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COP 26: Sponsors

Volume 806: debated on Tuesday 6 October 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards identifying sponsors for COP 26; and what criteria are used in the appointment of any such sponsors.

My Lords, the Government have set strict sponsorship criteria for COP 26 to partner with companies committed to fighting climate change and running their businesses in a sustainable manner. The Government have published an online form for companies to register their interest in sponsorship and are already in discussion with a number of companies. We are looking for companies committed to reaching net zero by 2050 with a credible short-term action plan to achieve this.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am very glad to hear that we are setting standards; I have indeed read the form. However, I want to press a little further. I understand that conversations have taken place between some leading oil companies and the team funding COP 26. Governments around the world are, as we know, still subsidising the fossil fuel industry, and even if many of them are developing alternative energy streams, these are still an actual fraction of their output. While this remains a fact, allowing any fossil fuel company to sponsor the climate talks seems to me not dissimilar to allowing a tobacco company that produced vaping products to sponsor something like the Olympics. Can the Government guarantee to the House that the process of sponsorship of this critical meeting will not allow any greenwashing on behalf of any company? Will the Government further agree that all the sponsorships will be very clear and transparent, and if not open to full public scrutiny, open to scrutiny by the House?

We will be working most closely with organisations that are committed to taking real, positive action and have strong climate credentials; for example, companies which have committed to achieving net zero and have published a credible plan of action on how they will achieve this.

My Lords, what exactly will sponsors receive, apart from exhibiting space, in return for their money? Will the Minister confirm that no sponsor will be allowed to sit in on any part of the negotiations?

We are looking for both monetary and value-in-kind sponsorship. Value in kind refers to goods and services that are acquired, or highly desirable, in exchange for branding, etcetera. There is of course no question of companies taking part in negotiations.

My Lords, in his reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the Minister said that sponsorship would be restricted to companies committed to net zero by 2050, with credible and short-term action plans to achieve it. In the light of that criteria, does he not think it time that the Government themselves had a credible short-term action plan?

My Lords, what do the Government believe these companies can offer compared to companies that are already focused on green energy? Have the Government taken the stance that large global corporations may be of no use?

I did not quite catch all that the noble Lord said but I can confirm that we are looking for both monetary and value-in-kind sponsorships from companies that, as I said, have a credible short-term action plan and are committed to net zero.

My Lords, I apologise for having asked a question earlier on. Ahead of COP 26 next year and given concerns about greenwashing, and with the positive move of UK businesses pledging to environmental targets of net-zero carbon by 2050, what are Her Majesty’s Government doing to make sure that these companies deliver on these targets? With a gap of over 1 million people in the green economy, how are the Government promoting the upskilling of workers in this sector of the economy?

We will be closely studying and monitoring companies that come forward for these sponsorship opportunities, which will favour taxpayers’ money—that is the ultimate objective. We will study their plans carefully and monitor them as they progress.

According to overnight reports, the Government are planning for all 30 million homes in the UK to be powered by gusts of wind from offshore wind installations. The Government have always maintained that they stay technology-neutral in their encouragement of renewable energy sources. Yet the Conservative Party has advised that the sun does not always shine brightly, nor the wind blow consistently. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government are now picking winners and losers among green technologies and whether this will be reflected at COP 26 in its sponsors?

No, we are not picking winners. We always examine a range of different technologies and we are backing a range of different technologies. The contract for difference auctions will not discriminate between different technologies and we will keep them all under constant review.

My Lords, while I understand that the focus of formal sponsorship is on businesses, is the Minister able to confirm that Her Majesty’s Government are also keen to engage in similarly deliberate ways with other bodies, including faith communities? These communities are highly motivated—indeed mandated—to care for God’s creation, locally and globally, and many, including the Church of England’s General Synod, have already committed to challenging targets for carbon reduction.

We are always willing to consider sponsorship opportunities if the right reverend Prelate wishes to offer them. To be serious, we will of course be engaging with both NGOs and faith communities in this endeavour as well.

Can my noble friend confirm that before appointing any sponsors for the COP, Her Majesty’s Government will undertake due diligence in the supply chains of any companies under consideration with regard to negative environmental impact?

My noble friend makes a very good point. We will be carrying out due diligence on all potential sponsors. As I said, we are looking for companies that are running their businesses in a sustainable manner and working to reduce their environmental impact through net-zero targets; that will include studying their supply chains as well.

My Lords, a leader article yesterday stated bluntly that:

“The global climate crisis is the emergency of our times.”

How many heavy hitters are being targeted that meet the committed criteria outlined by the Minister? Can he give any indication of examples? In addition, and underlining other contributions this afternoon, will the Government agree that COP 26 sponsor selection must focus unreservedly on those fully committed to the cause, and not on those only paying lip service out of self-serving expediency?

I can certainly agree with the latter part of the noble Lord’s questions. We need to pick companies that are walking the walk as well as talking the talk. We hope to announce some names shortly.

My Lords, while they are doing their due diligence, will the Government look carefully at the way pension funds that decide to become a sponsor are investing, and at how all supply chains, of British and global companies, are working? Further, given that companies are pushing to have 30% women on their boards, will the Government look at ensuring that we have at least 30% women on our COP delegations—unlike the present COP delegation to the UN which has no women at all?

We will of course conduct due diligence on all potential sponsors and will ensure compliance with rigorous government standards on all matters.

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, made an interesting point that companies ought to be truly climate credible. Which climate-credible people in the Government will make the decision on which companies are climate credible?

As in all these matters, the ultimate decisions will rest with Ministers. We will judge companies closely against the criteria that we have already published, and I am sure that the noble Baroness will want to hold me to account for those decisions.

My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked, and indeed all Questions on the Order Paper answered.

Sitting suspended.