Yesterday, at the second reading of the Climate Change Bill, John Redwood urged the Government to lead by example and ensure that it sets and meets rigorous enough targets for its own carbon footprint.
Later in the debate, he reminded Ministers of the need for multilateral action on climate change, and the danger that unilateral obligations might merely shift carbon emissions overseas rather than reduce them, hitting the UK economy in the process.
The two exchanges, taken from Hansard, follow.
(1) Mr. Redwood: I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way; he is being very patient. I find targets much more convincing and plausible if they relate to the next year or two, rather than to a 40-year period, and if they relate to things that the Government themselves can manage and are responsible for. Will the Minister propose targets for the next one year and two years to cut the carbon footprint of the Government? We would find that very welcome.
Mr. Woolas: On the latter point, the Governmentâ€™s carbon footprint is clearly a priority. As the Sustainable Development Commission reported, we have made some progress, but we are the first to say that we must do a lot more. The important point about the Bill is that greenhouse gas emissions are cumulative, and therefore whatever oneâ€™s end target after a period of years, it is the cumulative gathering of gases that is important. To my mind, therefore, the interim targets are much more important than the end targets. That is why at the heart of the Bill is the idea of five-year carbon budgetsâ€”another way of saying targetsâ€”with the built-in idea that annual, indicative ranges should fall within them. That, I think, meets the right hon. Gentlemanâ€™s point about immediacy. The Government as an organisation will be covered by the carbon reduction commitment, and I expect that that will accelerate change as well.
(2)Mr. Redwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be foolish of this House to impose costs and obligations on businesses operating in Britain that are not matched by similar obligations elsewhere, as that would simply drive business overseas and not actually cut total carbon output?
Mr. Ainsworth: My right hon. Friend makes an important point that I will touch on later if he is patient and that will no doubt receive a lot of scrutiny in Committee. However, it is worth reiterating that we are not dealing here with trivial issues. The Climate Change Bill is a small but potentially important part of a global effort to reduce the impact that our generation of human beings is having on the ability of future generations to live in peace and prosperity.