policy towards Iraq, which probably has the largest oil reserves in the world?

Mr. Chaytor

I endorse my hon. Friend's comment.

The time has come for us to see the Government's climate change programme in action. I have a number of questions for my hon. Friend the Minister, in the hope that he will be able to clarify certain matters.

First, will he confirm that the reference to the domestic target for CO2 reductions included in the White Paper on sustainable development does not represent a shift in the Government's position away from the general election manifesto commitment and from the Prime Minister's statement? Are we still committed to the 20 per cent. target and will the climate change programme include a clear statement showing how we can achieve it? Secondly, will the Government adopt the underlying principles of the contraction and convergence model as the basis for future international negotiations as they seek both to ratify the Kyoto protocol and to achieve international agreement for the years beyond 2010?

Thirdly, will the Minister tell us the latest thinking on the most effective means of recycling revenues from the climate change levy? How will it be used to avoid harming the development of combined heat and power and a viable renewable energy industry? Fourthly, does he accept recent research by Colin Campbell and others that has been adopted in the International Energy Agency's planning assumptions? Does he accept that that creates added impetus for urgent action for a planned and phased withdrawal from our over-dependence on fossil fuels?

It is to the enormous credit of the Government that they—far more than any previous Government—have committed themselves to the objective of sustainable development that will meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The way in which the Government respond to the threats and challenges posed by climate change, and the many difficult decisions that will need to be taken over coming years and months, will present the major test of how successfully they have achieved their objective.

10.1 am

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) for making this debate possible. I am delighted to be able to speak briefly. I am not a scientist and it is five years since I last spoke in a science debate. I doubt whether non-scientists should speak in science debates more than once in a lustrum. I may be the sole survivor in the House of a seminar on climate change that was mounted by the then Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, 10 years ago at 12 Downing street. The sole American observer present said at the seminar's conclusion that he doubted whether any other country could have assembled as much political authority and scientific knowledge in a single room.

The hon. Gentleman issued a valuable brief in advance of his debate and I am grateful to him, although I do not intend to speak on that brief. I wish to telegraph a series of largely unrelated points. Winding-up speeches may follow the example of Burke, for whom all the arguments were marshalled in advance like soldiers, although that is generally more suitable for opening speeches. Alternatively, they may follow the example of Fox, who could extemporise at the drop of a hat and genuinely respond to a debate. The Government contain winding-up speakers of both types. On the whole, Foxes make better winding-up speakers and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), with whom I frequently discuss matters on a wide variety of subjects, will follow the example of Fox.

Mr. Dalyell

For the benefit of the ignorant among us, would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what a lustrum is?

Mr. Brooke

I hesitate to seek to educate the hon. Gentleman, of whom I am very fond, but I said that I had spoken once in five years on science. A lustrum is a period of five years. It is the matching word for decade.

What I have said about wind-up speeches is relevant to environmental change, a subject on which at the end of conferences and debates policy makers from all countries tend to sound as if they had prepared their concluding remarks in advance and then fitted the facts of the conference around them. I said that I would telegraph some points. First, integrated assessments are all very well, but they are only as good as the sum of their parts. Secondly, the buying of surplus from poorer countries—what treaties call flexibility—may not prompt investment by rich countries in energy saving.

Thirdly, the most ambitious targets for energy saving are being set by countries, including the United Kingdom, that have the lowest public sector expenditure on research and development in this area. We had quite high public sector expenditure on R and D during the 1970s, when there was the oil threat, but it has receded. The countries that invest the most in public sector R and D, such as Japan, may have identified a global commercial opportunity that underlies that investment.

Fourthly, new energy sources are grand, but they may bring ancillary problems. For example, as much solar energy could be created in Egypt in a space one two-hundredths of the area covered by the Aswan dam and its hinterland, but the storage problem would have to be solved. There is a moral lesson there: we lost out on the on-land wind issue in the UK seven years ago because the environmental factors were not embraced at the same time as the technology.

Fifthly, 95 per cent. of population growth in the next generation will be in cities. Sixthly, we are confronted by massive problems of biological invasion through trade, air passengers, military mobilisation and mail. Some 54 million air passengers enter the United States, and 180,000 are biologically infested. Of the 80 million Mexican road passengers, 201,000 are biologically infested. Of 40 million Mexican foot passengers, 55,000 are infested. Of 95 million road passengers from Canada, 322,000 are biologically infested. Four per cent. of parcel mail is infested.

