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Topical Questions

Volume 689: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2021

Climate change is the biggest challenge faced by humanity. The world is, on average, already 1.2° C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and if we are to deliver on limiting temperature rises to below 2°—indeed, closer to 1.5°—we must collectively act with the utmost urgency. Countries must commit to ambitious near-term emissions reductions and set net zero targets, and donor countries must fulfil their commitments to the most climate-vulnerable nations.

Next month, the UK will host a climate and development international ministerial meeting to make progress on key climate finance-related issues. We want to ensure that the green thread of climate action runs through every international event on the road to COP26.

I, too, welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his position as President of COP26.

With Wales possessing the oldest housing stock in the UK, what lessons has the right hon. Gentleman learned from Welsh retrofitting schemes about the challenge of reducing residential emissions globally ahead of COP26?

Retrofitting will play an important role. The right hon. Lady will know that, as part of the 10-point plan, we have also set out plans for greening our buildings and making them more energy efficient. She has raised a very specific point, and I will ensure that the Secretaries of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and for Housing, Communities and Local Government are made aware of it.

The UK’s credibility as COP president rests on demonstratable climate action at home, yet much like the Government’s failed pandemic response, which has left 130,000 people dead, the Government are acting too slowly, prioritising profit over public wellbeing. The Government’s boasts of our road building, and their plans of cutting £1 billion from the public rail infrastructure budget and allowing the Cumbria coalmine to go ahead are simply not compatible with achieving net zero. Will the Minister therefore admit that the Government’s stated ideological beliefs are incompatible with even their own meagre climate goals?

I had always thought that climate action was an area that we could collectively coalesce around without the need for political name calling and fighting, but, unfortunately, that does not seem to be possible for the hon. Gentleman. I just point him to the record of this Government and say that, over the past 30 years across a range of Governments, the UK has managed to grow our economy by 75% and yet cut emissions by 43%. Green growth is possible, and that is what we are pursuing.

I have never been called that before.

I warmly welcome the President of COP26 to his full- time role. It is in all our interests that he should succeed, and we want to do everything that we can to help. The central judgment of COP26’s success is whether it keeps alive the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5°. To make that happen, the UN says that we need to more than halve global greenhouse gas emissions from 52 gigatonnes today to 25 gigatonnes by 2030. Will he assure us that he recognises the scale of this challenge and the need for maximum ambition, and tell the House how close to that target he thinks we can get at COP26?

The shadow President raises a vitally important point. We did make progress towards the end of last year—70% of global GDP is now covered by the net zero target—but he is absolutely right when he alludes to the fact that what we need is near-term targets to 2030 to cut emissions. We are working very hard on that, and I am very happy to hear his thoughts on how we may be able to go faster.

A crucial issue for the success of the COP is international finance for developing countries, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and they are facing poverty, the pandemic and climate change. Yet the Government have shamefully chosen this moment to cut £25 billion to £30 billion from overseas aid over the course of this Parliament. They say that they are protecting climate aid, but they have not set out what that means year on year, so will he guarantee today that, in the coming financial year when the COP takes place, there will be no cut to the level of the UK’s climate finance budget or to the climate programmes that we fund?

What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that, like him, I am very proud of the work that successive Governments have done in supporting the most vulnerable around the world. At 0.5% of gross national income, the UK will still remain a leading international aid donor. On the issue of international climate finance, he will know that, over a five-year period, our commitment is £11.6 billion, which is indeed a doubling of the last figure.

Will there be an opportunity in Glasgow to debate so-called energy from waste? In this COP presidency year, surely we should be doing nothing to encourage old-style great incinerators that pump effluent into the great landfill in the sky in places such as Westbury in my constituency. Surely to goodness the waste hierarchy demands better than that. (912591)

I note and support my right hon. Friend’s concern and I will pass it on—particularly in terms of the UK leadership—to the Environment Minister. The work that we have done already in setting resources and waste strategy is leading the way and we as a country are looking to implement all avoidable waste by 2050. With so much of COP, it is about our leadership and proving that we are walking the walk by making these policy changes here at home. I will make sure that the Minister continues to work on that with him.

Zero Carbon Humber is a partnership that aims to build the world’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster while creating high-quality green jobs. My question simply is: will the COP President look kindly on its submission of interest to be part of COP26? (912593)

Of course, I am very positive about all these initiatives around the country, but the hon. Lady refers to a matter that I think sits under the Business Secretary. I am sure that when submissions come in they will be looked at very carefully.