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Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2021

The President of COP26 was asked—

COP27: Finance for Loss and Damage

10. Whether he plans to have discussions with the President of COP27 on continuing negotiations for a loss and damage facility. (904497)

12. What steps he is taking to help ensure that there is a loss and damage facility in place before COP27. (904499)

COP26 was the first COP where a section of the cover decisions was devoted to loss and damage. We agreed a new Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage, which will discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage.

The COP26 President will know of the extraordinary anger and sense of betrayal that was felt by the climate-vulnerable countries, in particular, when they saw the finance facility that they had proposed downgraded to just a dialogue. Will he say more about how practically he will use that dialogue to create momentum for a finance facility to be agreed at COP27? Given that from day one of that COP, the UK returns to being a negotiating party, not having the presidency, will he guarantee that the Government will support the creation of that facility in Egypt and that they will follow Scotland’s example by contributing new and additional funding specifically for loss and damage?

I note the hon. Lady’s point, but the fact that we have established a formal dialogue on loss and damage for the first time does demonstrate progress. Ultimately, this will be a party-driven process, as she knows. Parties will have to decide, based on consensus, what the outcome of the dialogue will be.

I stress again that the Group of 77 plus China—the world’s underdeveloped countries—were disappointed, crucially, with the wording on finance. They say that it is weak and have called for greater support, but there have been no specifics on how that should be met. Does the COP26 President agree that resolving that disappointment is vital both for ensuring global success against climate change and for maintaining a balance of power on the world stage?

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady on the importance of this issue. I very much hope that we will make progress on the dialogue. I should point out that, in addition to the dialogue, we have also done what we set out to do: to operationalise the Santiago Network, so that technical assistance can be provided. Parties have also agreed that funding will be provided to support the work of the Santiago Network.

As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) mentioned, the first organisation in the world to give a definite financial commitment to a loss and damage facility were the Scottish Government, who, officially, were not even part of COP. They have committed £2 million and, as a result, other organisations—the Government of Wallonia for one—and a number of philanthropic bodies have also committed money. Does the COP26 President agree that, in holding the presidency of COP26, the United Kingdom is in a unique position to encourage others to follow Scotland’s example? Does he also agree that a significant commitment from the United Kingdom would almost certainly open the doors for substantial funding from other wealthy organisations?

Again, I make the point that it is the first time that we have agreed the need for a dialogue. During our presidency year, we will pursue that very actively.

I congratulate the President of COP26 on the excellent work that he has done for this country and for the world. Will he also inform the House what discussions he has had with the Treasury about what we as the United Kingdom Government can do to help the countries that are threatened?

I will ignore that additional comment. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for his very kind words. A number of things have happened in relation to the UK. The Chancellor has set out the conditions to restore the 0.7% commitment and we know that, on the latest forecast, that will be restored by 2024-25. In addition, the UK worked with other countries to ensure that the $100 billion delivery plan also set out when additional funding will be made available to support developing countries.

Whether it is progress in relation to a dedicated loss and damage funding facility, efforts to raise ambition when it comes to national climate commitments, or delivering on climate finance and adaptation pledges, implementing the Glasgow agreement will require the work of our COP presidency not only to be sustained but to be enhanced over the next 11 months. Can the President therefore confirm today that the COP26 unit will be fully funded to deliver on all the work programmes mandated in the Glasgow agreement, and that the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero will continue to receive support from the Treasury throughout the remainder of the UK presidency?

I can certainly confirm that we will be taking very seriously our work during the presidency year, and I will return to the House in due course and set out a written statement on our role during that presidency year.

Civil Society and Youth Groups

2. What steps he took to ensure that (a) civil society and (b) youth groups were included in the COP26 process. (904489)

In the run-up to the summit, I met civil society and youth groups on international visits. We established the COP26 civil society and youth advisory council. I attended a Youth4Climate conference in Milan, and obviously the conference of youth in Glasgow. I can confirm that, at COP itself, we had over 160 youth, indigenous peoples and broader civil society speakers who participated in presidency-themed events.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is an important feature of this COP event that so many young people’s voices were able to be heard, in particular through digital methods, such as the children of West Lodge Primary School in my constituency, who told me on Monday how much they had valued their opportunity to participate directly?

