I beg to move,
That this House has considered the role and response of the devolved Administrations to COP26.
It is a pleasure to open the debate. May I put on record my gratitude to the Backbench Business Committee for allocating time for it?
Before I begin, Madam Deputy Speaker, may I seek your indulgence to mention, as a curtain raiser to COP26, that we are in the middle of Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign? It encourages people to think about the 13 million items of clothing—95% of which are perfectly good, and could and should be reused and recycled—that we send to landfill every year. It will come as no surprise to my colleagues sitting behind me that today I am kitted out head-to-toe in clothes sourced from the wonderful charity shops across Argyll and Bute.
We are just 47 days away from the start of COP26, which will probably be the most important gathering of world leaders ever to take place. They will come to Glasgow with one job: to keep their promise to cut global emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°, and thus to give the world a fighting chance in the war against climate change. It will take courage, it will take determination, and it will take sacrifice. It will require all the developed countries to make good their promise to help others to move away from producing planet-warming emissions. They have no option: it has to be done, and it has to be done now.
Just last month, a report co-authored by 200 climate scientists and described as a “code red for humanity” was published by the United Nations. It makes harrowing reading. Those scientists were unequivocal in saying that global climate change is accelerating, and that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the overwhelming cause of that change. The UN Secretary-General said:
“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
According to the report, global surface temperatures are reaching levels not seen in the past 100,000 years, and each of the last four decades has been the warmest on record.
Those scientists were simply confirming what we have all seen or experienced ourselves. We know that our summers are becoming hotter and drier, and our winters warmer and wetter. Flooding is increasing, as I know from my own constituency, where unprecedented levels of rainfall are causing the already unstable hillside which towers over the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful to crumble on to the road with alarming regularity. This summer saw the highest recorded temperature ever on the planet: 54.4° in Death Valley, California. We also witnessed wildfires raging out of control across Europe, Canada and the United States, and down into Central and South America. It was the same in Africa, Australia, and Russia, where fires were raging out of control and more intense than ever before. Now, human habitation is no longer possible across great swathes of the world, because we in the developed world have created a climate emergency—one in which, as always, those who are least responsible for creating the problem are having to bear the biggest burden of sorting it out
The world’s largest economies all signed up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, but most of them are set to miss those targets because of our continued over-reliance on fossil fuels. Although it makes grim reading, the UN report does provide a glimmer of hope, saying that it is still possible to avoid catastrophic levels of warming—but only if we dramatically and permanently cut our emissions now, and that will require unprecedented and transformational change. We have a very small and fast-diminishing window of opportunity in which to act, but act we must. This COP26 meeting is the most important meeting that any city has ever hosted, because the world has one last chance to deliver on what was signed up to in Paris, and we have to get it right.
Although it is the UK Government who will be officially hosting COP26, it is hugely important, given that it is the Governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast who are designing and implementing their own policies to tackle climate change, that all the nations of these islands are given a fair voice at the meeting. It is also important to recognise that the nations of the United Kingdom are not necessarily moving at the same speed, or with the same priorities or the same degree of urgency, in addressing climate change. In that regard—and despite being the host of an event in Scotland—the Prime Minister does not necessarily speak for the whole United Kingdom on these matters.
Just last week, when the public in Scotland were asked who would better represent Scotland at COP26, the Prime Minister polled just 16% of the vote, while our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, polled well over 50%. That was not an accident. I believe that those figures reflect the fact that the people of Scotland trust their Government to make these difficult but important decisions—the ones that are required to save the planet—and that they are extremely sceptical about the ability, or indeed the commitment, of the Prime Minister to make those changes. Scotland knows that our Government were among the first in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, and that this conference will provide Scotland with a fantastic opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world our ambitious approach to tackling the climate emergency and achieving a net zero future.
I expect that Conservative Members will be primed with notes saying, “What about this target that was missed?” or “What about that goal that was not reached?” Of course, they may be factually correct, but it is a consequence of setting the bar so high, and having an ambition to achieve that goes far beyond anything that has been achieved before, that on occasion, unfortunately, things will not go to plan and targets will be missed. But I —and, I am sure, the people of Scotland—would not want our Government to have taken the path of least resistance and to have set low, almost meaningless targets. And what we are doing is working, with Scotland recently managing to produce 97% of its electricity requirements from renewable sources. In the decade to 2018, Scotland reduced emissions by 31%, faster than any other nation of the UK and ahead of any G20 nation. Transport, however, remains the largest source of emissions, which is why the Scottish Government are committed to reducing emissions by 75% by 2030, and have set a legally binding target of achieving net zero by 2045.
As we all know, the oil and gas sector is a significant and important player in the Scottish economy. That is why the Scottish Government are committed to a challenging but necessary “just transition”, to move away from fossil fuels and to a future based on renewable energy. We all understand that, while moving away from oil and gas is essential, and while it is important to do that as quickly as possible, it must also be done fairly. Those of us old enough to remember what happened in Scotland in the 1980s, when the Tory Government callously destroyed mining communities to such an extent that many have not fully recovered to this day, will understand why we could not possibly let that happen again. That is why, backed by £500 million, the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission will work with communities, businesses and trades unions to ensure that those in high-quality, highly skilled jobs are supported in transitioning away from traditionally carbon-intensive sectors.
While Scotland is doing everything it can to meet those challenges, there are areas in which, because of the current constitutional situation with power being held in this place, we will require the UK Government to assist Scotland in becoming net zero by 2045. Specifically, that relates to our ability to benefit from the world-leading tidal energy technology that has been developed by companies such as Nova and Atlantis, but whose growth is being stymied by the lack of a proper route to market via the contracts for difference options, which would allow this hugely important sector to grow and flourish.
It is a similar story for the development of carbon capture and storage. The Government will remember, as we all do, how they pulled the plug at the last minute on the Peterhead carbon capture and storage plan back in 2015. After all the work that had gone in to preparing it, that was a particularly cruel blow for the UK Government to inflict. The only silver lining is that Scotland now has the infrastructure in place for when the UK Government announce their preferred carbon capture and storage facility next month. That would mean all the emissions from the Peterhead power plant, from the hydrogen production facility at St Fergus and from Grangemouth—Scotland’s largest polluter—could be captured and stored in a basin deep under the North sea. Indeed, so vast is that basin that it is estimated that 6.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be captured and stored each year by 2030, totalling half a gigatonne of C02 by 2050, with the ability to expand even further thereafter. As well as allowing Scotland to reach its net zero target, it is estimated that this one CCS project could create up to 20,000 green technology jobs. The Scottish cluster is ready to go, and if the UK Government fail once again to deliver this facility to Peterhead, it will quite rightly be seen as a political decision taken in this place, against the interests of Scotland.
In conclusion, the Scottish Government have repeatedly said that they are committed to working closely with the UK Government and others to deliver a safe, secure and, above all, successful COP26. However, they are also determined that this will be a people’s COP and that the communities and groups whose voices have been continually ignored and sidelined in climate discussions will be heard. Often vulnerable indigenous communities whose land has been devastated by soaring temperatures, a lack of rain, too much rain or rising sea levels, or destroyed by hurricanes or deforestation, must be heard and they must be heeded.
I am delighted that the Scottish Government have set up the world’s first climate justice fund to support vulnerable communities in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to address the impact of climate change. It would send a wonderful message to the world if the United Kingdom Government were to follow that lead and establish their own UK climate justice fund ahead of COP26. However, we should be in no doubt that in Glasgow next month the world’s leaders will be drinking in the last chance saloon. For all our sakes, they have to get it right. Will be watching closely what they do.
