Climate Change oral question to Council
Delivered in Plenary 5th July 2001
Although some sceptics still doubt the phenomenon of global warming, nobody can doubt the “cooling” of relations between the EU and USA over its refusal to recommend ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have no doubt that there is global warming and that Greenhouse gases, in particular CO2 emissions are largely responsible. Even the US National Academy of Sciences advising President Bush largely concurs with this finding. The EU is now determined to go it alone, but the biggest culprit, the USA, with 4% of the world’s population and 25% of global emissions still won’t co-operate. Sadly, to date, only Romania has ratified the protocol, and Japan and Canada are getting cold feet without US involvement. In my country under a Conservative Government we made a “dash for gas”, since Natural Gas produces far less CO2 than coal , but we went on to see it rapidly reversed by the new Labour Government, anxious to preserve jobs in the mining industry.
We are already witnessing in the European winter resort areas the effects of the rising snow line. But the long term prospects are far more frightening. At some point there is a danger of ‘thermal runaway’ as the polar caps melt, reflect less sunshine and cause a rapid increase in atmospheric warming. This threatens flooding around the globe, and other climatic changes causing economic devastation, and huge migratory pressures of peoples, not to mention wars over water supplies.
What is the solution? I believe that all nations must subscribe to policies of sustainable economic development and invest in
renewable energy sources, and yes this means re-opening the Nuclear Power debate. We must also look at using market based mechanisms, such as Tradeable Emission Permits. Certainly, the Kyoto 5% targeted reduction by 2010 from 1990 levels may not go far enough.
We must also look again at the issue of Carbon Sinks. I believe that the USA must review its position and come back to the July Bonn meeting with fresh proposals. After all, the argument that America cannot justify the investment on an unproven hypothesis is hard to square with support for a National Missile Defence system, something I also support, given its enormous cost and the fact that the case for it working is also still unproven.