HC Deb 28 June 2001 vol 370 cc762-4
2. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

What assessment she has made of the level of international support for the Kyoto agreement. [571]

10. Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

What measures she plans to advance the Kyoto accord. [579]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(Mr. Elliot Morley)

The overwhelming majority of countries continue to support the Kyoto protocol. The Government will continue to make every effort to promote a successful outcome at the next round of negotiations in Bonn in July. We will also continue to encourage the United States to re-engage with the Kyoto protocol.

Mr. Kidney

I am fortified in pursuing this question by the batch of letters that I received this week from Rising Brook high school, from 13 and 14-year-olds putting forward their concerns about global warming and their suggestions for meeting the challenge. On their behalf, as well as my own, I shall ask some specific questions. Will President Bush's decision to turn his back on the Kyoto protocol undermine the resolve of other signatories to ratify it? What line on global warming is my hon. Friend's Department taking in its relations with its American counterpart?

Mr. Morley

We very much regret the fact that President Bush has stated that the United States is not prepared to ratify the agreement. We believe that it is important to engage the Americans and to continue to try to persuade them that such an agreement is absolutely vital. I am very pleased to hear about the interest of young people in my hon. Friend's constituency, because the agreement is very much about the future of this country and, indeed, the future globally.

I am pleased to say that other countries are actively engaging in discussions. I should also make it clear that, if necessary, we will go ahead with the ratification of the Kyoto treaty without the Americans, but we would much prefer them to engage in the process, and we hope that they will reconsider their position.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does the Minister agree that the Kyoto protocol is arguably the most important environmental issue that the world faces at the moment and that Britain could play a very constructive role in brokering a deal between the United States and the rest of the world; but does he also agree that that role is diminished by the fact that his Department is undertaking the preparatory negotiations, yet the Deputy Prime Minister is now in charge not only of the negotiations but of the Cabinet Office? Is that a tribute to the Deputy Prime Minister's forensic negotiating skills, or yet another example of unjoined-up government?

Mr. Morley

It seems to me that the contrary is true, because the Deputy Prime Minister has had a long involvement in the negotiations, and he will continue to do so, but the Government take the issue very seriously. That is why we have engaged in it at a number of levels, and of course it is a very important issue for my Department. The fact is that we think we are making very good progress. We have a long way to go, but there is a possibility of reaching an agreement at Bonn. We are also encouraged that, in subsequent speeches, President Bush has recognised the importance of the agreement and has also been somewhat taken aback by the strength of feeling internationally about the fact that the Americans, who are such big energy users, are not prepared to ratify the agreement. So, we have work to do, but I believe that we can make progress, and we are engaged at all levels of government because of the importance that we give to such issues.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the platform that we take on the world stage should be very much joined up with the platform we take not only on national policies but in the European Union? In my part of south Yorkshire, which he knows very well, we are seeking European protection for Thorne and Hatfield moors to end peat extraction on that land and to restore that very precious asset, not only for Britain but for Europe and the world. Will he support our proposal to make that land a candidate for special European protection when we seek to submit the names shortly?

Mr. Morley

It is important that we conserve all natural resources. Thorne and Hatfield moors are one of the best examples of raised peat bog in this country. My hon. Friend is right to say that I know it well. I am aware of the enormous amount of work that she and her colleagues in the area have put into conserving it. We certainly want to see progress made in the designation and protection of that important site.

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)

It is clear that hon. Members on both sides of the House are rightly exercised about the threat to Kyoto. Will the Minister focus on the Government's responsibilities? The House of Commons Library tells me that of the 84 signatories to the protocol, 34 have ratified it. That group does not include the United Kingdom. Why have the Government not ratified the protocol and when do they propose to do so? Will they concentrate a little less on lecturing others and a little more on doing something to move the Kyoto process forward?

Mr. Morley

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have been following the progress of the negotiations. If he had, he would understand that it is better for us to ratify in conjunction with our European partners, in a block rather than individually. That is what we are moving towards. There is no delay. We want to ensure that the agreement is supported internationally, so we are preparing the ground for ratification together with our European and other partners.

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