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COP 27: Outcome

Volume 826: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the outcome of COP 27; and what plans they have to address the issues raised at the conference.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I make the House aware of my register of interests.

My Lords, COP 27 established a new fund for responding to loss and damage as part of other funding arrangements relevant for loss and damage. This is significant in supporting the most vulnerable. New pledges were also made to the Adaptation Fund totalling more than $230 million. However, we had to fight at COP 27 to keep 1.5 degrees alive. While we were disappointed not to make progress on fossil fuels, the deal does preserve the Glasgow climate pact.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. I had the privilege of attending COP 27 with, a not-for-profit organisation. Like many, we were very concerned at the low level of agreement and ambition for the future. With the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and the cost of living crisis, it is understandable but very worrying that there was not more emphasis on the net-zero approach. Global emissions remain at a record level and the world is on track for warming well in excess of 2 degrees. I believe Britain can be at the forefront of solving the problem. What mechanisms have the Government put in place to ensure joined-up, consistent policy-making between departments so that policies are aligned with and do not put in jeopardy our pull towards delivering on climate?

I agree with the noble Lord’s initial comments about COP. I think it is worth being a little optimistic, in that over 90% of world GDP is now covered by net-zero commitments and 169 countries have put forward new or updated 2030 NDCs. However, I entirely agree with him that there is a lot more progress still to be made. This Government are very proud of our record. We have the world-leading net-zero commitment in law and all government departments are working together to deliver that.

My Lords, one of the most significant challenges outlined at COP 27 was the rapidly increasing use of single-use plastics globally. The United Kingdom is one of the worst offenders, with almost 99 kilograms per person. What are the Government doing to address this and transition to more sustainable alternatives?

The Government have taken a number of measures—I point the noble Lord to the tax on single-use plastic bags—but clearly there is a lot more that we need to do. I know that colleagues in Defra are working on this.

My Lords, I praise the Government on all their work so far on the climate issue. Could my noble friend tell the House whether they have plans to embed into the United Kingdom standards in the upcoming Financial Services and Markets Bill the recommendations of the UN high-level expert group on the net-zero pledges of non-state entities, such as pension funds, to ensure that our massive, long-term institutional investor money will support net zero and green growth?

I am sorry to tell my noble friend that I am not responsible for the financial services Bill. I would be very happy to get Treasury colleagues to write to her.

My Lords, could I ask the Minister about our overseas investments? It is important that we put our money where our mouth is. Since Boris Johnson announced that we would stop supporting fossil fuels overseas nearly two years ago, what, if any, investments have been made into fossil fuels through British International Investment, UK Export Finance or one of their subsidiaries? If he does not know the answer, would he write to me?

As far as I am aware, the Prime Minister’s pledge has been kept. If that is not the case, I will certainly write to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the UK’s share of the cost of reparations relating to damage from greenhouse emissions will be borne solely by the ultra-rich? Research shows that billionaires are responsible for a million times more greenhouse emissions than the average person.

If the noble Lord is referring to the UK’s taxation system, it is clear that those at the top end of the scale pay the largest amounts of taxation by far. If that translates through to our international climate commitments, where we are proud to be contributing something like £11 billion, then I suppose in a strange way the noble Lord gets his wish.

My Lords, the main problem at COP 27, and the main disappointment, was that it failed to address the central and crucial issue of rapidly rising global carbon emissions. In light of that, is it not time to reassess our own contribution to meeting this crisis, recognising that a 1% reduction in emissions, which our net zero might achieve, is all right, but it is only an example and an example is not going to be enough. We have to think in terms of mobilising old and new technologies on a massive scale with other countries to begin to bring the temperature down from the 2 to 2.5 degrees centigrade it is heading to, and curb the otherwise inevitable climate violence which will hurt a lot of people.

My noble friend makes a very good point of course. Our 1% is not going to make a massive difference, but there are also opportunities attached to it. Our rollout of renewables is going extremely well. We have one of the largest selections of offshore renewables in the world, which has enabled the cost to come down. It is an example we have set through our contracts for difference scheme, and now renewables—particularly offshore wind renewables—are coming in at a fraction of the cost of fossil-fuel generation, so the market is also helping to drive these matters, and of course provides excellent export potential for our industries.

My Lords, as well as the net-zero priorities highlighted at COP 27, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has of course underlined the need to move away from oil and gas and on to homegrown, cheap, clean energy sources that guarantee our energy security. Why have the Government been doubling down on this in regard to fossil fuels, including the loophole to save generators’ profits, while continuing to block the cheapest, cleanest, quickest forms of power —onshore wind and solar?

As I said in response to the previous question, we have one of the fastest rollouts of renewables in the developed world. We have the second largest share of offshore wind after China, but there is undoubtedly still a need for gas as a transition fuel. It makes sense therefore to use that transition fuel from our own North Sea resources, rather than importing it, in a very carbon-heavy manner, in LNG.

My Lords, when we were in Egypt, the UK Government signed up to the global methane pledge, which commits to a cut in global methane emissions by 30% by 2030, though we have not yet set any domestic targets. Bearing in mind that 80% of methane stems from agriculture and waste, will the Government consider bringing forward the UK’s ban on landfilling biodegradable waste, better biogas capture from landfill and better slurry management?

The noble Baroness raises an important point. I am happy to tell her that, through our green gas levy and support scheme, we are continuing to support the rollout of biomethane—an understated industry in the UK but one doing extremely well—and we need to align our food waste policies to produce even more biomethane.

My Lords, my noble friend is well aware of the devastating effects of climate change on countries such as Somalia and India and Pakistan. In Somalia, there were first floods and then drought. I am therefore very pleased to hear that the Government have worked closely at COP 27 to secure compensation. Will my noble friend agree that that framework needs to ensure that the money goes to the people who really need it—those families and children who are currently dying?

I agree with the point made by my noble friend. We will need to make sure that, when the fund is up and running and established, it goes to the people who really need it, which is sadly not the case with some other UN funds.

My Lords, in addition to the steps we need to take to curtail our use of excavation of fossil fuels, we need to do something about the consumption of those fossil fuels. What are the Government doing, in terms of our use in industry, home heating and transport systems, to cut down on the demand for fossil fuels and to make sure that all those sectors start to move very quickly towards using renewable energy?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. Energy efficiency should be our first port of call, and indeed it is. Over this Parliament, we are spending £6.6 billion on home energy efficiency measures. In the mini-Statement a couple of weeks ago, the Chancellor announced additional funding of another £6 billion from 2025. We are currently consulting on the £1 billion ECO+ energy conservation scheme. We are looking at additional measures in terms of regulation that we would also need to introduce, and that is just on the domestic side. On the industrial side, we have a suite of measures—the industrial decarbonisation fund, et cetera—to help industry to cut back on its emissions and to save energy as well. