Skip to main content

COP 26

Volume 812: debated on Tuesday 25 May 2021


Asked by

My Lords, in his speech on 14 May at Whitelee wind farm in Glasgow, the COP president-designate, Alok Sharma, set out the four goals of the UK presidency: delivering on mitigation, protecting communities and natural habitats from the impacts of climate change, mobilising finance and working together to accelerate the delivery of our targets. COP 26 is our best chance to work together to keep alive the limiting of the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

I thank the Minister for his Answer, but will it not be embarrassing for a Government who cannot stick to the Paris Agreement? They are dithering about opening new coal mines, they are planning new roads and they are encouraging airport expansion—plus they have just given £750 million to a Mozambique scheme for a fossil fuel project. How is this reducing global CO2 emissions?

My Lords, the UK is providing leadership on all the big issues in relation to climate change and biodiversity. We announced an end to fossil fuel subsidies overseas of the sort the noble Baroness mentioned. We are the first country to legislate for net zero. We have doubled our international climate finance to £11.6 billion. We are spending more on nature-based solutions than any other country and encouraging others to join up. We are cleaning up our supply chains to remove deforestation from them. We are changing our land use subsidy system. In so many areas we are leading the world, and the world is following.

My Lords, I was going to ask about education and the place it will have in COP 26, but I would prefer to get an answer to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, about the scheme in Mozambique.

My answer to the question about Mozambique is that we have committed in policy to stopping any subsidies for fossil fuel projects overseas, so with any luck the Mozambique project will be the last such project. This is something that, with a great deal of heavy lifting, we managed to persuade other members to agree to as well at the G7, which was a triumphant meeting for the environment and climate change—again, as a consequence of UK leadership.

My Lords, I am grateful for the Question and the Minister’s response. My question is about the outcome for the many heritage buildings and schools in this country, where the challenge is often the greatest. Will the Government do anything to make them part of the solution rather than the problem?

My Lords, one of the main challenges we face, in line with every developed country, is rendering our existing housing stock, including heritage buildings, more energy efficient. This is a priority for MHCLG, and colleagues are working up a plan to ensure that department delivers its share of the net-zero commitment to which we are legally bound, as noble Lords will know.

My Lords, one of the most defining geopolitical issues of the day is the worsening relationship between China and the West, yet when it comes to solving issues around climate change we need to collaborate, not clash, with China. Can the Minister confirm that China will participate in COP 26? What would progress look like for China in the climate domain?

My Lords, China has made significant commitments on emissions reductions. It has committed to net zero by 2060; we hope it will be able to bring that date forward and be even more ambitious. We are working very closely with China, particularly in relation to its hosting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will happen shortly before we host the climate convention here, in Glasgow. We are working closely with China to link those two conventions together because we believe that a good nature COP will have implications for climate and a good climate COP will have implications for nature. So we are having as much engagement as we can with the Chinese, pushing for the maximum possible ambition at both conventions.

Can the Minister tell the House what plans the Government have to use COP 26 to push for changes in the international financial regulations with regard to the financing of fossil fuel projects?

At the G7 just a few days ago, we were able under UK leadership to secure commitments around phasing out fossil fuel subsidies internationally. We also secured commitments from some members of the G7, as well as countries not part of the G7, that we will use our collective leverage to ensure that the multilateral development institutions align their policies and portfolios not only with Paris but with nature. We know that there is not enough public money in the world to deliver the solutions we need for either climate or nature, so we need private finance and we need the multilateral institutions to step up much more than they have so far.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, after setting carbon targets and the road map, the next most important policy area is finance and, in particular, the development of green finance in all its different forms? This must be part of the investment criteria for government and business; unless it is achieved, those targets will not be met.

The noble Lord is right. Of course, developed countries need to make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion in public finance to tackle climate change and a big chunk of that needs to be spent on nature-based solutions, but we need international financial institutions to play a part as well. We need to unleash trillions in addition to that in private sector finance. As part of this, we are doing what we can to complete negotiations successfully around Article 6, which would pave the way to functioning, high-integrity carbon markets as just one solution. Finally, Governments need to shift the subsidies, which dwarf anything that is available via aid agencies, and ensure that instead of funding destruction, as most of them currently do, they fund renewal and sustainability.

My Lords, continuing the financial theme, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet. Has the Minister seen the report published today showing that, if the UK banking and investment sector were ranked as a country, it would be ninth in the world for carbon emissions? In the light of that information, will the Government show leadership before COP 26 by bringing forward a UK strategy to green our financial and taxation systems, as recommended in the recent report of the Public Accounts Committee?

My Lords, no, I have not seen that report, but I will, of course, look it up. I am not surprised by this, given the size and importance of London with respect to its financial sector. As a Government, we are supporting a crucially important new initiative called the TNFD—the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure—which aims to do what has been achieved in relation to carbon disclosure and make sure that, between those two initiatives, businesses are able to identify and avoid exposure to the risks of both climate change and nature destruction. We feel that this initiative has the capacity to shift the dynamic in the financial sector and we are supporting it in every way we possibly can.

My Lords, the UK’s credibility as COP president rests on demonstrable climate action across government. The Climate and Environment Ministers of the G7, under UK leadership, have recognised the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the most vulnerable communities, and acknowledge the significant impacts of Covid-19 faced by developing countries. Does the Minister agree that cutting the aid budget undermines a core aim of the UK COP 26 presidency—to increase support to vulnerable countries?

My Lords, despite the cut in aid—which is not something that anyone welcomes or wants and which I hope will be restored shortly—the UK remains one of the most generous donors in the world. As I said in answer to a previous question, we are the only country to have committed to doubling our international climate finance and to spending an increasing proportion of that on nature-based solutions. This particularly helps the climate-vulnerable nations, which tend to be more dependent on the free services provided by nature that we are currently destroying. These nations also benefit from investments in nature to boost resilience, particularly that of coastal communities, which, again, define most of the climate-vulnerable nations. So I believe the UK is stepping up in relation to its responsibilities to the most vulnerable nations on earth.

My Lords, ensuring that girls receive 12 years of quality education can be one of the most powerful climate solutions, so what ambitions do the Government have for education at COP 26?

My Lords, the UK is committed to delivering an inclusive COP 26 and to the implementation of the UNFCCC gender action plan. We know that only with the full, equal, meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls in all levels of climate action will we deliver the most sustainable outcomes. The COP president-designate has established a number of advisory groups to guide our planning and delivery of COP; that includes indigenous leaders as well as a subgroup focusing specifically on gender and inclusion.