Air passenger growth of 15 per cent. means that passengers may be a much larger problem than freight, although the Asian long-haul—I mean longhorn—beetle, which is the greatest current threat in the UK, enters in wooden pallets that must be replaced by plastic. The Mediterranean fruit fly has already been eradicated 17 times in California at a cost of $111 million, but climate change can alter the entire global map of Mediterranean fruit fly incidence.

Seventhly, cloud distribution, with its uncertainties, could have twice the impact of CO2. We do not yet understand the basic science and we need much more understanding of water vapour in cloud water feedback. Eighthly, few ecological experiments are taking place. The soil experiments in the ecotron under the auspices of the National Environmental Research Council are demonstrating how much we still have to learn. I do not want to enter the debate on soil and genetically modified foods, but soil is a Cinderella and I believe that we have no soil legislation. The ecotron experiments show how effects vary markedly depending on whether the CO2 is ambient or elevated.

Finally, let me mention three unrelated public policy issues that emphasise the complexity and consequences of these matters. First, the Master of the Rolls is interested in the establishment of an environmental court. It may be imagined that such a court could survive with a handful of environmental experts, but a minimum of a dozen would be required.

Secondly, the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs will meet in private this afternoon to discuss the problem of fuel smuggling into Northern Ireland. The facts are stark. The terms of Kyoto mean that the UK has a reduction target of 12.5 per cent., while the European Union average is 8 per cent. The Republic of Ireland need not reduce at all, but can increase by 13 per cent., making a 25 per cent. difference between the Irish and ourselves. It is no wonder that there is so massive a discrepancy between fuel taxes in the two jurisdictions.

Smuggling is a natural consequence, and law-abiding citizens in Northern Ireland are being turned into law-breakers unless they wish to go out of business. I say gently to the Minister that the Government's response currently verges on the casual as the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Office seem to seek to distance themselves from the predicament, implying that the problem is the other Department's responsibility. So much for joined-up Government.

My third point is a related tax matter. We are all going to be deluged soon with the views of industries on the climate levy. I have not been subjected to any briefings yet, but I suspect that one conclusion that will emerge is that there is a limit to how far industry can carry that particular freight. Although the Government are reluctant to tax us as individuals, if they wish to change behaviour, they will have to consider taxing individuals at last.

Finally, I pay tribute to Imperial college in my constituency, which has assembled 120 academic staff dealing with such issues, with more than 1,000 students, of whom more than half are postgraduate. MSc students can take a shot at addressing the integrated problems of a green society in 2050 after 10 elaborate panel sessions. As an Oxonian, I am necessarily sad that Imperial has temporarily overtaken Oxford as a university; but as its constituency Member I am intensely proud of its contribution, some of which was generously made to me in preparation for this debate.

10.11 am
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet)

It is always a delight to follow the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), whose contributions are immensely enjoyable. As a scientist, I wish that all non-scientists were as well informed as him. I shall go to my bed tonight wiser for knowing what a lustrum is.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) for making this debate possible. I congratulate him on his remarks with almost all of which I agreed. The one with which I did not agree I shall deal with later. I have four brief points.

First, climate change is happening. It does not matter why but it is. One might argue that it is due to cyclical effects or greenhouse gases. One might be a proponent of chaos theory and believe that it is caused by a butterfly flapping its wings a hundred years ago, but the fact is that it is inevitable and it will affect us, so we had better start planning for its effects over at least the next two generations. By planning, I mean starting to adapt for the inevitable changes. Clinicians, architects, planners and agriculturalists must get involved in the debate to work out the shape of the world in the next 50 years. Politicians and aid workers must focus on the inevitable changes around the world.

Secondly, the weight of the evidence suggests that greenhouse gas production is linked to the fact of climate change. When they see an animal squashed in the road, most people assume that it was hit by a car without needing to see the car doing the damage. Similarly, the weight of the evidence suggests that greenhouse gases are producing climate change. The wise man, or wise politician, therefore starts to take account of that fact and to plan practical strategies for dealing with it. The American auto industry can object as much as it likes; it can argue that climate change is caused by cyclical effects if it wishes—but the weight of evidence suggests that we should address the issue.

Thirdly, the public like to talk about green issues and watch green documentaries. They may even be prepared to recycle a few bottles and newspapers, but they have shown little sign of being seriously prepared to change their behaviour to address green issues. The previous Government introduced the fuel escalator, which this Government have rightly continued. I have asked a series of parliamentary questions and dug some information out of the Library on car use, car ownership, miles driven and petrol consumption over the past 10 years. There is not the slightest evidence that the public have changed their driving or petrol consumption habits one iota over that time. There is no correlation with price or the highlighting of green issues in the political arena. According to the evidence in the public domain, not one fewer gallon of petrol has been consumed, not a mile fewer driven and not one lower fuel consumption car bought.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)

The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) was with me in America a year ago. Does the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) agree that the American approach, of producing cleaner cars, is the way forward because taxes have not persuaded people not to drive?

Dr. Ladyman

I agree. Cleaner cars are vital and must be encouraged. I recommend that the Minister urgently consider the work on fuel cells of the company Zevco, not least because it has promised to produce them in my constituency if its developments are successful. The Government will have to change from taxes such as road fuel duty to more direct and huge taxes on dirty cars with high petrol consumption to force people to buy smaller, more economical cars. We must consider road charges because if people can see a more direct link between the money that goes out of their pockets and the miles that they drive, they may be more willing to take account of such issues.

Fourthly, given that climate change is happening, that we believe that greenhouse gases are involved and that the public are unwilling to change their habits, we must come up with more practical strategies to reduce greenhouse gas production. I have reached my difference with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North. I believe that one of the most practical things that we can do is to increase our nuclear energy production. I can see no alternative. No single change that we could make could so dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the air.

Mr. Chaytor

If the debate is shifting towards the role of nuclear power in responding to climate change, how does my hon. Friend propose that the additional waste that would be produced by its expansion be handled, given that we have not got a clue what to do with the mountains of waste generated over the past 40 years?

Dr. Ladyman

I disagree with my hon. Friend's last point. We have got a clue. Scientists have suggested a range of waste strategies but the nature of the debate has not allowed us to acknowledge the fact that safe tools are available if we have the political will to use them. A kilowatt of nuclear energy produces 4g of carbon dioxide, but a kilowatt of gas energy 446g, of oil energy 818g, and of coal energy 955g.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby)

As an engineer—mechanical, electrical and civil—I have a vested interest in my hon. Friend's observations. The folly of his argument is to pretend that emissions resulting from nuclear energy justify expansion of the industry. That is misleading, because one of the problems that we are struggling with is the life cycle of the energies available. Life cycle analysis of nuclear energy production shows that its problems far exceed anything from renewable forms of energy. To take only one aspect or benefit of an industry is to mislead the House as to the absolute benefit of that source.

Dr. Ladyman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments, but the practical benefits and possibilities of using renewable energies are exaggerated. For example, we can calculate the amount of energy that can be extracted from the wind—even whether we can extract 100 per cent. of it—and work out how many wind generators we would need to produce a certain amount of energy. We know what the polluting effects of tidal energy are. If one takes the energy out of the tides, the sediment settles and that can be as polluting to marine life as any oil slick. There are practical limitations to renewable energies.

I put it to my hon. Friends that a 10 per cent. increase—from the current 30 per cent. to 40 per cent.—in the amount of energy that we generate from nuclear power would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere in the UK by about 20 million tonnes a year. That would meet our Kyoto guidelines in one fell swoop. We cannot ignore that possibility. However, I do not propose that we act immediately and that we start tomorrow and force it on the public.

Mr. Chaytor

In relation to that theoretical 10 per cent. increase in nuclear energy and its impact on the reduction of emissions, has my hon. Friend calculated how much that 10 per cent. increase would add to our existing plutonium stockpile?

Dr. Ladyman

I have not made that calculation.

Mr. Dalyell

Is not the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) another reason why the Government should reply to the House of Lords recommendation that there should be an engineered deep repository? In his winding-up speech, perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister could refer to the House of Lords recommendation and to what the Government's attitude is likely to be—at least in respect of timing.

Dr. Ladyman

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the issues on which we need an answer.

However, I do not propose forcing matters on the public. I propose that we open our minds to the possibility that a solution is ready for practical implementation. We should start to have a full debate with the public on that issue. We need unprecedented openness from the industry and from scientists. As someone who began his scientific career working on a reactor site and who also did his postgraduate degree on a reactor site, I have a familiarity with the industry that other right hon. and hon. Members may not have.

When I did my research, I worked seven days a week-like most PhD students. I used to climb happily over the security fence and work alone in the reactor hall and the laboratories—that was in the early 1970s, which were simpler times. My student friends used to do the same. We knew what we were doing and felt confident about it and confident about the technology. People who work in the industry have that degree of familiarity and find it difficult to understand why other people cannot see the benefits that are available from it.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that most people are quite happy to sail 20 miles across the channel, or travel under it, to France, where there are about 20 nuclear sites? The people of France are not suffering any devastating down side from that; indeed, they are probably doing rather well for cheap energy.

Dr. Ladyman

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady. My constituents may not realise that they live about 25 miles over the water from those reactors. So far, they have fortunately suffered no side effects.

I want that degree of familiarity with the debate and the issues to register more widely in the public domain. We could then make a sensible and objective decision as to whether we want to increase nuclear power as a percentage of our overall energy strategy. I offer that idea to the Minister as one suggestion for what we might do. Let us start talking again about that issue and put it back on the agenda. Let us consider whether it can be part of the package of measures that we introduce in the future.

10.24 am
Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

The debate has been extremely interesting. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) on initiating it on this timely occasion. He put a number of questions that he hoped that the Minister would answer when he winds up. The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) hoped that the Minister would ad lib a bit in order to respond properly to the debate. Some additional matters have now been brought to the Minister's attention to which I hope that he will be able to respond, because some significant issues have been raised. Perhaps we need to continue the debate in a wider context, as the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) requested.

Hon. Members who have spoken so far seem to agree that climate change is real, dangerous and preventable—or at least containable. Liberal Democrats very much welcome the Government's input to the international scene—for example, at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires conferences and in the plethora of reviews and consultation documents that have been published since. There have been so many reviews that, as an energy spokesman, one needs a special wheelbarrow to carry them around in.

Although I welcome those reviews, I point out that the missing element is any consequence from them, so I add a further question to those that have already been put to the Minister: how soon can we expect real policy initiatives and changes to be introduced to implement the ideas in the reviews? I remind the Minister that the target for emissions was to achieve a reduction by 2010 on the baseline of 1990. We are now halfway through that period and, if we need legislation—as we undoubtedly will—together with new taxes, new instructions to the regulators and a public information campaign, all those will take time. Time is leaking away and the opportunities to reach even the legal target—never mind the Labour manifesto target—are becoming harder to achieve.

In some ways the Government have gone the wrong way since they began to take action on climate change. They have slowed down the dash for gas in electricity generation. That means that the rate at which we are making carbon emissions savings has slowed down and will slow down more. The Government have cut value added tax on domestic fuel; that has the consequence that more people—especially those in low-income households—will be able to afford to burn more fuel. Indeed, that is why the cut was made. One can well understand why that was done; I welcome action to relieve fuel poverty. However, the Government have not, at the same time, reduced VAT on insulation and other technologies that could prevent the wasteful consumption of fuel.

The Government have talked about an integrated transport policy, but we understand from the Deputy Prime Minister that there is no time in the legislative timetable to introduce such a policy. At present, there is no money for that. As the hon. Member for Bury, North pointed out, the Government have stood idly by while private Members' Bills that could have helped have been blocked. In the case of the Health Care and Energy Efficiency Bill, the Government offered active spoken support, but they rejected the Bill.

I urge the Government to consider three sectors in which we need to make progress. The first is traffic and transport, which contribute about one quarter of the carbon emissions in this country. It is good to hear that, at speaking engagements throughout the country, the Minister for the Environment and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions continue to express a commitment to road traffic reduction—that is, an absolute reduction in road traffic. However, in the House, the words have been more woolly and imprecise. When the Minister responds to the debate, I hope that he will be able to say that what was in the Labour party's manifesto and what Ministers say in the country to sympathetic audiences about an absolute reduction in road traffic remain the Government's commitment. I hope that we shall hear that said clearly in the House.

One of the paradoxes of the debate on climate change is that it focuses to such an extent on transport and traffic, when such factors contribute only one quarter of the UK's carbon emissions. We spend much time worrying about traffic taxes, road pricing and similar measures when we know not only that such measures are unpopular with the public, as the hon. Member for South Thanet indicated, but that they are unlikely to be effective. However, there is little political debate or policy preparation on other major sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom.

Chief among those is electricity generation, which is responsible for a greater proportion of carbon dioxide emissions in this country than traffic—some 30 per cent. I urge the Minister to produce plans and a timetable for a comprehensive energy policy. In the context of the renewables review, I have submitted evidence to the Department of Trade and Industry on the way in which I believe we should proceed. I shall spend a couple of minutes detailing that approach and exploring the "nuclear versus the rest" debate, which has been aired this morning.

We have to develop a strong conservation option: we must stop wasting power and electricity. Such a policy is feasible and the Government should set a target that looks further ahead than 2010. Much of the target setting to 2010 consists of a push here and a squeeze there without any fundamental changes being contemplated. The assumption appears to be that, come 2010, we will reach a plateau beyond which it is not necessary to go; but in fact, after 2010, we shall have to take accelerating and increasingly stiff measures to speed up carbon reduction—which means that we need to develop a strong conservation option.

We have to stabilise and then reduce overall energy use—for example, the use of electric power—while retaining the country's competitiveness and the quality of life of our population. There is nothing difficult about that—we need only apply existing technologies and techniques. Many technical assessments state that half the energy used in the domestic sector is wasted and could be saved by the application of simple, state-of-the-art and currently available measures. Were we to reduce domestic energy consumption by 50 per cent., we would achieve more than could be achieved through the nuclear option.

In addition to conservation, which by 2050 could result in a reduction to only about 70 per cent. of current electricity consumption while maintaining competitiveness and fully implementing any new technology that can be dreamt of, we have to develop a strong renewables option. Using existing, known technologies, we could reach 25 per cent. of electricity generation by use of renewables by 2020, and 50 per cent. by 2050. We should try to achieve that.

We should look at the international scene and learn from other countries that are ahead of us in this respect—countries that currently export renewables technology. Japan has already been mentioned, but I shall refer to Denmark, which supplies 60 per cent. of the world's wind turbine market, thereby enabling both the generation of electricity from renewable sources internationally and the creation of jobs in Denmark. Countries in the developing world, such as China and India, will use increasing amounts of energy, but supplies of coal and oil are not inexhaustible and nor is the atmosphere. Such countries already invest significant sums in renewables: my information is that China already spends more on renewables than the whole of western Europe. A strong indigenous renewables industry would not only be able to exploit such wide open markets, but would help us to achieve our domestic targets.

Dr. Ladyman

I entirely accept the hon. Gentleman's argument in respect of renewables, but are not his figures on potential energy consumption in 2010 based on the assumption that, in 2010, we shall be producing the same sort of things as we produce today, but doing so more efficiently? Is it not true that neither he, nor I, nor anyone else can predict the shape of industry in 2010, what sorts of things we shall be producing, or whether the processes of producing those things will consume large amounts of energy?

Mr. Stunell

Yes, I entirely agree—in this area of policy, almost nothing is predictable from decade to decade. For example, 15 years ago, no one would have predicted that gas would become the preferred fuel for electricity generation. The circumstances might change in future, but even within the existing decision-making framework, technologies are available that could contribute to a solution.

In any case, I suspect that we will all be living in houses, not only in 2010, but in 2050, which is the time scale I am envisaging. There are savings there to be made in the domestic sector, no matter how many computers or unimaginable electronic devices people have. If we act along the lines that I have set out and achieve 50 per cent. of electricity production through renewables, then instead of producing the current annual total of 42 million tonnes of carbon emissions from electricity generation, we could get that figure down to about 10 million tonnes a year. We should be trying to achieve that.

