Before I begin today’s statement, I would like to say a few words about the sickening attack that took place yesterday morning outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. On behalf of the whole House, I want to pay tribute to the swift and professional response by the extraordinary men and women of the emergency services, who, once again, showed themselves to be the very best among us.
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has today raised the nationwide threat level from substantial to severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely. The police are keeping both myself and the Home Secretary informed on developments and we will, in turn, keep the House updated on the investigation as it continues.
And now, Madam Deputy Speaker, with your permission I should like to make a statement on the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, which took place in the magnificent city of Glasgow over the past two weeks. It was the biggest political gathering of any kind ever held in the United Kingdom. One hundred and ninety four countries were represented. We had around 120 heads of state and heads of government, 38,000 accredited delegates, and countless tens of thousands more in the streets, parks and venues outside.
It was a summit that many people predicted would fail, and a summit, I fear, that some quietly wanted to fail. Yet it was a summit that proved the doubters and the cynics wrong, because COP26 succeeded not just in keeping 1.5 alive, but in doing something that no UN climate conference has ever done before by uniting the world in calling time on coal. In 25 previous COPs, all the way back to Berlin in 1995, not one delivered a mandate to remove so much as a single lump of coal from one power station boiler. For decades, tackling the single biggest cause of carbon emissions proved as challenging as eating the proverbial elephant—it was just so big that nobody knew quite where to start. In Glasgow, we took the first bite. We have secured a global commitment to phasing down coal. As John Kerry pointed out, we cannot phase out coal without first phasing it down, as we transition to other cleaner energy sources. We also have, for the first time, a worldwide recognition that we will not get climate change under control as long as our power stations are consuming vast quantities of the sedimentary super-polluter that is coal. That alone is a great achievement, but we have not just signalled the beginning of the end for coal; we have ticked our boxes on cars, cash and trees as well.
The companies that build a quarter of the world’s automobiles have agreed to stop building carbon emission vehicles by 2035, and cities from São Paulo to Seattle have pledged to ban them from their streets. We have pioneered a whole new model—an intellectual breakthrough —that sees billions in climate finance, development bank investment and so forth being used to trigger trillions from the private sector to drive the big decarbonisation programmes in countries such as South Africa. And we have done something that absolutely none of the commentators saw coming, by building a coalition of more than 130 countries to protect up to 90% of our forests around the world—those great natural soakers of carbon.
None of this was a happy accident or inevitability. The fact that we were there at all, in the face of a global pandemic, is in itself the result of a vast and complex effort involving countless moving parts. Right until the very end, there was the real prospect that no agreement would be reached. What has been achieved has only come about thanks to month after month of concerted British diplomacy—the countless meetings; the innumerable phone calls; the banging of heads at the United Nations General Assembly, the Petersberg dialogue, President Biden’s climate summit, the Security Council, the G7 and the G20—and the setting of several examples by the UK, because again and again the task of our negotiators was made easier by the fact that the UK was not asking anyone to do anything that we are not doing ourselves.
We have slashed our use of coal so much that our last two coal-fired power stations will go offline for good in 2024. We have more than doubled our climate finance, providing vital support for poor and vulnerable nations around the world. We have made a legally binding commitment to reach net zero—the first major economy to do so. We have set a date at which hydrocarbon internal combustion engines will reach the end of the road. We have shown the world that it is possible to grow an economy while cutting carbon, creating markets for clean technology, and delivering new green jobs that reduce emissions and increase prosperity.
Every one of those achievements was not just great news for our country and our planet, but another arrow in the quiver of our fantastic team in Glasgow—a team led by the COP26 President, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma). From the moment that he picked up the COP reins, he has been absolutely tireless in his efforts to secure the change that we need. Although I am pretty sure that what he really needs now is a well-earned break, I do not think that any of us here is going to be able to hold him back as he sets off pushing countries to go further still, and ensuring that the promises made in Glasgow are delivered and not diluted.
But success has many parents, so I want to say a huge thank you to the officials—in our own COP unit, in Downing Street and across Government, in UK embassies around the world and at the United Nations—who pulled out all the stops to make the event work and to shepherd through the agreements that have been reached. I also thank everybody on the ground at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow—security, catering, transport, the relentlessly cheery volunteers, the police from across the whole country who kept everybody safe from harm, the public health authorities who kept us safe from covid—and everyone in the Scottish Government. Above all, I want to say a big, big thank you to the people of Glasgow, who had to put up with so much disruption in their city and who welcomed the world all the same. I say to them: we could not have done it without you.
Is there still more to do? Well, of course there is. I am not for one moment suggesting that we can safely close the book on climate change. In fact, I can think of nothing more dangerous than patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves that the job is done—because this job will not be complete until the whole world has not only set off on the goal to reach net zero but arrived at that destination: a goal that, even with the best of intentions from all actors, cannot be achieved overnight. While COP26 has filled me with optimism about our ability to get there, I cannot now claim to be certain that we will, because we have seen some countries that really should know better dragging their heels on their Paris commitments. But if—and it is still a massive if—they make good on their pledges, then I believe that Glasgow will be remembered as the place where we secured a historic agreement and the world began to turn the tide. Before Paris, we were on course for 4° of warming. After Paris, that number fell to a still catastrophically dangerous 3°. This afternoon, after the Glasgow climate pact, it stands close to 2°. It is still too high—the numbers are still too hot, the warming still excessive—but it is closer than we have ever been to the relative safety of 1.5°, and now we have an all-new roadmap to help us get there.
Aristotle taught us that virtue comes not from reasoning and instruction but from habit and from practice. So the success of the Glasgow climate pact lies not just in the promises but in the move that the whole world has now made from setting abstract targets to adopting the nuts-and-bolts programme of work to meet those targets and to reduce CO2 emissions. We are now talking about the how rather than the what, and getting into a habit of cutting CO2 that is catching on not just with Governments and businesses but with billions of people around the world. It is for that reason that I believe that COP26 in Glasgow has been a success and that 1.5° is still alive. That is something I believe that every person in our United Kingdom can and should take immense pride in, and I commend this statement to the House.
