I am committed to going personally to the Rio+10 Conference in South Africa. Of course it is about the environment: the issues of climate change, sustainable industrial growth, preservation of forests, fishing stocks and a range of other familiar issues. But it is not just about the environment. It is about sustainable development as a whole. It is about the reduction of poverty, relief from debt, widening educational opportunity, tackling disease and linking these goals to those of conserving the natural resources upon which the poorest depend for clean water, food, fresh air and their living.
There are two pressing reasons why these issues demand leadership. First, the evidence grows daily all around us of the dangers of indifference to our duty to treat nature with respect and care for our environment. Second, there is no answer to any of these problems except one based on mutual responsibility. The same principle at work in the local community in my constituency, from the smallest school initiative to the Council's waste disposal policy, to what is necessary internationally. It starts from a broad principle of responsibility - the duty to care for the environment in which we live and to grow more prosperous in a way consistent with that duty.
Britain's task over the coming years is to argue that case at every level of society; to make Britain a showcase for it; and to provide leadership internationally for it. And to match the action with the words.
Later today Clare Short will focus on some of the issues connected with sustainable development and poverty in the developing world. I will focus on climate change and sustainable food production.
The Threat to the Environment
When my parents were growing up the world's population was under 3 billion. During my children's lifetime, it is likely to exceed 9 billion. You don't have to be an expert to realise that sustainable development is going to become the greatest challenge we face this century.
We have already seen enormous changes over my lifetime. The six warmest years of the twentieth century occurred in the last decade. 25% of the world's land area is affected by soil erosion or other land degradation. Snow and ice cover is estimated to have decreased by 10% since the 1960s according to satellite photography. Since 1980 10% of the forests in the developing world have been lost. 27% of the world's coral reefs have already been lost.
This process is accelerating. For some parts of the world, particularly the poorer parts, the effects will be catastrophic.
By 2100 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be between 90% and 250% higher than in 1750. Increases in temperature over this century without precedent in the last 10,000 years, with the earth's temperature expected to be up to 6 degrees above 1990 levels by 2100. By 2025 up to two thirds of the world's population may experience some form of water stress. Yet climate change will also mean ever more extreme rainfall and flooding, and increasingly severe tropical storms.
By 2025 the number of people affected by desertification is expected to double to 1.8 billion, and many will be in Africa. Large parts of Africa and South America could lose their tropical rain forest by 2080. There is likely to be increased flooding, soil erosion, decreased crop yields, increased risk of epidemics. Deserts will grow. Disease will spread. Many species of plant and wildlife are expected to become extinct. Coastal settlements like Senegal, Egypt and Bangladesh are likely to face inundation; in other countries, like Tanzania, rivers will start to run dry. The cost of adapting to these changes is likely to put back development still further.
Here in Britain, the Hadley Centre predicts that the UK will have wetter winters, more summer droughts, extreme weather and heavy rainfall. England and Wales can expect to see 10% more rain by 2100, Scotland 20%. If sea levels rise as forecast over this century, storm surges and flooding which we currently expect once a century may come as often as every four years. Some of our most familiar plants will disappear, ones we consider exotic will become common-place, and many of our animals and insects will be forced to migrate northwards or disappear altogether.
We would be irresponsible to treat these predictions as scare-mongering. They represent the considered opinions of some of the world's best scientists. We cannot afford to ignore them.
We Need to do More
The Kyoto process stands as a monument to enlightened global diplomacy. It represents the first real step down the road of collective action to meet our collective responsibility. For the first time, developed countries agreed to take on legally binding targets to cut their emissions.
But the stark truth is that even if all the developed counties met their Kyoto targets, we would only reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% of their 1990 levels by 2008-2012. According to the best climate change models, if we want to halt the process of global warming, we would need to cut global CO2 emissions by 60% or more. So Kyoto was only a start. But as the negotiations in The Hague showed, even implementing Kyoto will be difficult. The EU and the US are the key to finding a way through. Because of our role in the EU and our links to America, Britain has a special responsibility. We have invested too much in it now to see it fail. I am please that the G8 Environment Ministers committed themselves at Trieste last weekend to strive to reach agreement at the resumed negotiations in Bonn in July.
I hope that by the time we meet in South Africa for the Rio+10 Conference next year, Kyoto will have been ratified. We should use Rio+10 to take forward the climate change and sustainable development agendas. Crucial to this is raising awareness in the next generation. Here in the UK we are launching, jointly with WWF, a competition and programme to involve young people from across the UK in the Summit. In South Africa, we are supporting an RSPB project to produce packs on sustainable development to go into every secondary school in the country. And we will also be providing ??1.5 million to help South Africa with the cost of the preparations for the Summit.
But if we are to provide leadership, we have to show it here in Britain.
