§ [Relevant documents: Third Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2001–02 HC 519-I, and the Government's response thereto, HC 1270.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Caplin.]2.30 pm
§ Tony Baldry (Banbury)
I welcome this opportunity to debate the Select Committee on International Development report on global climate change and sustainable development. A significant number of Committee members are present today, including the hon. Members for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty), for Putney (Mr. Colman), for City of York (Hugh Bayley) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) I am sure that all hon. Members, in their own way, will base their contributions on the impressions that they drew from a fairly extensive inquiry that lasted a number of months. Some hon. Members may not have had the opportunity to read the evidence, but I hope that the report will stand the test of time as being worthwhile
The United Nations world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg two months ago was the first summit of its kind for 10 years. A number of Committee members were fortunate enough to be able to attend. Frustratingly and somewhat disappointingly, and despite the attendance at the summit of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for International Development, no ministerial statement was made on the subject when the House returned shortly afterwards, which would have put what happened there into perspective. Today's debate is the first opportunity that we have had to consider what happened at Johannesburg.
Perspective and scale are imperative when considering climate change. One of the things that struck me while listening to the evidence of witnesses during the Select Committee inquiry was that such a dramatic scale of change should have taken place in so a short time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its third assessment report published in 2001, observed that the concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere had risen, that carbon dioxide was at its highest concentration for the past 42,000 years, and that the rate at which its concentration was increasing was unprecedented in the past 20,000 years.
Those are dramatic figures. A number of witnesses, including the Hadley centre for climate change, observed that during the next 100 years temperatures around the world are likely to be higher than in millions of years past. We are in a period of considerable and 314WH dramatic change. I wonder whether the Department for International Development is sufficiently forward thinking on the matter.
I note that in paragraph 12.2 of their response, on the Select Committee's encouragement of enhanced funding of the global environment facility, the Government state:We are not in favour of any prior allocation of funds within the GEF overall budget".That is unfortunate, given that the global environment facility is one of the central mechanisms to ensure that environmental objectives are reflected within development projects—and, moreover, to identify climate risks such as famine sooner rather than later.
DFID does not seem to mainstream our concerns on climate change through its development policies. The Secretary of State's evidence to the Committee was, as always, robust and welcome, but it does not seem that DFID has a coherent policy on climate change. I believe that that is inadequate. The result is that policies in developing countries, including poverty reduction strategy papers and national strategies for sustainable development, often contain little to address climate risk. Unless DFID helps poorer countries to develop policies to deal with that risk, climate change will continue to undermine development.
The Select Committee heard the Secretary of State talk at length, although understandably, about "northern greens" during her evidence sessions, but I believe that that sometimes misses the point. Conclusions 5 and 6 of the report help us to put the world summit on sustainable development into some perspective. Conclusion 5 states:Developing countries have a different view of climate change to developed countries. They see it not as a problem of pollution or of how to sustain economic growth but as a problem of human welfare that threatens survival itself".That might be a different perception, but it should make DFID put the wider implications of climate change into perspective.
The World Bank said that the WSSD should have focused on Africa, and I agree. Asia and south America contain developing countries, but most of Africa contains only poor countries. The fact is that the effects of climate change will not be spread evenly across the globe but will be felt disproportionately by the poor. Poor people are likely to be the most vulnerable because they are unable to withstand even the slightest shock to their livelihood.
Since 1997, DFID has pursued a sustainable livelihoods approach to development. It was encapsulated in the 1997 White Paper and has been the backbone of much of DFID's policy. The most widely accepted definition of sustainable livelihoods was proposed by an academic, Carney, in 1995:A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.One point that I hope to make this afternoon is that millions of families in Africa are so beset by food shortages, drought and HIV/AIDS that they can no longer cope with or easily recover from stresses and 315WH shocks. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for focusing a little on the plight of two regions of Africa. I and many other members of the Select Committee have just returned from visits to Malawi and/or the horn of Africa, and those examples may best illustrate the approach that DFID should adopt to climate change.
It is estimated that as many as 14 million people in southern Africa and another 14 million in Ethiopia and the horn of Africa are at risk of starvation. That means that nearly 30 million people are suffering almost silent starvation, because the media are only intermittently interested. Understandably, overseas coverage in the broadsheets these days deals almost exclusively with Iraq. Some people suggest that we are not dealing with the Ethiopia of 1985. I have been to Ethiopia, and that may not yet be the case. Film crews looking for tents full of skeletal children will be disappointed, but this is no less a holocaust of hunger. In that respect, the media cannot be guaranteed to act as an early warning system. An article from the current edition of the Institute of Development Studies' journal asserts:The case of Malawi in 2002 reveals the limitations of this argument. The media is a late indicator of distress, not an early warning. Journalists and television crews arrived in Malawi like spectators at a car crash: to observe the tragedy, not to prevent it.Africans starve, journalists come, food aid dribbles forth, the journalists go and the Africans still starve.
If the media do not fully recognise the scale of Africa's plight, do Governments? I am sure that they do, but I want the House to consider two statements from the past fortnight on the prospects of African famine. Statement No. 1 reads:From my latest assessments in the field for southern Africa, certainly the peak period for assistance will begin in December and it is about 14.4 million people. In Ethiopia they have assessments in the field now and the 14 million, I think, was the worst case looking at all factors".Statement No. 2 reads:A total of 427,000 tonnes of food aid was requested to help meet the needs of some 5.9 million people who were at risk. That followed the generally good harvests of 2001."—[Official Report,3 December 2002; Vol. 395, c. 885.]I believe that hon. Members would agree that those two statements are somewhat at loggerheads. The first statement was made by Judith Lewis, the World Food Programme regional director in southern Africa, in evidence to the Select Committee two weeks ago. The second statement was made by the Minister in an Adjournment debate in the House the day before yesterday. There is a huge difference between 14 million and 6 million. The response of DFID to the African crisis appears to be based not on the requests of UN agencies in the field, but on its judgment of what scale the crisis should be. Before the Minister rises to say that the World Food Programme always overestimates, there is no cogent argument to suggest that the WFP has miscalculated need by a factor of three.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Ms Sally Keeble)
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would read the rest of my quote, in which I think I gave best-case and worst-case scenarios. I think that he will find that my worst- 316WH case scenario agreed pretty much with that of the WFP. Otherwise, I will see whether the Department can check the figures.
§ Tony Baldry
I was in the Chamber and took careful note of what the Minister said because I was anxious not to misrepresent her. If she cares to re-read what she said in Hansard, I think that she will find that she referred to the figure of 5.9 million and said that the Government were waiting for further reports from the field about what is happening. Either DFID agrees with the World Food Programme or it does not, and I shall refer later to other examples of how it seems to me that the Secretary of State and the WFP are not speaking in a similar way.
I suggest that Ministers read an analysis of the 1985 Ethiopian famine recently published by IDS, which observes howthe early warning system adequately picked up the problem, but failed to mobilise the kind of response needed to avert a disaster, in short, because donor agencies were sceptical about the needs figures.Why are Ministers now being sceptical? On whom does DFID rely in order to feel confident that fewer than 6 million people are threatened by famine? Why is DFID failing to recognise in its country assistance plan for Ethiopia the WFP's estimates for the African crisis?
My concern is that I am not confident that DFID fully grasps the colossal scale of the famine facing much of Africa. Judith Lewis made it clear that her calculations account for all factors. DFID does not. However, it is not only Judith Lewis from whom the Select Committee has heard recently. James Morris, the executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, recently met members of the Select Committee. I kept a careful note of what he said. He observed that there isa disaster unfolding, with 14 million people in the Horn of Africa, and 14 million in Southern Africa needing food aid. This could not he sustained by the World Food Programme.In a press release issued on the same day, 28 October—just a few weeks ago—James Morris said:These figures are large and dramatic and the international community should take notice…unless we come to grips with this problem very soon, we face the real possibility of facing a devastating wave of human suffering and death early next year.He went on to comment thatwhile modern society is not prepared to tolerate the face of mass hunger, agencies like the World Food Programme—as well as hundreds of highly effective NGOs—are finding it increasingly difficult to find the resources to respond adequately to the growing number of emergencies.Dependent on voluntary contributions WFP and NGOs are caught between the rising needs of millions of hungry people and government budgets that are already stretched and contending with a global economic slowdown.James Morris concluded, somewhat alarmingly:The sad truth is that as things stand the humanitarian system faces the prospect of being completely overwhelmed. It is clear that business as usual is insufficient to address the rising humanitarian crisis we confront.Nothing that I have heard from the Government or that has been reflected in the media seems to tackle adequately the concern of UN agencies such as the World Food Programme, which is thatthe humanitarian system faces the prospect of being completely overwhelmed.317WH Is DFID's estimate of those at risk of starvation lower because it believes that many people are dying of HIV/AIDS rather than food shortages? The two are interlocked: hunger helps to beget HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS helps to beget hunger. The WFP believes that the first fight against HIV/AIDS is about food and, likewise, it wants to distribute food to HIV sufferers foremost.
§ Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)
Did my hon. Friend hear the Secretary of State's interview on the "Today" programme? She compared the estimates of those at risk of famine in southern Africa and Ethiopia, and suggested that the threat was worse in southern Africa because of the enfeeblement of the population by HIV and AIDS. I have carefully looked at the Hansard report of the debate on Ethiopia a couple of days ago, and cannot find maximum and minimum figures. However, the Minister stated:We expect to have the first estimates from surveys of the present situation within the next few days".—[Official Report, 3 December 2002; Vol. 395, c. 885.]It would seem that the assessment in the media was given before the correct information was available to the Department.
§ Tony Baldry
The World Food Programme, which is there on the ground, seems to be clear about the scale of the need. Like my hon. Friend, I was surprised by the Secretary of State's interview on "Today". As members of the Select Committee know, I am generally not slow to compliment the Secretary of State and DFID on their achievements. I was surprised when she was reported as saying that talk of the threat of famine in Ethiopia was irresponsible.
When the Minister replies to the debate, perhaps she will tell us which of the comments made by the WFP's executive director is irresponsible. Is it his suggestion' that there isa disaster unfolding, with 14 million people in the Horn of Africa, and 14 million in Southern Africa needing food aid. This could not be sustained by the World Food Programme"?Is it the statement:These figures are large and dramatic and the international community should take notice…unless we come to grips with this problem very soon, we face the real possibility of facing a devastating wave of human suffering and death early next year"?Is it the suggestion that the World Food Programme isfinding it increasingly difficult to find the resources to respond adequately to the growing number of emergencies…The sad truth is that as things stand the humanitarian system faces the prospect of being completely overwhelmed"?Do the Government agree with that assessment by James Morris, or do they think that the WFP has in some way got things wrong? I do not think that it is irresponsible for the Ethiopian Prime Minister to seek more food aid while the UN's World Food Programme estimates that 14 million of his country's people will soon be under threat of starvation.
Thus far, the WFP's emergency appeals for both regions have not received the response from donors for which one would hope. In southern Africa, that has meant that only about 13 per cent. of food aid has been delivered to those who need it.
§ Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)
At last, the hon. Gentleman is coming to the nub of the problem. There is 318WH not much difference between the Government's position and that of the World Food Programme. The WFP has put out an appeal, but unfortunately only 56 per cent. of the amount of donations needed has been received. That is not the problem in any case. The real question is why the WFP has not had the response that it had for previous impending famines. The reason should be in this debate. We are talking about climate change and decreases in world food supplies. Will the hon. Gentleman address those subjects a little?
§ Tony Baldry
I am sorry if the hon. Lady has missed the first of the serious points that I am making: that we all need to understand the scale of what is happening in Africa. It is unprecedented, in relation to climatic as well as other factors—it is, for example, the first time ever that both rains have failed in Ethopia. However, James Morris was telling the Select Committee that we are nearing the stage at which so many people in Africa need food aid that, even if we could get the food into the pipeline, the pipeline could not cope.
I shall in a moment say something about how increasing endemic poverty increases the difficulty.
§ Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)
It may be important for those of us who also attended the relevant meeting to recognise that the World Food Programme representatives talked of last year's very good harvest in Ethiopia and explained the need for long-term reform. They said that the World Food Programme was placing strong emphasis on dealing with long-term agricultural needs. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would reflect on his recollection of that meeting, and agree that James Morris and his cohorts made those suggestions.