I join the Prime Minister in extending our thoughts across the House to the people of Liverpool who are in shock at yesterday’s events, and pay tribute to the response of the emergency services.
Let me start by paying tribute to the COP President. Whatever the shortcomings of the deal, his diligence, his integrity and his commitment to the climate are clear for all to see. I also pay tribute to his team of civil servants. Their dedication, expertise and service was never in doubt but always remarkable. They knew that COP26 was the most important international summit ever hosted on these shores. Why? The simple maths of the climate crisis. At Paris we set out the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°. That is the tipping point beyond which the world is set to see billions of people facing extreme heatwaves, countless millions displaced from their homes, and the destruction of natural wonders like the world’s coral reefs. The science does not negotiate and no politician can move the goalposts. To have any hope of 1.5°, we must halve global emissions by 2030. The task at Glasgow was to set out credible plans for delivering that.
Although the summit has been one of modest progress, we cannot kid ourselves: plans to cut emissions are still way short. The pledges made in Glasgow for 2030, even if all fully implemented, represent less than 25% of the ambition required. Rather than a manageable 1.5°, they put us on track for a devastating 2.4°. That is why, according to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the goal of 1.5° is now on “life support”. We need to deliver intensive care, and that starts by being honest about what has gone wrong.
International negotiations are complex and difficult, and those who have dragged their feet the most bear the greatest responsibility, but the summit was held back by the Prime Minister’s guileless boosterism, which only served to embolden the big emitters. The Prime Minister praised inadequate net zero plans. He called the Australian plans heroic, even though their plan was so slow that it was in line with 4° of global warming. By providing this cover, the Prime Minister had little chance of exerting influence over the other big emitters, and we saw many more disappointing national plans.
The Prime Minister also dressed up modest sectoral commitments as being transformational. Earlier in COP, the Government claimed that 190 countries and organisations had agreed to end coal. On closer inspection, only 46 of them were countries. Of those, only 23 were new signatories and 10 do not even use coal. The 13 that remain do not include the biggest coal users: China, the US, India and Australia.
As things moved forward with no public pressure, the big emitters were emboldened. They clubbed together later in COP to gut the main deal’s wording on coal. Only someone who thinks that promises are meaningless could now argue that an agreement to “phase down” coal is the same as an agreement to phase it out.
Then there was the long overdue £100 billion in climate finance. It is still not being delivered, even though that money was promised to developing countries more than a decade ago. Failure to deliver has damaged trust and created a huge obstacle to building the coalition, which can drive climate action, between the most vulnerable developing countries and ambitious developed countries. That coalition was the foundation of the landmark Paris agreement in 2015, creating the pincer movement to maximise pressure on the world’s biggest emitters, including China. It is deeply regrettable that at Glasgow, we did not see a repeat. Instead, developing countries were still having to make the case for the long-promised $100 billion in the final hours of the summit.
Given all that, and the imperative to revive 1.5° from life support, what will be different in the next year in the run-up to COP27? Britain has a special and particular responsibility as COP president. First, we need to reassemble the Paris climate coalition and build trust with the developing world. Cutting overseas aid does not build trust; it destroys it. Will the Prime Minister therefore immediately commit to reversing those cuts?
Secondly, there can be no free passes for major emitters, including our friends. We are doing a trade deal with Australia where we have allowed it to drop Paris temperature commitments. That was a mistake. Will the Prime Minister put it right?
Thirdly, the Prime Minister is right to say that we need to power past coal and phase out fossil fuels, but his ability to lead on the issue internationally has been hampered by his actions at home. It has never made sense for the Government to be flirting with a new coal mine or to greenlight the Cambo oilfield. Will he rewrite the planning framework to rule out coal, and will he now say no to Cambo?
Finally, will the Prime Minister sort out the Chancellor? The Budget was delivered in the week before COP26 as world leaders began to arrive on these shores, but it did not even mention climate change. It gave a tax break for domestic flights and fell woefully short of the investment needed to deliver green jobs and a fair transition.
The Prime Minister has been the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Glasgow has been a missed opportunity—a stumble forward when we needed to make great strides, and more climate delay when we needed delivery—and 1.5° is now on life support. We still have the chance to keep 1.5° alive, but only with intensive care. We must speak honestly about the challenge that we face to rebuild the coalition that we need and to take on the big emitters. We can, and we must, change course.
If I may say so, Madam Deputy Speaker, that was the usual pathetic attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to suck and blow at once. He was trying to congratulate the UK Government on success at COP but somehow attack me, and I think it is pathetic. Let me take the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s points in turn.
On Australia, it has signed up to net zero for the first time ever. On coal, no COP has mentioned phasing out coal before; 65 countries have now committed to phasing it out altogether by 2040, including the four biggest users of coal-fired power stations: Poland, Indonesia and others. He talks about climate finance and the UK Government rescinding their commitments, which is simply untrue. We have doubled our commitments to tackling climate change around the world and helping the developed world, with £12.6 billion, as he knows full well. That commitment way outstrips that of most other countries.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about UK leadership. The UK, throughout the campaign—which has been going on for two years—to get the right result and keep 1.5° alive, has been way out in front under this Government. We were the first major economy to legislate for net zero; 90% of the world has now followed us. At COP, we had one of the most ambitious nationally determined contributions of any country. If it had not been for the UK Government, nothing at all would have been included to do with nature and protecting forests. The world listened to us at COP because they knew that our 10-point plan was not only cutting emissions but helping to generate hundreds of thousands of new high-wage, high-skill jobs. They can see that that programme will enable them to power past carbon and develop their economies.
