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Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 14 July 2021

The President of COP26 was asked—

Civil Society and Youth Groups

What steps he is taking to consult with (a) civil society and (b) youth groups in preparation for COP26. (902685)

I have established a civil society and youth advisory council, which is the first of its kind at any COP. It is working with the UK presidency to deliver a successful summit. The co-chairs are youth climate activists, one from the global north and one from the global south. I also meet civil society and youth groups on my international visits, to ensure that their voices are heard.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that children in our schools can play a crucial part in helping us to get to net zero by becoming young climate leaders? In my constituency there are groups such as Warrington Youth Voice, which last month organised its first green schools conference, and pupils at Penketh Primary School have come together to take steps to reduce energy use in their homes. Will my right hon. Friend encourage Members of the House to reach out to schools in their constituencies, and build greater understanding of the work of COP26?

What an excellent question. I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing to encourage youth climate activists in his constituency, such as those in Warrington Youth Voice and at Penketh Primary School. As he knows, last month we sent a COP26 schools pack, designed to engage students with climate action, to schools across the UK. In May, MPs also received a UK engagement pack.

Limiting Global Temperature Rise

What steps he is taking to help ensure that COP26 outcomes commit to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. (902686)

We are pressing all countries to come forward with mid-century net-zero commitments, and aligned ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets. We have seen some progress. When the UK took on the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net-zero emissions target, and that figure is now 70%.

The Government claim that the UK has reduced its emissions footprint by 42% since 1990, which is a commendable feat. That has been achieved in part by offshoring manufacturing and outsourcing many emissions to countries such as China that produce the goods we consume. If we factor in those emissions, the UK emissions reduction is possibly as little as 10% to 15%. Ahead of COP26, what steps will the Minister take to include the full scope of our emissions in the accounting, including those arising from UK consumption, supply chains, and international aviation and shipping?

The hon. Lady talks about aviation and shipping, and we have included those in the sixth carbon budget. The role of the UK COP presidency is to ensure climate action and ambition across the whole UK, and that is what we are working to deliver.

Keeping the 1.5°C limit alive is now, quite rightly, one of the Government’s stated aims of COP26. Although we do not doubt the COP President’s personal commitment to delivering on that objective, the Government as a whole are patently still not doing enough. If we are to markedly increase the global ambition for 2030 targets, forge a coalition with vulnerable nations to hold the major emitters to account, and mobilise the climate finance that is essential to unlocking any agreement, we need sustained engagement and focus from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, and we need it now. With just over 100 days until this critical summit, does the COP26 President recognise that if senior members of the Government do not raise their game quickly, there is a real risk of failure in Glasgow in November?

There is a concerted effort across the whole of Government to ensure that we press other countries to come forward with ambition. We are, of course, seen around the world as a leader on climate action, in terms of both the actions we have taken and the commitments we have made. The Prime Minister has regular dialogue with world leaders, as do the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary with their counterparts.

Current carbon budgets will see the world miss the 1.5°C target, with all the disastrous consequences that will have. The UK’s portion of that carbon budget is up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 higher than is proportional to its population. France put in the effort for global improvement in the Paris agreement, but we have seen nothing comparable from the UK Government. When will we see that change? What conversations is the right hon. Gentleman having with his Cabinet colleagues about the immediate actions their Departments should be taking to reduce the UK’s carbon contribution?

I respectfully disagree with the hon. Lady. Since 2000 the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G20 nation, and our national determined contribution of at least 68% reduction in emissions on a 1990 base year by 2030 is world leading, as is the commitment in our carbon budget. We are doing our bit but, of course, there is always room for all of us to do more.

Has Britain lost her credibility when asking developing nations to pay to decarbonise, following the Government’s affirmation yesterday of their cut to UK international aid spending?

I have seen at first hand, when I was Secretary of State for International Development and, indeed, in other roles, that UK support continues to transform millions of lives for the better across the world. The hon. Gentleman will know that we will continue to spend over £10 billion this year in aid, and of course we now have certainty that we will be returning to the 0.7% target.

Emerging Markets Exports: Energy and Renewables

What assessment he has made of the opportunities through COP26 for potential exports in energy and renewables to emerging markets. [R] (902687)

For COP26, we want clean power to be the most attractive option for new power generation for any country. This presents economic opportunities for every country choosing clean energy. The UK Government will showcase a variety of organisations and technologies at COP26 in the blue and green zones, including innovative energy solutions, green technologies and services that can help fight climate change and support resilience.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the contracts for difference auction that is happening in November, shortly before COP26, is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that there is a separate pot for marine energy, which can give opportunities for some of our great new technologies around the coastline to shine? Does she also agree that COP26 provides an opportunity for us to showcase some of those technologies to visiting delegations from abroad, particularly Asia? Mr Speaker, you will be interested to hear that a British company is the second biggest investor in renewables in the Philippines and will be launching a new large fund on the London stock exchange this autumn to invest in further renewable opportunities in Asia.

