Skip to main content


Volume 701: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2021

The COP26 President was asked—

COP26: Policy Objectives

Our overarching objective of COP26 is to keep within reach the goal of limiting average global temperature rises to 1.5 °C. To achieve that, we have been asking countries to set out ambitious emissions reduction commitments and to come forward with adaptation plans, and asking developed countries to deliver on their climate finance promises and for us collectively to reach agreement on the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook.

Given the Government’s recent wise decision to recognise that environment-saving gene-editing technology should be recognised differently from GM—genetic modification—will Ministers use COP26 to champion this and other cutting-edge science and technologies that provide some of the best solutions to the problems of sustainability and climate change?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Science and innovation are crucial to tackling climate change and delivering green growth. Innovation will be discussed at the world leaders’ summit at COP26. On 9 November, we will provide a particular focus on discussing and indeed showcasing science and innovation’s role in tackling climate change.

Along with the national and global policy objectives of COP26, many local voluntary organisations are already raising awareness of the impact of climate change, including Climate Action Wendover, in my constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the work that such organisations do is important in helping people to understand that the only way to reach net zero is by everyone changing the way they behave, at home, at work and in their local community?

I congratulate my hon. Friend and Climate Action Wendover on all their work in encouraging climate action from local residents and businesses. Local communities across the country are playing their part in tackling climate change, and the cities, regions and built environment day at COP26 will provide a focus on local community action.

The Minister will know that there is widespread concern about a lack of clarity, as we get so close to COP26, as to what will actually be happening at the summit and what the priorities will be. What discussions has he had with the small island developing states to make sure that their concerns are fully represented, that they have a voice at COP26 and that we come away from it with something that really helps them to meet the challenges they face?

The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important point. I have a regular dialogue with representatives of the small island developing states. I have been clear that one thing we want to do through this presidency is champion them and the developing countries that are at the frontline of climate change.

It is good to hear that the COP President is interested in the challenges of those developing countries. Climate change’s most severe impacts fall heaviest on those developing countries that had least to do with causing it, and many consequences of climate change are already locked in, regardless of mitigation efforts. Given that, it is vital that COP26 includes an agreement on loss and damage compensation. Are the Government aiming for an equitable loss and damage agreement that compensates developing nations and recognises the disproportionate role of developed nations in causing that loss and damage?

Loss and damage is an issue that Ministers have debated at both the London ministerial meeting that I hosted and the pre-COP in Milan. Clearly, what comes forward at COP will be a consensus agreement, but I can tell the hon. Lady that we are determined to make sure that the Santiago Network is operationalised, and of course we will see that further discussions take place on this issue.

Given that more than a quarter of the increase in carbon emissions since 2000 has come from China, are we expecting a strong and prominent Chinese delegation at COP26?

There will be a delegation coming from China. As my hon. Friend may know, I was there in September, when I had constructive discussions. China, along with every other country, needs to come forward with ambitious plans to cut emissions by 2030 before COP26.

Progress on Limiting Global Heating

2. What recent assessment he has made of progress on limiting (a) global heating to below 2 °C and (b) heating to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels ahead of COP26. (903708)

The commitments by countries at Paris in 2015 bent the curve of global warming to below 2 °C. The International Energy Agency, in a report published last week, has concluded that if countries deliver on all their recent commitments, we are on course for around 2 °C. In order to keep 1.5 °C within reach, all countries, particularly the G20 nations, need to submit ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets and of course commit to net zero by the middle of the century.

The Minister talks of ambitious plans, but the net zero road map published by the Government yesterday is weak on land and agriculture, and 20% of the UK’s annual emissions come from natural resources. No plan can claim to build back greener unless we do everything in our power to achieve the 2° target or, indeed, the 1.5° goal. Peatlands are the biggest carbon store and continue to be burned. The Government’s ban includes only a third of upland peatland, allowing the rest to burn, so what are they doing to shut down the loophole that they created?

The net zero strategy is a coherent and comprehensive plan that has been welcomed by many people and by business. It is about emissions coming down and the creation of jobs. The hon. Lady will know that we have already published a peat strategy, which I would be happy to share with her.

Does the COP26 President agree with me and the all-party parliamentary group for “left behind” neighbourhoods that sometimes the way to engage people is with things that matter to them, such as the cost of heating their house, as opposed to changing the green agenda every time? If we go for different agendas for people, we can get a lot more acceptance and buy-in.

My hon. Friend is a champion for his Sedgefield constituency and is right to point out that we can bring about change in a number of ways, thereby not only reducing the cost of bills but helping to cut emissions. There is a role for us all to play.

With 10 days to go before COP, much is riding on the shoulders of the COP26 President and we wish him well, but to deliver the 1.5° target we have to cut emissions by 28 billion tonnes by 2030—a halving of global emissions. So far, the pledges made for Glasgow amount to 4 billion tonnes at most, so we are not yet where we want to be. Does the COP26 President agree that we need to be honest about the maths? If he does, what is his assessment of how much of the gap we can close at Glasgow to keep 1.5° alive?

The right hon. Gentleman and I agree that we have to ensure that we close the gap and halve emissions on the 2010 baseline by 2030. As I said in answer to an earlier question, so long as the commitments that have been made are followed through on, we are heading towards the 2° target, but clearly we need the G20 to come forward with its emissions reduction targets, and we will then need a consensus view on how we reach agreement for the next few years.

May I suggest to the COP26 President that the rest of the UK Government could make a difference, even in these final days, by not undermining his work? The Secretary of State for International Trade should not be giving big emitters a free pass by doing a deal with Australia that allows them to drop their temperature commitments; the Prime Minister should deliver on the promise made at the G7 to vaccinate the developing world by the end of 2022; and the Treasury should stop undermining the green transition at home and help to build the international coalition that we need by reversing the cut to overseas aid in the Budget. Does the COP26 President agree that acting on those suggestions would help him to deliver on his historic responsibility at the COP?

The whole Government are committed to our net zero strategy, which was published yesterday. It is about creating 440,000 jobs by 2030 and getting another £90 billion of inward investment, some of which we saw coming through at the global investment summit yesterday. The whole Government are committed to ensuring that we have success at COP26. The very fact that the Secretary of State for International Trade is sat next to me on the Front Bench shows her commitment to COP and to her work on adaptation.

Global Green Investment Bank

I know that my right hon. Friend shares my view on the importance of unleashing investment for climate. Although a global green investment bank is not on the COP agenda itself, we are working with all levels of the global system—treasuries, regulators, multilateral development banks, central banks and markets—to mobilise private and public capital.

I congratulate my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench on the net zero strategy that the Government published yesterday. Unlike Opposition Members, I see that a net zero strategy backed by business is the way to go. Taxpayers are not going to pay the full cost, and it is down to us all to be committed to that. Does my right hon. Friend agree that because the UK has such strengths in our financial services sector, we can, by promoting greater investment in renewable technologies around the world, promote not just decarbonisation but better jobs and economic growth for all our citizens and those in the developing world?

Wind and solar power are now cheaper than coal and gas across the majority of the world, and continuing to invest in those unabated fossil fuels is likely to create a risk of stranded assets. The opportunities for business investment into green technologies have never been better, with green, high-quality jobs across not only the UK, but all countries, as they also invest in their green technologies and those revolutions that drive the opportunity to boost global GDP by up to 2.4%.

Clean Energy: Safeguarding of Human Rights

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that the safeguarding of human rights in the development of clean energy projects is considered at COP26. (903710)

The UK works with all countries to deliver ambitious action on climate change and ensure that human rights are placed at the forefront of our climate action. Under the UK’s COP presidency, we are bringing forward a declaration for donor countries to support the conditions for a just transition from high-carbon industries into quality, decent, new jobs.

Human rights abuses, such as the treatment of the Uyghurs in China, are hugely relevant to COP. An investigation earlier this year found that 40% of UK solar firms were built using panels from firms linked to forced labour in Xinjiang, China. How does the COP26 President intend to approach the need to work together with countries such as China while also meeting our moral obligations in relation to these abuses?

The allegations are, of course, a cause for concern. Further detailed investigations are required to establish to what extent that forced labour is present in the solar supply chain. We are thoroughly investigating those allegations. On 12 January, we announced a series of measures to help ensure that no UK organisation is complicit in human rights violations or abuses taking place in Xinjiang, including strengthening the overseas business risk guidance to support businesses making the right choices.

COP26: Community Engagement

I have met a range of society and youth groups in every country that I have visited in my COP role. Alongside that, I co-chaired the COP26 civil society and youth advisory council. Last month, I attended the Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition conference to hear at first hand almost 400 youth climate activists representing 186 countries.

The big disappointment for me is the chaotic and shambolic way in which SNP-led Glasgow City Council has approached this major global event that is coming to Scotland. Can the President reassure me that, whatever the inadequacies of the council, it will not detract from the event or its ability in future to positively reflect on communities in Glasgow and across Scotland?

We have had a good working relationship with delivery partners across the piece and it is very important that that continues. Obviously, my right hon. Friend has highlighted a number of local issues. If he wants to get in touch with me, I would be very happy to see what we can do to try to solve the problems.

Two weeks ago, I saw Harrogate High School, St Joseph’s primary school and Zero Carbon Harrogate promote their walk-to-school day. Talking to pupils, I found that their interest in environmental progress was very strong, so has my right hon. Friend shared the feedback on his consultations with other Government Departments to promote work such as sustainable transport both domestically and internationally?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and, of course, Harrogate High School and Zero Carbon Harrogate for promoting sustainable travel initiatives. He will know that the COP unit is working very closely with other Government Departments to try to support business on sustainable transport initiatives. I want to give him one example: the Zero Emission Vehicles Transition Council is working with Ministers representing leading car markets across the world to accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

As MP of the constituency where COP is taking place, I look forward to welcoming you all to Glasgow in the coming weeks. However, many businesses will be affected by COP and forced to close. They are finding it very difficult to get answers from the Cabinet Office on how much compensation they will be entitled to for the closure of their businesses. I would be grateful if the President could meet me to try to resolve some of these matters because businesses are very worried that they will lose out significantly as a result of COP coming to Glasgow.

As the hon. Lady will know, I have written to local Members of Parliament to tell them that businesses within the secure perimeter will be compensated for any loss of revenues. Of course, the number of people coming means that this is also going to be an opportunity for businesses across Glasgow to benefit, but I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss the matter.

New Oil Wells: Surrey

6. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposals to put four new oil wells in Surrey on the UK’s (a) credibility and (b) negotiating position as President of COP26. (903712)

The 2019 decision of Surrey County Council to grant planning permission for four new bore holes is currently subject to a legal challenge, which will be heard by the Court of Appeal in November. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment on the specifics, due to the ongoing litigation.

The International Energy Agency has warned that if the world is to reach net zero by 2050, the exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year, yet there are currently proposals for multiple new exploratory oil developments across the UK. With just 11 days to go until world leaders gather in Glasgow, how can the COP26 President justify these developments against the Government’s stated aim of keeping global warming to 1.5 °C?

As I announced earlier this year in my former role, the Government will be introducing a climate compatibility checkpoint for any new licences issued, in order to assess whether any future licensing rounds remain in keeping with our climate goals. The checkpoint, which we have committed to launch by the end of this year, will be used to assess the climate compatibility of any future licensing rounds.

Climate Adaptation and Resilience

8. What steps he is taking to ensure that progress is made on strengthening climate adaptation and resilience at COP26. (903714)

Supporting vulnerable communities around the world to adapt to climate impacts is a top priority for COP26. We are encouraging improved adaptation planning, integration of climate risk into decision making, and increased and more accessible adaptation of finance to deliver effective, inclusive adaptation, and loss and damage action on the ground.

The most climate-vulnerable states need and demand more assistance from the developed world for climate transition and adaptation. This has the potential to derail COP26, so can the Minister tell us: what are the Government’s aims for increasing the level of support at Glasgow to help transition and adaptation in the poorest countries, and particularly whether it is the Government’s intention to lobby for that aid to be in the form of grants, rather than loans?

Travelling the world this year in the role that I have the great honour to hold—UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience—has, if nothing else, made it clear that the challenges for so many countries are often ones of access to finance. The COP unit and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have worked tirelessly all year to find better ways to ensure that access to finance, and to ensure that the $100 billion is committed by developed countries so that they have the finance they need to make those sorts of adaptive changes.

Success at COP depends in part on developed countries finally honouring that 2009 $100 billion promise, yet with just 12 days left there remains a staggering £14 billion shortfall and the German-Canadian delivery plan still has not materialised. Will the Minister therefore tell the House whether the Government agree that it is essential that the $100 billion commitment be met before delegates arrive in Glasgow, and whether she concedes that the UK is likely to have to reassess its own contribution in order that it is?

My right hon. Friend the COP President-designate has spent, and continues to spend, an enormous amount of time on ensuring that we can reach that $100 billion figure, which is a clear symbol of intent. He continues to have conversations with the Germans this week, before we get there. This is a key focus for the team and all those who know that it is a terribly important marker to meet, and we want to ensure that it is able to reach those who need it most.

Nationally Determined Contribution Commitments

9. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of nationally determined contribution commitments published in September 2021 ahead of COP26. (903715)

Overall, the NDCs that have been put forward are not adequate, because by 30 July 78 countries had still not published updated NDCs. However, the 113 updated NDCs that had been submitted would lead to a reduction in emissions of 12% by 2030. If we also take into account the subset of 70 countries with updated NDCs and net zero commitments through long-term strategies, those would lead to a 26% reduction in emissions.

