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COP 27

Volume 824: debated on Thursday 27 October 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government who will represent the United Kingdom at the COP 27 conference in Egypt.

My Lords, the UK will have a strong delegation at COP 27, including the Foreign Secretary and several other Ministers, who will engage with international counterparts on the transition to net zero and climate resilience. Alok Sharma MP was reappointed COP president on 25 October, leading the UK’s contribution to the successful implementation of the historic Glasgow climate pact. We also expect a significant presence on the part of civil society and business, building on their participation in Glasgow last year.

My Lords, I welcome the Answer from the Minister that the Foreign Secretary and other senior Ministers will be attending, particularly in the light of the comments made yesterday by the Secretary-General of the United Nations about how important it is that we keep climate change in our sights. Can the Minister comment on one further thing? Apparently, according to the media, the previous Government said that they did not want His Majesty King Charles to attend COP. Can she make it clear that if the King wants to attend, he will be welcome to do so?

My Lords, I should start by saying that His Majesty is globally recognised for his foresight and leadership on climate and sustainability over five decades—in fact, well before these issues became mainstream. However, the Government do not comment on communications and advice between our Prime Minister and the monarch.

My Lords, that is entirely understandable, and one would not expect my noble friend to say anything else. Nevertheless, I think it is a widely held view in this country that His Majesty would give great extra prestige to this conference merely by his presence. If that message could be taken on board and communicated to the right quarters, I am sure a service would be done, not just to the nation but to the world.

I thank my noble friend for his message. I know that His Majesty is also looking to arrange a global event in advance of COP to talk to some of the key people involved. However, as I said, I cannot comment on communication and advice between him and the Prime Minister or the Government—that remains confidential.

My Lords, the ban on King Charles attending the conference imposed by the previous incumbent of No. 10 is, quite frankly, churlish and rather unseemly. The US climate envoy, John Kerry, Alok Sharma himself—the outgoing COP 26 president—and even the Daily Telegraph believe he should go. The Egyptian Government have renewed their invitation to the King. Will the Minister urge the Prime Minister to lift the ban?

My Lords, I add my voice to agreeing that the King should be going, but to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, yesterday, António Guterres said that this was the catastrophe and that all other catastrophes we are living through will only get worse. Why have the Government downgraded Alok Sharma’s post from the Cabinet, and can the Minister assure the House that a new Cabinet post will be created specifically to look at the climate crisis?

It is the case that Alok Sharma is no longer a Minister nor in the Cabinet. However, the Prime Minister has appointed him as COP president, and that provides continuity and retains his expertise in this important role. I have been struck by his tireless work over the past year, and he is always particularly focused on implementation and the international perspective, as well as other issues. The thing is to get COP 27 done in a brilliant way in Sharm el-Sheikh from 6 to 18 November 2022. I cannot comment on appointments by the Prime Minister.

My Lords, should we not get our own house in order to earn the respect of all the other countries that will be at COP 27? Just as an example, we already have a commitment to have 30% of land for nature by 2030. So far, the statistics are that we have only 3%, so we have a long way to go before we can hold our heads up at COP 27 and earn the respect globally that we deserve.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s response to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, but I encourage her to have discussions between our Ministers and other Ministers at COP 27 on getting businesses to help the less developed countries be able to respond better by investing in them, and countries helping to support that through business. Will my noble friend comment on that?

I am very glad my noble friend raised that, because the Glasgow climate pact emphasised the importance of collaboration across sectors in all parts of society to deliver on climate change, and business plays an important part. I remember from my experience of net-zero plans when I was in business, many years ago. Business can contribute in some of the poorest countries in the world by helping the transition, reducing carbon and being more efficient. There is a real win-win there, and what has been encouraging both at Glasgow and in the prospective agendas for Sharm el-Sheikh is how businesses are stepping up to the plate in this important area.

My Lords, a few answers ago the Minister said that the attendance of the King at COP 27 was a matter for the King. Was that an answer to my noble friend Lady Sheehan, who asked whether the new Government have lifted the ban on King Charles III attending the conference in Egypt? A quick yes or no would suffice.

There is no ban. This is a matter for the palace, and I really cannot be drawn on communication between the Government and the monarch. This is a matter for them, but I reiterate that we are very fortunate that our King is so globally identified with nature and tackling climate change.

Can my noble friend help me? Can we now expect that the Cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister will continue, that the Prime Minister will chair it and that it will be regular in dealing with climate change, which, after all, is the biggest material threat to ourselves and the world that exists?

I know all that my noble friend has done to help on climate change and his great work chairing the Climate Change Committee. As for the Cabinet committees for the new Government, we will have to wait to find our exactly what they look like.

My Lords, I bring the Minister back to her answer to my noble friend, who asked about the 30/30 campaign. The Minister said that we lead the campaign on this; it is all very well leading campaigns, but after 12 years in government, we have not had actually made much progress. We are talking about 3% of land rather than 30%. With COP 27 pending, could she not say a little more about the implementation? Having led the campaign with such vigour—but obviously not great response—when will we get to the 30% required by the campaign?

On the 30%, there is obviously lots to do. I believe that 100 countries have now signed up. We have been very good at leading other countries and trying to get them involved in these matters. Obviously, it is work in progress. The UK is recognised as a global leader on many aspects of climate change. Our emissions reduced by 47% since 1990, and we have a stretching NDC, but, perhaps most of all, we are the first nation to legislate for net zero by 2050.

Does my noble friend accept that COP 27 is unlikely to be a success as long as India and China go on building coal-fired power stations and increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, whatever we do in this country?

My noble friend is right that carbon and weather do not respect borders, so it is very important that all countries across the world look at these things. I remember doing work with the Indians on climate change in my business days and, in some areas, they do a lot of very good things, but the energy transition is one of the challenges that all countries face and is something that can be discussed constructively at COP 27.