Just to confirm, the next contracts for difference auction will open in December this year and will be our biggest yet, firmly charting our path towards net zero. Technologies such as wave and tidal stream projects are eligible to compete in pot 2 for CfD auctions, and we will publish specific allocation round parameters in advance of the auction. The Government continue to provide support to UK companies that are looking to export tidal technologies and other marine renewables abroad.

Member Engagement with COP26

As I said in response to an earlier question, all Members of Parliament were sent a COP26 pack in May, which provides ideas for engagement on climate issues with their constituents. With regard to attendance at COP26, we will set out more details very shortly on how parliamentarians can register their interest to attend.

Reducing greenhouse emissions and tackling air pollution is a priority for many Carshalton and Wallington residents, not least because we have the Beddington incinerator in my constituency. In the spirit of engagement, I hope to host a local COP26 event later this year to discuss how we can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What steps is the COP26 President taking to ensure that the public can engage with COP26 and play their part in this important event?

I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing in hosting a local climate event in his constituency, and I would urge all hon. and right hon. Members to consider doing the same. We are today also launching the local authorities and mayors COP26 engagement pack. Of course, we want everyone to play their part in taking climate action; I have always said that we want this to be the most inclusive COP ever.

Ethics and Human Rights: Climate Change

What preparations he has made for discussion at COP26 of (a) ethics and (b) human rights matters relating to climate change. (902689)

The UK recognises the serious and unequivocal threat that climate change poses to our planet, and that it can indeed undermine the enjoyment of human rights. The Paris agreement preamble states that respecting and promoting our human rights is fundamental to effective climate implementation. Therefore, human rights are a cross-cutting consideration in all climate action, so we will be working with all countries this year to achieve an ambitious, inclusive and shared outcome from COP26 to help safeguard human rights.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Scotland was not only the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, but the first in the world to establish a dedicated climate justice fund—a fund that was recently doubled by the SNP Scottish Government in Edinburgh. Will the UK Government, ahead of COP Glasgow, match Scotland’s ambitions? Will this Government create such a fund, and will the Minister and the COP26 President ensure that the focus of COP26 is placed squarely on the rights of those who will be affected first and foremost by the climate emergency?

As my right hon. Friend the COP26 President set out, the UK remains one of the largest donors in supporting a number of areas, including, obviously, humanitarian assistance and humanitarian rights. I would be interested to hear more on the details of the climate justice fund to understand the premise of it, but the UK continues to have an absolutely clear commitment to that.

Geothermal Energy: Net Zero Target

What recent assessment the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee has made of the role of geothermal energy in the UK reaching net zero. (902690)

The Committee that I chair has been working with Departments across Whitehall to develop our plans to deliver on our carbon budgets and, indeed, our net zero commitments. The Government consider geothermal energy a low-carbon technology that is within the scope of our new £270 million green heat network fund, which supports the commercialisation of low-carbon heat network projects and opened for applications earlier this month.

The COP President will know from his recent visit that Cornwall is leading the way in the development of geothermal energy in the UK with two wells being drilled and many more planned. However, the people developing this new technology need the Government to back it to ensure that we can realise its potential, and they need certainty to make their plans in the near future. Will he ensure that the Government come forward with a renewable heat incentive for geothermal as soon as possible?

May I say that I very much enjoyed my visit to Eden Geothermal with my hon. Friend? It was particularly pleasing to note that some of those working in the project had made the transition from the oil and gas sector owing to their transferable engineering skills. As I set out, the fund has been launched, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue further.

Upholding COP26 Commitments

What steps he plans to take to help ensure that all COP26 parties uphold the commitments of that conference. (902693)

The UK presidency is focused on delivering a successful COP26 with ambitious outcomes across mitigation, adaptation and finance. We will use our presidency year to champion the outcome, maintaining close collaboration with our partners and, indeed, the COP27 presidency to make those commitments a reality.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work he is doing. I urge him to put in place mechanisms that could quickly address issues that may blow the objectives off course, as has happened since Paris.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As well as pushing for net zero and 2030 emissions reduction targets, we are indeed asking countries to set out their long-term strategies to demonstrate how they will turn ambition into action. In addition, we want to resolve the outstanding issue of transparency in the Paris rulebook, which will allow for reporting by countries of progress on climate action.