I am not sure whether this is the right debate to discuss the nuclear option, its feasibility and viability. However, I should like to echo the point made by the hon. Member for Bury, North—that for 20 or 30 years the nuclear industry was given every pound it wanted for research and development in the search for the perfect, cheap fuel that would save civilisation. That the industry failed to find that fuel is at least open for discussion. Had similar sums been invested in other technologies, we might be in a better position today.

The remarks made by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster about wind power and the environment were absolutely true, but it must be emphasised that every energy-generating technology, including the existing electricity generation and distribution network, has an environmental impact of some sort. There are about 100,000 steel electricity pylons in this country; temporarily disregarding the engineering or the science of doing so, by putting a 1 MW wind turbine on each pylon, we could generate three times this country's current energy consumption. Even though we might have stopped noticing the environmental impact of current technologies, it does not mean that impact does not exist.

I hope the Minister will tell us today that the Government are going to be bold: that at the hard end they will examine taxation and legislation, that at the soft end they will consider regulation and information, and that they will work hard to change popular culture. I am far more optimistic about our ability to change popular culture than the hon. Member for South Thanet. Everybody now wears a seat belt, not because that is the law, but because popular culture has accepted the wearing of seat belts; and everyone is now so keen to recycle paper that the market is permanently swamped and we cannot get rid of the stuff. Once people accept that doing something is good, it can catch on remarkably quickly.

We need regulation and we must ensure that new energy supply companies have strong rules. For example, it would be good if ESCOs administered home MOTs for energy wastage, or if they were required to provide two-way meters so that micro-renewables could be applied at point of use. Many things could be done and in my evidence to the renewables review I made some suggestions to the Government.

I hope that the Government will give an assurance that they will support private Members' legislation that is neutral and has a low fiscal impact. I also hope that the Government will introduce a real carbon tax and reinvest that money in renewables and conservation. They should also get the regulators to impress on energy companies the need for conservation and renewables and should work with others to inform the public and to change popular culture. The debate has raised several questions and I hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of them at least.

10.40 am
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)

I thank the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this important issue and for instigating an intelligent and thought-provoking debate. In this country, we are fortunate that the environment, and the specific issue of climate change, are high up the political agenda, unlike in certain other countries. That is due originally to a speech by Baroness Thatcher in the late 1980s, to the work of my right hon. Friends the Members for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) at the Rio summit, and—in fairness—to the efforts of this Government, through the work of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment in Kyoto and in Buenos Aires.

Some criticisms have been made that we hear much rhetoric and less action, and they were echoed modestly today by some hon. Members. While reviews and consultation are important, it is time—after two years in government—for action. No doubt the Minister will be able to elaborate on the Government's plans for the next two years.

The policies on climate change of the previous Government and of this Government have focused on prevention. They have set targets for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, and that is welcome. Indeed, the Government in their manifesto went beyond the requirements to which we signed up in Kyoto, and it will be interesting to hear the Minister's response to the questions from the hon. Members for Bury, North and for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) about a possible shift in the 20 per cent. target.

I wish to raise the issue of adaptation, which is as important as prevention but does not figure as much in the public mind. We could take three approaches to the catastrophic problem facing our planet. We could accept the changes and take no action, but no one in his right mind is prepared to be complacent and take that approach. I have already mentioned the prevention approach, which the previous Government and this Government have sought to undertake through our international commitments and by encouraging other nations to play their part.

Reference has also been made to the United States. I welcome the fact that the US Government had a more positive approach at Buenos Aires, but I have serious misgivings because the US Government are not the US Congress. Any hon. Members who have had dealings with American Congressmen will probably have felt that they were dealing with Neanderthals when it came to the question of climate change and its environmental impact. That is more to do with internal domestic politics in the districts of those Congressmen, who are not prepared to show the courage that Governments in this country have shown in the past decade, and more must be done in that area.

The third approach is the adaptation of human and natural systems to protect society and individuals from the impact of what is happening. The 1996 climate change impacts review group report contains several key responses, and more should be done to ensure that we can adapt to living in a greenhouse world. We must develop more ability to cope with extreme weather-related events, such as storms, floods, landslides and the erosion of our coasts. We must ensure that we have a cohesive policy for managing agriculture to respond to the changing conditions.