As a result of everything that we have done at COP, we have been able to keep 1.5° alive. As I listen to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I feel that he is finding it very difficult to reconcile himself to the fact of a United Kingdom diplomatic and environmental success. If he really meant all those fine words with which he began about UK negotiators and the COP, he should stick to that script, because that was the right one.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. May I first echo the remarks made by my right hon. Friend about the appalling attack in Liverpool? The thoughts of everybody in the House are with the people of Liverpool.
I congratulate the UK presidency on the significant commitments made at COP26, notably by Governments on deforestation and methane but also by individual businesses on their work to achieve net zero. I am sure my right hon. Friend agrees that there is much more to be done—he said it in his statement. With the COP presidency, the UK has a critical role over the next year in ensuring that the commitments made are delivered on and in bringing the intransigent countries—notably, China, Russia and India—back round the table to raise their sights on what they are willing to achieve. Will he agree with that and set out what the Government’s immediate plans are for that work?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the vital importance of the private sector. I think that this COP was a breakthrough in many ways, but not least because of the emphasis that it placed on getting the private sector in to help developing countries in particular to meet their carbon targets. She is also right in what she says about the role of the COP presidency, because my right hon. Friend the COP26 President continues in his office for a year, and we will use that period—working with our Egyptian friends, who take over for COP27—to hold our friends and partners around the world to account for what they have promised, because it is only if they keep to what they have promised that we will be able to deliver for our children, and that is what we intend to do.
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the terror attack that we saw in Liverpool yesterday? We all stand together against those who would perpetuate such crimes.
Let me thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement, and I am delighted that today the Prime Minister has remembered that COP happened in Glasgow, rather than in Edinburgh, as he said last night. Maybe he could have led more from the front at COP, and he would actually have known which Scottish city the conference was taking place in.
In fairness, however, it is right to acknowledge that there was at least one member of the UK Government who committed themselves passionately to the Glasgow conference, and the UK COP26 President deserves credit and thanks for the role that he has played over the course of the last few weeks and months.
We all know that the Glasgow climate pact is far from everything it should be, but it does contain many positives for us to build on. Whether or not it succeeds now depends entirely on whether countries deliver on the commitments they made, and we need to hold them to those. That is the only way to truly keep the 1.5° C target alive, and we must make sure, ultimately, that we accept all of our responsibilities to deliver on that. If that urgent leadership is to be shown, then the example of that leadership needs to begin at home.
The Scottish Government led on climate justice through-out COP. We were the first country to pledge funds for loss and damage to help those vulnerable countries that have contributed least to climate change but are suffering its worst effects. This is about reparation, not charity, so will the Prime Minister reverse his cuts to international aid, follow our First Minister’s lead, and back and contribute to the creation of a loss and damage facility?
The Glasgow climate pact also contains a commitment to increase nationally determined contributions by the end of 2022, so can the Prime Minister confirm that the UK will urgently update its own NDC commitments?
Meeting our targets also means rapidly increasing investment in green jobs. Prior to recess, the Prime Minister made a commitment to go and look again at the issue of investment in tidal stream energy. Now that he has presumably looked into this, can he today commit to a ringfenced fund of £71 million for tidal stream energy as part of the contracts for difference process?
Finally, on carbon capture and storage—I know that the Prime Minister is expecting a question, and I make no apology for the fact that I will keeping asking these questions until the promises made to Scotland’s north-east are finally delivered—let us not forget that the UK Exchequer has taken £350 billion of tax revenues out of North sea oil, and it is now our responsibility to make sure that we invest in carbon capture and storage. Last week, INEOS added its voice to the growing shock and anger that track 1 status for the Acorn project was rejected by the UK Government, so will the Prime Minister reverse this devastating decision and back the Scottish cluster?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I should say, taking his points in reverse order, that of course the Acorn project remains a strong contender, as I have told him several times from this Dispatch Box. He should not give up hope. It is a very interesting project, and we will look at it.
On our NDCs, the UK is already compliant with 1.5° C, as a result of the pledges we have made, both by 2030 and 2035, so if we can deliver on those, then we believe that we will be able to restrain our emissions.
I have told the right hon. Gentleman before that I am interested in tidal power and contracts for difference for tidal power, and he is right that the Government should invest in making sure we have a tidal power industry in this country, as we have wind power and solar power industries, because all the evidence is that the costs come down, and that is the role of Government.
Finally, on the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the whereabouts of COP, as he will well understand, it would never have been in Scotland at all had Scotland not been part of the United Kingdom.
May I join the warm congratulations to the COP President and his team, and, on the location, acknowledge the role of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) in securing COP in the UK and Glasgow, to give us the opportunity for this great exercise of British diplomacy?
Will the Prime Minister recognise that in the year ahead, as well as holding countries to their contributions, there is the important opportunity to make scientific progress and progress in innovation, which will be at least as important in securing the ambitions that were inked in Glasgow, and will he say a bit about how UK leadership over the year ahead can advance our ambitions on that score as well?
I thank my right hon. Friend. As he knows, the UK has virtually doubled our investment in R&D, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government chief scientific adviser, has said we want to focus on climate change and green technology under the national Council for Science and Technology. That is why we are putting £22 billion into R&D. The opportunities are immense, and the opportunity to reduce the cost to the consumer of heat pumps, electric vehicles and other green technology is also immense.
May I associate myself and my party with the Prime Minister’s remarks on the horrific attacks in Liverpool?
We had all hoped that the UK would lead the world to a bold agreement at Glasgow, to turn the tide on dangerous climate change. Despite the efforts of the COP President and the excellent UK negotiating team, regrettably, the agreement fell short, potentially dangerously so, yet there is still an opportunity for the UK to drive global climate action by cleaning up the City of London. Fossil fuel investors raise billions of pounds in this very city for coal and oil projects around the world. While China and India stopped a better deal on fossil fuels at COP, they cannot stop the Prime Minister showing leadership here in London, so will he stop dirty fossil fuel money for global coal and oil projects being raised here in the City of London?