Tackling Climate Change
Following Kyoto, we pledged to cut our emissions by 12.5%, more than twice the average commitment. We have now put in place a programme that we believe will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 23% by 2010.
First, there are measures to improve businesses' use of energy, stimulate investment in green technologies and cut costs: the Climate Change Levy package, which includes agreements to improve efficiency in energy intensive sectors; the new Carbon Trust, which will help recycle over ??100 million of Climate Change Levy receipts to accelerate the take up of cost effective, low carbon technologies; and a domestic emissions trading scheme, which we will kick start in 2003-4 with ??30 million of financial incentives. We have also exempted good quality combined heat and power and renewable sources of electricity from the Climate Change Levy.
Second, we need policies to stimulate more environmentally efficient forms of power generation. Electricity suppliers will be obliged to generate 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010. And we have set a target of at least doubling combined heat and power, also by 2010.
Third, we are putting in place programmes to cut emissions from the transport sector. The ten-year transport plan will invest ??180 billion in modernising our transport infrastructure, and thereby tackle congestion and reduce pollution. And European-level agreements with car manufacturers will cut average vehicle CO2 emissions by at least 25% by 2008-2012, backed up in the UK by changes to vehicle excise duty and reform of company car taxation.
Fourth, there are measures to promote energy efficiency in the domestic sector. Between now and 2003 we will be doubling expenditure on energy efficiency. We have radically improved and invested ??1 billion in the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme - expected to help 800,000 households by 2004. We are committed to ensure by 2010 that no vulnerable household in the UK need risk ill health due to a cold home.
Renewable Energy and Technology
But if we are actually to halt the process we need to be much more radical. In particular we need to put business, technology and environmental protection in harness together. Green technologies are on the verge of becoming one of the next waves in the knowledge economy revolution.
The global market for environmental goods and services is projected to rise to ??440 billion by 2010. Shell estimates that 50% of the world's energy needs could be met by renewables by 2050. Wind power is already a ??1.5 billion industry. By 2010 the global solar market could be worth up to ??150 billion.
I want Britain to be a leading player in this coming green industrial revolution. We have many strengths to draw on. Some of the best marine renewable resources in the world - offshore wind, wave energy and tidal power. A strong science base, supporting world-class research in biomass generators, micro technologies such as small wind and gas turbines, domestic CHP based on Stirling engines, fuel cells and other technologies for the storage of energy. We have led the way in integrating environmental and economic goals within a liberalised electricity market. And we are leading the thinking in Europe on how to remove the regulatory barriers to development of renewables.
I believe the role of Government is to accelerate the development and take up of these new technologies until self-sustaining markets take over. The Government's programme for incentivising renewables will create a new market worth over ??500 million through the Renewables Obligation, Climate Change Levy exemptions and the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation. We have already announced ??100 million to support offshore wind and energy crops.
Last year I asked the Performance and Innovation Unit to undertake a major study into the future of UK renewable energy. Today I can announce a further ??100 million to support those technologies identified by the report. I know that a number of green groups have been campaigning for a target of 100,000 solar PV installations. This new money will help us to promote solar PV, give a boost to offshore wind, kick start energy crops, and bring on stream other new generation technologies. This investment in renewable technology is a major down-payment in our future, and will help open up huge commercial opportunities for Britain.
More generally, we need vastly to improve our productive use of resources - do more with much less. It makes good economic and environmental sense. We will agree environmental productivity indicators and long-term resource use targets with business.
Britain is also leading efforts to help the developing world skip our industrial revolution by transferring the technologies that make sustainable development possible. For example, two billion people in the developing world are currently without power. The G8 Renewables Task Force is looking at how we can bring clean energy to these people. I hope we will be able to endorse their recommendations in South Africa next year.
There are two vital areas for sustainable development in the poorest parts of the world. First, maritime environments. 950 million people, some among the poorest on the planet, rely on the sea as a major source of nutrition. We will be launching measures to improve marine conservation here and abroad including a series of marine stewardship reports. Second, forests. We have already promised that as a Government we will only purchase timber only from legal and sustainable sources. We will be advocating further measures in the G8 against illegal logging, and will discuss this issue when President Cardoso visits the UK later this month. We also pressing for greater forest law enforcement in East Asia.
Sustainable Food Production
Climate change and population growth have enormous implications for food production. But inappropriate agricultural policies in the developed world can also harm the local environment and undermine sustainable food production globally.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has calculated that the agricultural policies of the OECD - even after the Uruguay Round reforms - cost developing countries $20 billion per year in lost trade and other distortions. Another study by the World Bank has found that full liberalisation of OECD farm policies would boost global agricultural trade by more than 50%, much of it to the benefit of the developing world: the same study found that the farm policies of OECD countries are responsible for around half of the global trade distortions faced by developing economies.
