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COP26 Outcomes

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2022

1. What steps the Government plan to take to help ensure the long-term effectiveness of COP26 outcomes after the transition to (a) a new Prime Minister and (b) an Egyptian presidency of COP. (901183)

The UK is working closely with Egypt and other partners to ensure that the commitments made by countries at COP26 are delivered. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the UK will hold the COP presidency until COP27 in November, and in the remaining four months we will continue to urge nations to implement the promises that they made in Glasgow.

The outgoing Prime Minister’s commitment to taking tangible climate change action has always seemed rather suspect, and, rather worryingly, the contenders to replace him seem to be even less committed. The President of COP26 himself, in a weekend interview with The Observer, described the commitment as “lukewarm”. Will he tell us who exactly he had in mind for that soubriquet?

Let me say first that the Prime Minister has been totally resolute in pursuing the net zero agenda, which is about delivering not just an environmental benefit but jobs and economic growth across the country. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Conservative party leadership; certainly from what I have seen and heard, all three of the remaining contenders are fully committed to that agenda.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the ability of the current structure of government to achieve the ambitious target of the nationally determined contribution, namely a 68% reduction in emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030?

My right hon. Friend has raised this issue with me before. It will of course be up to the new Prime Minister to see how he or she wants to strengthen the structures of government, but the key aim is for us to deliver on the commitments that we have made , and that is what we will be judged on at the next election.

The long-term effectiveness of COP26 outcomes derives at least in part from the credibility of pledges made in Glasgow and the serious implementation of climate policies at home, especially while we still hold the presidency. Does the President of COP26 share my concern about yesterday’s High Court ruling that the UK’s net zero strategy was unlawful because it failed to meet the Government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008? Is he worried about the message that that sends to other countries, and will he use his best offices to ensure that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy does now fulfil its obligations as it is required to do?

Obviously, I saw the judgment as well. Let me first emphasise that the net zero strategy itself remains Government policy. That is not what has been squashed. The judgment was about providing information on the percentage of emissions reductions coming from individual policy elements. Of course BEIS is looking at this, and it will have to respond in due course.

Does the President of COP26 agree that the extreme hot weather this week serves as a stark reminder of the realities and danger of climate change, and the need for the UK and the rest of the world to strengthen their resolve to achieve the objectives set at COP26?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. What we have seen over the last couple of days here is what many millions of people across the world experience on a regular basis. That is why it is so important to ensure that the commitments that have been garnered internationally are delivered on, but of course we also need to ensure that we do that ourselves.

In the last two days, we have seen that the climate emergency is here and now, with wildfires raging across our country, tracks and runways melting, schools closing and the government under-prepared, and yet some people aspiring to the highest office in the land have suggested that tackling the climate crisis is a luxury that can be delayed—an indulgence, a niche project. Such people would put the safety of our citizens at risk. They are deeply irresponsible and they are economically illiterate. Does the President of COP26 agree that, given the demonstrable threat that we so obviously face, there is no place in serious political parties for such dangerous folly?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I did make an intervention at the weekend. As I have said, from what I have seen and heard, all three of the remaining contenders for the leadership of the Conservative party and to be our next Prime Minister are committed to the “net zero by 2050” agenda, and also to the near-term policy commitments to get there. The final two will have an opportunity to set out further details over the coming weeks.

The President of COP26 was so appalled by his own party’s leadership contest that he threatened to resign, and it is no wonder. He says that all the candidates are committed to the net zero agenda, but only this morning the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), the frontrunner in the leadership race, said that he would double down on the onshore wind ban because of the “distress and disruption” that onshore wind causes.

What is causing distress is the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. What is causing disruption is the most extreme weather in our country’s history. Onshore wind is a vital tool in tackling these crises, but the bizarre state of the Tory party means that the former Chancellor panders to the fanatics and sides with the sceptics. Will the President of COP26 now repudiate that position and condemn it for the dangerous nonsense that it is?

I am not really in a position to repudiate anybody else’s proposals—[Interruption.] I say to the right hon. Gentleman that we have a clear plan for expanding offshore wind. There is another 32 GW—[Interruption.] I will come on to that. Another 32 GW is effectively in the pipeline. In solving the energy security strategy, we need to keep everything on the table. There is already 14 GW of onshore installed across the country, and where communities are positively welcoming of onshore in return for reduced bills, that is an issue that we should keep on the table.

The recent Climate Change Committee’s progress report concludes that the UK Government’s net zero strategy contains warm words but little tangible progress, and that it will not be fully credible until the Government develop contingency plans such as encouraging reduced consumer demand for high carbon activities. It also recommends carrying out a net zero tax review to see how that might best support the transition by correcting the distortions that often penalise low-carbon technologies. Do the Government intend to take action on these specific recommendations, and what will the President do to ensure that the next Prime Minister and Chancellor urgently act on all the Committee’s recommendations?

Obviously, the Government are looking at a response to this. Let me make a general point, which is that I believe the current Prime Minister has shown leadership on this issue. These policies work if there is leadership right from the top, so I will certainly want to see from any future Prime Minister a laser-like focus on ensuring that we are delivering on our policies on net zero emissions but at the same time pushing forward on more jobs, more growth and more inward investment, which we have seen coming in.