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that, after UK leadership, we secured at COP an end to the international financing of coal around the world. China has done that, leading to a number of other countries immediately following suit, so progress is being made. As I said in my opening statement, the UK is also abandoning exports of hydrocarbons and we are going to be followed in that by other countries.
It is clear that the COP in Glasgow has gone better than many of us feared, but, as I am sure my right hon. Friend would agree, there are no possible grounds for complacency. Will he use the remainder of the UK presidency to redouble efforts to share excess vaccine doses with developing countries? Quite apart from making us safer in the UK, it will also bolster internationalism and British international leadership in the meetings ahead envisaged in the Glasgow agreement.
Yes, indeed; although vaccines per se were not discussed at COP, there was a long discussion at the G20 in Rome, and the UK has a fantastic record of supporting at-cost vaccines around the world—the 1.5 billion AstraZeneca doses, to say nothing of the huge contributions the UK has made to both Gavi and COVAX to ensure that people around the world get vaccinated, because nobody is safe until everybody is safe.
I thank the Prime Minister for the comments he made about the appalling attack in Liverpool yesterday. Having spent some years on the Intelligence and Security Committee, I am aware that in many attacks, those involved—I know it is too early to say at this point—were on the radar of the security services. If that proves to be the case in this incident, will the Prime Minister undertake to look at how those cases are kept under review?
On COP26, I add my voice to those of others who have said that it is really important that those who are currently standing outside the tent of those who agree are brought into it. Can the Prime Minister give us some indication of his strategy for doing that?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. On his point about picking up potential terrorists earlier, he is absolutely right. He will know from his work on the ISC that the potential for cross-referring between the various data points that we have is, I think, the way forward, and that may help us, if we can do it in a sensitive way, to predict more of the problems that have been cropping up.
As for bringing people into the tent, I think the right hon. Gentleman is referring to ensuring that everybody in the developing world feels that they are being properly represented in these conversations. Is that what—
The big emitters.
I see; he is talking about India, China and others. [Interruption.] I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think the House will forgive me; it was not entirely clear from his question which people he wanted. I want everybody brought into the tent, for the avoidance of doubt.
With India in particular, we need to work with the Indian Government, who are already doing some very impressive things, to show how, with new technology, we can help that country to power past coal. With the One Sun One World One Grid project, it has a huge amount of renewables already going, but the UK can take a leading role, with partners around the world, in building the coalitions of support and investment by the private sector to help even an economy as huge as India’s to make this transition, and make it much faster than people currently think possible. Look at the speed with which the UK has done it; other countries around the world can do the same.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his Glasgow achievements. Can he say what is being done to remedy the international shortage of critical minerals to make semiconductors, without which the achievement of our 2035 targets will be impossible? What more can he do to grow our own silicon valleys to reduce our reliance on China and Taiwan?
My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. The resources are there. There are adequate supplies; the problem lies in the supply chains. That is an issue that we are working on, together with our American friends and other partners around the world, to ensure that there is no disruption in those supplies of critical things, particularly semi-conductors.
First, may I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma)? He has gained enormous international respect for the diligent, courteous and tenacious way in which he conducted the negotiations as COP26 President.
Given that article IV of the Glasgow climate pact requires us to accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, can the Prime Minister tell us whether the 130% tax super deduction announced by the Chancellor will now have a climate filter imposed so that the taxpayer does not end up paying the full cost of projects such as the Cambo oilfield, and whether the Government will use the $27.5 billion windfall from the International Monetary Fund special drawing rights to significantly scale up their provision of climate finance to developing countries, as demanded under articles III and V?
One of the most significant diplomatic achievements of the COP was getting 130 countries, including the US and the BRIC—Brazil, Russia, India and China—economies, to agree to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. However, we have been here before with the New York declaration in 2014, which was ultimately unsuccessful because it lacked any enforcement mechanism. Will my right hon. Friend say how he thinks we can ensure it will be different this time?
Yes. My hon. Friend makes an absolutely crucial point. This time it will be different, because at COP26 in Glasgow about 40 leading global financial institutions pledged that they would no longer invest in companies that supported or made their money out of deforestation. We also had the companies themselves, big commodities companies whose names I am sure my hon. Friend will be familiar with, saying they would no longer invest in products grown as a result of deforestation across the world. The agency for holding those sets of businesses to account, both banks—financial institutions—and companies, will be customers, account holders and consumers across the whole world, who will take their investment away from companies if they fail to honour those commitments. That is a huge change taking place across the world.
There was a welcome acknowledgement at COP that the world cannot decarbonise without steel, whether it be for wind turbines, electric vehicles, energy-efficient buildings or infrastructure. It was therefore very disappointing that in the Budget there was little to support the steel industry to decarbonise, little help with energy prices, and no mention of the already small green steel fund. What, practically, are the Government going to do to support our industry—nuts and bolts, as the Prime Minister said earlier?
It is always worth remembering that steel output fell by 50% under the Labour Government because of their reckless mismanagement of the energy issue. What we have done is put about £600 million into relief for the steel industry to help it to cope with high energy costs, and a £315 million fund to transform steel and help it to move towards clean, green energy. That is what is needed.
I thank the Prime Minister, the COP26 President, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) and all the teams for the enormous work they have done in putting together a great programme as the UK hosted COP26, in partnership with Italy. May I ask the Prime Minister to reassure the good people of South Leicestershire, and for that matter the country, that the agreement his Government have entered into, and the policies and Bills he will bring before Parliament, will not just help to improve the climate, but bring brilliant jobs to the people of South Leicestershire as part of the green deal economy that we are all looking forward to?