My hon. Friend makes a really important point, and I want to pay tribute obviously to the children of West Lodge Primary School and also to him for all the work that he does in his constituency. We have an opportunity for all of us to play our part in tackling climate action, and we want to ensure during our presidency year that the voices of young people are integral to driving climate action.

I also pay tribute to the President of COP26 for the incredible work that he did. Has he had any discussions with the Egyptian Government about whether civil society groups can attend the fringe meetings, including very important people such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, and also first nations around the world that maybe did not have a seat at the table?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her kind words. Obviously, we had some initial discussions with Egyptian colleagues at COP26 itself, but I hope to have a conversation with them, certainly before Christmas, and to visit Egypt again in the new year to talk about how we work in our presidency year as we move to COP27.

Outcome of COP26

The Glasgow climate pact, agreed by almost 200 countries, is an historic agreement that advances climate action. It is the result of two years of marathon work and a two-week sprint of negotiations, and I think we can say with some credibility that we have kept the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° within reach.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the pupils of Gig Mill Primary School, Wollescote Primary School and Cradley Church of England Primary School on taking part in my COP26-inspired Christmas card competition? There were some magnificent results. It is all about the environment, it is very green and it is also about recycling, because one of them actually used a potato head as a print to make a reindeer Christmas card. It was very clear to me that the legacy of COP26 is very much alive and kicking in the younger generation.

I congratulate all the primary schools and the students who took part in this Christmas card competition. It is perhaps an inspiration to all of us for our Christmas cards. Undoubtedly, we need to ensure that climate action continues to be raised as an issue, and we all have a role to play.

I congratulate the President of COP26 on his personal dedication, hard work and commitment at the Glasgow summit. Will he confirm that, as a result of the summit, for the first time ever over 90% of the world’s GDP and about 90% of global emissions are now covered by net emissions targets, and that all 197 countries have pledged to revisit and strengthen these targets by the time of COP27 next year?

My thanks to my hon. Friend for his kind words, and he is absolutely right. When we took on the COP presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target, but we are now at 90%, and yes, all countries have agreed to look again at their 2030 emission reduction targets and come back on those by the end of 2022 to ensure that they are aligned with the Paris temperature goals.

Following that point, one of the positive outcomes of COP26 was the agreement for countries to revise their emissions targets next year. Will the President explain exactly what he will do over the next 12 months to ensure we get the breakthrough we need at COP27, not only to keep 1.5° alive, but to achieve it?

That is a very fair question, and as I said, in due course I will set out for the House in a written statement precisely what we will do in our presidency year. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a significant number of commitments were made by countries at COP26, and our intention is to ensure that they deliver on the commitments they have made.

No one doubts the Secretary of State’s commitment to delivering on climate change, but can he say what he intends to do over the next 12 months? The pledges that were made at COP26 must have been alarming to him, because with current pledges we are way off delivering on 1.5°, and the achievements that countries will make by 2030 will be way off target. What will he do to step up his activities as president for the next year to ensure that we get back on target to keep 1.5° alive?

As I said, I will set that out in writing. If we consider all the commitments made by countries, including the net zero commitments and long-term strategies, there are credible reports that suggest we are heading to below 2°. Of course this is the start of a decade of action, which is why we need to push forward during this year.

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the current structure of Government is adequate to ensure that the UK can deliver a more ambitious nationally determined contribution at COP27?

The make-up and structure of the Government are obviously a matter for the Prime Minister—I know my right hon. Friend will have raised that issue at the Liaison Committee—but our current NDC is aligned to net zero.

I want to commend the COP President, or should I say No Drama Sharma, for his efforts in Glasgow. He is right that we have to spend the next 12 months maximising the pressure on the big emitters, and we can make a difference with the UK-Australia trade deal. Australia’s 2030 target is consistent with 4° of warming. Will he tell the Secretary of State for International Trade to rewrite that trade deal, and not to water down commitments, which is the current plan, but to make it conditional on Australia, as well as the UK, having 2030 targets that are consistent with 1.5°?

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new role. My only disappointment is that the phrase “shadow COP President” does not appear in his title—that is where he could take some lessons from the deputy leader of the Labour party about how to expand his number of portfolios. On the point about Australia, I confirm that the trade deal will include a substantive chapter on climate change, which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to upholding our obligations under the Paris agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5°.

I know I am shadowing the Department that the right hon. Gentleman would quite like to run, so perhaps that announcement will be forthcoming in the future. I am mildly encouraged by what he says on Australia.

Let me take two other issues where he can show leadership: the Cumbria coalmine, and the Cambo oilfield, which are the equivalent of 18 coal-fired power stations running for a year. He knows that we need to get others to phase out coal, and that we need to phase out fossil fuels. Surely the right way to send a proper signal to the rest of the world ahead of COP27, is for the whole Government to start practising what he is effectively preaching, and put a stop to Cambo and Cumbria.

We have previously had discussions at the Dispatch Box on both Cambo and Cumbria, and the right hon. Gentleman will know that they are being looked at by independent regulators and that pronouncements will be coming forward. We have significantly reduced the amount of coal in our electricity mix. Indeed, there will be no more coal in the UK electricity mix from 2024.

I commend the COP26 President and his team for all their hard work at COP26, but one issue missing from the Prime Minister’s ambition for the conference was fossil fuels generally. It is clear that we need action to tackle the use of fossil fuels globally, but in a way that supports a just transition for workers. Does the COP26 President agree that not having a concrete commitment from COP for a global just transition from fossil fuels is a disappointment, and that following the Scottish Government’s example in delivering a just transition and opposing further oil exploration would set a strong example for the next COP?

We do support a just transition; in fact, the $8.5 billion deal agreed with South Africa will enable decarbonisation and a just transition in that country. We also now have 34 countries and five public finance institutions supporting a UK-led initiative to end international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022.

Alternative Fuels

At COP26, leaders of countries representing over 70% of global GDP committed to work together to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in each emitting sector before the end of this decade.

Teesside is quickly becoming the epicentre of hydrogen technology in the UK; with recent announcements on blue and green hydrogen production, we are confident that Teesside will be able to deliver more than half of the Government’s 2030 hydrogen ambitions. Around 85% of all homes are on the gas network, and domestic heating accounts for over 30% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. It is clear to me that we will not make net zero without switching our gas network to 100% hydrogen. Will the Minister recognise hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and will he join me in my campaign for the UK’s first hydrogen village in Redcar?

I agree with my hon. Friend that hydrogen is a fuel of the future. As he will know, the idea of a hydrogen village trial was proposed in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, and gas network companies are working with local partners to develop proposals for the trial. I suggest that he speaks to my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary to make the case for Redcar.

Climate Change: Indigenous Peoples

6. What plans he has to promote the voices of indigenous people in climate change discussions during the UK’s presidency of the COP. (904493)

Indigenous peoples’ voices were represented throughout COP26, and of course the UK Government funded the indigenous peoples’ pavilion in the blue zone. We will continue to amplify indigenous peoples’ voices during our presidency year.

I am grateful to the COP26 President for his response. The territories of the world’s 370 million indigenous people cover 24% of the world’s land and contain 80% of the world’s biodiversity, including sites of precious natural resources. It is they who protect forests vulnerable to the encroachment of modernity, which has caused climate change. Given that indigenous communities are successful in maintaining control of their territories and traditions against the onslaught of man-made climate change, does the COP26 President agree that it is time for them to be treated as equal partners in decision-making processes, including at the United Nations?

As I said, we will absolutely amplify the voices of indigenous peoples, but as the hon. Member will also know, the UK worked with others to mobilise a pledge of at least $1.7 billion over the next five years to ensure that there is support for indigenous peoples, particularly when it comes to forest tenure rights.

Limiting Global Heating

9. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards the globally agreed aim of limiting global heating to well below 2° C and pursuing efforts to limit heating to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. (904496)

13. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards the globally agreed aim of limiting global heating to well below 2° C and pursuing efforts to limit heating to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. (904500)

We can say with credibility that at COP26 we kept 1.5° alive, but as I acknowledged in Glasgow and indeed here, its pulse is weak. That is why we now need to turn commitments from countries into action.