It is a great privilege to rise and talk in this debate. I welcome the topic and I welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can involve the devolved Administrations in this. The first half of the speech by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) was a spectacular opening, and I pay tribute to him for that. It went downhill a bit, with a couple of political points and some charged polling. I would be interested to see who commissioned the poll and what the target audience was, but I am sure that we can take that offline to discuss it further.
Representing Montgomeryshire, I represent the Centre for Alternative Technology. The people there have been talking about this subject and devising plans since way before it was fashionable, and way before devolution. They have been at this for decades. I would have liked to hear much more in this debate about getting communities involved, more broadly than politicians and more broadly than the typical argument about the devolved Administrations being left out. Clearly, much of what needs to happen at this very important COP involves UK reserved powers.
I very much welcome the fact that the UK Government chose Glasgow and that we will be able to showcase what the devolved Administrations and many cities have led on. I welcome both the working groups that were set up early in this process to bring the DAs together with the COP President and to bring together the cities and Mayors of the United Kingdom, including Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham. They brought our huge urban conurbations together to talk about what we can do in the urban and rural space.
I thought it was remiss of the hon. Gentleman to comment about who should lead the welcomes and who should be front and centre. We need to put politics aside over the last couple of weeks before COP. We need to get behind the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the negotiations that are happening right now to get international leaders together. As the Centre for Alternative Technology has set out time and again, this needs to be tackled on a global basis.
I have no doubt that we will hear in this debate how the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government are world leading and the best. Maybe even the Northern Ireland Executive will feature, but let us be frank about the significant changes that have happened under this Government. Let us be frank about the fact that we have settled the climate change argument and are moving at a pace on energy distribution and on fundamental policies that have been difficult to grasp. This debate is happening in nuclear week, and there is no doubt in my mind that the nuclear industry has a huge role to play in achieving that, be that through the small modular reactors of Dwyfor Meirionnydd or through Wylfa in north Wales, a larger, more strategic site. Clearly, these are UK competences that we need to be lobbying and levering the UK Government on.
Would the hon. Gentleman nevertheless admit that his Government now need to start moving ahead from the short-term decisions that they are making, and to start making real decisions and announcements in relation to energy and how it is to be funded in future? Otherwise, I fear that we will just be making more empty words.
The right hon. Lady and I share the campaign to get an SMR into our area of the world, and she is of course right. We on these Benches are looking to the UK Government to make these important decisions. Sizewell C hangs over all our heads across the House, as do the more practical applications of SMRs. There are important decisions to be made, but I suppose that underscores what I am trying to say about how this debate needs to focus on bringing these ideas together.
Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister whether he believed that burning fossil fuels would be a source of energy in the future and he replied that it would not. But he was only talking about coal. Today I have asked for a debate on this important issue. How do we go about stopping burning fossil fuels as a source of energy? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need an urgent debate in Parliament to discuss these vital issues?
I was here when the hon. Member asked that question, and I heard the answer. It was a very good answer. I remember the Prime Minister emphasising coal, and that was not just words; it was clear action. I do not think anyone in the Chamber could doubt the reduction of coal in our energy network, and that has been due to clear action by this Government, putting their money where their mouth is. I would welcome a further debate on fossil fuels.
Clearly that is being phased out, but the hon. Member will know that her constituents expect a fair energy price. We need to transition carefully to new technologies—[Interruption.] I am sure she will have an opportunity to make a speech soon.
I want to bring my remarks to a conclusion, because I know that other Members want to talk in this important debate. Hopefully, to change the tone from some of what Opposition Members have said, this is about bringing together communities, businesses and third parties such as the Centre for Alternative Technology. Rather than have a fuzzy, politically charged constitutional debate, the UK Government have taken COP to Scotland, which is brilliant. There is no doubt a role for the Scottish Government, as the Prime Minister has said, but these international negotiations are clearly led by the UK Government. We must work together as a family of nations, but we cannot have a constitutional debate on the sidelines as it would distract attention and not help with the important matters at hand.
I implore SNP Members that, if they really want to put their mouth where these issues are, the next couple of weeks are critical. They should get behind the negotiation process and the communities that want to see real action. It is incredibly clear that politically charged comments such as “We want our First Minister to be at the head of the queue” add nothing.
I will check Hansard, but I am absolutely sure that the hon. Gentleman mentioned a politically charged poll, to which I alluded. By implication, he was trying to undermine the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I realise that his speech was written way before he came into the Chamber and I am merely retorting, but that seemed to be the charge. I finish by reiterating that I think such comments add nothing to this debate, and if there is any Opposition rhetoric saying, “We’re good, you’re bad,” I ask why. What does that achieve today? [Interruption.] There will be plenty of time for the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) to speak, and I look forward to intervening on her.
I rise to make a short contribution to today’s important debate.
We all know that our planet and way of life in this country and around the world are facing an existential threat from climate change. COP26 is probably the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control, and no one should underestimate the importance of the next few weeks.
The past few months have seen record high temperatures in the Pacific north-west, and we are increasingly familiar with extreme weather events closer to home. February 2020 was the wettest on record in Wales, resulting in Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, which devastated homes in my constituency and many others. All this underlines the fact that this is not a challenge that we can or should leave to future generations; it is one that we must all face together now.
I am proud that the Senedd became the first Parliament in the world to vote to declare a climate emergency in 2019, and that is why the Welsh Labour Government introduced measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Wales, culminating in a target of net zero emissions by 2050. The target is vital to protect our planet’s future, and it is an ambitious target that will require a concerted effort from all of us: Governments, industries, communities and individuals.
Of course, Governments must take a lead. Through their warm homes scheme, the Welsh Labour Government have installed energy efficiency measures in more than 60,000 households that are experiencing fuel poverty They have also invested in major renewable energy infrastructure projects, including the Awel y Môr offshore wind farm and the world-class centre for marine engineering at Pembroke Dock. All the while, they are taking action to combat and limit the technologies that threaten our climate and environment in Wales and across the country, including by opposing fossil fuel extraction and maintaining the ban on fracking.
Wales has reached the milestone of generating more than 50% of the energy we consume from renewable sources, up from 19% in 2014. But of course there is more that must be done for us to meet our 2050 target and ensure a sustainable future for all communities.
Colleagues will know that, following the Senedd elections in May, the Welsh Labour Government established a new Ministry for Climate Change, under the leadership of Welsh Ministers Julie James and Lee Waters. This bold decision to bring housing, transport, planning and energy policy together under one roof is a clear signal that the Welsh Government will use all the levers they have to tackle the climate emergency. Their plan, “A Climate Conscious Wales”, is now in its second year of delivery, and a national flood strategy, published in October 2020, sets out how Wales will manage flood risk over the next decade.
In the coming Senedd term, the Welsh Government will expand renewable energy generation by public bodies and community groups in Wales, working towards a target of 1 GW of public sector and community renewable energy capacity by 2030. Of course the transition to a fully green economy requires difficult choices. In Wales, we are embedding the concept of a just transition through a social partnership, bringing together Government, trade unions and employers to consider the action that must be taken. We must also involve communities and residents.
As a relative youngster way back in 1992, I remember that the headline from the Rio summit was “Think global, act local.” That has stuck with me for many years, and it underlines that we can all do our bit to contribute to the whole but, as I said, Governments can and must take the lead.