It is also crucial to safeguard the public against disease, heatstroke, food poisoning and tanning, with all the problems the latter causes for skin, such as cancer. We must ensure maximum conservation of water resources, especially in the south-east of this country, and we must encourage more exciting and innovative approaches to construction and urban design to minimise the effects of increased temperatures, higher wind speeds and flooding, and to improve energy conservation and the warmth of homes.

Several hon. Members rightly drew attention to the four relevant private Members' Bills before the House. I fully support the ethos behind those Bills and I hope that they will reach the statute book, if necessary through the use of Government time. Energy efficiency, the reduction—preferably the abolition—of fuel poverty, combined heat and light and, as many hon. Members have mentioned, renewable sources of energy are all important. I thank the hon. Member for Bury, North again for what has been, for the House of Commons, a very intelligent debate.

10.48 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions(Mr. Nick Raynsford)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) on securing this debate on a subject that, as he emphasised, is probably the most important environmental issue facing the world today, and on the knowledgeable and skilful way in which he presented the issues. He demonstrated clearly why he is widely recognised as having great expertise on this subject.

I shall begin by making a few general points about the action the Government are taking to tackle the threat of climate change and then I shall respond briefly to some of the points that have been raised this morning. I acknowledge the approach of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) in emphasising the quality of this debate. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have shown a serious and intelligent approach to the issue. My only difficulty is that the complexity and scale of the issues that have been raised will make it impossible for me to do justice to them in just over 10 minutes. I shall do my best, however.

The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) challenged me to adopt a Fox approach rather than a Burke approach. I am delighted to hear him supporting the radical rather than the Conservative, and I will do my best. As he will recognise, because he was a Minister for many years dealing with issues of huge importance, certain subjects must be put on the record clearly without extemporising to the degree that some hon. Members would like.

I loved the right hon. Gentleman's references to the problems created by the growth of air traffic and the pests that can now travel from one country to another. He made a delightful slip of the tongue when he referred not to the longhorn beetle but to the long-haul beetle—which is a further illustration of the problem. I noted also the right hon. Gentleman's tribute to Imperial college and his slight ambivalence at the fact that its rising academic success has meant that it has surpassed the record of his former university. I am delighted to inform the House that my former university, Cambridge, remains ahead of both Imperial college and Oxford university and is renowned in the field of science.

Scientific evidence on the rate of climate change is becoming clearer all the time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North emphasised, records show that, globally, seven of the past 10 years have been the hottest since records began in 1860. Global surface temperatures are increasing at a rate that will exceed anything that has been seen since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. The world's most authoritative scientists on the intergovernmental panel on climate change have concluded that the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on the global climate. There is no doubt that it is getting warmer and there is also no doubt that man-made emissions are contributing to that rise in temperature. This means that, unless we act now, we can expect more flooding, more severe winter gales, more storms and more droughts. The human, social and economic costs could be extremely severe.

The Government have pledged to do what we can to ensure that the impact of climate change is reduced as much as possible. We are playing a leading role in international negotiations, and I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for acknowledging the Government' s attempts to work with all other countries in this field to achieve satisfactory international agreements.

The Rio earth summit in 1992 demonstrated an international consensus on the need to act, when 154 countries signed the United Nations framework convention on climate change. In Kyoto in 1997, industrialised countries went further, agreeing legally binding targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. That was an important and historic step. Of course, we must now move from agreement to implementation. International negotiations are focused on working up the rules and procedures needed for the effective implementation of the Kyoto protocol.

In Buenos Aires last November, the parties agreed a detailed work programme—the Buenos Aires action plan—that sets out all the issues that still need to be resolved. They include: the design of the "Kyoto mechanisms"; the definition of guidelines for reporting emissions and monitoring compliance; and procedures for addressing cases of non-compliance. The United Kingdom is keen to ensure that we make real progress on all those issues and that the negotiations do not get bogged down in a sterile debate between developed and developing countries.

My hon. Friend raised the difficult and important issue of contraction and convergence. It is an interesting idea, but at Buenos Aires neither the developed nor developing countries were ready to sign up to the kinds of targets envisaged by this approach. It will be difficult to match up, given the widely differing conditions in different countries—I think particularly of differing weather patterns and temperatures, which can have a profound effect on the energy mix required in any country—and very real difficulties will need to be factored into any converged emissions target. The idea of contraction and convergence is likely to make an important contribution to the climate change debate in future, however, when negotiations take place on how further greenhouse gas reductions may be achieved equitably. I hope that that is a helpful response to my hon. Friend's comments.