Yes. I thank my hon. Friend. I should have renewed my thanks for the Italian presidency of the G20 and co-presidency of COP, and to Mario Draghi, who did an outstanding job throughout the period. My hon. Friend is totally right on the green industrial revolution. In the year since the 10-point plan was put forward to business around the world, £15 billion of investment in green technology has been secured in this country and many tens of thousands of high-wage, high-skilled jobs. That is the future.
New Delhi is now heading into a pollution lockdown because of the emissions affecting the people there. The poorest people in the poorest places all around the world suffer the worst from pollution. Will the Prime Minister tell us what he is seriously going to do to bring China, Russia, Australia and others on board to get rid of their coal production? The answer he gave to the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) was less than clear. Will he now be absolutely clear that there will be no British financing whatever for any new fossil fuel industries anywhere in the world?
On the right hon. Gentleman’s last point, yes, of course that it is right. We are abandoning export finance—I made that clear earlier—for the hydro-carbon industry. That massive change has been difficult because businesses in this country have benefited from export finance for many years, but we are making that change because we want the world to move away from hydrocarbons.
As for what the right hon. Gentleman said about India, I accept the points that he made, but, as I think I said, we will help the Indian Government in any way we can to move beyond coal as fast as they can. Of course, it was disappointing to see the language changed from “phase out” to “phase down”, but we have never had any commitments whatever on coal in COP before. I think that what will now happen is that the global peer pressure on countries to move away from coal will intensify very rapidly and the change will happen much faster than people think.
After the downfall of the Soviet Union, it was discovered that various multilateral agreements that we thought we had over things such as biological weapons had been systematically flouted. What confidence can we have if open societies observe the rules but closed societies cheat? Is there a regime in play to make sure that we would discover that?
One of the things that we agreed at this COP—and one of the reasons why I believe it is so historic—is, finally, the Paris rulebook, which contains, among other things, provisions for transparency and agreement about how we measure what we are trying to do around the world. That is immensely significant and it gives a tool to everybody who cares about it. Even in closed societies—about which my right hon. Friend knows a great deal—where they may not take voters very seriously, there are consumers whom they take seriously and people who are willing to protest, whom they take seriously as well.
The COP26 President has undoubtedly done an excellent job, but frankly, that is no thanks to the Prime Minister, who has consistently undermined climate leadership, whether that is by going ahead with an oilfield at Cambo or cutting aid—1.5 °C is hanging by a thread and the vulnerable countries feel betrayed, so a little bit more humility might be in order. He says that we are not asking others to do anything that we are not doing ourselves. Will he demonstrate that that is the case by requesting an urgent and transparent audit by the Office for Budget Responsibility, independent of the Treasury, of all our own domestic fossil fuel subsidies, with a view to phasing them out as soon as possible—yes or no?
The hon. Lady, again, rather like the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), is trying to have it both ways: to suck and blow at once. She cannot say that it was a successful COP and somehow attack the UK Government; I simply fail to see the logic. [Interruption.] What we are also doing is moving beyond coal by 2024. [Interruption.]
I urge the Prime Minister and other world leaders not to get ahead of public opinion on this. The people of Gainsborough South West ward, which I represent—the 27th most deprived ward in the entire country—are worried not so much about the future of the Great Barrier Reef in 50 years’ time, but about their great big bloody heating bills now. They are heavily reliant on gas, of which we have an abundant supply. Manufacturers in northern levelling-up towns are worried about their competitiveness with China, as more and more regulations are imposed on them. To be fair to India, in Uttar Pradesh, there are millions living in dire poverty whose emissions are very low. Do we represent them? Their whole future depends now—this minute—on fossil fuels; otherwise, they might literally starve. Be realistic.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Of course we must be realistic, but we have seen that it is entirely realistic to move very rapidly to renewable energy and see the cost of that renewable energy fall vertiginously, as it has done—the cost of wind has fallen 60% just since 2015, and solar likewise.
I urge my right hon. Friend to tell his wonderful electorate in Gainsborough that this is a massive opportunity for us. We have first mover advantage, as we did in the first industrial revolution. We are going with this green industrial revolution now; I believe that it will be of massive long-term benefit to people across this country.
Does the Prime Minister agree that if we are to have any hope of keeping 1.5° alive, we need to liberate the COP26 President to lead, with all parties’ support, a kind of revolution across our country, working together across parties to involve every community, every town and every city? If we do not grasp this opportunity with our constituents and the people we represent, we will not get there. It is vital that this becomes a campaign with great leadership, but with the full support of every community in the land.
Does not the landmark agreement to support South Africa’s just transition show that even economies that are heavily dependent on coal can seize a bright and sustainable future and strengthen themselves as well as the UK economy?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is the trade envoy to South Africa. I also thank the Government of South Africa, led by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has taken an extraordinary step and built an international coalition for South Africa to decarbonise its energy system. It will not necessarily be easy, but it is a way that we can have a just transition for South Africa. Countries around the world, including the UK, are coming together to do that. That is the model for progress that we can make with so many of the big emitters; as the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Sir George Howarth) was saying, that is the way forward with the big emitters around the world.
All the commitments that countries have made in Glasgow have credibility only to the extent that they are backed up by plans at home to deliver the promised emissions reductions. It is now a question of counting.
Let us take an example. Eventually, all of the 22 million or 23 million gas boilers in this country will have to go. The Government say that their target is for 600,000 heat pumps a year to be installed by 2028. The recently published heat and buildings strategy provides enough funding to help support the installation of 30,000 a year. Why is the Government’s plan for decarbonising home heating so far short of what is required?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the need to decarbonise our heating, but it can be done. There is great variety in the housing stock of the UK, and I believe that if we keep on track with investment, supporting and priming the market, we will be able to bring down radically the cost of ground source heat pumps and all the other ways to give people the heating that they need in a clean, green way. That is what we are going to do.
I congratulate the Prime Minister, the COP26 President and their teams on their historic achievements in Glasgow. For me, it was reassuring to attend the conference and see nature and sustainable farming at the heart of the programme. Does my right hon. Friend agree that food production and looking after the environment go hand in hand—and that that is what our fantastic British farmers do each and every day?
Commitments are one thing; actions are another. For the UK to deliver on its promises and commitments in the COP26 agreement, a transition to renewable energy must occur, and must be supported by the Government. Will the Prime Minister commit himself to at least matching the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund to drive the move to renewable energy and meet the UK’s emissions reduction obligations, while also ensuring that workers are not left behind?
The hon. Lady is right to say that a just transition is vital, but that is why we are investing £12.6 billion around the world and £26 billion in this country, to help the transition to a clean, green economy, while creating 440,000 new, high-quality jobs.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and the President of COP26 on their leadership in Glasgow. Does the Prime Minister agree that we can continue to show leadership by continuing to reduce our carbon emissions, getting cars and freight off the roads and reducing the need for domestic flights? We can do that by investing in high-speed rail, investing in east-west connectivity, investing in Northern Powerhouse Rail, and investing in local rail connections such as the Huddersfield-Penistone-Sheffield line.
The Prime Minister was sent to Glasgow to keep 1.5 alive, and left it in intensive care. A year ago he committed himself to the BioYorkshire project, Yorkshire’s green new deal, but in a year not a penny or a green new deal job has been delivered. Will he turn his words into action and support the green new deal?
I do not think that any Government in history have done more to support green technology and green jobs across the whole country. As I just said to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), we are creating 440,000 new jobs as a result of the investments we are making. We are transforming the UK, including Yorkshire, with a green industrial revolution, and that is how we are going to continue.
The Prime Minister is right to say that the whole country should take pride in the manner in which the UK has hosted the COP talks in the last few weeks. One of the elements that distinguished COP26 from previous COPs was the much greater and more meaningful involvement of business. How can we ensure that that continues and becomes one of the defining characteristics of the remainder of the UK’s COP presidency?
My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I think that that was one of the most important defining characteristics of this COP, and the role of business is now seen to be critical by partners around the world. The new country platforms that we are creating will only be possible with the help of the trillions of private sector investment.
Australia has made its first ever commitment to net zero, and if you want to look at UK leadership, Madam Deputy Speaker, ours was the first country—the first major economy—to commit itself to net zero. Now, 90% of the world is committed to it. It is pretty clear, even from the grudging, mealy-mouthed words we have heard from the Opposition, that the overwhelming impression, even on the Opposition Benches, is that COP26 in Glasgow was a considerable success.
The United Kingdom has an enviable record of phasing out coal because of the success of our renewables sector. I should know about this, because, as the Prime Minister has said before, the north Norfolk coast is the capital of the Saudi of wind-powered generation. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend act with extreme speed to get the regulatory and legal framework changed so that we can implement an offshore transmission network and stop the damaging cable corridors that connect piecemeal to our national grid?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have proceeded at such a pace that the cables come ashore in a way that is confused and very far from optimal. We need to ensure that we work with the regulator to develop a proper grid to bring the energy onshore in an organised way, and that work is under way.
I was not expecting that, Madam Deputy Speaker. First, I thank the COP26 President’s parliamentary team, who were there in Glasgow, for helping MPs to navigate their way around the event. A number of commitments were made on aviation at COP, acknowledging the need for change to be sustainable for the industry. I have raised many times the financial difficulties the industry faces at present. What will the Government do to support it in decarbonising and meeting jet zero without that becoming too great a financial burden?
I thank the hon. Lady very much. We are supporting the campaign for jet zero; we want the UK to lead the world in making sure that planes can fly without using tonnes of kerosene, and there are many attractive technologies. It will not be easy, but we want the whole world to come together to fix this. We are setting an ambitious target of getting more sustainable aviation fuel into tanks by 2030, and going for electric planes for short haul.
May I add my thanks to the Prime Minister and the unflappable, unstoppable COP26 President sitting beside him? It is plain to hear that they have really put themselves out there, and they have done the country and the world a great service. The agreement on coal is welcome. They have both been honest that it could have been better, but does the Prime Minister concur that the direction of travel on coal is now crystal clear, and that the pressure on India, China and the other coal-addicted nations will only increase now? Will he commit his Government to using every resource at our disposal to finish the job on coal?
Yes. I thank my hon. Friend, who is totally right. The way to finish the job on coal is to show countries that are having difficulties powering past coal that the technology does exist, and to use our new country platforms to bring in the private sector to help us to fix it. That is what is going to happen.
We have been considering this subject now for an hour, which is the normal time for a statement. As this is a historically important statement, I would like to ensure that everybody who wishes to ask a question has the opportunity to do so, but they really will have to be short questions now. I am slightly concerned about the Prime Minister’s voice; I am sure he is not concerned, but I am concerned about his voice. It would be a terrible thing if he were prevented from other things on which he has to make speeches in the near future because we kept him at the Dispatch Box for too long—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister is not concerned; nevertheless we will be as quick as possible now, because there is other business to get on to.
The Prime Minister probably admits that the weakest link of the deal was the lack of progress on defunding the polluters. The catchily-named GFANZ—Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero—initiative disappointed many. That now means that 1,400 of the world’s 2,000 biggest companies do not have net zero targets. Their combined turnover is nearly $15 trillion, but most pension savers are funding them, because the information is not there in their accounts. When will that great deficit be fixed?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The power of consumers, pension holders and investors is enormous. We are looking at everything we can do to encourage all companies to follow suit. Peer pressure and social pressure will have a massive influence.
Real progress has been made at COP26, and we should all be grateful to its president and the Prime Minister for achieving so much. However, the Prime Minister will be aware that we must keep countries’ feet close to the fire. What reassurance can he provide that the annual progress reports have real teeth, so that leaders can be held accountable for the progress required in the short term, in order to ensure that climate change targets are met?