I have outlined some of the measures being taken in Wales to combat climate change, and I hope there can be close co-operation with the UK Government as we all focus our attention on hitting that 2050 target. As we know, the UN climate summit, COP26, which this country is hosting in Glasgow in just a few weeks’ time, is a critical moment for our planet and our country. The eyes of the world will be upon us, so I hope Ministers will ensure they meaningfully involve the Welsh Government and, indeed, devolved and regional Administrations across the UK in the preparations for COP26. It is important that we provide a co-ordinated UK-wide approach to the challenges we face. If we cannot come at this together in our own country, we cannot expect the rest of the world to rise to the challenge. COP26 is an opportunity to provide the leadership that we and our planet need. We are at a crucial point and it will take all of us to put our shoulders to the wheel.
I hope the Minister will provide some of the necessary reassurances that we are all looking for.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, particularly given how close we are to COP26. If we are to make a success of COP26 and of cutting our emissions, it must be a national endeavour. The UK Government cannot do it alone, and no devolved Administration can do it alone. It will require all of us—local authorities, regional Mayors, devolved authorities, the UK Government and the private sector—to come together in this shared national endeavour.
Everyone has a vital role to play, because everyone has different economic levers to pull, everyone has vehicle fleets that need to become wholly electric and everyone has building stock, office stock and housing stock that need to change. Across every single layer, we all have an opportunity to be ambitious, to show the world what we can do and to show the world that team UK, as host of COP26, is working in the same direction.
I was pleased to see the Prime Minister recognise that it is a shared endeavour when he pulled together the COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group, which brings together the COP26 President and not only the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the climate change Ministers from all the devolved authorities, the Mayors and the regional advisory councils that my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) mentioned. Doing all of that, and pulling together the different levels of government and the private sector, shows the world what needs to happen. There are countries that look to us for that leadership.
My hon. Friend just made the important point that COP26 is about countries coming together to work with the UK on tackling climate change. My constituents constantly have flooding. Our all-party group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development has a new report coming out and it says that the SDGs are the framework for all countries to work together to tackle issues such as climate change and flooding in my constituency.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention and wholeheartedly agree with her. In Burnley and Padiham, we have suffered flooding as well, and this is not just a UK problem; it is a problem across the whole world. It is only by working together that we can solve some of those big issues.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) said about setting stretching targets. That is absolutely what we need to do. He is right to say that we may not always hit those targets, but we stretch them because it spurs on investment and encourages people to think innovatively. However, may I give a word of caution? We also need to make sure that stretching targets are realistic. There is a balance to be struck between stretching a target and creating a realistic one.
We should also use COP26 to show people where we have come from and what some of those stretching targets have achieved; we can look at the huge reduction in coal power, which my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire mentioned, and at the investment we are making in renewables. We need to see the rest of the world follow us in some of that investment. We have wind power in Humberside, hydrogen in the north-east, nuclear in the north-west and tidal up in Scotland. All of those things will make a difference and if we can use COP26 to encourage the rest of the world to follow our lead, and ideally to buy British as they are doing it, we will make this a success.
The devolved authorities, local authorities and regional mayors all have an important part to play. There are incredibly positive opportunities for all levels of government to use. I wish to say one more thing on cost, because the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) rightly mentioned the enormous cost that will come from this transition. We spoke about that at a meeting with Net Zero North West just a few weeks ago, and it is why it is so important that all of team UK works together. This cannot be done just by a local authority or a devolved Administration. It requires the broad shoulders of the Treasury and of the private sector as well. I hope that at COP26, in a few weeks’ time, we see all of team UK, all the different representatives, come together to show the world what we can do.
The scale of this climate crisis is huge and we are reaching a pivotal moment, with COP26 just weeks away. That is the time when we all need to come together, and the UK Government must show that they can lead, prove their diplomacy and bring the world together to take that urgent action that is so needed. We have seen the scale of this climate crisis; over the summer, we have seen heatwaves, flooding, forest fires and fires in the Arctic. In my constituency, I have seen devastating flooding, which has a huge human impact. There are people in my constituency who are afraid to go to bed at night when they hear heavy rain, and they take it in turns to walk around the perimeter of their area—of the roads—looking at the river levels, living for weeks on end with their furniture upstairs. That is no way to live. That means we must be acting, as this is happening not only in our own backyards—across this country, across Wales—but across the world.
Wales may be a small country, but we are one that punches above our weight. The scale and delivery of what we offer is huge, showing that the Welsh Labour Government can lead the way on action—action on cutting carbon emissions and on recycling, making us the second best in Europe and the third best in the world. I am proud to have played a part in that. I am proud that when I was a special adviser to the Welsh Government for many years we brought in those strategies, with the result that we are now leading the charge. I am proud to have helped bring in the groundbreaking Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which puts sustainability at the heart of every decision the public sector makes in Wales. That is groundbreaking and it has changed how public service and the public sector work together in Wales. We also have a moratorium on road building and we have stopped fracking.
We are doing all those things in Wales to play our part, but we are not doing it alone and we cannot do it alone. We work alongside many other devolved nations and regions across the world. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) mentioned, we are also doing it at home, establishing a super-Ministry for climate, with the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, at the helm, overseeing energy policy, housing, planning, transport, climate and environment. All those things are in one ministry together, and the UK Government could well take a leaf out of our book in Wales.
We have seen action not only at government level, but at local community level, where we all have local community groups working well towards this; so many people understand the impact that climate has. In my community and constituency, we know the Great Big Green Week starts this week and we have many events starting. I helped to establish a local climate organisation, an environmental organisation, called Footprints, which helps build awareness of what each and every one of us can do to play our part. I also wish to mention Martine Brown, who works with my local Birchgrove Women’s Institute and has been a fantastic climate champion across the whole of Cardiff North.
Under Labour, Wales looks outward, working with other devolved nations and regions, where we know the action happens. I was fortunate to have played a key role in many COPs leading up to the Paris climate agreement. I saw the role that devolved nations and regions have to play. In the run-up to that agreement, I represented 50 states and regions across the world to make sure that in the official treaty—the official climate agreement text—it was ratified and acknowledged that these states and regions, devolved nations, play a part. It is where the action happens closer to the people. So why are Wales and devolved nations being left out in the cold at COP26? I hope the Minister can answer that in his response. Why have we had only three devolved meetings in the run-up to COP26? That is shameful.
I thank the right hon. Member for that very good point. I hope that the Minister will address it in his response.
At the G7, the Prime Minister said that
“the world cannot have a prosperous future if we don’t work together to tackle climate change.”
He was absolutely right, so why cannot he and the Government work closely with the devolved nations to make that happen as a central part of this COP?
We know that developing nations are where people are most vulnerable to the climate crisis. I have spoken to many people at the front face of it, and I have talked about those in my constituency of Cardiff North, but it is people across the world in developing nations who are suffering the most. They are most vulnerable, but they do not have a seat at the table. Why not? They need that seat and they need proper finance where it is going to reach the-m.
We know that it is women who suffer most in the climate crisis—and it is women who find the solutions and the way out, keeping their families together. It is usually young girls who have to leave school early to cope and look after their family after suffering great floods or crises caused by the climate.
I hope that this Government will think again and put action over rhetoric and words. We hear great ambition and great targets, but no delivery and no action. As I mentioned in an intervention on the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), the Government continue to funnel billions into fossil fuel projects overseas. As they do that, they continue to cut aid. It does not work, and it is not compatible with tackling the climate crisis.
I hope that this is a pivotal moment, that we can come together and that the UK Government can learn from our devolved nations, work across the world and bring the world together to take action to meet the 1.5° target that is so desperately needed for the future of this planet and the future of humanity.
Order. I should say for the sake of clarification that I hope we can manage without a time limit this afternoon. That will be possible if Members take about eight minutes or less. Most have taken considerably less, but if others speak for longer I will have to impose a time limit, which would be a pity because it should not be necessary.
I welcome this general debate on the devolved Administrations and COP26.
It is fantastic that the COP26 UN climate change conference, which is hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, will take place this year at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow. Wonderful, cultural, innovative Glasgow was chosen by the UK Government to host COP26 because of its extensive experience in hosting world-class events, its commitment to sustainability and its excellent facilities. It has recently been awarded the status of global green city and is ranked fourth in the world in the global destination sustainability index, which promotes best practice in responsible business tourism. That is a great achievement for a UK city—a Scottish city—and for Glasgow City Council and all its residential and business communities.
COP26 will be the largest summit that the UK has ever hosted, bringing together representatives from nearly 200 countries, including world leaders, experts and campaigners, as we accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris agreement and the United Nations framework convention on climate change. The UK is already leading the world in tackling climate change, and as we emerge from the pandemic we are determined to go further and build back greener in a way that benefits every part of society in every part of the UK.
The Government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution will help us to deliver on that mission, including by creating thousands of new highly skilled green jobs, restoring our natural environment and helping people to save money by upgrading their home’s energy efficiency. Our green industrial revolution will be powered by companies and technologies from across the UK, delivering on the Government’s and our Prime Minister’s promise to level up and create jobs as we build back better and greener.
COP26 will unite the world to tackle climate change, but it also unites Great Britain and Northern Ireland—the United Kingdom—in its endeavours. Its aim is to encourage other countries to increase ambition and boost their climate plans for emissions reduction, as well as increasing climate finance pledges for developing countries.
The UK leads the world in tackling climate change: we were the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050, and we are decarbonising faster than any G20 country. All the devolved nations are part of that progress. The UK Government have established a COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group to bring together my right hon. Friend the COP26 President-designate, territorial Secretaries of State and climate change Ministers from the devolved Administrations. The ministerial group has been meeting quarterly and is designed to
“ensure effective engagement and collaboration on COP26.”
UK Government Ministers are working through the group to ensure that the summit is representative of the whole UK.
The UK Government are working with the devolved administrations to
“ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole of the UK.”
Ministers have repeatedly stressed that all parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success. As a member of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, I welcome the joint delivery framework agreed between the Scottish delivery partners, including the Scottish Government, and the COP unit. The UK Government say that they want it to be as inclusive as possible.
It is absolutely brilliant that the Scottish Government have been undertaking work to prepare for COP26, including by announcing a community engagement programme, the stated aim of which is to
“engage communities in the journey to net zero and empower them to take action.”
It is also fantastic that the Scottish Government will host COY16, the 16th UN climate change conference of youth. As the official youth event, it will give young people a voice in the climate negotiations and set out their hopes and expectations for them. I am aware that the Scottish Government have provided £300,000 to deliver the event, and that as part of the Scottish Government’s legacy ambitions Scotland’s Climate Week is running this week, 13 to 19 September.
I am really looking forward to going to Glasgow the Select Committee, including some hon. Members present, to see how preparations for COP26 are progressing. We really have a great opportunity in this country to host such a historic event.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Madam Ddirprwy Lefarydd. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) for securing this debate.
The summit to be held in Glasgow is a pivotal and welcome moment for the world to get climate action back on track as we look to rebuild post pandemic. It is also a welcome introduction for the world to the devolved nature of our islands’ Union. To give some context, I will quote the Prime Minister:
“I guess I don’t mind seeing a Saltire or two on that summit, but I want to see a Union flag—I don’t want to see Nicola Sturgeon anywhere near it.”
It is clear from his words that the devolved Governments have never been far from the thinking behind our collective UK approach to the COP26 summit and the pivotal role of devolved Governments in its potential success. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) —for Sir Drefaldwyn—made a very valid point earlier, even though he made it politically: climate change extends beyond the nation state. It also starts with what we do as individuals, and of course the role of the devolved Governments is absolutely critical within that.
The Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have long been leading lights in the UK’s climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. In Wales, our deep-seated commitment to sustainable development is enshrined in our founding constitution, I am proud to say; we have declared a climate emergency and legislated to ensure that decision making meets our global climate and justice responsibilities. In Scotland, our political cousins in the SNP, the gracious hosts of the summit, continue to implement the green transition both at home and abroad, in the latter case with a ground-breaking climate justice fund that brings much needed assistance to the global south. The same cannot be said in every case about this Government or their handling of the summit.
I recognise the work of the COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group. I hope that today the Minister will greatly expand on the succinct communiqués—I think that is probably the best way to describe them—issued by the group to demonstrate this Government’s engagement with the devolved nations. But, as many have said already and will continue to say, actions speak louder than worders.
From support for fossil-fuel projects both at home and abroad to cuts to the overseas aid budget, inexplicable delays in key Treasury reports and the frankly shameful removal of climate commitments in trade deals, this Government have shambolically handled the dual opportunity presented as they are co-host to COP26 and the G7 president. In doing so, this Government have shown their conflict of priorities or disorganisation —we can describe it in different ways and I am sure it would be described differently on each side of the Chamber. For many people outside, and for many of our neighbours and the coalitions around the world, there will be a commentary on an obsession with display over substance, which has never been so dangerous as it is now, in that it threatens the global climate progress.
Just this week, the Scottish Government have had to step in to fund the UN conference of youth, which runs alongside COP26, after the UK Government refused. I thank the Scottish Government for remembering the fantastic efforts of the world’s youth through the Fridays for Future movement and acknowledging the need for youth engagement in climate policy, given that, in 2019, 1.2 billion people—or 16% of the global population—were aged between 15 and 24 years old. Where Westminster falters, the devolved nations lead—a truth that I hope the world will see at COP26, when it will see the reality of the relationships of the nations of the UK. When we talk about global Britain, let us remember that other structures are in play and that we need to use them to best effect.
In conclusion, the devolved Governments have long had a role to play and responsibility for climate action. Despite the best efforts of Westminster and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, they will no doubt continue to do their best. I therefore wish the Scottish Government the very best of luck with the summit, and I urge the UK Government to match the devolved Governments’ levels of ambition and engagement, to ensure that this pivotal, critical summit is a global success.
Despite being an MP who represents an English constituency, I believe it is important that Unionists, wherever they are from, speak up for the benefits of the United Kingdom. The “United Kingdom”; I love saying that. “British steel”, “British made”, “United Kingdom”—they all come together. I love the fact that we are a great Union together.
The United Kingdom is a world leader in tackling climate change. We are the first major economy to set a legally binding target to achieve net zero.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
We reduced our emissions by a significant 44% between 1990 and 2019. The speed at which we have managed to decarbonise our electric grid is just one example: a decade ago, 40% per cent of our electricity came from coal; it is now a mere 1.8%. Under this Government, this country is embarking on an ambitious industrial revolution that will help to transform the lives of people up and down the country, no matter which nation they belong to.
In the light of the comments the hon. Gentleman is making, does he agree that it is about time that the Government introduced an outright ban on underground coal gasification in this country? UCG threatens my constituency in the Dee estuary, and COP26 offers the Government a perfect opportunity to show that they are absolutely serious about climate change and to ban UCG.
There has to be a transitional approach to this issue; there is no way that we can just stop things happening. We have constituents who depend on us to make good decisions for them so that we can gradually move to net zero. We need to take people with us. Just banning things—banning flights, coal and other things—will not take the people with us. We need the people to go with us. If we do things correctly here, we will take the rest of the world along with us; if we do it wrong here, the rest of the world will not do it. It is very important that we do it properly.
The success of the campaign for a greener economy has been made possible only because of our Union, and the reduction of our emissions has indeed been a Union effort. The decision to host COP26 in Glasgow—one of our country’s most important cities that has for so long been the gateway from the UK to the west—was made by the UK Government for the benefit of Scotland.
I think I have given way enough.
I am confident that COP26 will not only be a great advert for the UK’s role in reducing emissions but an advert for the pivotal role that Scotland can play as part of our United Kingdom. After all, the summit will bring together representatives from 200 countries right at the heart of Scotland.
The Prime Minister has clarified that COP26 will be an inclusive enterprise in which all nations will feel fully involved. The evidence for that is widespread, with the relevant devolved Environment Ministers having considerable influence over the direction of the summit through the COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group.
Until recently this has been a good-natured debate. I could speak to many other issues, but will finish by saying that if we all come together at COP26 and do the right thing for the right reasons, we can really make a difference to the rest of the world.
It is a pleasure to listen to all sides in this debate, and it is important that we debate and bring out the differences, because clearly there are some. Time and again from this Government I hear the word transition. I understand that argument and the importance of bringing people with us, but we might be in this transition for too long. We have an end date, and we have now been waiting for such a long time that the urgency of the current situation will dictate our having to take rapid, urgent action, rather than transitioning for too long.
I absolutely agree. We need to make sure that we have the right skills in place and that we create opportunities for each local community, area and region, so that people have jobs and we do not pull the rug out from under their feet. I totally agree on that, but we also need a Government who set a direction for where all this is going and make coherent plans for how we create new job opportunities. What is the direction we are going in? When will we set the final time limit for, for example, ending the national gas grid? Those Government actions are currently missing.
Does the hon. Lady agree that it is really rather disappointing that we are yet to see a net zero strategy document from this Government? We have been waiting for a significant amount of time for such a document to set the direction of travel for all Whitehall Departments and the Government themselves in respect of how they might achieve the UK net zero targets, and we are yet to see any sign of one.
Indeed. The Opposition are waiting urgently for exactly those things because we want to co-operate. We all understand how urgent this issue is and how only co-operation among all nations will get us on the right track. We should not be setting each other up and creating competition among us, with people saying, “We’re the best here” and “We’re the best there”. The whole globe has to come together to tackle this urgent issue that transcends nations. The Government often do not understand that, which is why we are here to urge them to change the pace of their action. The negotiations begin in only 46 days’ time and will determine the choices that we make about the future of our planet. They will determine whether we want to be ambitious enough to limit global temperature rises and avoid the worst impacts of the climate emergency, which will hit the poorest nations the hardest. The fact that it is the poorest nations that will be hit the hardest is not well enough understood.
At this pivotal moment in the fight against climate change, the Government cannot continue to treat the devolved Administrations as an afterthought. There are so many brilliant examples of where the devolved Administrations and local authorities have got it right on climate. Wales, as we have heard today, is second in Europe and third in the world for household recycling centres. It is also admirable that it introduced the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, which is a progressive and forward-looking piece of legislation. The rest of the UK should follow Wales’s lead, as it is a global leader, and legislate a future generations Bill. I am not lining myself up to become an honorary Member for Wales, but offering credit where credit is due.
The devolved nations’ knowledge and understanding of their local communities will be vital in providing solutions to the climate and ecological emergency. It is essential that they are included in a meaningful way in the lead-up to COP26. Local governments have been pushing for years now for a multi-level conference of the parties. As the COP26 president, the UK should be leading the way. I urge the Minister to push for stronger multi-level co-ordination, not just at COP26, but beyond.
There must be a deeper discussion on the localism of climate finance during the relevant negotiations, particularly on funds for loss and damage and adaptation. The devolved Administrations should have a seat at the negotiating table.
We Liberal Democrats have long believed in empowering local communities. Devolved Administrations must not be pushed to the fringes of these negotiations. Each one of our family of nations deserves to be heard at COP26, the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement. Inclusion in the official party delegation is the only way to ensure that all the voices in our nations are heard.
There is also a strong desire among local authorities to be much more ambitious than central Government. Many were quick off the mark in declaring a climate emergency. My own local authority of Bath and North East Somerset was one of the first to do so—a month before central Government. Just this week, our council has launched its first ever climate and biodiversity festival. It is showcasing the action taken locally to tackle the climate emergency, but, even more importantly, the festival is about starting the conversation with our residents ahead of COP26.
May I say one more thing, Madam Deputy Speaker? It is alarming how few people in this country know what COP26 is about. I think the statistic was that about 13% of people in this country actually know what it is about. What have the Government done to engage people in this important discussion about climate change?
I will not, because we are running out of time.
The climate emergency is our shared responsibility. I am so grateful to those in our Bath community who have already got involved, and I urge all Members of Parliament to do something similar in their local areas in order engage local people in the discussions about the urgency of climate change and the very difficult decisions on which we need to agree.
The Government cannot deliver their climate programme without local authorities such as mine. Climate action begins at local level. The Government must empower local authorities at COP26 and beyond so that they can deliver on green transport, homes, energy, infrastructure and waste management policies that we need to implement if we are to get to net zero.
Again, it is a shame that our local government has been disempowered by central Government for decades now, and for the last decade in particular. We need to empower local authorities to do the things for local people, because only then will they have the real understanding of how to deliver to make sure that we have the jobs and the infrastructure in place. If central Government continue to disempower local government, we will not be in a good place. Most of all, the Government must recognise that the climate crisis is a real emergency, and that business as usual is not good enough. We need a change of pace from what we have seen so far from this Government and we need it urgently.
I am delighted to be taking part in this debate and grateful to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) for securing it. I am also delighted that the UK Government are working proactively with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole of the UK. As many Members have mentioned already this afternoon, all parts of the UK will have an important role to play in ensuring the summit’s success.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. It is good that some people are up for discussion across the Chamber.
It is wonderful to hear the glowing tributes about the devolved authorities from Members on the Government Benches—it is great to hear it—but if the Democratic Unionist party gets its way and pulls down the Stormont institutions, there will not be anybody at COP26 from Northern Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that this is an issue that the Government really care about, and if he thinks that they really want to engage with local devolved authorities and ensure that they actually exist, will he ask them to step in now and ensure that no single party can rip down the institutions of the Good Friday agreement when we are trying to deal with issues as important as this?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his interjection. It is perhaps an issue that is slightly above my pay grade. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on it. The point I make though is that, regardless, as a member of the UK, Northern Ireland will be represented at COP26, but I take on board his point that he is making in a very genuine fashion.
The Climate Change Committee has noted that
“the UK climate targets cannot be met without strong policy action across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, tailored for national, regional and local needs”
and that the
“governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have an increasingly important role to play in tackling climate change.”
I think we can all agree on that.
I represent the Welsh constituency of Clwyd South, so I am determined that Wales, like the rest of the UK, should rise to the climate change challenge and play its part in this international conference. Like other hon. Members this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) talked about the importance of community groups in tackling climate change, and this is something that I passionately believe in. I am delighted that many such groups across Wales, and across the UK, are putting belief into action and providing solutions to some of the questions and problems that will be debated at COP26.
For example, there is the huge hydro-electric potential of small-scale energy products, such as the Corwen community hydro power scheme in my constituency of Clwyd South. Here, local people came together as a community to build a 55kW hydro scheme in the town. The scheme is 100% owned and run by the community; it raised £300,000 for the construction with a share offer five years ago, over 50% of which was bought by people in and around Corwen. The success of that has led to a second project, which we hope will go into effect in the autumn of this year.
I have also been championing the hydro-electric potential of the River Dee in Llangollen with Town Councillor Stuart Davies. I warmly welcome the decision by members of Llangollen Town Council in April to set up a task and finish group to investigate the feasibility of using the site of de-commissioned hydro units in the town. Schemes such as these highlight the vital role of communities in tackling the bigger challenges of the climate crisis. When it comes to providing the solutions, Wales has historically punched above its weight, and it continues to do so.
The hon. Member is making some excellent points about local community initiatives. Does he agree though that some things need the impetus and leadership of the UK Government, particularly on waste? At the moment, there are still 3 million items of non-recyclable packaging being produced every single day.
I agree that the UK Government do play a vital role in this, and I take on board the point that the hon. Lady is making about waste, but I will come on to other aspects of what the UK Government can do later in my speech.
The Prime Minister has said that there is a huge role for Wales and the Welsh Government, stating:
“It’s a huge undertaking by the whole of the UK…Every part of the UK is now working together…to lead the world to get everyone to commit to net-zero by 2050”.
I know that UK Government Ministers frequently speak with their Welsh Government counterparts at the COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group and liaise with the Welsh Government’s new Minister for Climate Change. As a strong supporter of the Union, I am pleased that the Welsh Government have said that they plan to attend COP26 as part of the UK delegation, as well as to join events with key international networks such as the Under2 Coalition and Regions4. They have also said that they are working closely with event organisers. The future generations commissioner has said that COP26 represents “significant opportunities” for Wales to showcase its achievements in tackling climate change “on a global platform”, and that the Welsh Government have been in discussions with COP26, including on hosting fringe events.
Let me turn to one of the more contentious issues that we have heard about this afternoon. If I may, I will summarise it using the words of the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), for whose work and commitment to the environment and climate change I have very high respect. She used the word “transitioning”, which is really important in this debate, because I honestly do not think that any of the devolved Administrations or the UK Government get everything right all the time.
I take on board the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire about having an inclusive debate, but I would constructively suggest that there are areas for improvement by the Welsh Government. For example, they have been slow to establish long-term arrangements for environmental governance. The Interim Office for Environmental Protection is now up and running in England, but the Welsh Government have ruled out joining the OEP and are instead looking to establish a commissioner for the environment. This brings delays—and that is my point about transitioning.
Another such example is that, despite committing to introducing a clean air Act, the Welsh Government have announced that it will not be introduced in the coming parliamentary year. Again, the delay is disappointing. I am sure that some Labour Members could provide constructive explanations as to why the delays are taking place, but delays there are. We should really respect the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) that transitioning to the great climate change revolution that we all want is not always the easiest thing to achieve.
I return to the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) about the UK Government’s involvement. I am pleased that the Government have committed £90 million to innovative Welsh net zero projects across the country. Wales has the opportunity to benefit from further UK funding, including the active £289 million industrial energy transformation fund, the £250 million clean steel fund, the £240 million net zero hydrogen fund, and the £1 billion carbon capture and storage infrastructure fund. I feel strongly that the UK Government, just like the devolved Administrations, are playing a constructive part in the process.
I join hon. Members from across the UK in my optimism and best wishes for the conference, which the eyes of the world will be following, and I look forward to continuing to champion the role of Wales and the UK in rising to the greatest challenge of our age.
Once again, I am struck by a welcome and rare note of consensus across the House on this subject, and the sincere efforts of Members across parties to suggest areas where Governments might make further progress in their drive towards net zero and in creating the truly successful COP that we all want to see. Our planet depends on it, and it is heartening that many Members seem to recognise that. There were too many moments to pick out specifically, as I am conscious of time. Several questions were posed to the Minister, to which I am sure we will be interested to hear the answers, but it appears that the House is of one mind—or at least those Members present are.
Let me just quickly point out to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), in answer to his question to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) about the poll showing the people of Scotland’s preference for the First Minister to represent them at COP, that that was part of a wider opinion poll that, by the way, also showed the SNP taking every seat in Scotland at a Westminster election and support for independence in the majority.
Scotland’s abundance of renewable energy resources is widely recognised. It is reckoned that Scotland has won the renewables bonanza, with marine offshore wind and green hydrogen production just a few of the exciting possibilities that we are looking to develop much further. In the last year, 97% of Scotland’s electricity came from renewable sources. We also managed to reduce emissions by 31% between 2008 and 2018—faster than the rest of the UK and any G20 nation. Of course, there is much more progress to be made to achieve the ambitions that we all have for emissions reductions, but we are in a fair place, with plenty more to come.
The sixth carbon budget published by the Climate Change Committee said:
“UK climate targets cannot be met without strong policy action across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, tailored for national, regional and local needs… frameworks in Wales and Scotland are ahead of the rest of the UK in emphasising the importance of the potential health and environment benefits, and the need for a just transition.”
I have mentioned just a few of the areas in which Scotland is playing its part in addressing the world’s climate emergency—I will be sharing others with the House shortly—but I think those examples serve to demonstrate why the UK Government should be welcoming the genuine participation of the devolved Governments in COP26: they have very good stories to tell in their own right. I would have thought that a Government who were confident in themselves and their own achievements would be prepared to recognise and promote those stories at this vital climate conference. Scotland not only is providing the stage and setting for COP, but has offered a leading example in many of the areas that need to be tackled.
The Scottish Government have submitted an indicative nationally determined contribution. I understand that it is the first time that a devolved Government, city or region have presented their plans in the format required of nation state parties to the Paris agreement. Scotland also has the world’s first climate justice fund, which was recently doubled, and which supports vulnerable communities in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. We are European co-chair of the Under2 Coalition—a group of more than 220 Governments, representing more than 1.3 billion people and 43% of the global economy—and were one of the first Governments in the world to set binding net zero targets earlier than 2045. We have ambitions to be the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040 and to decarbonise passenger rail by 2035. There is so much more, but I hope that that short taster convinces Members and the Government that Scotland’s measures more than warrant our inclusion at the heart of the negotiations.
There has been good co-operation on the considerable logistics around the COP. That is to be welcomed and shows that the Governments are more than capable of pulling together on this vital issue. We welcome the assurances from Ministers that the full costs of policing, transport and other services will be met by the UK Government, as has been agreed. It is, of course, also welcome that the COP President decided to set up meetings with Ministers from the devolved Administrations, stating as he did so:
“All parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success”.
However, he will know that, without enabling their meaningful involvement at COP, that exercise is in danger of looking like just box-ticking; and the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) has already mentioned the rather brusque communiqués that have issued forth from those meetings. I urge the COP President and the UK Government to give serious consideration to the involvement of the devolved Administrations in the negotiations themselves. That would give additional weight to the Government’s influence and credibility.
The hon. Member is making some excellent points on the role of the devolved Administrations in the negotiations themselves. In a past career, I was involved in those negotiations, playing a part with Wales and Scotland along with the UK. It is so important that all parts of the UK are involved in the negotiations themselves. I hope that the Minister will answer that point today.
I thank the hon. Lady. I absolutely agree and I am looking forward to the Minister’s response on this.
As I say, the involvement of the devolved Administrations in the negotiations would give much more additional weight to the Government’s influence and credibility, which, I am afraid, particularly following their decision to cut £4 billion from international aid support and the consequent impact on many mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries, is on a bit of a shoogly peg. It has been significantly diminished, to the COP President’s considerable dismay, I am sure.
