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Outcome of COP26

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2021

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.