In the COP26 President’s discussions around nationally determined contributions, has he come across a single country other than the UK that has committed to count international aviation and maritime emissions in its net zero strategy?

My right hon. Friend is right. This is just another example of the UK leading on climate ambition. We remain fully committed to global action to tackle international aviation and shipping emissions through the international processes at the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation.

Topical Questions

When the UK took on the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target; that figure is now 80%. Under the UK’s G7 presidency, for the first time every G7 country has committed to ambitious near-term emission targets aligned with net zero by 2050. However, to keep 1.5 °C within reach, every nation, particularly the biggest emitters, has to step forward in what needs to be the decade of ambition.

The Government are setting ambitious five-year carbon budgets and we have set out how we are going to meet those, but will the Minister consider setting interim targets to reassure my concerned constituents that we are on track?

The net zero strategy has committed to provide a public update every year from 2022 on progress against the delivery pathway to net zero set out in the strategy, and this will include an update on progress against the targets and ambitions that have been set out.

T3. A third of people globally do not have access to a waste management service, and 90% of waste in lower-income countries ends up being either dumped or burned and causing emissions. Can the President confirm that waste management will feature on the agenda at COP26, and what plans are there to allocate climate finance for this problem? (903723)

Waste management is a critical part of helping us to reach net zero across the planet. I was very pleased to see in the Duke of Cambridge’s Earthshot prize awards on Sunday that the Indians had a really interesting solution to the problem that ensured they could reduce their waste management and not have to burn their crops.

T2. Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition is staging its first climate action festival to coincide with COP26. It is full of events promoting ways that people can decarbonise their lives, with businesses, academics and community groups involved. Will the Minister join me in congratulating them on this excellent initiative and perhaps consider joining us for the second festival? (903722)

There is no festival better than a climate action festival. I congratulate Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition, which has brilliantly demonstrated that tackling climate change is an all-of-society endeavour bringing together business, civil society and government.

T4. Is it the COP President’s view that if the world is to be set on a 1.5 °C pathway, states will need to report on an annual basis rather than waiting until 2025, the next five-year reset? (903724)

That is part of the discussion that needs to take place, but it is also vital that we reach agreement on the transparency framework at COP26 so that we know that the commitments being made are actually delivered on.

T5. Reaching net zero is not a commitment that can be reached by the Government alone; the private sector needs to play its part in achieving a shared commitment. A third of FTSE 100 companies have committed to net zero, but more businesses must work with Government to decarbonise our economy. In his presidency of COP26, will my right hon. Friend highlight the importance of more companies committing to net zero and show the world that when it comes to climate change this Government mean business? (903726)

Business action is critical if the Government are to achieve the goal of reaching net zero by 2050. That is why, since the COP President-designate took on the role, he has been actively calling for business to join the race to zero—a UN-backed campaign supported by the UK Government. It requires businesses to take robust short-term action to halve global emissions by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible. There are now 4,470 companies that have signed up to Race to Zero.

T6. I thank the Secretary of State for International Trade for her visit earlier this year to the European Marine Energy Centre in Stromness, when she heard that it has a very compelling case for the next round of contract for difference auctions to have a pot within a pot for tidal stream generation. We are disappointed that the first draft does not include the pot within a pot, so will she and the President of COP26 renew their representations to the Treasury for its inclusion so that we can take advantage of the opportunities? (903727)

It was a wonderful visit and I thank the right hon. Gentleman and the community for welcoming me so heartily. All these new technologies will help us meet net zero, not just in the UK but across the world. We want to continue to see investment in them. I know that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) will continue to champion these issues.

T7. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fisheries, I have spoken to many fishermen who are small businesses in their own right. What conversations has my right hon. Friend had with those who fish about potential environmental agreements? (903728)

Reaffirmed by our 25-year environmental plan and our fisheries White Paper, the Government are committed to sustainable fishing and the principle of maximum sustainable yield. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are also committed to helping industry to reduce the adverse impacts on the marine environment and to adapt to climate change.

Only 13 of the G20 nations have committed to net zero by law. Does the COP President expect all G20 nations to commit to net zero by law at COP26?

I would like every country to step forward with a net zero target. When we started, it was 30% of the world economy; it is now 80%. Of course, we also need those nationally determined contributions to come forward before COP.

Before we come to questions to the Prime Minister, I point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on