As the Leader of the House said this morning, COP presents an opportunity to encourage others in the right direction. Scotland’s participation, and Wales’s and Northern Ireland’s, would surely point to the ambitious targets that can be set and the rapid progress that can be achieved, and would serve as a tremendous example of the differences that can be made quite rapidly by even a medium-sized country in its approach to this global crisis. A recent report by the Pembina Institute in Canada concluded:
“None of the oil-and gas-producing provinces are preparing for the decline of oil and gas with”
“transition plans and sufficient measures to deal with fossil fuel liabilities”.
Scotland, on the other hand, has just announced a £500 million addition to its just transition funding, with our First Minister making it clear that the destruction wrought on the mining communities by Government policies in the ’80s would not be repeated. As she said, failing to plan for the transition to net zero is not an option. As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute mentioned, it would be good to see the UK Government commit to match-fund that amount, at least. After all, the Exchequer has done pretty well out of Scotland’s oil and gas profits for decades now. It is surely right that there is some recognition of that and that some of that money is returned to Scotland, and the north-east, to assist the tens of thousands of people currently employed to shift to employment in our burgeoning renewables sector, among other opportunities.
Scotland’s Just Transition Commission, formed in 2019 by the Scottish Government, produced a report this year, the recommendations of which were all accepted in full by the Scottish Government. A new version of the commission that the Government intend to seek advice from over the life of this Parliament was announced just a couple of days ago. It is worth reminding the House that, in areas the Prime Minister has focused on in his 10-point plan for the UK, such as forestry, electric vehicles and finance, Scotland already leads the way. Scotland already contributes the vast majority of the percentage of plantings to the UK overall figures and recently announced a further £20 million for peatland restoration. We were the first to set ambitions for no new petrol or diesel cars. We created the first climate justice fund in the world. I look forward to the UK Government following suit on that, as it would send an extremely powerful message internationally.
As Scotland and Wales play their part, so we know that our targets cannot be met without similarly strenuous efforts by the UK Government. As my hon. Friend mentioned, we have been looking at renewables on the Scottish Affairs Committee, and our report on aspects of that topic is due out on Friday. Obviously, I cannot refer directly to its contents, but we have heard from a variety of experts on the impact that the unfair transmission grid charging system is having on renewables development in Scotland. Ofgem has been reviewing that outdated approach, since 2018, I believe, but perhaps the UK Government could have a word in its collective shell-like and get it to put its skates on to arrive at a proposal that does not penalise those developers wishing to take advantage of Scotland’s many natural energy resources.
Turning to other areas that my hon. Friend alluded to, carbon capture and storage has been rather kicked from pillar to post over the years, with two carbon capture and storage competitions announced, run and then pulled, at a cost of some £140 million, sadly, just before it looked as if the St Fergus cluster in Scotland was going to win out. We know UK climate targets cannot be met without strong policy action. The St Fergus cluster is by far the most advanced, having established capabilities and in-place supply chains, and deserves to be, I hope, one of the two selected early on in the current competition for increased UK Government investment. I also urge the Government to engage more substantially with the Under2 Coalition on a formal role for states and regions in the negotiations and on the agreement.
We have all seen newspaper reports of silly games being played by Whitehall advisers over how they can cut Scottish Ministers out of participation at COP, but a positive outcome from COP is so much more important than such pettiness. Surely there could be no better sign that the UK is comfortable with being a country of four nations than to invite Scottish Ministers and others into the negotiations to help the UK to deliver the most successful COP26 outcome possible.
It is an absolute pleasure to respond to this debate on behalf of the Opposition. It has been an interesting and, I must say, surprisingly good-natured debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) on securing it.
Let me state at the outset, as indeed I have on each of the all too infrequent occasions this place has considered COP26, that I very much hope we will have more debates on this important subject in the 46 days that remain before the start of the conference. This is a critical moment in the fight against runaway global heating, and the lives of each and every one of our constituents will be affected by its outcome. I think it is still fair to say that this House has not been given sufficient opportunity to engage properly with the summit in the way it should have been, given its significance.
We have heard many thoughtful speeches covering a wide range of issues relating to COP26 and the devolved Administrations. I draw the House’s attention, in particular, to the strong contribution made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, the excellent contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) and for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), and the passionate speech by the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), whose contributions I always enjoy and who rightly stressed that while we must have a just transition we must also have climate action at pace and at scale, not least because every year that we delay that action, that transition will become more disruptive for the people we represent.
There is already debate under way internationally about whether the role of devolved Governments, as well as regions and cities, should be more prominent in the UNFCCC process, and if so, how. For example, should their efforts be formally considered as part of the periodic global stock-takes of the Paris agreement so as to provide for a more accurate sense of where individual countries are in implementing their climate commitments? Of course, when it comes to the negotiations themselves, and our country’s role as the host of COP26, primary responsibility lies with the UK Government as the formal party to the UNFCCC. However, as this debate has aptly illustrated, all the constituent parts of the UK clearly have an important contribution to make in ensuring that the summit is a success, and a role in shaping the objectives and efforts of the COP presidency that we hold.
As a number of hon. Members mentioned, the COP26 devolved Administrations ministerial group is the primary mechanism through which the latter can happen, but I hope that as a result of this debate the Government will go away and consider whether they have got the balance right in the extent and nature of the engagement—and, one would hope, collaboration and co-ordination—that has taken place to date, and whether it might in any way be improved on over the coming weeks. Ultimately, we cannot allow tensions between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations—or, for that matter, as several hon. Members said, any constitutional bickering—to put at risk in any way the outcome of this important international event.
Much of the debate has focused on the record of the devolved Administrations as regards their role in UK-wide emissions reductions. That was obviously to be expected, not least because the main input that devolved Governments in general have in domestic implementation and reporting under the UNFCCC process is through the Marrakech partnership for global climate action. However, given the centrality of delivering on our domestic climate commitments to the success of our COP presidency, both in establishing our country’s credibility and in maximising its influence as hosts of the conference, we would argue that the devolved Administrations’ efforts in this regard are just as important to the outcome of COP26 as their ability to directly influence the Government’s negotiating objectives and efforts.
Several hon. Members referred to the record of the Welsh Government, who have not only legislated for a net zero target but published a series of detailed strategies to ensure that that target is met, and are using the policy levers at their disposal to drive decarbonisation efforts, whether that be the use of planning and marine policy to reduce fossil fuel extraction, their innovative housing and optimised retrofit programme, or their success in ensuring that more than 50% of the energy that Wales consumes comes from renewable sources.
Northern Ireland, of course, faces a unique set of circumstances, and concrete progress in areas such as transport has been held back by the failure to deliver on key promises made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement. Even so, the Executive in Northern Ireland are in the process of legislating for a climate change Bill. As the hon. Member for Foyle (Colum Eastwood), who is no longer in his place, mentioned in his intervention, it is incredibly important—I hope the Minister takes this on board—that the Government are doing everything possible to ensure political stability in Northern Ireland, not least to help get that legislation through, if possible, before the next set of elections.
When it comes to Scotland, we rightly acknowledge that the Scottish Government have set an ambitious 2045 net zero target and that the Scottish climate change plan has been updated to integrate it, but it is also the case that the SNP Scottish Government have failed to meet their emissions reductions targets for three years running and—I think SNP Members would agree with this—without an acceleration in progress on delivery, beyond the power sector, Scotland will achieve neither the net zero target it chose to set itself nor its interim target of a reduction in emissions of 75% by 2030. Nor—this is the one partisan point I will make in what has been a good-natured debate, but I think it warrants saying—will Scotland’s claim to climate leadership be taken seriously if the SNP Scottish Government fail to take a firm stand against projects such as the development of the Cambo oilfield, which I would argue are at odds with that net zero target.
