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Climate Change

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2021

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to promote international co-operation on tackling climate change. (902995)

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to promote international co-operation on tackling climate change. (903000)

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking with its counterparts in G7 countries to tackle global climate change challenges. (903003)

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to promote international co-operation on tackling climate change. (903011)

What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to promote international co-operation on tackling climate change. (903018)

As set out in the integrated review, tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is this Government’s top international priority. As Minister for Africa, it is integral to my work, and so far this year the Foreign Secretary has raised the issue of climate in more than 100 engagements. We are making progress, as can be seen by last month’s first ever net zero G7, where all countries committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

I warmly welcome the commitment by G7 countries to the Build Back Better World initiative, which will be vital in supporting developing countries with clean infrastructure and could unlock greater progress on climate finance at COP26. While congratulating the UK Government on their leadership, may I ask my hon. Friend how he plans to take this forward and secure firm commitments from our allies?

At the end of March, the COP President-designate and the Foreign Secretary hosted the climate and development ministerial. Ministers from 35 climate-vulnerable and donor countries attended, plus representatives from institutions and civil society. At that, we saw consensus about the importance of practical action, and we will continue to build on this success.

Climate change remains a hot topic across my constituency, and I intend to engage with my local schools in COP26-style roundtables. Does my hon. Friend agree that working with young people across the world will help promote international co-operation on climate change? Should he need a doughty champion to do that around the world, I have my passport at the ready.

A stonkingly excellent idea! I am glad my hon. Friend has her passport at the ready—I am sure the Whips will have heard that. Young people are an important voice, and the UK is committed to involving young people in the planning and hosting of COP26. COP26 will engage civil society and the youth advisory council, which is co-chaired by the Kenyan 25-year-old climate change activist and Bella Lack, an 18-year-old climate activist from the UK.

The UK should feel rightly proud of the progress we are making to cut our carbon footprint and our commitment to net zero, but with less than 1% of global emissions it is clear that the UK cannot fight climate change on its own. So will the Minister assure me that we will use both our diplomatic and commercial influence to put pressure on not only the G7, but other nations that are the most polluting to take urgent action to address this matter and reduce their emissions?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: tackling climate change and biodiversity loss will require a global effort. We are asking all countries to agree ambitious nationally determined contributions that align with net zero and to invest in policies that will phase out coal, which will turn these targets into a reality. We have already made great progress, as has been seen by last month’s first ever net zero G7, which I believe he part-hosted.

We have already heard this morning about emissions from China. Following up on the point from my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), I should say that China generates 60% of its electricity from coal, which compares with a figure of just 2% in the UK. As well as being a major contributor to global climate change, that gives Chinese manufacturers a competitive advantage, because it makes their energy costs lower. What discussions have been held with the Chinese authorities to encourage them to speed up their transition to carbon free sources of energy?

The Foreign Secretary raised this issue with Wang Yi, and at the US climate leaders’ summit President Xi made the commitment that China would reduce its coal use. That is a positive sign, but more information is needed, so we look forward to hearing more about how China will strictly control and then reduce coal consumption, to make sure that its commitments are Paris-compatible.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Bede Academy in Blyth where concerned students questioned me on the steps that we are collectively taking to tackle climate change. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the Government are doing all they can to pursue international co-operation on climate change, so that we can best tackle the serious environmental issues and protect our planet for future generations?

My hon. Friend can return to Bede Academy and reassure students that he has raised this matter in the House and that we will tackle climate change and biodiversity. He can also reassure them that that is the Government’s top international priority. We look forward to delivering a successful COP26 this November. That will be a key focus for Ministers and our diplomatic network over the coming months and, indeed, years.

It is vital that climate action does not come at the cost of further crushing debt for developing world countries. Debt cancellation would be one fast way for those countries to free up resources, achieve the sustainable development goals, and tackle the climate crisis. Will the COP26 President and UK Government be pushing for international agreement on this as the SNP has long called for?

That is something that we have worked and delivered on both in Sudan and Somalia recently. We also had a focus on suspending debt initially during this crisis. However, we need to look at all options going forward as we build back better, sorting the debt issue, but doing so in a climate-sensitive way.

It is clear that low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Wealthier countries, including the UK, have so far failed to commit to the agreed £100 billion climate finance promise made in Paris to address this. Evidence submitted to my International Development Committee inquiry suggests that only 10% to 15% of the current climate finance available actually reaches the local communities that bear the brunt of this emergency. What steps are the Government taking to secure the £100 billion before COP26 and what is the Minister doing to ensure that local communities in the areas worst affected by climate change are consulted, including in designing programmes, and can actually access the climate financing themselves?

On the numbers, the hon. Lady is wrong. We have doubled our commitment to international climate finance to take it up to £11.6 billion. That is a big commitment to the global number, but we are asking other partners to step up, and we will use events such as COP26 in Glasgow and the G7 to encourage others to step up as we have done.

The newly unelected Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links described her Tory colleagues as “a bloody disgrace” for condemning millions of the world’s poorest people to this Government’s death sentence cuts last week. If those cuts were not stupid enough, vital projects combating climate change across the world are now being immediately cancelled as a result. Does the Minister agree with the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh that the Chancellor has cut the COP26 President

“off at the legs. He will not have any credibility… asking other countries”

to be more ambitious on climate change.

The COP26 President-Designate has done a very good job in engaging international partners and we are already making traction. I am not predicting that the hon. Gentleman is wrong; I am saying that the facts already demonstrate that he is wrong. Is it not good that we have a thriving democracy and a variety of views in this House and in the other place?