Economic Recovery from Covid-19: Climate Action

What steps he is taking ahead of COP26 to help ensure that climate action supports the covid-19 pandemic economic recovery. (902695)

What steps the Government are taking ahead of COP26 to promote (a) climate action and (b) a green recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. (902704)

What steps the Government are taking ahead of COP26 to promote (a) climate action and (b) a green recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. (902713)

What steps the Government are taking ahead of COP26 to promote (a) climate action and (b) a green recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. (902714)

The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan sets out our blueprint for a green industrial revolution. The plan commits to investments in green technologies and industries, and leverages billions of bounds of private sector investment to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs across the UK. It is a clear plan to build back greener from the covid pandemic. The Government will publish their net zero strategy before COP26.

Two weeks ago, I went on a fantastic community litter pick with the fantastic Hannah Picken, who leads a local environmental group called Wild Earth Movement. Within an hour, we collected 244 kg of litter and waste—a quarter of a tonne in old terms, so it was pretty significant—the majority of which was plastic. Does my right hon. Friend agree that individuals need to do more and show personal responsibility for us to achieve the net zero carbon goal?

My hon. Friend is leading by example. I commend Hannah and her local group, the Wild Earth Movement, for their impressive clean-up operation—but, of course, it is a depressing one to have to do. The challenge we have is to educate and encourage all our citizens to make this wonderful group’s activities redundant by stopping plastic pollution. Through our Together for Our Planet campaign, we are building awareness and understanding of COP26 in every part of the UK to help educate our children and families on the behaviours to change so that we are all part of that positive impact on our carbon footprint.

The success of the UK presidency requires leadership at home. The Government have pledged to consider the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation for near-zero emission iron ore steel- making by 2035, but a plan for decarbonising steel production must be published before COP26. Hydrogen is among the emerging technologies offering solutions, and its use is progressing across the rest of Europe. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit recently reported on 23 pilot projects—planned or live—across several countries producing 10 million tonnes of clean steel annually by 2026. Are the Government considering hydrogen-based pilots as part of their plan for steel?

The hon. Gentleman will know that we will shortly publish our hydrogen strategy, which will set out in much more detail the commitment that the Government are going to make to that developing technology, and a £250 million fund will be available in due course for pilot projects to develop those skills.

I am often contacted by young constituents who care passionately about climate change and want to see Ministers taking bold action. The UK’s credibility as COP president rests on climate action at home. The Government have set legally binding net zero targets but are currently off track to meet their fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which are calibrated for previous, more lenient targets. When does the Minister expect the UK to have its house in order so that I can let my constituents know that their words are not falling on deaf ears?

I would be thrilled for the hon. Lady to go back and say to her constituents that in putting carbon budget 6 into law, as I did just a few weeks ago, we are driving up not only the ambition, but the policy making, frameworks and business models that will help industry to decarbonise and us to change the way that we travel and live in our houses of the future to ensure that we are all part of the solution to meeting that net zero target by 2050.

Recent United Nations analysis makes it clear that the current climate pledges will achieve emission reductions of only 1% by the end of this critical decade, not the 45% required to stay below 1.5° C. What has the Minister done to pressure large emitters such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia who have merely resubmitted old pledges or, in the case of Brazil, have backtracked even further, to step up and do their fair share?

The COP presidency has an incredibly important role in drawing everyone together and driving up ambition. As the COP26 President set out in answer to an earlier question, we have shifted the dial in terms of the ambition brought forward through nationally determined contributions by many countries, but there is much more to do and we are under no illusions that the challenges that we all face as a planet to meet that are yet to be resolved. We continue to work tirelessly as a team and across the globe to encourage more ambition.

Green Businesses

Businesses have a key role in tackling climate change, which we will showcase in the UK managed spaces of COP26. Businesses were able to apply for the expression of interest process and will also be able to participate through other delegations and in the action zone organised by the UN and the high-level planet champions.

Cornwall is taking the lead in the emerging green economy, particularly looking at the use of local lithium to store electricity. Will my right hon. Friend promote Cornwall’s great potential at the summit and advise businesses of any opportunities?

Local government has a key role to play in tackling climate change and meeting net zero targets, and we are keen to ensure that there is representation at the summit from cities and regions across the UK. My hon. Friend will know that, following the G7 in June, the Government have backed a major drive to make Cornwall the first net zero region in the UK. I am sure that she will be leading on getting the maximum impact for her constituents from the town deals for Penzance, St Ives and Camborne, worth £65 million, up to £1 million of innovation funding and energy efficiency, power generation and energy storage for Cornish businesses, and the opportunities for Cornwall to pilot the new e-bike support scheme.

Topical Questions

Last week, we set out our high-level two-week programme for COP26. The conference will open with a world leaders’ summit followed by a range of themed days of activity, including on finance, energy, youth, nature, adaptation, gender, science, transport and the built environment. These days will also be an opportunity to showcase specific global action on tackling climate change. I look forward to welcoming parliamentarians to Glasgow and we will very shortly be inviting Members of both Houses to formally register their interest for attendance at COP26.

