Skip to main content

COP 26

Volume 820: debated on Monday 28 March 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards establishing the processes necessary to implement the ‘side deals’ made at COP26 on (1) coal, (2) methane, (3) forests, and (4) finance; and what discussions they have had with international partners about their implementation.

My Lords, we are implementing progress in a number of ways, including through, first, the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the COP26 Energy Transition Council and the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa; secondly, the global methane pledge, working closely with the US and the EU; thirdly, the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use; and, fourthly, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, whose work is being taken forward in dialogue with the Government, businesses and civil society organisations.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. A number of pledges for funding were made at COP 26 and, as I am sure he is fully aware, 141 countries signed up to the Glasgow declaration on forest and land use to halt land loss and deforestation by 2030. In these circumstances, are the Government taking steps to stop financial institutions operating in the UK funding businesses that are linked to deforestation? The due diligence processes proposed by the Government are of course very welcome, but could more be done to stop the flow of money going to harmful deforestation?

I thank the noble Baroness for her question. I am sure there is always more that can be done but we have made considerable strides in terms of green finances, as I am sure she is aware. We are working closely with the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, now representing more than 450 financial firms with £130 trillion in assets, to make sure that private finance goes towards green policies.

My Lords, while all these deals are desirable—as are the main COP 26 aims, the net-zero aims and the Paris targets, if we can get anywhere near them—is not the real need now, the urgent deal, to restore some balance in all energy markets to avoid the kind of super volatility of prices, appalling inflation, considerable suffering for many households and the general economic disruption that we face now and which, if it persists, means that we will never get anywhere near the long-term aim of decarbonisation at all?

My noble friend makes a powerful point. We are seeing unprecedented turbulence in the energy markets, with massive rises in the prices of fossil fuels in particular. Ultimately, the best solution to high prices in fossil fuels is to use less of them, which is what we are trying to do.

My Lords, despite being a signatory to the Glasgow declaration on forests, Brazil shows no sign of respecting its Glasgow commitments. It recorded the most deforestation ever in the Amazon rainforest in the month of January 2022, with 430 square kilometres of forest destroyed. What actions do the Government think will be effective for signatories that fail to make progress, and what reporting is required?

Clearly, Brazil signed up to the declaration at COP 26 along with 140 other countries covering over 90% of the world’s forest. It is important for us to continue working with Brazil and countries representing some 75% of trade in agricultural commodities to try to move those countries’ trade towards more sustainable means.

My Lords, the IPCC estimates that spending on adaptation needs to reach $127 billion per year for developing countries by 2030, but at the moment adaptation spend accounts for just a fraction of that, and for just 4.8% of tracked climate finance. Do the Government accept that spending on adaptation and mitigation needs to be equal? If so, is that something which will be achieved during our year of the COP presidency?

Clearly, we are working with other like-minded countries to try to deliver the maximum resources possible for developing countries to help them to adapt to the effects. I am very proud of our contribution of £11.6 billion of international climate finance over this five-year period.

My Lords, methane, which the Minister mentioned, is 80 times as potent as CO2 in the near term and cutting it fast is crucial. Since the Industrial Revolution it has been responsible for 40% of heating, and a staggering 47% of it comes from agriculture. The good news—if there is good news—is that it dissipates quickly, in 12 years, so if we can have rapid reduction of methane, we can make a really big difference to the CO2 in the atmosphere. There are two stumbling blocks. First, what are the Government doing, and is it enough? Secondly, public information is very low about the effect of methane. For instance, one-third of farmers say they do not understand it or know how to deal with it, so I ask the Government what they are doing about that.

We were one of the first countries to sign up to the methane pledge. Now over 110 countries have signed up to it, including 15 of the major emitters. We continue to explore policies to reduce methane and all greenhouse gas emissions as we strive to reach net zero.

My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the effect of all the bombing in Ukraine on the COP 26 agreement and our net-zero aim?

My noble friend makes a powerful point—clearly, it will have a detrimental effect. We need to work with Ukraine to help it in the future to rebuild its nation and make sure that Putin does not succeed in his aim.

My Lords, going back to methane and the global pledge the Minister referred to, he may be aware of an article in Environmental Science & Technology on Wednesday. Stanford University researchers found using aerial data that New Mexico’s Permian Basin is leaking six times as much methane as the US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated. That global pledge was utterly focused on stopping leaks and flaring. Surely the amount of fugitive methane that fossil fuel operations create means that to keep under the 1.5 degrees warming target we have to end exploration and new production of oil and gas.

I have not seen the article to which the noble Baroness refers. It will probably come as a shock to her that I am not responsible for New Mexico; that is part of the United States’ commitment. All we can be responsible for are our own emissions and our own policies. We are striving to reduce our fossil fuel production and use in the UK, but it is a gradual phase-out. Rather than using imported LNG from the likes of the areas she mentioned, it makes more sense to use our own domestic production during that transition period.

My Lords, do the Government consult with any of the many serious scientists who say that net zero is a colossal mistake?

We consult with lots of scientists. Of course, there are always ongoing debates about these matters. Irrespective of the opinions of particular scientists, there is now a legal commitment, and it is the job of the Government to work towards what Parliament has legislated for.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register and hope the Minister will keep listening to the IPCC and the overwhelming scientific advice on this issue. In an earlier reply, the Minister referred to GFANZ and the importance of financial flows into green projects. Does he agree with me that for those flows to be effective and genuinely go into green projects, we need an international green taxonomy that is respected? Can he give any more information on the working party on green taxonomy?

I agree with the noble Baroness; it is important that we get a green taxonomy right, and the products and services that will form part of it. We are working hard towards getting it finalised in the UK. I cannot give her a precise timescale at the moment, but we are determined to be a world leader in green finance.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell us how much of the palm oil we import comes from the process of deforestation in countries such as Brazil? Should we not be aiming to reduce the amount of palm oil we import from these sources?

Deforestation is clearly a problem. I suspect most of the palm oil we import does not come from Brazil. It is more likely to be from Malaysia or Indonesia, as I think they are our largest sources. Obviously, it needs to be sustainable. Palm oil can be a very useful product—it can form foodstuffs and be part of a whole range of consumer goods, but we must make sure it comes from sustainable sources.