§ Tony Baldry
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I wanted to make it clear that a long-term food security programme is among the things that are needed. One of my concerns is that, in Ethiopia, in years when there has been no drought, the number of food-insecure people has been growing. People who have exhausted their coping mechanisms in difficult years cannot recover, even in years of good harvest. However, the quotations that I have given the Committee are fair and accurate reflections of what was said at the meeting.
In Ethiopia the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission estimates that something like 250,000 tonnes of grain will be needed between now and the end of the year. That takes no account of the exacerbation of the situation that both the relevant regions will face next year because of what is happening this year. The Minister said in the Adjournment debate:Those positive developments include the effectiveness of early warning systems, and the willingness of the Government and the international community to work together."—[Official Report, 3 December 2001; Vol. 395, c. 885.]She listed the comparatively high level of food aid so far donated by the United Kingdom. I do not think that anyone would dispute that the UK has responded or that the Department for International Development was among the first to respond. However, whatever the early warning systems are telling the UK Government, an average of one in three people are still hungry because they are not getting enough food aid.
I do not dispute that DFID is working multilaterally. I should not expect anything less from it. However, that does not alter the fact that the UK is responding to a 319WH level of crisis completely different, in many people's view, from the one that the World Food Programme is witnessing. My concern is that there is too little recognition of the scale of the crisis. Until it is recognised, Africa's suffering cannot be stemmed. I echo what has been said by the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) and for Putney (Mr. Colman) about the need for a long-term solution as well as a short-term one.
That brings me to the second recommendation in the Select Committee report, at paragraph 6 in the list of conclusions and recommendations, which is, I believe, crucial in the context of famine prevention and climate change. It states:Given their relative contribution, the burden of finding a solution to the problems posed by climate change should fall mainly on developed countries".One of the problems posed by climate change is food shortage. The one is exacerbated by the other. They are symbiotic. If food aid is not donated now, there will come a point at which the food pipeline will be overwhelmed. There is not sufficient physical capacity. I do not think that the problem of physical capacity is being fully recognised by DFID. I suspect that what we are now witnessing in Ethiopia and southern Africa is the longer-term impact of a food pipeline unable to cope with the volumes of food aid now needed. Africa is stuck in a cycle of grinding poverty and vulnerability. When I visited Ethiopia and Malawi I saw that in many parts of those countries people are so incredibly poor that the merest breeze of adverse conditions blows them over. No capacity means no coping mechanism.
Every year, almost irrespective of whether there is a drought, more and more Ethiopians appear to be becoming food-dependent. That is a reflection of the deepening poverty and destitution of those living in rural areas. Unless the trend is reversed it will not be many years before we see something like 20 million people being food-dependent, which would clearly be impossible to cope with by way of food aid. A long-term food security strategy is needed. I quote briefly from the country assistance plan drawn up by DFID for long-term assistance to Ethiopia, which was published at the beginning of last month:Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ill-equipped to cope with the current droughts to which it is prone…Ethiopia like other countries in the Horn of Africa is subject to highly variable and erratic climatic conditions. Drought is a recurrent problem. Most parts of the country 'normally' have at least two rainy seasons in a year but one or often both of these frequently fail. When this happens, harvests are poor and livestock may die. During prolonged droughts many households exhaust their own food supplies and have to sell what assets they have to buy more. When their assets run out, they become dependent on Food Aid and if this does not reach them, death from starvation results. Unless action is taken to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, then the effect of drought on populations affected by the pandemic can be devastating. The combination of HIV/AIDS and frequent drought is therefore a significant risk to poverty reduction.Food insecurity is identified as a major contributor to poverty and poverty is a major contributor to food insecurity. The report continues:Extreme poverty has led to land degradation, associated problems of deforestation, over-grazing, loss of soil fertility and disruption of the water cycle.320WH Perhaps one of the most disturbing features of erratic weather and recurring droughts is that when people sell their assets during a drought, they are rarely able to rebuild their families' coping mechanisms. Perhaps one of the greatest concerns about countries such as Ethiopia is that, irrespective of whether there is a drought, the number of food-insecure people grows year by year. To return to the point made by the hon. Member for Putney, when I was in Addis Ababa, I went to see the European Union's team. They gave me a paper written by the food security adviser to the European Commission's office in Addis Ababa, which makes the point that manyhouseholds are slowly falling into destitution over the years as a result of asset sales during ever more frequent crises. As a consequence, coping mechanisms have lost their effectiveness and even small downturns in production translate into major shocks for large numbers of rural livelihoods.The paper goes on to make an extremely important point, which has been overlooked in recent reporting of what is happening in Ethiopia and elsewhere:Once more we are back into emergency appeals and the scramble for metric tonnes.As has often been repeated, but perhaps not often enough, food aid fulfils only one of its three objectives, saving lives—the other two being saving assets and improving nutrition—and it does not do that well. Furthermore, emergency food aid is of limited use in addressing the structural problems at the basis of the current crisis in Ethiopia.Asset depletion over the long term continues unabated and under the current scheme of things, donors will be facing a caseload of 20 million food insecure people by 2015, a clearly unsustainable situation.Those are not my figures. That is the European Union's food security adviser, on the ground in Addis, saying that unless something dramatic changes, all that will happen will be that year on year there will be more food-insecure people in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, and predicting a potential 20 million people starving in Ethiopia alone. The EU paper rightly concludes:The main challenge is to reverse the 'one step forward, two steps back' tendency in the Food Security policy dialogue.In order to do that, we have to be forceful in our message that crisis reinforces rather than supersedes the need for a long-term structural approach to food security. For that reason, we need to give longer-term support to agriculture extension programmes, supporting farmer training with a broader range of agricultural technologies made available to farmers, help with road building to enable them to get goods to markets more easily, improve market information and develop organisations that can advance credit to farmers. The eventual elimination of food insecurity and dependence on food aid must be an objective. However, that point should not disguise the poverty of so many countries in the world. To help them we need to tackle their poverty.
When I met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, he made it clear that he considered it imperative that his Government should have a longer-term food security strategy. He recognises that Ethiopia cannot go on, year after year, depending on financial and food handouts from the donor community. I hope that DFID will pursue a longer-term approach. Everyone needs to be clear that climate change and poverty are interlinked. Everyone seems to recognise that they must be tackled together.
321WH Meeting the UN's millennium development goals, therefore, requires policies that both address climate change and ensure sustainable development. However, Africa is not meeting the millennium development goals. DFID's last annual report contains, I think, 14 graphs on each continent's progress towards the millennium development goals. Not one shows Africa going forward. Most show it going backwards. Of the six countries in the southern African crisis, five are still at the very bottom of the human development index. They are the poorest of the poor: they have the highest malnutrition rates in the world, the highest chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest rates of wasting and stunting in the world. Why? Because of food insecurity.
Food insecurity is caused primarily by drought and HIV/AIDS. Those are the two ugly sisters blighting Africa. How can they be combated? Broadly speaking, aid is imperative to control HIV/AIDS, and trade is important to combat drought. To take Ethiopia on trade, for example, a longer-term food security strategy will mean getting more people in rural areas out of destitution. Famine and food shortages in Ethiopia are not simply weather-related but poverty-related issues Some 85 per cent. of Ethiopians depend on agriculture for their income. They have been hardest hit by the fall in international coffee prices, which has not only affected the income of individual farmers and their families but substantially depleted the Ethiopian Government's finances.
§ Mr. Mike Hancock (in the Chair)
Order. Mr. Baldry, a Member is trying to catch your eye, but you have not looked round the Room, and it might be that you go past the point at which he wants to intervene on you.
§ Tony Baldry
Mr. Hancock, it is usual for hon. Members to say, "Will the hon. Member give way?" I apologise—I was keen to say a lot, and I do not want to take up too much of the debate.
§ Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)
The hon. Gentleman brings a passion and concern to the debate, insisting that we do not become complacent about the scale of the problems in Africa. I think that we all appreciate that in his leadership in our Committee.
I know Malawi rather better than Ethiopia—I was there recently. I have checked the weather reports, and it is raining in Malawi now. That is important, because the rain season has started. The problem is not that there was not a rain season last year, but that it was intermittent and missed. Apart from AIDS, which is hollowing out the society and Malawi's capacity, the biggest problem when we were there was the lack of seed and fertiliser. To be fair to DFID, it was doing its best to distribute seed and fertiliser packs to jump-start in the medium term the possibilities of a harvest next year. However, when we asked the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, they did not seem to realise that part of building for the future is ensuring that people have seeds to plant to catch the rain now; otherwise, we shall be discussing food shortages and food aid again this time next year.
§ Tony Baldry
I do not disagree with any of that. I think that there tends to be broad agreement on the 322WH Select Committee. I do not believe for a moment that the World Food Programme is the repository of all knowledge. In quoting the World Food Programme, I am concerned that there be a wider understanding of the scale of what is happening. Whether we visited Malawi or Ethiopia, we are all concerned about the failure of the FAO to provide help to encourage agriculture. There is a hole there. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that, notwithstanding the terrible problem of HIV/AIDS, unless people in Malawi can grow more food, the situation there will become increasingly difficult.
I shall briefly return to the problems of Ethiopia. Its main export is coffee, but coffee prices are at their lowest in 16 years. Ironically, Ethiopia's poverty may be of benefit to the country: because it is so poor, fertilisers or pesticides are not used, so Ethiopian coffee is genuinely organic. One way forward would be to brand its produce as Ethiopian coffee and promote it as a niche organic product.
I appreciate that DFID has been very much involved with a supermarkets initiative, but the labyrinthine procedures of the European Commission make it difficult to get coffee certified as organic. I hope that officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Brussels can offer some help, particularly by ensuring that the Commission and others do not make wholly unrealistic demands of Ethiopian farmers to prove that they have never used pesticides or fertilisers; otherwise, Ethiopia will be dependent for any improvement in incomes on greater access to other markets, whether regional—such as Saudi Arabia and the middle east—or European.
The position is even more difficult in Malawi. The country may have a democratic Government, but I doubt whether it has the political leadership: even building a Bailey bridge on an ordinary road never seems to happen. We all recognise that countries such as Ethiopia and Malawi face HIV/AIDS as well as drought. Sadly, Africa is poor because it is sick and sick because it is poor.
The scale and perspective of famines have changed. Poverty and climate change have exacerbated them and sustainable development in Africa is now a far bigger challenge. Earlier this week, the Select Committee took evidence from its special adviser, Dr. Stephen Devereux. Members who heard his evidence—he is an expert on famine and has written extensively about it—will know that he views current developments as of a different order from those of the past, requiring new thinking. We have too often considered how past famines were dealt with by early warning systems and other mechanisms without realising that those mechanisms are inadequate to deal with Stephen Devereux's new "seismic factor".
Finally, because the scale of famine has changed, the amount of food aid that the World Food Programme needs to obtain gets greater each year. However, the World Food Programme never knows when it will receive the money from donors, so it has to go cap in hand to secure pledges, which have to be turned into commitments, which have to be turned into money, which sometimes arrives too late. We need a new system to avoid one humanitarian crisis giving way to another. UN donor countries and aid recipients now need a continually supported emergency budget to be distributed as humanitarian crises—sadly, likely to be frequent—happen. Many Governments of developed 323WH countries are sometimes reluctant to give aid to developing countries. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park said, all too often it takes all too long for requests to be honoured.
In the long term, more needs to be done to deal with the following famine equation: drought plus HIV/AIDS minus fair trade equals famine. Otherwise, Africa will have 30 million people dependent on food aid, and for Africa alone, the 2015 targets will become the 2030 millennium goals as Africa continues to starve silently.
§ Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North)
Given that the hon. Gentleman is talking about the long term, will he accept that, in the long term, the solution lies as much with the Department of Trade and Industry and energy policy as with the practical support that DFID can give to relieve famine? Does he agree that it might have been useful had his report made a recommendation to the DTI, or a submission to the current energy review, stressing the absolute importance of reducing CO2 emissions, not only to our current commitment of 20 per cent., but to 60 per cent., as the royal commission on environmental pollution recommended?
§ Mr. Chaytor
I shall be brief, Mr. Hancock.