As the president-designate says, it is not just world leaders and Governments who are needed to make COP26 a success, but parliamentarians from around the world. As chair of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we will be hosting events for parliamentarians around the world, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will encourage his officials to accredit as many parliamentarians from international delegations as possible.

Obviously we want to ensure that we have a physical event and that those who apply have an opportunity to try to get accredited. As I said, for parliamentarians in this and the other place, we will be opening a registration process shortly.

The Copenhagen summit of 2009 was undone by deep mistrust of the developed world by developing countries. Rather than learning from that, rich countries are still failing to deliver on the promised $100 billion of climate finance and the billions of vaccine doses still required by poorer countries. Yesterday, shamefully, the Prime Minister decided to press ahead with the cut in our aid spending. When the COP26 President went to see the PM yesterday, did he explain that COP26 is not some international photo opportunity, but a complex and fragile negotiation, and that the aid cut simply deepens mistrust, damages our moral standing and undermines our COP presidency?

The right hon. Gentleman raises two issues. On vaccines, he will know that we now have an offer open so that any accredited delegates who are not able to get vaccinated in their home country are able to receive vaccinations through the programme that we are setting up. Secondly, I can tell him that there is huge appreciation for the UK’s leadership on climate action around the world. That is based on conversations that I have day in, day out with world leaders.

The COP26 President knows that world leaders and others are asking him why the UK is the only G7 country cutting aid spending in the year that we are hosting the COP. He knows that delivering support to developing countries is not just morally right, but essential to building a coalition to pressure the world’s largest emitters.

The most significant of those emitters is China. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°, we need China to ensure that its emissions peak and start to decline by 2025 at the latest. Does the COP26 President agree? If so, can he tell us what the Prime Minister is doing to engage directly with China on the issue and persuade it to step up?

We are engaged with all big emitters; as the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am travelling around the globe talking to different countries. To come back to his point about aid spending, I just point out that this year we will spend more on aid as a percentage of our GNI than the US, Japan, Canada or Italy.

In contrast to Kettering, which generates enough renewable electricity locally to power all 45,000 homes in the constituency, this week the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, reported that 52% of the world’s urban greenhouse gas emissions come from just 25 megacities, 23 of which are in China. Will the COP26 President focus on that at COP26? (902727)

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. That is precisely why, as part of our work, we are aiming to support countries to make a clean energy transition to solar, to wind power and to other renewables.

Will the COP26 President join me in congratulating the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, on pressing ahead resolutely with the recommendations of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate, which was established by the Mayor’s predecessor and chaired by Baroness Brown? It is a fantastic example of what can be done locally in the run-up to COP26. (902726)

I congratulate all local areas and local leaders who are doing their bit on climate action. As I said, today we are launching the local authorities and Mayors engagement pack, which I hope local authorities and Mayors will use to encourage climate action across their areas.

Cleaning up our air, here and across the globe, is a major challenge for all of us. The conversations that I am having with local people and businesses in the Cities of London and Westminster make it clear that we have a key opportunity at COP26 for the UK to become a global leader in promoting cleaner, greener urban environments. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will do all he can to accelerate action to tackle urban air pollution through collaboration between Governments, businesses and civil society? (902729)

The UK is already leading the way on tackling air pollution. The Government are backing a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle air pollution, investing in green transport and working with local authorities just like the City of Westminster. My hon. Friend will be keen to read the transport decarbonisation plan, which will be published later today and will set out the world’s first “greenprint” for decarbonised transport and clean air.

What proportion of the billions of pounds of private sector investment and how many of the 250,000 highly skilled green jobs contained in the Prime Minister’s 10-point green industrial revolution plan to level up across the UK will go to Wales? (902728)

We are supporting industrial clusters around the world, as the hon. Lady will know from the 10-point plan that the Prime Minister published at the end of last year, and we are seeing action across the country. She will know that the Government have recently funded some new offshore wind ports and we have seen the investment that is going into battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.

There is real concern regarding the UK Government’s accommodation for COP26, which is to be provided by MCI Group with extremely high costs and unreasonable terms and conditions. Will the President provide details of the MCI contract to the Committee that is scrutinising COP26, and can he assure us that delegations, many of which operate on very small budgets and are among the worst affected by climate change, will not be deterred from attending? (902730)

I would just point out to the hon. Gentleman that MCI has secured only about a third of the market availability for hotel rooms, and that there are alternative options for booking accommodation, which are still available. If he has specific issues, I would be happy to speak to him separately.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out that a British sign language interpretation of the proceedings is available to watch on