Unfortunately, energy is still reserved to Westminster, and the decision on Cambo rests with the Westminster Government. The First Minister has sent a letter to the Prime Minister questioning that and asking that the project be reassessed and, until that reassessment has been made, the development paused or, indeed, halted. That is an important point to make. Of course, the licence was issued under a Labour Government back in 2001 and 2004. That is another point that needs to be made, if we are to get a little party political about it.
There was no question there, but I take the point. I do not think it is justifiable to hide behind the UK Government or to reference decisions taken in the past. Yes, the leader of the Scottish Government has called for a review. I urge colleagues on the SNP Benches to come out unequivocally in opposition to the Cambo development, as we on the Labour Benches have done.
Ultimately, we all must do more. If each of the devolved Administrations is to exploit the climate action opportunities available to them in key areas such as agriculture, tree planting, waste management, buildings efficiency and public transport, they require a comprehensive net zero strategy from the UK Government and, we would argue, as part of that strategy, a framework for delivery covering every level of sub-national governance.
That point brings me neatly back to the UK Government, and I will begin to bring my remarks to a conclusion at this point, not least because many colleagues want to speak in the next debate. As much as the devolved Administrations can and must do everything within their power to help ensure COP26 is a success, they will be held back unless and until the UK Government do the same. I have to take issue with the contribution from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), who seemed to suggest that any attempt to chide the UK Government’s record when it comes to climate and any attempt to push the Government to do better somehow undermines the Prime Minister at negotiations. It is precisely because we want to strengthen the UK Government’s hand that we are arguing that we have to get our own house in order before 1 November and that crucial conference.
It will only be by beginning that conference having unequivocally established our country’s credibility as a climate leader here at home that we will have the necessary influence as host in the critical moments that are bound to arise during the negotiations. That means getting on track for net zero, not just announcing the target. It means showing that we are prioritising decarbonisation across the whole of Government, that we have a comprehensive plan for achieving net zero, that we have locked in a genuine green economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and that all decisions the Government make, whether they relate to potential deep coalmines in Cumbria or new fossil fuel projects in the North sea, are entirely consistent with our net zero target. They are not at present.
The Government now have precious little time left to bolster their domestic credibility and to secure the wide range of other pre-conference outcomes necessary to make COP26 a success, not least ensuring that the 2009 promise of $100 billion in climate finance annually to the developing world is honoured by the end of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly later this month. We must look at our Government’s contribution to that commitment. Put simply, every sinew must be strained in the weeks ahead, or we run the very real risk of failure in Glasgow in November. Were that to happen, it would not only be an embarrassment for the Government, but a disaster for our planet. We owe it to future generations to do everything we possibly can to make this conference a success.
First, I associate myself with the remarks made by both Opposition Front Benchers on the relatively good-natured nature of this debate. It is fair to say that across the House and across the country, we share an ambition to deliver on the targets we have set. We may debate how we do that from time to time, but we all share that ambition. I also congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) for securing this debate. I thank Members from right across the UK—all nations of the UK and both sides of the House have been well represented today—for their contributions.
As a number of Members have said, there are now only seven weeks until the start of COP26, when parties will come together in Glasgow to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris agreement and the United Nations framework convention on climate change. COP26 will be the moment that we will secure a path to global net zero emissions by 2050 and define the next decade of tackling climate change. Together with our Italian partners, with whom we co-host the event, we will work to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5° C and protect our planet and people from the intensifying impacts of climate change.
To achieve that, the UK has spent the lead-up to COP26 taking four key goals to Governments across the world. Those are, first:
“Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach”.
Countries have been asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on those stretching targets, countries will need to accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables, among other things.
The second of those key goals is:
“Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats”.
The climate is already changing, and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions. At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture, to avert, minimise and address loss of and damage to homes, livelihoods and, sadly, in some cases even lives.
The third goal is “Mobilise finance”. To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. International financial institutions must play their part and we need to work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
The fourth goal is “Work together to deliver”, a key theme in today’s debate. We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together. At COP26, we must finalise the Paris rulebook—the detailed rules that make the Paris agreement operational—and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between Governments, businesses and civil society. Again, that is a key point made by many Members today.
Working together also extends to working together across all parts of the United Kingdom. The UK Government are committed to working with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole UK. All parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success.
On summit preparations, the UK Government, on behalf of the UNFCCC, is delighted to be hosting COP26. As we prepare for November, we wish to create a safe, secure, sustainable and inclusive COP26 that sets the conditions for outstanding policy outcomes. We want this to leave a lasting legacy of change in Glasgow, Scotland and the UK, leaving Glasgow flourishing as the host city, while representing value for money for the UK taxpayer. The Government are working closely with public health officials across the UK, the Scottish Government, all our partners and the UNFCCC to enable relevant delegates to participate on an equal footing, while also using technology to make the summit as inclusive as possible. In common with many international events, how COP operates has to adapt to the covid context, so we are making suitable arrangements for that.
The Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, Public Health Scotland and all the emergency response services in Scotland must be recognised for their work in that.
Beyond the established blue zones and green zones, we also have the fringe around COP26: a very inclusive community with community involvement. A huge part of COP26 is about communities talking to politicians and putting pressure on us to do the right thing. I am delighted that SWG3 has the hub sponsored by The New York Times, which has been organised by Louise Hunter, a constituent of mine.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituent will appreciate that mention. With regards to the role of devolved Administrations—the key point of the debate—the COP26 devolved Administration ministerial group, which the COP President-designate chairs, ensures effective engagement and collaboration on COP26 with Ministers in all the devolved Administrations. The most recent one, which I was delighted to attend, took place yesterday. The CPD also regularly speaks to the relevant Scottish Government Minister, Michael Matheson MSP, on the operational matters that I described earlier.
On the role of First Ministers, all parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success in line with precedents, and we expect First Ministers and Ministers from the devolved Administrations to play a role, including as part of the UK delegation. The Prime Minister has said that he wants the First Ministers to play an important role. Discussions are ongoing.
Before I conclude—we are pushed for time—I will reflect on a few things said by the CPD in response to a Scottish Parliament Committee this morning. He said that the UK Government welcome the devolved Administrations providing further views on where they wish to be involved. The UK Government will shortly engage with the Presiding Officers of all the devolved legislatures to invite Members to express an interest in attending COP26 in the blue zone. He has ongoing engagement in chairing the UK Mayors and Regions Advisory Council, which includes input from mayors and councils across the United Kingdom.
Like I said earlier, there will be a net zero committee—[Interruption.] Fundamentally, as the shadow Minister acknowledged, the United Kingdom is the negotiating party, but, as I said—I will refrain from going into detail, because hon. Members are in their places for the following debate—we are committed to getting as much involvement as we can from the devolved Administrations and parliamentarians in those devolved Assemblies in the run-up to the negotiations. I thank hon. Members again for their valuable contributions and for their support to date as we continue preparations for the United Nations climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow.
I put on record again my thanks to the Backbench Business Committee for finding time for the debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts), the hon. Members for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones), for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) and for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) and the Minister for a useful and thoughtful debate.
Although I am the Member of Parliament for Argyll and Bute, where I have lived for the past 20 years, I am Glaswegian to the straps of my second-hand boots. I would burst with pride if Glasgow’s COP26 becomes a turning point for the world, but we know that that is not a given. World leaders have the future of our planet in their hands. They have an onerous responsibility, but it is one that they must rise to and meet. They cannot let us down. I thank all Members and you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the debate.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the role and response of the devolved Administrations to COP26.