Recommendations 9 and 30 in the report are about the link between climate change and equity, and suggest that the Government should pursue a policy of contraction and convergence in their approach to CO2 emissions.
§ Tony Baldry
I am sure that every hon. Member will make their own speech. In fairness, the report, which was written and published before the Johannesburg summit, makes considerable recommendations on climate change and energy policy. I have not gone through all those recommendations this afternoon because hon. Members can read the report.
Since the report's publication, the Select Committee has been to Malawi, and others of us have been to Ethiopia and Malawi. We have seen, and are seeing, a disaster emerging in Africa, so it seemed appropriate to concentrate my remarks on that. The hon. Gentleman takes an active role in GLOBE—the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment—which I and many other Opposition Members also support. I am sure that he will focus on the issue that he has raised. I have chosen not to this afternoon, although not because I think that it is unimportant. Colleagues on the Committee and in the House may disagree with my view and think that I have got things out of proportion, but I think that, collectively, we must understand the scale of what is taking place in Africa.
What is happening now is different from what happened in 1985, and requires a different response. It requires long-term food security policies and the improvement of the mechanisms for supporting the WFP. It is not fair to accuse people who raise those issues of being irresponsible. I am sure that we can get them in proper and rational proportion. They are 324WH important issues that need to be addressed if huge numbers of people in Africa are not to starve.
§ Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
I shall follow on from some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), the Chairman of the Select Committee, and pick up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor), so that the Department responsible for energy policy is mentioned almost obsessively in the debate.
One of the best features of the Government's policies is that they have moved some of the biggest issues facing humanity closer to centre stage instead of allowing them to be peripheral. DFID has been an enormous success. With the backing of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, international development has moved from the sidelines to the centre of affairs, so that more Members are able, and willing, to talk about debt, trade and so on.
However, we need to go much further on many issues, some of which are covered in the report. Some of the most important issues facing mankind hardly ever feature in the House. It is difficult for those of us with young grandchildren, who we hope will live comfortably towards the next century, to be cheerful about the prospects for them and billions of fellow human beings if we continue with our present behaviour. We could do much more to improve their lives. On issues such as climate change, the consequences of the damaging behaviour that we do not stop now are unlikely to be reversible in future.
We criticise others for short-termism, but there are very few long-termist politicians. Looking back at the report, I think that we were not political enough. It is a fascinating report in an academic sense, but we do not say clearly enough what will be the political consequences if we do not act. Climate change is one of those developing features. It is easy to be unconcerned about what seem to be tiny reported increases in temperature. However, not only are those small increases much more significant than we think, but they have a huge impact when they interact with other changes.
It is staggering to know that the 15 warmest years since record keeping started have occurred since 1980. If this year finishes as it began, it will be the hottest year ever. The consequences can be seen in extremes of weather such as more storms, withering heat and damaging floods. This year, peak flood levels in India were almost incomprehensible in their scale. As the hon. Member for Banbury said, climate change affects food security and water.
It is when climate change interacts with other things that its effect is huge. The distinguished American environmentalist, Lester Brown, demonstrates that by highlighting the links between rising population, climate change, falling water tables and falling grain supplies. I use his work extensively in my speech. The World Bank published a report showing that a rise of lm in the sea level would inundate half of Bangladesh's rice land, and that Bangladesh's population will increase from 133 million to 209 million by 2050. That is the scale of change that we are confronting. Every 1° C rise in temperature above the optimum for germination leads to a 10 per cent. fall in the germination rate of seeds.
325WH In 2000–01, world grain yields were lower than expected, which links to what the hon. Member for Banbury was saying. That has various causes, but a major factor is falling water tables in key food-producing areas such as the north China plain, the Punjab and the southern great plains of the United States. We are now seriously over-pumping water, by which I mean that water that is pumped out is not replaced. Some 480 million of the world's 6 billion people are being fed with grain produced by the unsustainable use of water. China has some of the greatest problems. Beijing stands more than 1 km above water. Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, stands 2 km above water, which lies in a basin.
China will soon be going to the world's grain markets, with serious consequences. It will be able to pay for its food, but what will that do to the people of Africa who cannot afford to pay for their food? Incredibly, it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce 1 tonne of grain. The most efficient way for water-deficient countries to import water is to buy grain from elsewhere. I invite hon. Members to think about the African context: as the hon. Member for Banbury said, it is clear that, with all the food programmes of southern Africa, the challenges for the World Food Programme are far greater than ever before. The problems used to relate to donors, resources and logistics. Now the question is whether there is enough food
Water shortages are becoming more and more prevalent, so that desertification is advancing in many parts of the world. In five years, the Gobi desert expanded by 20,000 sq km. Last week, newspapers published the story of an incredible Chinese plan to channel water from the Yangtse over thousands of miles to the plains in north China. Lester Brown says that no country has ever faced an ecological disaster like the one that is developing in China. The water problems that China faces are not unique; all north Africa and the middle east have huge problems too. I will return to the problems faced by the middle east.
Another part of the equation is the rising world population, which increases by 80 million per year in the poorest regions of the world. The biggest increases in population occur where food scarcity, desertification and poverty are worst. Those increases do not occur by choice, but because the wealthiest countries in the world fail to give the poorest countries access to one of the cheapest technologies in the world—the condom—the price of which is 2p, and which the poor would use if they had the choice. The price cannot be the excuse, but the will is.
Some of the poorest countries with the highest fertility rates, such as Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Liberia have seven children per family. We know that families in those poor countries would not have as many children if they had a choice. Some 350 million women a year do not have access to family planning.
In helping to produce the report I learned about the degree of interaction of environmental and climactic factors. We wrote on page 16 that people tend to operate in their tiny, narrow worlds so that climate change has tended to bethe preserve of climate scientists and environmental groups.326WH Returning to what I said at the beginning of my speech, I am glad that development has moved much closer to the centre of political concerns. We have proved in this country that debt and international development can be forced on to the international agenda, and that the World Bank and G8 countries can be moved. The millennium development goals now exist as a sort of ten commandments, but we also need a different kind of foreign and environmental policy that includes energy. It must be about the future of the planet and its citizens.
I shall give some examples of what foreign policy should be about. My first example may seem strange at first—it sounds minor but I believe it to be important. At the beginning of this year, President Bush refused to pay any money to the United Nations Population Fund because it had programmes in China. Congress was willing to support it, but Bush refused. That sounds like a minor story, but it is not.
Why did Bush refuse US funding to the UNFPA—not the UNFPA in China, but the UNFPA as a whole? In hock to the religious right in the United States, he asserted that the presence of the UNFPA gave support to China's one-child policy and forced abortions. That was contradicted by his own investigation team, and also by MPs from this House—I am delighted to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) is here. They showed that the UNFPA was not associated with abortion, that it was having a positive effect in weaning China away from the undesirable one-child policy, and that the abortion rate was falling in the countries where the UNFPA was working. The withdrawal of funds by Bush would actually increase the number of unsafe abortions in China.
Bush's action in withdrawing services from the whole world because of China received almost no attention. It had the effect of withdrawing condoms from Africa, which is ravaged by AIDS. The UN calculated the consequences of his actions. It estimated that for every $1 million not spent on condoms there are 360,000 unwanted pregnancies, 150,000 abortions, 800 maternal deaths and 25,000 deaths of children under five. I call that a weapon of mass destruction. We do not, however, take it seriously.
The world's poorest countries need 8 billion to 10 billion condoms per year to help stem the spread of AIDS, which infects 14,000 new people and kills 6,000 every day, but those countries receive only 1 billion condoms. We could save thousands of lives and infections at a fraction of the cost of the expenditure on the war on Iraq.
§ Dr. Tonge
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am sure he knows that I agree with everything that he has said. Does he not think that a lot of blame lies with the Roman Catholic Church, which absolutely refuses to condone the use of condoms in the third world? With the AIDS epidemic raging, however, that would be a pro-life measure.
§ Tony Worthington
My central point is that we do not take the issue seriously enough in foreign policy, even 327WH though it will cause far more damage than anything that Saddam Hussein might do. A growing population and a lack of choice about family planning leads to thousands of deaths, unsafe abortions and increased poverty in the world's poorest countries. Far more people are killed in that way than by armies.
On sustainable development, my other main example is Iraq. Why did no one talk about oil in our debate on Iraq last week? We and the Americans are in a conspiracy of silence about oil. The Russians, the French and the Chinese know that Iraq is about oil, because they have deals with Saddam which they fear will collapse. The Arab nations also know very well that Iraq is about oil. In a superb article in yesterday's Financial Times, Martin Wolf, who is not a Socialist Worker conspiracist, said:Many critics of US policy towards the region complain that it is largely about oil. One would certainly hope so. There are other reasons for concern, notably weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. But oil is the starting-point in consideration of the region.Our fossil fuel consumption is a major cause of global warming. Like many people, I believe that America's determination to secure oil reserves for itself is a major reason why it selected Iraq as its next target. It will be monstrous if American companies gain control of Iraqi oil as a consequence of the invasion. The people of Iraq should be the beneficiaries of that oil. Efforts to deal with the invasion's aftermath must come solely under the control of the United Nations. In going to war, we have gone to a lot of trouble to bring matters under UN control, but not a word has been said about UN control of those efforts.
Look at what happened in Afghanistan. American companies failed to negotiate access to the Caspian reserves with the Taliban, who provided succour to alQaeda and subsequently became the Antichrist. However, they did negotiate access within weeks of America winning the war. A pipeline now runs, under American control, from the Caspian sea, through Afghanistan and to the coast. We should not be surprised.
I urge people to look at the new American national security strategy, which I meant to bring with me. Under the heading "Enhance energy security", it states:We will work to strengthen our own energy security and the shared prosperity of the global economy by working with our allies, trading partners, and energy producers to expand the sources and types of global energy supply, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region.That is foreign policy. Within about a year, the Americans will probably have gained unfettered access to the Caspian and Iraqi reserves.
§ Mr. Colman
Would my hon. Friend accept that three Members of the House went to the United Nations three weeks ago and met representatives of the Iraq oil-for-food programme, which is otherwise known as the Iraq programme? It is under the auspices of the UN, which ensures that the benefit of all Iraqi oil exports—with small deductions to pay for Kuwaiti reparations and for the search for weapons of mass destruction—is given back to the Iraqi people in the form of food, housing and 328WH health systems, and in many other ways. Planning is going on at the UN to ensure that the system continues in the event of military action so that oil taken out of Iraq under UN auspices is used for the Iraqi people. That is the way forward.
§ Tony Worthington
Well, we shall see. It will console me if the young children of Iraq do not die in the same numbers, do not have the diseases that they have at the moment and if their health recovers. That is the first time that I have heard it said—I have not heard it announced by the Americans or by ourselves—that, after a war, Iraq will be under the control of the United Nations. That is an important statement.
§ Tony Worthington
Basically, that means that the biggest consequence of the Iraq war will be that the Americans will continue to produce at least 24 per cent. of greenhouse gas emissions and the people of Iraq will remain poor. The United States would not join in at Kyoto and is safeguarding its supply from abroad now that it has consumed its indigenous reserves. The United States Department of Energy calculates that there will be a 54 per cent. increase in oil production by 2020, mainly in the Gulf, and the Americans intend it to be under their control. If we are concerned about climate change and the resulting problems, we should not continue to ignore the consequences of that policy.
In the middle east and in north Africa, many people are currently being fed with grain produced by the unsustainable use of water. That is a serious problem. In Iraq, the population will increase from 13 million in 1980 to 32 million in 2015, and we should remember that one in two Iraqis is a child. Environmental changes are, therefore, intertwined with political concerns, but I have not heard them raised with those concerns in discussions on Iraq.
Our collective response to some of the biggest problems in the world, such as water shortage, HIV/AIDS, population growth and climate change, is hopelessly inadequate. We shall still spend billions on war, and it will not surprise me in the least if expenditure on the Iraq war is greater than the aid given to developing countries around the world—and we will then need to start rebuilding. We need to think differently about those issues. Easily the biggest problem about Iraq is that millions of poor people, especially children, are suffering. Their relief should be our priority, yet the United States and ourselves are willing to contemplate killing those children to depose a loader whom neither they nor their parents chose. When we win, will the survivors be any better off? I do not think so.