For us in Europe, this means summoning up the political will to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP was conceived four decades ago as a means of overcoming food shortages and maintaining farmers' incomes. But, with its reliance on market intervention, export subsidy and import protection it is now seriously outmoded. It distorts global agricultural markets to the detriment of the developing world. And it promotes forms of agricultural production that damage the environment.
But a new debate is now beginning in Europe. In the wake of the BSE crisis in the EU, member states are starting to question old orthodoxies. Other member states - Germany most recently - are calling for greater emphasis on environmental good practice, quality food and high standards of care for farm animals.
Britain has long led the argument in Europe for CAP reform. We have long backed cuts in production-linked support, which consumes 90% of the CAP budget, and is bad for taxpayers, bad for consumers, bad for the environment and ultimately bad for farmers. And a policy that simply pays farmers more for producing more cannot respond to environmental concerns, changing consumer tastes or regional needs. A perfect example of this is the EU tobacco regime. The crop conflicts with EU health policies, and is rarely of sufficient quality for the world tobacco market. Most is either stored or simply destroyed.
The opportunity to change direction is the silver lining in the European farming crisis. We must work with our European partners to reform the CAP so that resources are redirected towards the goals of sustainable and competitive farming, environmental protection and rural development.
We have already started down this road by:
* building alliances with like-minded EU partners who share the vision of diverse, competitive and environmentally sustainable agriculture;
* redirecting some EU support from farmers' direct payments into measures which promote environmentally sound farming, including organic farming, and which encourage farmers to diversify their activities. We secured a first significant step in this direction in the last round of CAP reform: Agenda 2000.
* We have made a huge start with our ??3.1 billion Rural Development Plans for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have implemented an optional additional provision which allows member states to reduce the direct payments made to farmers and channel the money into their rural development plans. Alongside our Farming Strategy launched last year, this seven-year programme will provide the tools for our farmers to become more skilled, flexible, and diverse, to add value to their products in response to consumer demands, and to produce in a way that sustains and improves, rather than damages, the environment.
In turn, this is part of a wider picture, in which we change the terms of trade between rich and poor nations. It really is hypocrisy for us, the wealthy countries, to talk of our concern to alleviate the poverty of the developing world, whilst we block access to our markets. I have spoken recently about the idea of a Partnership for Africa - where African nations commit to changes in governance, legal and commercial systems, and help in conflict resolution and we commit to debt reduction, investment and playing our part in conflict resolution and the eradication of disease. Opening up our markets must be part of that Partnership.
I want these issues to occupy a central part of the British Government agenda in the coming years.
I am acutely aware of the fact that unless we demonstrate our commitment in Britain, our leadership internationally is less effective. But I believe we can be proud of our record here on the measures to be relieve debt and increase development aid; and in our part not just in negotiating Kyoto but implementing it here.
We need now to take this forward.
We have begun our preparations for Rio+10. Departments across government are already working to engage business and NGOs, and high level buy-in will be key. To help boost this process, between now and Rio+10 next year I will be inviting CEOs from key sectors such as water, energy, tourism, finance and forestry, together with the leaders of NGOs, to work to develop innovative strategies in these areas to promote sustainability.
By planting new broad-leaf forests, reforming agriculture, through new countryside and wildlife legislation, and through the network of Special Areas of Conservation, we are tackling the increasing pressures on biodiversity in the UK.
On fisheries, we are reaping the fruits of unsustainable exploitation. We are pressing for environmental and sustainability considerations to be taken fully into account in the revision of the Common Fisheries Policy due in 2002. We won a ban in EU waters on drift netting, which was killing dolphins; we will continue to be in the forefront in the campaign to save whales, and we are looking at what more can be done to protect local marine environments.
This is a challenge, too for regional and local government in the UK. Both our new local strategic partnerships, and the regional development agencies, will ensure that our environmental priorities are at the heart of action at their levels.
I want to make the final point on the politics of all this. When I spoke last October on these themes, I spoke of the problems of matching up the long and short term. There will always be dilemmas in the politics of the environment. Though long term I have no doubt there are only winners from sustainable development; short term there is often pain. But there is also now an intense sense of urgency about it. Since October there has been increased flooding and the heaviest snowfall in Scotland for 40 years.
That sense of urgency - shared by the public - is an opportunity. It allows us to put this at the top of the agenda. Of course, there will be compromises along the way. Of course, we will never go quickly or far enough for many NGOs. But the direction should be clear.
It is the fate of the human race that as science and prosperity advance, we have the possibility of ever greater global wealth, and the capacity to self- destruct. Nuclear weapons proliferation, and environmental degradation are the two threats we face together. Britain on its own cannot do it. But we can set a standard at home; and provide leadership abroad. It is our responsibility and I believe we can discharge it.