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Paris Agreement Temperature Goal

Volume 707: debated on Wednesday 19 January 2022

1. What progress he made at COP26 on ensuring the Paris Agreement temperature goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius remains achievable (905158)

The Glasgow climate pact agreed by almost 200 countries is a historic agreement that advances climate action. It was the result of two years of marathon work and a two-week sprint of negotiations, following which the world can creditably say that we have kept within reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° above pre-industrial levels. But to keep 1.5 alive, commitments must be translated into action.

The Minister will be well aware that Northern Ireland has a huge farming and agriculture sector. What funding will his Government give to that sector to allow us to get to net zero much more quickly?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is doing an enormous amount to tackle the issues in respect of net zero. On the COP itself and the joint work we are doing around the world, we have put in place a number of mechanisms that we will continue this year, particularly when it comes to sustainable development.

Given that the Centre for International Environmental Law states that plastic pollution and global warming are linked, does the Minister agree that we need to do far more to tackle the scourge of microplastic and microfibre pollution in our marine environment?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. He knows that in some of these policy areas we are leading the world, and he will also know that we have been leading the effort to get countries to make the 30by30 commitment to protect our oceans and, of course, our lands.

The COP President has not set out which countries are his priority for enhanced nationally determined contributions in the run-up to COP27; will he do so?

As the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee knows, all countries have committed to come back to their 2030 emissions-reduction targets by 2022, if necessary. Of course, the G20 is responsible for 80% of global emissions and will have to lead the way.

Important steps were made at COP26 but some were left incomplete. In my right hon. Friend’s remaining time as COP President, until November, on what particular item will he seek to make the most progress?

My right hon. Friend is right: a whole range of commitments were made, some of which will continue beyond the end of 2022. As I said, a key commitment was for countries to revisit their emissions-reduction targets by the end of 2022. We will work with the COP27 presidency from Egypt to ensure that countries deliver.

Two months on from the COP, there is a worrying lack of momentum in this pivotal year, and it could get worse if we learn the wrong lessons from the energy crisis. Does the COP President agree that the lesson is not that, as some in his party would say, we are moving too fast on green energy, but the opposite: we are moving too slowly and our dependence on fossil fuels leaves us vulnerable? The only way, therefore, to keep 1.5 alive and provide energy security is to go further and faster on the climate transition.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the UK wants to have a managed transition to net zero, including in our energy mix. He will also know that under this Government we have led the world in offshore wind and that this Government are delivering investment in nuclear to ensure that we increase our baseload.

Consumers looking at their energy bills will ask, “If it is going so well, why are our bills rocketing and why are we so vulnerable?” We can keep 1.5 alive only if we have an energy policy that is fair at home and abroad. Many of the fossil fuel companies have made billions as a result of soaring prices, yet the Government say we should not tax them further because they are struggling. Is not the truth that we are only ever going to meet the Paris agreement if we stand up to vested interests, including the oil and gas companies, and that the fair and right approach is a windfall tax to help with the real struggles faced by the British people?

We want to see more private sector investment in offshore wind and, indeed, in renewables and the increasing of our green baseload. The right hon. Gentleman will have seen that in the net zero strategy we have set out a plan for an extra £90 billion of investment from the private sector. That is flowing in because of the actions of this Government.

Our young people have led the fight for tougher climate change pledges, so the world at least does not breach 1.5° of warming. To support their activism, Scotland recently hosted the UN Climate Change Conference of Youth ahead of COP26, has unveiled almost £1 million for a programme for young people in the climate conference and legacy activities, and has signed up to the UNICEF declaration on children, youth and climate change, along with countries such as Norway, the Netherlands and Peru. The UK Government have not signed up to that declaration. Will they, and when?

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that we absolutely need to ensure that the voices of young people are heard loud and clear—and indeed they were at COP26, both in terms of civil society and youth groups. For the first time ever, leading into that COP, we set up a civil society youth advisory group that helped us plan for the conference and identify the issues to take forward. We will continue to engage with young people in civil society during our presidency year.