Foreign policy is in a time warp, obsessed with the rights of nation states and their often appalling rulers, rather than those in need. We need a different framework. I came across a glimmer of that recently in Canada, where a multinational working party was recently set up under the joint chairmanship of Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Secretary of Australia, and 329WH the distinguished international diplomat, Mohamed Sahnoun of Algeria, with other distinguished participants, such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Fidel Ramos.
That became the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. It produced a report called "The Responsibility to Protect", which is now being considered by the UN General Assembly. I am sure that people such as Kofi Annan think that the way we deal with the world's problems is antiquated anti hopelessly inefficient. I cannot do justice to that document, but if we used it as a driving force behind foreign policy, it would transform the way that we look at things. It illuminates the difficult concept of humanitarian intervention and justifies the circumstances in which we intervene in countries.
Security is crucial, but its meaning has become very broad. The traditional concept of security leaves out the most elementary and legitimate security concerns of people in their own lives, such as hunger, disease, inadequate shelter and unemployment. The traditional language of the nation state seems inappropriate in a globalised arena with big problems such as hunger and water shortages.
As the hon. Member for Banbury said, 28 million people in Africa are on the cusp of starvation, and our response gives them no hope. Those people are often more in danger from their Governments than from any other factor, but we seem to be prevented from intervening. It is difficult to find out what action is being taken, other than the overwhelmed humanitarian response of the World Food Programme. Our current investigations show that there is no food plan for Africa, despite all the UN organisations, Governments, think tanks and so on. There is no glimmer as to what Africa will do in its current situation.
As parliamentarians, many of us are frustrated by our peripheral nature to big issues of the day such as world poverty, climate change, AIDS health and so on. It is a privilege to serve on our Committee, because we can consider those issues whereas other parliamentarians cannot. However, one idea that comes out of the report is that hon. Members should urge DFID and other parts of the Government to take further what that Department has started. They should consider again what is meant by foreign policy and our priorities on it.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
I am grateful to be called to speak in such an important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and the members of the International Development Committee on producing a magnificent, profound and comprehensive report on some of the vital issues that face Mother Earth.
I have the privilege, if that is the right word, to be chairman of the 44-nation Council of Europe sustainable development committee. As such, I went to Johannesburg and there met several colleagues who are now in this Chamber. I pay tribute to the Government for ensuring that 76 people attended that important conference.
The global issue is that we are relentlessly and deliberately destroying the world's ecosystem. Our climate is changing. I agree with the main conclusions of the Select Committee's third report, which are: 330WHIrreversible changes are occurring in our climate … Environmental issues and poverty are closely linked. They have to be tackled together".and:A lack of policy integration has undermined action.It is understandably difficult to get agreement among all the countries of the world, and we must have that if we are to save its ecosystem.
Our air and atmosphere are increasingly polluted. I do not want to drown hon. Members with statistics. I shall mention a few but keep off them as much as I can. Our seas, waters and rivers are becoming dirtier. For example, the Black sea—the name may be appropriate—reaches depths of 6,000 ft and is dead from 300 ft down. We are depleting our fish stocks.
Our land is becoming more contaminated. Our deserts are expanding. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) mentioned the Gobi desert. The Sahara expands by several miles every year. Our urban areas grow remorselessly, which means that less land is available to grow food. Our rain forests are shrinking rapidly. So far, we have lost 70 per cent. of the world's forests. In the past 20 years we have chopped up 2.6 million sq km of rain forest. That is a meaningless statistic, so I shall explain it: it is the equivalent of 11 United Kingdoms. That process cannot go on; if it does, the world will be irreparably damaged. All is not doom and gloom, however. We have managed to stem the shrinking of temperate forest and, indeed, modestly increase its area, mainly in the northern hemisphere, of course, by about 170,000 square miles.
All that is happening at a time when, as the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, the world's population is escalating. It is interesting that it took until 1830 for the world's population to reach 1 billion. Then it took only 100 years for it to reach 2 billion. It has increased in the past 70 years from 2 billion to 6 billion and, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is expected to be 10 billion by 2060. Population growth, with reference to the poorest countries, is not only a question of whether they are provided with birth control mechanisms. People living in a country where death from disease or starvation is likely tend to have more children, to ensure that some will survive. I am sorry to put it in such stark terms, but it is true.
Even today, with 6 billion people in the world, while a quarter of the world's population is over-nourished, the other three quarters are anything from under-nourished to starving. Those are the statistics of the madhouse in which we are living.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
That is an interesting statistic that I confess I had not heard before. I hope that copyright on that is only a couple of miles around Richmond Park and not further.
We had, effectively, the first Earth summit in Stockholm 30 years ago and I am old enough to have attended a conference that was held adjacent to it. I felt 331WH when I attended the Johannesburg conference that the wheel had come full circle. Ten years ago the Rio summit was held, and five years ago at the Kyoto summit the protocol on climate change to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions was brought into being. I hope that that will be ratified shortly. It is necessary for 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent. or more of emissions, to do so. One country, with 5 per cent. of the world's population, is responsible for 25 per cent. of harmful emissions, and it is a bitter disappointment that the United States does not at present feel that it can ratify the protocol. I am delighted that China, India and Brazil recently agreed—I may be out of date in my information—to ratify the protocol. I hope that it will become a reality.
When we talk about sustainable development we all have one thing in common—we all represent the cleverest and most distinguished constituents. However, I wonder how many of our constituents know exactly what we mean when we talk about sustainable development. As the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) will recall, while we were in Johannesburg, I suggested that we should have a competition to see who could define sustainable development in the simplest terms and in as few words as possible, so that everyone could understand it. This answer was not the winner, but I would define it as conserving the world's finite resources for future generations. That is only eight words, and it may not be a good definition, but it makes a serious point, which is that if we want to get the people on our side, we must ensure that they know what we are talking about.
Many people were disappointed with the relative paucity of specific commitments at the Johannesburg world summit on sustainable development, even though it was long on aspiration. However, certain specific commitments were given, and I want to speak for a couple of minutes about a few of them.
§ Hugh Bayley (City of York)
There was a lot of adverse press coverage on the paucity of new commitments emanating from the conference. However, does the hon. Gentleman share my view that, after Rio and a lot of other UN conferences on poverty and international development, a stack of commitments—hundreds of them—remain unfulfilled? Surely, the priority at Johannesburg should have been to work out how to start fulfilling some of those commitments rather than adding yet more to the wish list.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
I agree, except on one point: some specific commitments still have to be made. One, which I welcome, is to reduce by 800 million, or by more than half, the number of people who lack proper sanitation. Such a commitment is necessary. The question is: why not 100 per cent. by such and such a date? I do not want to get into any tautology, but such an essential, specific commitment must be necessary when we have to live with the obscenity of 6,000 children dying every day through water-borne diseases.
I welcome the commitment to increase aid to the third world by an extra $12 billion, half of which is to go to the countries of Africa. However, that money must be 332WH seen in the context of the $55 billion of aid that Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries collectively provide each year to the developing countries. Moreover, that $55 billion is only one seventh of the money that developed countries use to subsidise their own agricultural industries. It seems that we live in a haywire world where the total amount of aid going to developing countries can be only one seventh of what relatively rich countries give themselves—perhaps as an insurance against the developing countries being able to export their food products to the rest of the world. Again, that is an obscenity.
I welcome the specific commitment to end gender discrimination by 2012. In many African countries, girls are not valued as much as boys. Another commitment was that primary education should be available to children throughout the world by 2015. I welcome all that, but most commitments are aspirational. For example, the only commitment made on agriculture was a call to end subsidies. No country has agreed on a path to achieve it. We must make greater use of renewable resources.
I had hoped that we could build on Kyoto and make more specific commitments. Fish stocks have been mentioned, as has marine pollution protection by 2012. I do not demean the aspirations that have been agreed. However, we should have a greater sense of urgency about making further commitments if we are to save Mother Earth.
One of the good things about the Johannesburg summit was the parliamentary input. A lot of politicians were there from the 15 countries of the European Union and the 44 of the Council of Europe. Many others were represented by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. We have a role to play. I commend the actions of the previous Government and the current one in this regard, but there is an urgent need for parliamentarians in other countries to understand that their Governments should he encouraged in their aspirations, and that the commitments that they made in Johannesburg should be monitored and met. Together, as parliamentarians, we can ensure that they do so. The issue far transcends parochial political party games. The Johannesburg world summit on sustainable development was a very successful summit. If nothing else, it was the environmental wake-up call for the world.
§ Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley)
We have heard a great deal from the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) about the future of the planet. None of us can predict the future, but I was struck by the latest projections from the scientists who gave evidence to the Select Committee, which suggested that the average global temperature in the 21st century could rise by between 1.4 and 5.8° C.
Ten years ago, global warming was a matter of conjecture. Now we see it affecting peoples all around the world. The Inuit of north America see it in the disappearing ice cap, the starving polar bears and unusual whale migrations. That is threatening their unique way of life and putting their survival at risk. The people of shanty towns from Latin America to south- 333WH east Asia see it in lethal hurricanes, landslides and flood waters. We Europeans see it in vanishing alpine glaciers, Mediterranean droughts and freak storms. Researchers see it in absolutely everything—tree rings, lake sediments and bubbles trapped in ice cores. The world has not been warmer for a millennium, and it has probably never been warmer than in the past 25 years. I f my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie is to be believed, the last five years have been warmer than ever before.
With the physics of the greenhouse effect a matter of scientific fact, it is hard to disagree with the overwhelming evidence of climatologists, who say that what we are seeing is man-made change. Wet areas are becoming wetter, dry areas are becoming drier, El Niño and the Asian monsoon are becoming more extreme and more unpredictable. Inevitably, areas already affected by famine will grow less food, while many rich lands, which do not need it, will grow more. Sea level rise threatens hundreds of millions of people from the Nile delta to the islands of the Indian ocean and the south Pacific. Many continental coastlines are also at risk, and they contain much larger populations: such regions are already home to half the world's population, and they have population growth rates that are double the global average.
The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) said that the global human population has doubled since 1960, to 6.1 billion, with growth mostly in poorer countries. Consumption expenditure has more than doubled since 1970, with increases mostly in richer countries. During that time, we seem to have created wealth on an unimaginable scale, yet half the world still exists on less than $2 a day. We have learned how to extract resources for our own use, but not how to deal with the resulting waste.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) referred to CO2 emissions. I understand that they increased twelvefold between 1900 and 2000. In the process, the world's climate changed. The human and ecological impact has included rising oceans, increased flooding, coastal erosion, and loss of coastal cropland, wetlands and living space. The intensity and frequency of hurricanes and other hazardous weather appear to be increasing. The growing population that lives in coastal areas is endangered.
I think that the great question for our new century is not whether the activities of the 20th century have set us on a collision course with the environment, but how we are going to deal with it—what are going to do about it? Human ingenuity has got us this far. We need to apply it to the future. How are we going to ensure the wellbeing of human populations, and still protect the natural world? Everywhere we face critical decisions. How can we protect and promote fundamental values, such as the rights to health and human dignity? We also need to think carefully, but urgently, about the choices. We should extend the time in which to understand the implications of those choices.
Today, every part of the natural and human world is linked to every other part, and local decisions have a global impact. Global policy, or the lack of it, affects local communities and the conditions in which they live. Humans have always changed and been changed by the natural world. However, the prospects for human development now depend on our wisdom in managing 334WH that relationship. I think that one of the key factors will be population. On that issue, most countries in the world, except for the US, the Vatican and a few right-wing Islamic states, agree on action to broaden choice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie mentioned President Bush's withdrawal of funds from the United Nations Population Fund on very spurious grounds indeed. I wonder if hon. Members are aware of President Bush's most recent statement, that he is withdrawing the United States' commitment to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change programme of action. I believe that that is an absolute disgrace. It is a very serious blow for women's health, human rights and the sustainability of the planet.
In 1998 I was in Yemen, which is one of the world's poorest countries. I met the Minister of Health, who said that Yemen only had enough water resources to last for the next 10 years, if the population remained stable. Yemen still has one of the highest fertility rates in the world. As far as I am aware, it has three family planning clinics and one specialist women's doctor, courtesy of Marie Stopes International. The Americans have recently considered bombing Yemen. They need not bother—all they have to do is wait, and the Yemenis will eventually die of thirst. A lot of questions arise when we can consider bombing a country as poor as Yemen, which needs as much help to limit its population and feed its starving.