I add my voice to those calling for urgent climate justice reparations for the least-developed countries. They have had a collective slap in the face, in conjunction with the cuts in development funding. In the new planning framework, will the Prime Minister be ruling out fossil fuel developments?
At COP in Glasgow, I picked up some frustration from developing countries about the $100 billion of climate finance. Will the Prime Minister outline how, over the next year, the UK will help to set out how this money will reach developing countries? Who will allocate it and make sure that we hold businesses’ and countries’ feet to the fire to make sure it happens?
The Prime Minister has dodged the issue of turning the City of London into the capital of green investment. The UK represents 1% of global emissions, but the City of London’s corporations and financial institutions represent 15% of global emissions. Where is his plan to ensure they commit to 1.5° and zero emissions?
Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking the COP26 President’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher)? There could have been no better Back-Bench champion to gently corral and encourage us all to fight for the environmental issues she holds so dear.
Will the Prime Minister give further information on the £210 million for small nuclear technology? If we had left it to the Opposition, we would have no nuclear technology or nuclear capacity to speak of.
The UK’s leadership of COP26 was undermined by climate hypocrisy at home, but we still have the COP presidency and a change of policy now could still influence others. In that spirit, will the Government stop drilling in the Cambo oilfield, scrap plans for a new coalmine in Cumbria and cancel the tax cuts on domestic flights—yes or no?
As my right hon. Friend is aware, northern Lincolnshire and the Humber are major centres of our renewable energy sector and can play a major part in spearheading our achievement of the COP26 targets. Will he reaffirm the Government’s support for developing the industry, not just in northern Lincolnshire but elsewhere, which would have the added benefit of levelling up many of our industrial areas?
I noticed that the Prime Minister mentioned Aristotle in his statement, so could he explain how breaking his own manifesto promise to the poorest people in the world, those worst affected by climate change, could possibly be consistent with the actions of the virtuous person?
Because we have not. What we are doing is continuing—[Interruption.] Opposition Members must really retract this, because what we are doing is not only committing £11.6 billion, which I announced and which was a doubling of the previous commitment, but adding, as soon as we can, as soon as the numbers will allow us, another £1 billion, taking it to £12.6 billion. That is one of the biggest commitments to tackling climate change around the world of any country in the world and the hon. Member should be proud of it.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and the COP President on the incredible achievements at the COP summit. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is science, technology, research and development that will get us through this mess, but that that is going to need a huge workforce skilled in STEM? Could he update the House on the work the Government are doing not only to improve and enhance careers and training in STEM, but to break down barriers for women and people from marginalised backgrounds to taking on those careers?
My hon. Friend is making a very important point. We have not only to train more people up in STEM—and we are investing hugely in skills— but to make sure that people with existing skills in hydrocarbon-intensive means of propulsion are trained to work with EVs and other low-carbon technologies. That is what we are doing as well.
We know that the COP26 agreement is the bare minimum in terms of what needs to be done to tackle the climate emergency already claiming lives around the world. Last week, Wales joined as a core member of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance. At the same time, news came that the Conservative party, under this Prime Minister, has pocketed £1.5 million in donations from oil and gas interests. He can redeem his reputation by joining Wales, France, Denmark and others as a core member of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance—will he?
I am sorry to cast a shadow on the mutual backslapping here today, but there has been widespread concern that the Prime Minister simply lacked the leadership we needed to see, given that he had the presidency of COP26 and the G7 chair. Does he not recognise that we are a country that now routinely threatens to renege on its international commitments and that has cut international aid—what it is putting back does not make up for the cut and we are one of the only G7 countries to do that? Does he not recognise that he simply lacks the credibility and trust that we currently need to lead on this issue and that he needs to sort that out?
The Opposition have had a very tough job this afternoon, because they have tried time and again to congratulate the UK Government on achieving a success at COP26, while simultaneously attacking the UK Government for whatever failings they see——I think they should stick with their initial script.
I was pleased to attend a part of COP26 as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. It was a particular privilege to meet members of the Ugandan delegation who took part in an event that we hosted. I have to say that the Prime Minister’s statement is completely tone deaf in the face of the frustration and desperation of countries of the global south at the failure of this COP to deliver on the 12-year-old promise of $100 billion a year for climate finance. Will he accept that his decision to persist with indefensible cuts to UK aid effectively tied the hands of his own negotiating committee on this vital issue?
The hon. Member is talking total rubbish. We have doubled—[Interruption.] No, Opposition Members literally do not know what they are talking about. We have doubled climate finance for developing countries. The reason why the vulnerable countries accepted the deal, finally, was because we have got a commitment to $100 billion. Yes, I would have liked it faster, but it is there in black and white. Maybe she has not read it.
Bristol was the first local authority in the country to declare a climate and ecological emergency. We have set out a city-wide strategy to make Bristol carbon neutral, climate resilient and wildlife rich by 2030—the nuts and bolts, if you like—but Bristol and other cities need investment, and the Government’s funding model currently makes us compete with other cities. The UK Government cannot reach their targets using that funding model, so will they look at it again and help us with the private investment that we need to make a massive contribution to the Government’s own national targets?
The Department of Energy and Climate Change, which was under Lib Dem leadership until 2015, was a huge driver towards decarbonisation across the board. There are now renewed calls to bring back such a Department, but there seem to be sources in the Treasury who are against such a move, saying that it would become
“the biggest begging bowl in Whitehall outside the NHS”.
Does the Prime Minister agree that we should bring back the Department of Energy and Climate Change, or does he agree with the Treasury?