COP26 agreed that the Paris climate agreement must now be implemented to keep global warming below 1.5°, but it has been revealed that the UK has emitted around 50 million tonnes of carbon in the past five years from collapsing peatlands alone. I asked the Minister this last time, and I ask him again: where is the climate leadership in this Government’s allowing two thirds of UK peatlands to be burned while the world is on fire?

As the hon. Lady will know, we have a peat strategy, which I am sure my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would be happy to share with her. More widely, as a country we have decarbonised our economy faster in recent years than any other G7 or G20 nation.

We know the oil of Cambo and the coal of Cumbria have to stay in the ground if we are to keep temperature rises at below 2.4°C. I say 2.4°C because that is the new reality after this year’s COP26. Will the COP President commit to stopping Cambo and the new coalmine in Cumbria, and end the climate hypocrisy that so undermined his presidency at COP26?

I responded to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) earlier on the issue of Cambo and Cumbria. I would just say to the hon. Gentleman, more generally, that I recognise we need to work very hard during our presidency year to ensure that commitments by all countries are turned into action. That is what we will be doing.

Topical Questions

At COP26, we won historic commitments from countries and businesses to act on coal, cars, cash and trees. Countries have also committed to revisit and strengthen by the end of 2022 their 2030 emission reduction commitments to align with the Paris temperature goals. After six years, we have finalised the outstanding rules governing the Paris agreement. Of course, as I have said, we need to ensure that commitments are turned into action.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his incredible work at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Will he continue to work with schools and youth groups throughout the rest of his presidency? Can I invite him to Warrington to meet young people in my constituency?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I commend the work of young people in his constituency and I will ensure that my diary works so I can visit them.

T2. On behalf of my constituent Poppy, who was one of the young people at COP26, what are the Government doing to help to ensure that aid gets directly to those communities most affected by climate change now, such as the Wampis living in the Amazon who Poppy met and whose plight she was deeply moved by? (904540)

The hon. Lady raises an important point. One issue is about the quantum of money; the other is access to finance. That is why we are now launching five pilot projects in developing countries around the world to ensure that access to finance is much better.

T4. My right hon. Friend will know the increasing importance of north Wales in supplying clean and green energy to the national grid. Further to COP26, how would he describe the prospects for tidal range technology in the region? (904542)

My hon. Friend is a great champion for his community on this particular issue. He will know that the Government remain open to considering well-developed proposals for harnessing tidal range energy in the bays and estuaries around our coastlines. Obviously, I recommend that he also speaks to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

T3. According to Friends of the Earth, 33,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution. During the COP26 climate summit, the Environment Bill passed its final stages in this House. Shamefully, it did not include legally binding targets for air quality, which were called for by so many, including hundreds of my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby. As the UK retains the COP26 presidency, will it lead by example and bring in the extra measures needed to clean up our air? (904541)

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point, but air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Our clean air strategy proposes a comprehensive suite of actions required across all parts of Government to improve air quality.

T5.   Following on from the success of the North Devon climate summit, my constituents are keen to understand how can we empower people to make their own choices on a global scale. (904543)

I commend my hon. Friend and her constituents for the success of the North Devon climate summit. Every Government need to play their part and I am pleased that the UK Government’s “Together for our Planet” campaign provides practical advice on how everyone can go one step greener.

Synthetic aircraft fuels are still in their infancy. Domestically, the Government have a tool, the renewable transport fuel obligation, by which they can mandate the mixing of synthetic fuels with conventional aircraft fuel, thereby starting the process of making synthetic fuels viable. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any similar mechanisms in other countries, so we can start an international agreement on mixing synthetic fuels with aircraft fuels and driving the route to net zero?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Government are putting funding behind sustainable aviation fuels. I would be very happy to arrange a meeting for her with the Secretary of State for Transport or with a Transport Minister.

I particularly welcome the COP outcome relating to deforestation: 130 countries, representing 90% of the world’s forests, pledged to end deforestation by 2030. How will that be monitored? What steps will be taken if countries do not keep their word?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. The 90% of forests that are covered by the pledge are also being backed by £14 billion of public and private funding, so there will be a mechanism for checks and balances. In addition, we agreed the transparency framework at COP26, so we will be able to see whether countries are meeting the commitments that they have made.

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