Population and the environment are closely related, but the links between them are complex and varied, and depend on specific circumstances. Generalisations about the negative effects of population growth on the environment are often misleading, and population scientists abandoned such an approach years ago. As the human population increases and globalisation proceeds, the key questions must be how to use available resources of land and water to produce food for all; how to promote economic development and end poverty so that everyone can afford to eat; and how to address the human and environmental consequences of industrialisation and the loss of biological diversity.
Understanding how population and environment are linked means examining how affluence, consumption, technology and population growth interrelate, and considering previously ignored social concerns such as gender roles and relations, political structures and governance at all levels. The relationship between environment, population and social development is now better understood.
There is broad agreement on the means and the ends. Women's empowerment is a development end in itself, and removing the obstacles to women's exercise of economic and political power is one of the means to end poverty. Reproductive health is part of an essential package of health care and education. It is a means to achieve the goal of women's empowerment, but is also a human right that includes the right to choose the size of the family and the spacing of children. If all the donor countries lived up to their commitments, everyone who wanted access to reproductive health services would have it. It would save the lives of 500,000 women, half of whom are in Africa, who die in childbirth or of pregnancy-related disease every year, and it would limit the spread of HIV and AIDS.
335WH Achieving equal status between men and women, guaranteeing the right to reproductive health and ensuring that individuals and couples can make their own choice about family size will also help to slow population growth rates and reduce the future size of the world's population. Among other things, slower population growth in developing countries will contribute measurably towards relieving environmental stress.
Changes in the size, rate of growth and distribution of human populations has an enormous impact on the environment and on development prospects. People and human activity are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. More people are using more resources more intensely, and they are leaving larger footprints on the Earth than ever before. I therefore welcome the long-overdue decisions taken at the Johannesburg summit, especially those on water sanitation, renewable energy and reproductive health.
I regret that the United States insisted on goals rather than targets, especially for renewable energy. Goals are merely aspirational, but targets are more concrete, and it is sad that a country that is as rich and has as high a standard of living as the United States did not feel able to set such targets for those in the developing world.
As other hon. Members have said, what is important is implementation. We need to ensure that decisions taken in Johannesburg are implemented, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell hon. Members what projects the United Kingdom Government are undertaking to aid that implementation. With the Rio summit statement in mind, I also hope that those projects will put human beings at the centre of sustainable development.
§ 4.3 pm
§ Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)
What strikes me in this welcome debate is how much has moved on since our report was published. We have had the conference in Johannesburg, and we are discussing international crises, and this will prove to be an interim rather than a final report. I welcome the Government's response.
Some 10 years ago, the Earth summit—the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—brought the two huge areas of environment and development together for the first time. Some of us were environmental specialists, others were development specialists, and never the twain shall meet. The two groups even conflicted, so that some people argued that it was better to save the forest than to save people, rather than seeing that saving the forest and the people went together.
I especially welcome a couple of statements in the Government's response. Paragraph 9.1 says:We agree with the Committee's conclusion that climate change has social and humanitarian impacts, in addition to environmental and economic dimensions".The big words are there, but the problem is carrying them through.
Paragraph 7.1 appears under the wonderful heading, "Mainstreaming climate change into national development strategies". I sometimes wonder what this 336WH cliché "mainstreaming" actually means in practice. It is the same with another familiar phrase, "joined-up government": we use it, but does it ever happen? I suggest that mainstreaming means not only bringing together the big words "environment" and "development", but linking together north and south and recognising that the policies and practices of the north interact with the south. That is a crucial element of the environment debate's contribution to the study and analysis of development.
If pollution molecules teach us anything, it is that molecules do not accept but transcend politically drawn national boundaries. They demonstrate that our world is a small, fragile and interconnected place. Too often in the past we have used the word "mainstreaming" without realising that our energy policies in the north are polluting strategies for the south. Our trade strategies also directly affect the south.
I am not and never have been a Malthusian, to put it in old historical terms. I do not believe that the number of people is the cause of the problem or that we have a shortage of resources—food, water or energy—on the globe. The northern world is overwhelmed with the production of food. We could argue, as Shakespeare said, that it is a matter of distribution and undoing the excess. Getting the food and water into the places where it is needed is required to tackle poverty, thus linking north and south.
One of the biggest issues, which is perhaps not taken seriously enough by the Select Committee—though our analysis of trade is getting close to it—is dumping. We need to put a question mark over dumping food. The Americans have drifted into the debate with the controversial, sometimes deeply misunderstood, issue of genetically modified foods. Food is being turned away because it is GM and not milled in Africa. We have to face up to the debate and ask whether that amounts to dumping rather than sustainability, which we are still a long way from achieving.
I welcome the fact that we now debate climate change rather than global warming. I never believed—perhaps it was just a dream—that as a result of global warming, my city of Leeds would become a warmer place, allowing people to grow oranges in their back gardens. If the Gulf stream current were switched off, the climate of the north of England would be more like Nova Scotia in winter than the south of Spain. The impact of climate change has not yet been properly analysed and understood. It is a danger that needs further study by the experts. I welcomed the experts who gave evidence to our Committee, but we need to continue to study the problem, not assume that we already know the trends and their likely impact.
I read an article in a newspaper in London last night, saying that some of the city's stores had already begun their winter sales because of the milder autumn: people have not started wearing their winter woollies. That will affect sales figures in the shops and begin to affect the economy more widely. If we are already feeling the effect of a warmer autumn, imagine the massive impact of climate change on poor countries.
337WH I was recently in northern Nigeria with other members of the Select Committee. Our Chairman, the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), used the phrasethe shocks that hit the poor even harder".I witnessed desertification, to use another big word, when the sands swept into northern Nigeria over previously harvested land. The people have no chance of clawing it back again. I saw rivers of old that had completely dried out and would never be rivers again because the rains have moved south and the northern deserts are moving into sub-Saharan areas. That means fewer possibilities for inland irrigation and the crops that used to grow there. The impact of climate change on developing countries can be viewed as incremental, but compared with the shocks that we get on climate change, it is massive.
As we have brought together the development of people and environmental concerns, I shall refer back to pollution. We tend to think that pollution is a northern problem, and that if we address it here, we may, as a sort of trickle over, affect the south. China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, will have massive problems with fossil fuel burning in future. We must address that in a more holistic, global fashion now. If we can address the pollution problems here, particularly carbon dioxide generation and fossil fuel burning, we will set the patterns of trade and accessibility for the rest of the world, because the technologies in renewable energies that we can develop will then be cheaper for developing countries to use. We must move faster down that road.
It has been said that 1 billion people are without safe water to drink. Twice that number lack sanitation. Management of water resources means transcending boundaries and working out subtler political strategies between countries that share resources. That will be a challenge to the politics of the future in Africa, the former Soviet Union countries, Europe and elsewhere. How should we manage rivers that transcend national borders? The templates that we draw up for that in Europe will help other countries, including those in Africa.
Two billion people do not have access to modern energy services. Let us focus for a moment on wood burning, which is linked to illegal logging. If people strip the land to stay alive, because they have no other means of cooking, what alternatives have they? To be more positive, in Ghana, which the Committee has also visited, some of the forestry management by local people brings together their knowledge with environmental sensitivities to achieve sustainability and conservation. There should be positive local strategies, rather than outsiders moving in on a huge scale with no sensitivity to the local people. That must be the way forward.
The reports from the Johannesburg summit lacked practical examples of small-scale practices that could be amplified elsewhere. Even the House of Commons Library research paper on sustainable development and the summit gave a bleak summary, saying that it was widely considered to have made little progress. In a way, we all know that, but to be repeatedly told it leads on to the incredibly ugly and quite dangerous expression "compassion fatigue", describing those who have heard 338WH it all before and have no energy left to do anything. We must not run out of energy for this agenda, but keep driving it forward.
I should like to affirm a few of the things that happened at the summit. As the research paper states, itreaffirmed sustainable development as a central element of the international agenda and gave new impetus to global action to fight poverty and protect the environment.At the very least, the summit insisted that that theme should be up there on the agenda at every G8 summit, international debate and debate in our national Parliaments. The paper continues:The understanding of sustainable development was broadened and strengthened as a result of the Summit, particularly the important linkages between poverty, the environment and the use of natural resources.Even the parts on water were welcomed as moving the debate on a little further. Five years ago, we talked about global warming; now we talk about climate change.
The language and the subtleties of understanding are also changing. An article on the summit website states:The summit resulted in major government commitments to expand access to safe water, proper sanitation and modern, clean energy services, as well as to reverse the decline of ecosystems by restoring fisheries, curtailing illegal logging and limiting the harm caused by toxic chemicals. In addition to those commitments, many voluntary partnerships were launched in Johannesburg by governments, NGOs and businesses to tackle specific projects.We need more information and more action on those projects to draw out what can be done, to give us a beacon of hope, rather than simply to say that the scale of the problem is too large.
The article also pointed out that countries had committed themselves to expanding access to those without access to modern energy resources. It emphasised that although countries might not agree on targets for phasing in renewable energy, at least there were commitments to greener energy. We should address the question of subsidies for the sorts of energy that are not consistent with sustainable development. We should examine energy subsidies in the same way in which we will examine agricultural subsidies in the north, Europe and the United States, which damage trade for Africa. The continued burning of fossil fuel must not become the template.
An article in The Observer on 8 September 2002 stated that voters believed that the Earth summit had done nothing to help the planet. Many people did believe that. I quote, however, from the journal Science of 13 September 2002:'There's something to build upon, but it's more like a statement of intentions,' says economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute. Like others, Sachs was disappointed by the dearth of concrete plans that emerged, including the lack of support for the 'coalition of the willing' on renewable energy or his own suggestion to triple the budget of the world's global network of agricultural research. 'But there's at least a fighting chance of making this a real plan of action,' he says.We must remain focused on some of the particularities that were in the commitments, and look for projects to carry them forward.
One example is renewable energy. There must be an understanding of the stronger links between accelerating what could be called market development 339WH of renewable energy projects in the developed world, and in the technology cost reductions that will enable those projects to be carried forward. If wind, water and solar power were suggested as the way forward in renewable energies, most of the world could not afford the technology to introduce or use it. There is not even an order of scale, because it has not been introduced in Britain.
Yet, at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, I saw the equivalent of a freezer box of the sort that is used for picnics, the lid of which had a solar panel on it. That product is cheap to make, and has been sent to Africa. It will be useful for transporting vaccines to help tackle the need for health care drugs and medicines in areas where there is no electricity supply. The focus should be on smaller scale projects that get the technology into an appropriate form to undermine the dependency on fossil fuels.
There is much work to do in Britain. We must examine the export credit guarantee system to see whether it supports renewable energies rather than huge fossil fuel projects.
§ Mr. Colman
Does my hon. Friend welcome the announcement made in Johannesburg by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that £50 million in cover by the Export Credits Guarantee Department would be available for renewable exports from the UK?
§ Mr. Battle
Yes, but we must ensure that the market strategies and developments in the UK are complementing that, so that British organisations are in a position to establish that trade link, and their products are exportable and usable at the other end.
We could move in the direction of some proper joined-up government by reviewing the subsidies and policies that act as a support to environmentally harmful energy sources in Britain. We should have the confidence and courage to say that what we are subsidising is undermining the development of sustainable potential for developing countries, as we are saying on questions such as the common agricultural policy. We must shift the debate in that direction, particularly in relation to energy and water.
I have taken more than enough time to make my point. I believe that it was the great environmentalist Schumacher who taught us the slogan, "Think global, act local". At the time, I thought that it meant that if I tried to understand the world better, and got an allotment in Leeds and grew my own potatoes and cabbages, I would be okay and doing my bit to save the planet. I now believe that that slogan does not mean, "think global and act local", but, "think and act locally and globally at the same time." What we do in the UK profoundly affects whether we impoverish those in Africa, rather than them simply being subject to the vicissitudes and changes of climate that are beyond their control.
§ Hugh Bayley (City of York)
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) may not know what joined-up government is, but he understands joined-up thinking.
