Nick Herbert: Emerging economies can still prosper while cutting emissions

Those of us who have benefited from the economic growth pursued regardless of dangerous emissions have obligations to help emerging economies pursue sustainable development. The UK recognises that there will need to be sufficient finance and technology flows from developed to developing countries to support their action on climate change. The Conservative Party believes that countries meeting at Copenhagen must find a mechanism for helping the developing world cope with the consequences of climate change in a way that is additional to, not instead of, what we need to help them relieve their current poverty.

But we should view the prospect of international agreement not as a cost for developing countries but as an opportunity. Decarbonised growth offers the prospect for countries like India to avoid the environmental damage that has blighted industrialisation in the West and in China.

The Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism provides just a hint of the potential of global carbon-trading. The funds that would raise could finance green growth in the developing world, stimulate investment in new green technology – which needs to be shared with the developing world – and in adaptation measures.

Further opportunities lie ahead. People want a cleaner, greener environment, but there are also economic reasons to pursue it. We are only just learning to see the huge potential of recovering energy and materials – increasingly in demand – from waste. The natural environment does not only have an intrinsic value; it has a financial value too – for tourism, as a source of medicines, and with the right legal framework, in the market for ecosystem services – protecting habitats, improving air quality, keeping rivers cleaner.

Preserving the environment must not be seen as a conflict with economic growth, for ultimately, only sustainable growth will guarantee prosperity. If there is one thing we have learnt from the global economic crisis, it is that no one can live beyond their means. None of us can live beyond our economic means. But neither can we live beyond our environmental means.

Taken from a speech by the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs at the weekend to the Greentech Foundation's Tenth Annual Global Environment Conference in Kerala, India