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COP26 Presidency: Priorities

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2022

As I have already noted, we are working with Egypt, as the incoming holder of the presidency, and other partners to ensure that countries deliver on the commitments that they signed up to in the Glasgow climate pact. We want to ensure that there is progress on adaptation, finance and, of course, support for developing nations, and we need to ensure that all countries revisit their 2030 emission reduction targets.

At a local level across Keighley and Ilkley we have experienced the real impacts of climate change, including flooding in Utley, a landslide in Riddlesden, and severe water issues along Redcar Lane in Steeton. As we look to build on the deal achieved at COP26 last year, how will we work with international partners to make real progress on adapting to the damaging effects of climate change?

A number of colleagues have raised the IPCC report, and my hon. Friend raises a vital point. The report was a grim reminder to the world about climate change and how it is affecting our planet. What it underlines, and this is what we are doing through our presidency, is working with parties to ensure that there is faster progress on adaptation—particularly on finance, with the commitment to double adaptation finance. Domestically, we are putting in place robust measures, including £5.2 billion to tackle coastal erosion and flooding in the UK.

One of the great successes of our COP presidency was the amount of private capital dedicated towards net zero. It increased from $5 trillion to a staggering $130 trillion. How will my right hon. Friend keep up that momentum?

As my hon. Friend highlights, net zero has become one of the clearest financial trends. I pay tribute to Mark Carney and his whole team for establishing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, to which she refers. I hope that during this year additional private capital will sign up to that alliance. Part of the work of GFANZ is to ensure that some of the funds are directed towards climate resilience projects in developing nations. We are working with GFANZ and other partners towards that objective.

It is vital that the UK seizes the opportunities of net zero to create new industries and green jobs. How is the President of COP26 prioritising skills to help the United Kingdom and the world to achieve our ultimate goal?

My hon. Friend is right to link achieving net zero with jobs creation. Of course, as we build these new green industries, it will require equipping workers with the right skills. I congratulate him on the hard work that he did in ensuring an award from the UK Government of £380,000 to Borders College in his constituency to develop green courses in entrepreneurship and carbon literacy. I look forward to visiting the college with him next week.

My right hon. Friend has committed to getting the Santiago Network on loss and damage running to provide concrete solutions. Will he provide a further update on that?

Work on the Santiago Network is under way. Submissions are being requested from parties. As my hon. Friend knows, it is a two-year programme. We want to ensure that by the end of the year, and by COP27, we have operationalised the Santiago Network, and that there is funding available to provide technical support to countries that need it.

I thank the President for attending the meeting on small island developing states recently; they really appreciated that. If global warming is kept at 2°, we will lose 99% of our coral reefs; if it is at 1.5°, we will lose 70%. It seems particularly appropriate, with COP27 being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, that that should be a priority. Could the President tell us whether it will be?

It is absolutely a priority. The hon. Lady makes particular reference to support provided for adaptation, and as I said we reached a commitment at COP26 for developed nations to double the amount of money going towards adaptation finance by 2025. I want to ensure that we are on trajectory by the time we get to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Reuters reports today that data show that the corporate world remains far from aligned with global climate goals and that some countries have gone backwards since the agreement. What does the President have to say to that?

There is clear recognition within the private sector that net zero is the right approach. It is obviously what customers and clients want, but it is also good for the bottom line. My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan) referred to $130 trillion of assets being committed to net zero, and we need to ensure that those commitments are in line with the science. That is one of the things that the UN Secretary-General is looking to do through his expert group.

The Glasgow climate pact and, indeed, the COP26 priorities contain a commitment to keep 1.5° alive, yet the UN Environment Programme production gap report warns that Governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with 1.5°. Real climate leaders do not license new oil, gas or coal and no amount of climate checkpoints will change the climate reality. Will his Government scrap their checkpoint as inconsistent with climate leadership and rule out new fossil fuel licences once and for all?

We put forward a plan for how we wanted to ensure that our climate compatibility checkpoint was consistent with our legally binding commitment to net zero by 2050. That consultation closed on Monday. I hope that the hon. Lady responded to it and I know that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will come forward with its views on the checkpoint in due course.

Just over 100 days after world leaders agreed vital efforts to limit global warming at COP26, a UN report has issued a stark warning of the dire consequences of inaction. This Conservative Government are asleep at the wheel when it comes to delivering a secure and stable future. Will the Minister go further and act faster to cut emissions, commit to adaptation finance and prevent the “atlas of human suffering” from becoming a grim reality?

The hon. Lady has to judge the Government on our record. We have cut emissions the fastest of any country in the G20 or G7 in recent years. We have the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world and we want to quadruple that by 2030. We are not reliant on Russian gas precisely because we have focused on clean energy in our country. That is what we want to see delivered across the rest of the world as well.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the key role of marine conservation in tackling climate change and that damage to the seabed and the plants that are there can be very damaging in the battle towards climate change. With that in mind, will he look at the Bill presented yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), supported by me and others? It would ban bottom trawling, which would mean that we could tackle the problem better.

I am happy to look at the Bill that my right hon. and learned Friend mentions, of course. As we know from the IPCC report, if global warming continues at current rates, by 2070 we could be in a position in which a third of all plant and animal species are extinct.

The House stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and the Minister’s COP presidency now faces an utterly changed context with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The crisis shows how global dependence on fossil fuels can support the most tyrannical regimes. This is a war underwritten by Russia’s oil and gas. Does he agree that the best route to protect our energy and national security and to undermine the power of Putin is not by increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, whose price is set on the international market, but by supercharging the drive to renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency so that all countries, including our own, have clean, cheap and homegrown power?

No one can fail to be moved by the appalling suffering of the citizens of Ukraine, including children. They are enduring unimaginable conditions, and our hearts and thoughts are very much with them.

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the clean energy transition. I have said in the past that we want to see a managed clean energy transition, which is why we have put forward the North sea transition deal, and of course the Government are focused on renewables, on nuclear and on hydrogen.

An essential part of becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is reducing our demand for gas by making more progress on energy efficiency. On its own, insulating the 18 million draughty homes in our country would cut our imports of gas by 15%—double the amount we import from Russia. In his role holding Departments to account on net zero, will the COP26 President now persuade Treasury and other colleagues that it is time to finally get serious and invest at scale in the national programme to upgrade Britain’s homes, which Labour has long called for?

The right hon. Gentleman is right. Buildings are responsible for 20% of emissions in the UK; in our heat and buildings strategy, we set out our aim to ensure we insulate homes. He is right that that is how to reduce not only emissions, but costs for individuals and businesses.