340WH I agree with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) that some important commitments were made at the Johannesburg summit on sanitation, energy issues and making Africa a greater priority. I welcome those commitments. I am glad that he welcomed my point that we must move beyond adding items to the shopping list and move to an agenda concerned with implementation. We must move from the shopping list to making a few purchases: to buy some condoms for people suffering from HIV/AIDS; to buy some irrigation schemes to pump water back into the two thirds of dry land in Malawi, which surrounds a freshwater lake. We should spend some money in Europe on agricultural imports from Africa, so that its people do not have to come to us cap in hand but can earn their way towards sustainable development.
One of the starkest statistics mentioned during the Select Committee's inquiry was quoted by Professor Martin Parry of the university of East Anglia. His team estimates that, by the middle of this century, hundreds of millions of people will be at risk as a result of climate change, due to water shortages, hunger, coastal flooding and increased disease. Those risks are concentrated almost wholly in the poorest countries of the world. For example, of those several hundred million, 50 million will be newly at risk of hunger as a result of climate change, and almost all of them will be in Africa.
Some people talk about climate change as if it were something that will happen in the future, but it is happening now. It is one of the causes of the flooding that took place in my constituency two years ago, the flooding in Prague earlier this year and the flooding in Mozambique. It is also one of the causes of drought in many parts of Africa. However, there is a difference between its impact on countries in the prosperous northern half of the world and its impact on countries in the south. Erratic rainfall affects many more people in Africa because they are much poorer, more vulnerable and unable to absorb the shock of climate change.
In the run-up to the Johannesburg summit, there was something of a war of words between environmentalists in northern developed countries, who wanted developing countries to commit to changing their lifestyles to make more sustainable use of natural resources, such as carbon fuels, and some leaders in developing countries, who thought that it was a bit of a cheek for people in the north to try to impose limits on heir development when we applied no such limits to our industrial revolution.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
That is absolutely right. The point was eloquently made by a distinguished South African politician, who said, "We must remember that we are talking about sustainable development. We need to develop. You must help us ensure that we do it in a sustainable way. We are not in this business to agree not to develop our countries."
§ Hugh Bayley
I agree, and I am glad that that consensus has been built. Before the Johannesburg summit, the Secretary of State for International Development told the Select Committee, in her characteristically forthright way, that she saw the summit as an opportunity for the very northern-dominated green agenda, which is almost anti-development, to evolve into one of concern for the 341WH environment and sustainable development, as the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet suggested was necessary. He and the Secretary of State are right; the two things cannot be separated. The combination of poverty and environmental shocks leads to humanitarian disasters. The poverty means that people cannot cope with those shocks.
As we have heard, 14 million people are at risk of famine in southern Africa. Poor and erratic rain may have been the trigger for that famine, but it is the underlying vulnerability of the people there that has put so many lives at risk. In Malawi, the vulnerability comes about for several reasons, such as population growth, over-utilisation of land, mono-cropping of white maize instead of crop rotation, and lack of irrigation. Another factor is lack of diversification, not only of agriculture but of the economy as a whole. People do not spend some time farming a smallholding and some time working in a local factory, because there is no local factory.
That lack of diversity in the economy comes about because of lack of infrastructure. Also, unfair terms of trade mean that no one with money—us in the rich world—would buy any products that those people could produce. Problems to do with people in government in developing countries and in our countries, as well as the problems of international agencies, play their part. The sale of the strategic grain reserve in Malawi was badly handled by the Government there, but stemmed from poor advice by the World Bank and development specialists here in the north.
Above all, the vulnerability in southern Africa is the result of a population weakened by a range of tropical diseases, especially the HIV/AIDS epidemic. That has cut agricultural output, because people are too weak to till the land. It has cut the productivity of the rest of the economy, because key workers of working age are dying off. It undermines the human capital that Governments have at their disposal to respond to the crisis. When combined with malnourishment, HIV means that more people than would otherwise be the case die from opportunistic infections.
When the Select Committee took evidence for our report, it was clear that there were two contrasting responses to global climate change. In the north, the response was mitigation. The answer was seen as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed and continue to contribute to climate change. In the south, that did not seem relevant. That is not surprising, as virtually none of those emissions comes from the poorest countries of the world; they come from the rich north. Instead, the strategy of the south was to adapt. The people there did not want or create global climate change, but they have to live with it. The only way in which they can survive is by adapting, which explains why there was such disagreement—a war of words—between northern environmentalists and some development campaigners.
There is no dichotomy between the two responses. To deal with the problem, we need to act on both of them. Greenhouse gas emissions have come from the north. We need to do whatever we can to reduce them to slow down the rate of increase of climate change. It will carry on increasing whatever we do, but if we reduce the emissions we will slow the rate of increase.
342WH We also need to tackle the changes. Professor Parry warned the Select Committee that hundreds of millions of people were at risk because of climate change. His team estimated that to halve the number of people affected by 2050 would require a 10 times greater reduction of greenhouse gas emissions than envisaged by the Kyoto treaty. To cut the number of victims from hundreds of millions to tens of millions would require twice that reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—20 times the reduction that the Kyoto treaty requires of rich northern countries. I want all rich countries on both sides of the Atlantic to make greater progress but it is clear that they will not make a large enough reduction to reduce the risk to those millions of people. We must therefore address the adaptation agenda, too.
Both the mitigation agenda on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the north, and the adaptation agenda have cost implications for us in the rich world. Only we can address them, and there will be serious consequences if we do not. One consequence will be that millions of people will die over the coming decades.
The link between poverty, disease and famine is not new. The population of our country boomed during the 12th and 13th centuries, and by the end of the 13th century, it was about 6 million. By the end of the 14th century, a mixture of food shortages and disease had devastated it and it had declined to about 2 million. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet was right that there has been a generally exponential trend in global population growth, but there have been peaks and troughs in particular countries. Those have come about for reasons such as the mass famine that we now face in Africa. The problems remain very similar and are caused by the same inability to move food to populations that are experiencing a food shortage.
Serious famines continued in England until the 17th century, but they were not national famines: they occurred far from the capital, in more isolated areas that were largely in the north and where transport links were poor. Those are exactly the kinds of places where famine is to be found in Africa—isolated areas far from the main urban centres and with poor transport links.
In the 1980s, people throughout the world were shocked by the consequences of the famine in the horn of Africa. It is perhaps not surprising that an Irish rock star, not an English rock star, responded to the situation and galvanised public attention through the Live Aid concert and the activity that flowed from it. Ireland is probably the last country in western Europe to have suffered a devastating famine. Between 1845 and 1850, 1 million people died in the potato famine, and another 1 million emigrated.
Ireland blamed, and still blames, Great Britain for failing to respond. It is right to do so, because the catastrophe of the potato famine was not simply a matter of adverse environmental conditions, although those certainly played a part. The problem was that trading laws made it impossible to get affordable food to those who were suffering a food shortage because their crops had failed. The corn laws, which were introduced at the beginning of the 19th century, artificially inflated the price of corn so that British producers and landowners got a good price. They meant that corn could not be imported into Britain until a shortage had caused the price to rise to 80 shillings a quarter.
343WH There is an uncanny parallel between the corn laws and the common agricultural policy, which sets barriers to prevent imports of cheaper grain from outside the Community and artificially inflates prices for the benefit of farmers. The potato famine did persuade the country to change policy and to abolish the corn laws, but we did it too late. We did not do it until 1846, by which time the potato famine had devastated the population.
§ Mr. Mike Hancock (in the Chair)
Order. May I point out that at least two more colleagues want to speak, and the Minister and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson will start winding up at 5 pm. Trying to fit everyone in means that we will have to drift back to the issue rather than stay with the history lesson.
§ Hugh Bayley
I take your advice, Mr. Hancock.
We need a modern Anti-Corn Law League to work across Europe to secure the change in our current protectionist agriculture and food price policies, and we need to inspire north America to change the US Farm Act. Famine in Africa is not just an aberration, nor it is due to back luck or bad weather. It may be triggered by bad weather, but the underlying reason is a combination of population growth, HIV/AIDS, poverty and underdevelopment. As a result, people in southern Africa are unable to cope with the shock of a bad harvest.
As well as changing the terms of trade to enable Africa to make its way in the world by selling goods, particularly agricultural products, to the rich world, we must increase development spending. That is necessary in order to deal with the causes of that fundamental vulnerability—to tackle HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to provide irrigation, to improve governance, to reform agriculture, and to put in the transport infrastructure and the education that southern Africa needs.
The Zedillo report produced for the financing for development summit estimated that an additional $50 billion a year would be needed if the millennium development goals were to be met in the poorest countries of Africa by 2015. The conference pledged $12 billion. In order to avert the sort of consequences that we are seeing in Africa, especially famine, we need greatly to increase our aid. I would like the Government to continue what they are doing and to increase the proportion of the national wealth spent on aid, moving as quickly as possible towards that 0.7 per cent. goal.
I congratulate the Government on showing the rest of Europe the way, and on getting a commitment that the rest of Europe will move to the European average of 0.39 per cent. However, that alone will not be enough. We need to go further. If we do not, famine—this year's will happen over the next few months—will be a recurring problem. The underlying reasons will not have been dealt with. That will make Africans as angry with Europeans for generations to come as the Irish potato famine made the people of Ireland angry with our country.
§ Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)
My being called now is somewhat unexpected; I thought I had more of a graveyard slot. I thought that the hon. Member for 344WH Banbury (Tony Baldry), the Chairman of the Select Committee, was right to draw attention to the impending famine in southern Africa and Ethiopia—it should be topmost in our minds. Other hon. Members gave a selection of brilliant speeches, and I have enjoyed listening to the debate on the Government's response to an excellent report. I am glad that the Select Committee is still keeping up its standards even though I am no longer a member.
Although we heard some wonderful speeches, sadly they are only speeches. Several hon. Members said that we need action. We concentrate on symptoms and short-term cures instead of looking at the root causes of the scourge of famine. The Chairman of the Select Committee asked whether the Department for International Development was forward-thinking enough. That was a good question. Is anyone in the world forward-thinking enough about the issue?
I share the admiration of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) for Lester Brown and his very good book, "The Earth Policy Reader". The hon. Gentleman managed to read all of it. I read only half—I left mine on a plane—so I was interested to hear the rest of what he had said. In essence, his message is that if we care about our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, we have to do something about this world. The planet is in a terrible state.
A key statistic for me was that a 1* rise in temperature due to climate change and global warming means a 10 per cent. drop in yield of the world's food harvest. That is terrifying when one thinks of all the other factors. In the long term, it means fewer crops, over-worked land, erosion and a drop in the water tables. Lester Brown puts that very well. Global warming means more precipitation and flooding—water in the wrong place. All those effects take place in the world's ecosystem. We cannot lose the water or the soil. It all goes somewhere. It does not drop off the earth into the solar system; it stays with us. The trouble is that it is moving around; deserts are expanding while other bits of the world are submerged. That will mean—not many hon. Members have mentioned this—huge movements of populations over the next century as people try to escape the desert and the floods and to leave the famine in one area to move to areas where there is more food. It means more instability in the world, more refugees, more economic migrants. The Government are rather dismissive in their response to the report, which was very good on the issue. They spend a lot of time arguing about whether people should be called refugees, while the world faces a serious problem.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) talked about language. His word was "mainstreaming". I cannot resist giving another example. I asked a parliamentary question in May of this year about the progress of national strategies for sustainable development, of which DFID is very fond, and which countries had them in place. The answer came back that it was not easy to quantify how many were in place because they were identified as characteristic of poverty reduction strategy programmes. Therefore, I asked which poverty reduction strategy programmes displayed those characteristics. The reply was—with apologies to the civil servants who are present: 345WHThere is no internationally-agreed system for monitoring the extent to which poverty reduction strategy programmes exhibit characteristics of strategic processes for sustainability. The 'characteristics' of strategic processes for sustainability are broadly the same as the agreed 'principles' of strategic processes of sustainability. The challenge is to ensure that strategies adhere to these principles."—[0fficial Report, 4 July 2002; Vol. 388, c. 542W.]So that is all right, then. Is that clear? What is the point of trying to work out what it means? It is all words; it is gobbledegook and does not contain much action.
