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Climate Change: International Co-operation and the Global South

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 20 April 2021

What recent progress his Department has made through international co-operation on tackling climate change. (914450)

What recent progress the Government have made through international co-operation on tackling climate change. (914456)

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking ahead of COP26 to work with partners in the global south to tackle climate change. (914460)

As COP hosts, we encourage all countries to make a step change in ambition. The success of COP26 is a top priority for the Government and the FCDO this year. It is prioritised by Ministers and it is prioritised across our diplomatic network.

We know that climate change threatens minority rights, especially in India, where minority and indigenous groups such as Sikhs, Muslims and Dalits have a close interaction with natural resources. Can the Minister therefore advise the House how the UK Government, in future trade talks in India, intend to seek to embed positive climate change outcomes not just for UK companies and UK citizens, but for those who are most marginalised in India due to climate change?

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight marginal groups, specifically in India but also globally. We have pledged to work with young people, faith leaders, women and indigenous people to amplify the voices of the most marginalised and will do that not only through the narrow lens of climate change but also through our overall relationship with other countries, including trade policy.

A major hurdle in reducing world carbon emissions is our need to sustainably produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed almost 2 billion additional people. Can the Minister therefore reassure me that this vital issue of global food security will be kept at the forefront of Britain’s global climate and development strategies going forward?

I can certainly reassure my hon. Friend. In fact, the global transition to sustainable agriculture, and specifically key land use, is a key focus of our COP26 nature campaign, and we are seeking to make further international progress towards climate resilience and sustainable agriculture through the transition to sustainable agriculture dialogues, which will begin next week, so the question is very timely.

I have launched a survey to better understand what matters to my constituents in Wolverhampton in protecting our precious environment. What discussions has my hon. Friend had with international partners to ensure that everybody is included in the global effort to tackle climate change?

My hon. Friend is a dynamo on climate change in his constituency, and we in our own modest way hope to be dynamos at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We will encourage climate ambition in this critical year of COP; through our presidency we will make an inclusive COP, listening to all parties. It is important that we engage here in the UK, but also that we engage throughout the G7 across communities that are not directly affected now but will be in the future and that need to embed the ideas of climate change and ambition for the future by driving forward Executives to do more. I thank my hon. Friend for his work, and we will work with him on the international stage.

It has been revealed that UK officials have said that

“greater levels of climate action are urgently needed”

and that

“before COP26, partners must step up with more forward-looking commitments.”

I am sure such a statement would carry weight in the international community if it were not for the fact that the UK is simultaneously cutting its overseas spending, which would be helping developing economies to become greener and adapt to steps to address climate change. South Africa’s Environment Minister has called the aid cut “a concern”. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact on climate change of the UK’s cuts to funds committed to the sustainable development goals, of which tackling climate change is a central priority?

As the hon. Lady can imagine, this is a very important issue, and I have asked the question internally within the Department and can assure her that we are doubling our international climate finance to £11.6 billion over the next five years and have committed to aligning all official development assistance with the Paris agreement, so actually there is a really positive story to tell.

A recent Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behaviour Change report says the world’s wealthiest 1% need to emit 30 times less carbon than they currently do by 2030 if we are to have a fair transition to net zero and, according to the science, save the lives and livelihoods of millions, perhaps billions, of the world’s poorest from the worst effects of the climate emergency. Given the stakes and given the UK’s historical and disproportionate carbon emissions, will the Minister commit to ensuring that not a single penny from the public purse will be used to fund or subsidise the fossil fuel industry, including through development aid?

Certainly everybody, especially those emitting the most, needs to make those reductions. We are no longer investing in fossil fuels. Various organisations clearly have a historical book of fossil fuel investment that can be managed down over time, but we are very exercised to do the right thing as individuals and as Government, and, through COP26, to be leading and ambitious and ask others to be ambitious as well.

To galvanise global support to avert the climate catastrophe, tackle poverty and improve global health in a year when the UK will host the G7 and COP26, we must bring countries together. Instead, this Government are the only one in the G7 to have taken the callous decision to cut their aid budget, which weakens our ability to bring countries together to tackle the global challenges we face. The Government’s cuts to the aid budget will remove a lifeline from hundreds of thousands of people and damage our planet, leaving us all less safe. Rather than hiding behind written statements, will the Foreign Secretary face up to his decision, make a statement to the House on his spending plans for 2021 and put his Government’s cuts to a vote?

The Foreign Secretary is attending the International Development Committee on Thursday, which will allow for a forensic examination of everything that he says, but we are here at the Dispatch Box answering questions. I myself am answering seven or eight questions. Far from running away, we are engaging in this debate, and we have a good story to tell. We are one of the best contributors in the G7 in relation to our GNI. We have the pledge of 0.7%, and we will get back to that when the economy allows. We should be proud, but we need to live within our means.