The Government say they are now following the science—they said it during covid and they are saying it on climate—but over the weekend they managed to alienate the entire scientific community of this nation with leaks to the press saying that the UK is about to be wrenched out of three different multibillion-pound international research and infrastructure projects that tackle exactly those two things, because they are backed by the EU scientific budget. Will the Prime Minister confirm that we need a joined-up approach on these things and that it is not about settling old scores? Can he tell us that those reports are truly media tittle-tattle?
I do not know quite what relevance that has to COP, but the UK is investing massively. We have doubled our commitment to R&D, funding for science is going up to £22 billion and we have set up a new advanced research and invention agency, which is based on the model of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is unlike anything that any previous Government have done.
Order. Will everyone who has a long question written or typed out edit it to half what they have? We must have much shorter questions. The problem is that when people read their questions, they are great big, long questions; “Erskine May” makes it clear that questions should never be read.
At COP26, the Prime Minister said we were at one minute to midnight; I am afraid his clock might be a bit slow. The action that has been set out is not enough. Aristotle asked whether hope is a waking dream; I would really like to hear from the Prime Minister that he is going to stop Cambo and halt the Cumbria coalmine.
The review commissioned by the Treasury and carried out by Professor Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge highlighted the importance of nature-based solutions to the tackling of environmental challenges. Will the Prime Minister tell us what the UK Government did at COP26 to pursue those conclusions and whether they will be pursued at the COP15 biodiversity talks?
I am grateful to Professor Dasgupta. At COP26 we had not only an immense agreement on forests, which are vital habitats for untold manner of wildlife, but a negotiation with our Chinese partners that will continue through till their Kunming biodiversity summit. COP26 achieved an integration of high climate science with nature. It is the first time that has happened.
A potential barrier to the accelerated move towards 100% zero emission vehicles that the Prime Minister mentioned in his statement is grid capacity, particularly in rural areas such as Carmarthenshire. What are the British Government doing to ensure that the grid will be resilient enough to meet expected demand?
In order to meet our commitments on net zero, the Humber energy estuary will play a vital role. So I am at a bit of a loss to understand why, in all the briefings over the weekend about the integrated rail review, we in the Humber will get nothing in terms of greener, faster connectivity. There will be no coast-to-coast Northern Powerhouse Rail, despite what the Prime Minister has promised in the past, and no benefit from HS2 to the east of Leeds. So, Prime Minister, I just wondered whether you could comment on the fact that the Humber is not getting much—
In the run-up to COP, the Prime Minister spoke about Kermit the Frog. On the first day of COP, he spoke about cows belching before disappearing up a closie for the next two weeks, instead focusing his time on trying to cover up Conservative party corruption. So can I ask the Prime Minister: when the world needed climate leadership, does he believe that he was a help or a hindrance?
As I say, the Opposition have struggled all afternoon with the appalling fact that COP26 has been a success. In all humility, they should recognise that, congratulate the negotiators and thank all the countries of the UN that came together to do something very difficult and very remarkable. I am grateful to all the parties involved.
I have been at many COPs and each one agrees on more ambition, but we are yet to see the action that is needed. The world is currently on track for 2.4°—a death sentence for millions and devastation for the planet. How can we believe that this Prime Minister will take the action needed when this Government continue to use loopholes to fund fossil fuel projects overseas, locking communities into that fossil-fuel era for decades?
I cannot believe that the hon. Member has been at that many COPs because no previous COP has agreed on anything about coal, or about cars, or about trees. It has not agreed anything like the solid granular commitments that the countries of the world made, including no new support for overseas coal-fired power stations. They did it because this Government are leading the way in cutting support for hydrocarbons overseas and they could see it plain as a pikestaff.
Glasgow is a proud host of COP. I thank my constituents, Glasgow businesses and COP volunteers who made the world so welcome. To all our new friends, Scotland says, “Haste ye back”. Will the Prime Minister act to support and incentivise the investment in innovative start-ups such as Katrick Technologies in my constituency, which is growing in developing world-leading green energy technology in Glasgow?
I was at COP representing the Inter-Parliamentary Union as the global co-rapporteur for COP26. The global Parliaments delivered a very strong document. While I was there, I met the Speaker of the Tuvalu Parliament, Samuelu Teo, who told me that donor countries had provided enough finance for them to build a seawall, but the consultants from the donor countries could not agree on how to build the seawall. This is one of the really difficult issues—we promise but we cannot deliver. Will we deliver the adaptation measures that small and developing states need so that they do not go under the ocean?
The Glasgow climate pact included a request that countries return next year with stronger targets for 2030, yet within hours the Australian Government had issued a statement saying that they were not intending to strengthen their target. What will the Government do over the remainder of the COP presidency to ensure that countries such as Australia that do not meet their NDC commitments are encouraged to raise their standards and ensure that they deliver for the world?
When we consider energy efficiency, the UK has some of the draughtiest homes in Europe. A national retrofit programme would not only drive down emissions, but create thousands of jobs for people around our country and save families £400 on their annual energy bills, so will the Prime Minister tell us why he scrapped his green homes grant?
We are committed to retrofitting homes around the whole UK. As I said earlier, the housing stock is very various, so we need different approaches in different places. We are supporting households across the country to go green and thereby to save on their fuel bills as well. That is the Government’s approach.
Rather than self-congratulations today, surely the time to judge the historical significance of the Glasgow COP will be in 2050. Given that climate change is a truly global issue, does the Prime Minister recognise that one of its impacts will be more migration of peoples around the world, and, sadly, more conflicts in many places around the world? In that context, surely the UK should be doing more to lead on international aid and to have a more progressive asylum policy at home.
I think the whole House will agree that 2050 is frankly far too late. That is why we are making the commitments that we have made now. The way to avert crisis in the next decade is to make the changes that we are making now. On the hon. Gentleman’s point about climate finance, I simply repeat what I said earlier: I really think that Opposition Members should look at what the UK is spending, as it sets an example and benchmark for the rest of the world to follow.