Climate change is the problem and we must look, as some hon. Members have done, to see who the culprits are. Of course, it is us in the north. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), who made a fascinating speech, pointed out that, with a population of 287.5 million, the United States has the highest emissions of carbon dioxide in the world. India has the third highest, with a population of slightly more than 1 billion. The United States, however, produces five times as much CO2 as India does, yet it has only a quarter of the population. That is a frightening statistic.
A few years ago, I went to India with the Select Committee. I remember talking very patronisingly about sustainable development and how we must not pollute the atmosphere. A gentleman to whom I was talking laid into me, saying, "You come here and tell us to engage in sustainable development and not to pollute the atmosphere. All through the 19th century, when your countries in the north were getting rich, you were polluting the atmosphere, bringing about climate change, cutting down forests and sending children down mines and up chimneys. No one came and told you to stop, so how dare you criticise what we do?" We should bear that in mind, because developing countries need energy and development as much as we did in the 19th century. Although we can use export credit guarantees and all sorts of other measures to encourage renewable sources of energy, we in the north must lead. We must cut our energy programmes and start using renewables. We cannot just preach to the developing countries to do so.
Hon. Members mentioned the United States. It really endears itself to the rest of the world, does it not, by pulling out of the Kyoto treaty among a dozen other treaties? We heard from two hon. Members, who were also in Ottawa, about the United States pulling out of the reproductive rights programmes. What that country is doing is astounding. It is pulling out of international treaties all over the place. Does it really believe that that is the way to fight the terror?
We must understand that developing countries need energy as much as we do. The only way for them to get the things that they need so that they can have enough food to feed their population and we can stabilise the world is for us to understand their plight and start using less energy.
In conclusion, the Government responses to the report were encouraging but lacked concrete proposals. This is a huge problem, which can only be tackled globally. I am so disappointed that the Department for International Development—my favourite Department after five years of working alongside it—did not see fit to tackle the problem of the United States' noncompliance with international treaties. That country across the pond is becoming a very greedy monster indeed.
§ Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)
At this late hour, I have discarded some 90 per cent. of my speech, so I hope that my colleagues will forgive me if it sounds somewhat disjointed.
We had our first briefing from the Hadley centre and the Tyndall centre when we discussed the environment and development in January. We were all astounded by the significance of what we were hearing. I hope that Members of both Houses will understand the significance of the matter, which this debate has reflected.
The introduction to the world summit on sustainable development that was given by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) gave us some insight into how some 60,000 people came together there. Not only Governments and non-governmental organisations, but parliamentarians and businesses attended the summit. I especially congratulate the Government on not giving in to the media campaign to reduce the size of the delegation, and was pleased to be one of the members representing the Select Committee on International Development. The work by parliamentarians, Global Action, the IPU and GLOBE significantly affected outcomes.
I listened to what the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) said, but two of the most impressive people in Johannesburg were Representative Jim Greenwood, who chairs GLOBE World, and Representative Chris Shays, who chairs GLOBE USA. Both are members of the House of Representatives of the US Congress and fight their corner well. It is important to recognise that, last year, the US Senate voted unanimously in favour of re-engaging with the Kyoto protocol, which is often overlooked. It is a great shame that those factors have not yet impinged on presidential decisions. In many respects, the United States is far ahead of us. It was very beneficial to be in Johannesburg to listen to parliamentarians from the United States, as well as from other countries.
Johannesburg was the summit where business came of age. A vast number of partnerships was proposed by multinational corporations from this country and abroad, but particularly from the UK. In that connection, I congratulate Business in the Community, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today, on the tremendous work that it has done on social responsibility. I hope that it would condemn, as I do, an article in today's Financial Times, which that says that the London stock exchange hopes to take business from the New York stock exchange on the basis that it has lower listing standards than New York, as the Advisory Committee for Business and Environment has been pointing out since 1993. I hope that the Minister can explain how the Financial Services Authority will approach that, given that it took over responsibility for listing particulars in December 2001 but has so far made no moves on the issue.
The outcome of Johannesburg that I want to emphasise is the Prime Minister's announcement that £50 million a year will be earmarked for facilitating renewable energy exports through the Export Credits Guarantee Department. I particularly commend the hard work of GLOBE UK in lobbying the Government on that leverage mechanism. Although £50 million does 347WH not seem an enormous sum when one considers that since 1997 the ECGD has spent more than £1 billion underwriting the export of coal-fired power stations, it will act as a leverage mechanism.
Technologies for renewable energy production have to deal with new, and therefore uncertain, markets. The money has great potential to reduce commercial risk for UK companies that are innovative enough to move into the renewables sector and ambitious enough to export to developing countries. Assuming the funds are used, the option will remain open for the ECGD to recommend an increase on the initial £50 million. I understand that that is the view of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I hope that the UK will soon lead the way in the innovation and sale of renewable energy technologies. However, there is a risk that if the £50 million is not taken up in the first year the funding will be cut. Can the Minister tell me whether any funds have been allocated to the DTI or the ECGD specifically to promote and advertise the funds and how smaller companies can apply for them?
Welcome as the additional funding is, it is important that the ECGD now accelerates the implementation of its business principles and applies sustainable development criteria across all the projects that it underwrites. Thus, any further fossil fuel-related projects should centre on high-efficiency technology, or combined heat and power units. Likewise, the feasibility of auditing the efficiency of all the energy projects that are currently running or being set up with ECGD backing should be considered, as proposed by the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development. One of the partnerships involving the UK that emerged from the world summit is the renewable energy and energy efficiency partnership, otherwise known as REEEP. The crux of that initiative is to facilitate the transfer of renewable energy technologies, as well as energy-efficient technologies. One of the Johannesburg initiatives that I welcomed was the agreement that that could go forward with Parliamentarians for Global Action, bringing parliamentarians from other countries to the UK to see what we are doing on renewable energy.
It is too early to say how much of an impact the partnership will have on the rate at which renewable technology is diffused across national borders, given that it is not yet due to go active. I have had problems finding out when that will happen—perhaps the Minister can comment. The partnership is to focus on grid-connected and distributed renewable energy applications and improvements in energy efficiency in developed, middle income and rapidly industrialising countries. I am concerned that Africa may again find itself marginalised from wider global developments, given that it will be worst affected by climate change and large swathes of its population live without access to modern energy, reinforcing the energy-poverty nexus. I emphasise to the Minister the importance of integrating Africa into clean and affordable energy programmes.
I ask the Minister to concentrate on two core issues. First, we must face up to our responsibilities as one of the core contributors to global warming by radically reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions, which I would have discussed given more time. Secondly, we 348WH must concentrate renewable and energy-efficient technologies on improving access to energy for the poorest countries and people.
Sir Crispin Tickell, who advised the previous Prime Minister and who is still, I think, a member of the Sustainable Development Commission, has pointed out that the biggest concern is greenhouse emissions from animals. He is concerned about the growth in meat eating across the world and how we should deal with it. I read in The New York Times three weeks ago—it was not an April fool's joke—that researchers have found a bacterium in kangaroos that explains why they produce very low levels of greenhouse emissions. Researchers are now seeking to find out whether that could be used in animal feed across the world. The Minister may want to follow that up. Non-governmental organisations may think that it is a beneficial way forward in dealing with greenhouse gases.
§ Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test)
I, too, shall be brief on a problem that, as hon. Members have said, is of truly enormous proportions. I congratulate the Select Committee, of which I am not a member, on producing a report worthy of the proportions of the issue that it tackled. The temptation would be to write: "Paragraph 1: Ah. Paragraph 2: Too difficult. Paragraph 3: Er, that's it." The fact that the issue was tackled in the Select Committee report is admirable.
To tackle climate change and sustainable development is truly ambitious. Climate change is taking place not only because of development in the north but because of development of a particular kind—that driven by mined and stored resources. That is the essential point about climate change. Therefore, I would perhaps think slightly differently about a definition of sustainable development. When I think of how we have carried out development so far, I am reminded of the Marx brothers' film "Go West", in which the brothers are on a train going across a prairie and are running up and down smashing up the carriages to fuel the engine, in order to get the entire passenger train to its destination—a somewhat illogical act.
The point about sustainable development is not to leave finite resources for future generations; increasingly, it is about leaving finite resources where they are. If we used all our finite resources in order to bring about development, the planet simply could not cope with the consequences. Therefore, we must encourage development in future—energy is the key—by riding with what energy the planet produces, that is, the sun, the wind, and the tides, rather than continuing to mine the stored energy that the planet wisely put under the ground for many millions of years.
My hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) mentioned that developing countries might say, "Well, you've despoiled the planet." They might not exactly add, "It's our turn now," but they might ask, understandably, why we are preaching to them. Sustainable development is now imperative across the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) said, we have a responsibility to ensure that 349WH sustainable development energy technology is exportable to and usable in the developing world, and to support that strongly in any way that we can.
In that context, I was particularly interested in the emergence of the clean development mechanism at Kyoto and the extent to which progress has been made on that. Having said that, I am concerned about the extent to which the mechanism seems to export technology to assist the almost-developing world at the expense of the developing world. I noted the concerns—they appeared in both the report and the Government's response to it—that certain third world countries, especially African countries, simply would not attract such projects because of the low emissions there. The report suggests that 80 per cent. of the projects will go to India, China, Brazil and a few other countries.
The Government's response to the report suggests that they want to use a fast-track mechanism to lower the transaction costs, which are fairly constant regardless of the size of the particular clean development mechanism project. I urge the Government to fast-track the fast track. It seems essential that those mechanisms go to the countries least able to afford the sustainable energy that has to drive their technology in future. At present, the danger is that those countries are most open to what might be a trend of energy dumping in the third world. Borders might not be closed to companies that offered to develop energy. The countries might be afraid that they would not get such development at all if they placed requirements on it. Then they would develop dirty energy in a way that was unsustainable for us all.
We must support the export of renewable energy in a sustainable way, so as to assist development. Energy is the key to third world countries that at present are least able to afford it.
§ 5 pm
§ Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)
I thank hon. Members who have spoken concisely, especially towards the end of the debate, to make it possible for the Opposition to have a fair crack of the whip on this wide-ranging subject. I welcome the opportunity to debate sustainable development and climate change. That was accurately described as an ambitious combination, but it is the right one. The focus of the debate is the Select Committee's characteristically well researched and informed report on the subject, and I commend all its members for their work. We are lucky to have benefited from it and to be able to use it today.
The Chairman of the Committee pointed out that this is the first opportunity to have a proper debate on sustainable development since the world summit in Johannesburg. Although Parliament was in recess at the time of the summit, many hon. Members would have appreciated a statement when Parliament returned. It is several months since the subject was top of the media agenda and, as parliamentarians, it is now much harder to lever to maximum effect the opportunity that the summit created.
In answer to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), the Leader of the House said today that there would be 350WH an opportunity to raise the subject of the world summit under Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs business shortly. It is good that there will be an opportunity on the Floor of the House for that important summit to be further debated.
I hope that hon. Members feel, as I did, that the media coverage of the world summit in Johannesburg was deplorable. The focus was on trivia. It detracted completely from the seriousness of the subject, which made it difficult for us as parliamentarians to get any serious points into the media coverage. The coverage showed gross irresponsibility on the part of British journalists, both those who attended and those who commented from afar. It was a missed opportunity.
One of the difficulties of the subject of sustainable development is that it often feels far removed from the lives of ordinary people. Part of our duty is to bring home to the electors of this country how directly relevant it is to their lives, and what a direct and disproportionately negative impact there is on people living in less fortunate countries than our own. The disconnection between the reality of ordinary living and the implications of the subject provide a real challenge.
I want to put on record in the presence of the Minister my view that one of the means that the Government have chosen to adopt—the introduction of a climate change levy—contrilbutes not one iota to the realisation by our constituents as individuals that the lack of sustainable development and climate change will affect them. It has had a dramatic and disproportionate effect on business in this country. In the west midlands, businesses were already suffering from the decline of manufacturing and the levy actually took some companies down. It was the last straw, an ill-chosen tool with which to make the nation aware of the seriousness of climate change and its impact on ordinary lives. I encourage the Government to think of other ways of achieving that. Other countries have made their citizens aware of the seriousness of climate change through completely different means. A particularly high tax regime on non-renewable fuels is one of this country's difficulties, and it has left the Government with little room for manoeuvre to make ordinary citizens aware of this crucial issue. The climate change levy was a poor choice.