Although the Kyoto protocol sets targets only for developed countries, we should not underestimate the steps that developing countries are also taking to reduce their emissions. Many developing countries are taking domestic action to improve transport technologies and energy efficiency, all of which can be only beneficial to climate change. The United Kingdom is working to engage key developing countries, such as India and China, in a constructive dialogue about how they can build on existing domestic action.

However, developing countries rightly want to see that the developed world is serious about delivering on its promises. There are many options open to developed countries, including the use of the Kyoto mechanisms, to enable them to meet their targets cost effectively. However, we firmly believe that domestic action must form the main means of meeting our Kyoto commitments. I think it will help the House if I outline what we are trying to do in this field.

We have led the way by going beyond our legally binding Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent. reduction and setting our much more challenging 20 per cent. domestic goal for reductions in CO2 emissions rather than the basket of greenhouse gases. In response to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who raised this question, I can confirm that that remains the Government's goal—although all hon. Members will recognise that it is an extremely challenging target. Unless we are successful in implementing the range of policies that I shall describe, that goal will be even harder to achieve.

The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) asked several questions about the integrated transport policy. He recognised that that policy is critical to achieving significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Changes to transport taxation announced by the Chancellor that are designed to cut emissions will make a contribution. I refer not only to the continuation of the fuel duty escalator but to a new vehicle excise duty system that benefits those driving smaller, more efficient cars, and changes to the company car tax system designed to remove incentives for people to drive more and to encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Speaking as Minister for London, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government have introduced powers in the Greater London Authority Bill to enable the mayor of London to introduce a congestion charging and non-residential parking scheme designed not only to discourage the unnecessary use of motor vehicles—particularly in congested areas—but to allow the hypothecated revenue from those charges to be used for specific investment in public transport, to make it easier for people to travel other than by private car. We are taking important practical steps to give effect to the integrated transport White Paper strategy.

The utility reform Bill will assist the Government by including powers to set energy efficiency standards of performance and requiring the gas and electricity companies to encourage and assist customers to use less energy. Meanwhile, we hope that the energy regulator, using the powers under the existing legislation, will continue the successful electricity EESOP scheme and extend it to help gas consumers. The radically improved fuel poverty programme that we announced recently—to which several hon. Members referred—will help to ensure that old people, the disabled, children and people with health difficulties have properly insulated and heated homes. The measure aims primarily to tackle fuel poverty, but it will contribute to reducing carbon emissions in certain cases.

I stress that the programme's main focus is to help those people who suffer seriously from fuel poverty to enjoy higher standards of comfort. I make no apologies for measures that are designed to help the poor to keep warm. It is not acceptable that many people die during the winter because they cannot keep warm. That is a major social responsibility that we must tackle.

Mr. Dalyell

That is peanuts compared to the nuclear issue. Will the Minister comment about the vitally important deeply engineered repository?

Mr. Raynsford

I was about to come to that. My hon. Friend will recognise that there are a wide range of issues, and I do not accept that the points that I have raised are "peanuts". If we succeed in reducing carbon dioxide emission from motor vehicles, in the home and in buildings through more energy efficient measures and better building regulations—we are reviewing part L of the building regulations—that will be a significant achievement.

The climate change levy will encourage businesses to use energy more efficiently. We recognise the particular concerns of energy-intensive industries and offer the prospect of a significantly lower rate of levy to those sectors that enter into agreements to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. We are consulting specifically on that issue—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North referred—and we are working to ensure a constructive approach to combined heat and power and renewables as part of the package. That approach is under consultation so I cannot give a more definitive answer today.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) referred to the importance of changing people's attitudes. That is a key element in the Government's £7 million "Are you doing your bit?" publicity campaign. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked about the Government's response to the House of Lords recommendations on the storage of nuclear waste. The Government will respond to that in due course, and I shall ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment to write to my hon. Friend about it—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. We shall now move on to the next debate.

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