We all struggle to produce an easy definition of what we mean by sustainable development. My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet managed to reduce it to eight simple words, but I view the focus on our responsibility for future generations as the most important aspect. Most of us, after all, have children, perhaps even grandchildren, so we should think of the clock speeding up. We gain a sense of it during our own lifetimes: as a child, one's birthdays seem to take for ever to come round and one longs for them; as one gets older, they seem to come round too fast. In microcosm, that is the problem with the lack of sustainability. If we examine the use of finite fossil resources, the peak is only a second in the history of our planet, yet we continue to use non-renewables with apparently little care for the legacy bequeathed to future generations. That is one of the most important issues underlying today's debate.
It is hard to get away from the fact that the Select Committee's deliberations produced some fairly strong criticism of the work of the Department for 351WH International Development in certain respects, so it is fair to cite some of the report and to ask the Minister to respond. Paragraph 96 states:DFID, along with most other donors, has paid too little attention to global climate change. DFID's evidence made it clear that to them climate change was just one of the many environmental issues threatening development. We disagree. By grouping climate change with environmental degradation or mismanagement of natural resources the long-term nature of climate risks will be overlooked as DFID's policies react to short-term concerns.The force of that comment has been strengthened today by one hon. Member after another saying—sometimes philosophically, but no less forcefully—that the impact of climate change on the developing world is disproportionately hard.
To paraphrase, we in the developed world have generated the problem, and we have landed the developing world with a problem that it is clearly ill placed to tackle. It is the disproportionality that makes it so important for DFID to raise the salience of climate change and sustainable development within its work. When it comes to tackling the consequences of climate change, there is no level playing field. It is disproportionately our responsibility in the developed world to deal with the problem that we have caused and to help those who suffer the consequences. I think that that imperative came out clearly today.
I make no excuse for returning to the example of Ethiopia. I believe that it should be uppermost in our minds, not only because its problems are urgent, but because it is an apt case study for the particular difficulties facing Africa. The Secretary of State said that Africa is not one or two failed states: it is a failing continent. That is a rather depressing description, but one that should shake us all into action.
§ Mr. Colman
Does the hon. Lady agree that, regrettably, Ethiopia is a good example of a country whose priority has been spending on armaments rather than development?
§ Mrs. Spelman
There is no question but that the aid agencies that are calling for much more substantial help to be given to Ethiopia now would also point to the decisions of the Ethiopian Government that have perhaps not helped. Nations that supply Ethiopia with things that use up money that could be spent differently also have some responsibility.
The urgency of the matter cannot be understated. Aid agencies with early warning systems on the ground have warned of famine on such a large scale that as many as 14 million people may be affected. Getting food aid from India to the port of Djibouti to tackle that famine takes two months. Bringing the aid from Britain takes three months, and bringing it from America takes four months; yet the famine is due to bite from February onwards. Time is not on our side.
I return to the value of considering Ethiopia in bringing home some practical realities. I flag up a few facts. Ethiopia is not short of water. The blue Nile, for example, crosses its plateau, and other sources of water from rivers are available. However, only 5 per cent. of the irrigable land is irrigated. Ethiopia suffers 352WH disproportionately from poor water management, as, I suspect, do many sub-Saharan countries. That problem was recognised at the time of the last major drought in the mid-1980s. One must ask why, while there has been knowledge that, cyclically, Ethiopia was likely to suffer another drought, development assistance since 1984 has not focused on tackling poor water management.
§ Mrs. Spelman
I will not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, because I have only three minutes left.
Do not hon. Members think that there is something seriously wrong about the situation whereby our bilateral aid to Ethiopia has totalled £12.3 million in the past 12 months, yet Ethiopia owes us £15.4 million in debt repayments? Ethiopia is not alone in that respect, its debt being 150 per cent. of its GDP. Malawi is another example of a heavily indebted country. Its world development report shows that Malawi's debt still amounts to 29 per cent. of its GDP. We cannot get away from the fact that sustainability and the question of how money should be spent to deal with climate change problems are inextricably linked with the problem of how to solve the situation of the heavily indebted poor countries. That is notwithstanding the Chancellor's admission in the pre-Budget report that the heavily indebted poor countries initiative is failing.
As other hon. Members have mentioned, we have a responsibility for the failure to reform trade rules that work against the ability of developing nations to put themselves on a sustainable footing. Ethiopia's main export income comes from coffee, the prices of which have slumped by 77 per cent. over the past four years. The European Union's and the United States' unwillingness to overhaul our heavily protectionist agricultural systems damages the capacity of countries such as Ethiopia to achieve some sustainability.
We cannot shy away from the scale of the crisis emerging in Ethiopia. The problems facing that country are directly relevant to the problems of climate change and sustainable development. James Morris told the UN Security Council that the crisis in Africa is part of a worrying new global phenomenon of shifting weather patterns that have led to unparalleled natural disasters. Drought has ravaged not only the horn and huge swathes of southern Africa and the western Sahel, but central America, Afghanistan and Cambodia. If we are to meet the millennium development goals—perhaps more accurately called targets—tackling global climate change must be a priority.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Ms Sally Keelble)
I pay tribute to the Committee's Chairman and members for their excellent report and for their work to bring together the environment and development agendas. A far-reaching and comprehensive inquiry has come to an end in today's debate. However, I am sure that the interest that it has stimulated will stand us all in good stead as we take matters forward.
353WH I shall deal with some of the general issues in the report before responding to the points made in what has been a wide-ranging debate. If I cannot answer all those points in detail today—time is rather short—I shall write to hon. Members.
As the report shows, scientific proof shows beyond reasonable doubt that climate change has happened. The question is not so much whether we should accept the arguments, but what we should do. That has been repeated this afternoon. It is not simply that climate change will have an impact on us all, but that it will impact particularly hard on the poorest countries. Although we want to avert catastrophe, we must accept that some climate change has already happened and that we must therefore live with the consequences. In particular, we must protect the poor of the world.
DFID wants to deal with the need to mitigate the impact and to assist the poor to adapt to the problems and challenges that they face. We choose to do that particularly through the mainstreaming approach. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) asked whether that means that we do not take it seriously. I argue that it shows that we take it particularly seriously. We are saying that the impact of climate change and the resulting environmental issues should run through all our work; it should not be regarded as a separate issue that gets tacked on every now and again. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend that we take the matter seriously and are not sidelining it by mainstreaming it. The reverse is the case.
§ Mr. Battle
In the light of her answer on mainstreaming, do the Minister or her ministerial colleagues have meetings with the Department of Trade and Industry to discuss the impact of energy on developing countries?
§ Ms Keeble
We have a wide range of meetings, including with the DTI and DEFRA, on a range of issues, and a number of those will be environmental, so can give my hon. Friend that reassurance.
The hon. Members for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) raised a number of points. I would not disagree with much of the hon. Gentleman's analysis, and certainly not with the figures. The only reason why I did not read out the same figures on Ethiopia is that he had already done so; there was no point. There is no dispute about the maximum and minimum figures. What we do about it is more important.
Of course, we could always do with more action, more money, more of everything but this Government have put international development, and in particular Africa, at the top of the international agenda; no other Government have. Our job is not only to provide the aid but to lead the world so that it takes the same type of action as us. The whole Government—the Treasury, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development—constantly chivvy the rest of the world 354WH to match us on contributions, to change the difficult international institutional arrangements of the EU and the World Trade Organisation, and to get the US on board. There is a need for political coherence, which the Government provide. I challenge the hon. Member for Banbury to speak as strongly and as eloquently about CAP reform and our green taxes, including the climate change levy and the landfill tax, as he does about the starving of Africa, because that is where much of the work must he done.
§ Ms Keeble
I am delighted to hear about that. There is a real need for reform. As many hon. Members have shown this afternoon, tackling such policies will do a great deal to deal with the issues about which the hon. Gentleman has expressed concern. In respect of direct spending, we have identified £24 million specifically for climate change, although we will spend money in many other sectors.
The hon. Member for Banbury was wrong about the global environment facility. I attended the last annual meeting in Beijing and announced that we are providing £118 million in contributions, which makes us the fourth largest donor.
With regard to the World Food Programme, I, too, met James Morris. Everybody was impressed by the strength of his commitment and concern. The Government have urged the international community to increase donations, and the Department has taken substantial action, which includes re-engaging with long-term assistance and dealing with the type of problems that the hon. Member for Meriden identified.
We must understand the difference between what is happening in Ethiopia and southern Africa. For example, people with HIV/AIDS have different nutritional needs. Different areas have different climates and farming conditions. They also have different political climates, a fact that has been particularly significant in southern Africa. We need to tackle not just the short-term but the long-term needs of Africa, and to ensure that it has food security. DFID has been particularly good at dealing with those issues.
The hon. Members for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) and for Banbury and my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) mentioned the millennium development goals. We have made no secret of the difficulty of meeting those in sub-Saharan Africa. The goals are not just aspirations; some of them are being met elsewhere. Overall, the poverty and the universal primary education goals will be met, but there are problems with the others. They nevertheless drive our work forward, and we are committed to their achievement.
Several hon. Members, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington), raised the problem of achieving a number of the millennium development goals because of the action taken to row back from international commitments, such as access to reproductive services and rights, and funding the United Nations Population Fund. It is particularly important to reverse that action to achieve maternal and infant mortality goals and to 355WH stem the tide of HIV/AIDS. With the delegation from DFID, I shall go to next week's conference in Bangkok. Obviously, our aim will be to ensure that we achieve improvements on that to reverse some of the setbacks that we have seen.
There has been some discussion of the lack of an Africa strategy. In addition to putting Africa at the top of the agenda, we have urged Governments around the world to support the new partnership for Africa's development and we have been drivers in the G8 action plan for Africa, recognising the particular difficulties that it faces.
Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, asked whether the world summit on sustainable development was good or bad, and whether sufficient commitments were made. One of the greatest achievements of that summit was to bring together the environment and development agendas. That was also achieved by the Select Committee in its excellent report. The commitment on water and sanitation is extremely important and will make a dramatic difference to the lives of many poor people throughout the world. As my hon. Friends the Members for City of York and for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) said, there is a need to focus on delivering targets, rather than merely to think up more of them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) linked climate change with people's lives, especially with the impact on the lives of the poorest people. She emphasised the difficulties caused by population growth and the need for better reproductive services. She also referred to the Americans' policy. There has recently been some confusion about that, which we hope to clarify at Bangkok.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) raised the issue of mainstreaming, which I hope I have dealt with. He also set out all the big challenges that we must deal with, including water supply, river management, forestry management and fuel policy. I have long notes that I could read out on fuel policy, but there is not time. However, I will ensure that my hon.
356WH Friend receives copies of the various relevant documents, as well as information about the excellent work on forestry carried out by DFID officials.
My hon. Friend the Member for City of York and the hon. Member for Meriden highlighted the need to make plain to the public the importance of the environment and climate change. My hon. Friend's constituency has been flooded, as has Northampton, so there is substantial awareness of the flooding issue. Through development education in schools, there is increasing awareness of a range of issues. I encourage hon. Members to support development education programmes in their local schools because it can make an extraordinary contribution to education and to international understanding, as well as to academic standards.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman), who has played an important role in emphasising the issues of sustainable development and renewable energy, asked some detailed questions. Rather than give off-the-cuff answers, I will make sure that he receives properly joined-up answers in writing. I had to laugh when he mentioned kangaroos. I am, perhaps, the only hon. Member who has kept a kangaroo as a pet. I knew that they had excellent qualities, but I did not realise that their lack of harmful emissions was one of them.
I reiterate some of the main points of the Government's approach to climate change. We recognise that climate change presents a major challenge to eradicating poverty and meeting the agreed millennium development goals. In responding to that challenge, our primary focus must be on increasing the ability of poor countries and poor people to cope with the impact of climate change, recognising that they have more difficulty withstanding the shocks. I congratulate the Select Committee on highlighting the importance of the issue and hope that this debate will act as a spur not only to thoughts and talks but to action.
§ Mr. Mike Hancock (in the Chair)
Thank you all for your co-operation. I am delighted that everyone managed to contribute to the debate.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Five o'clock.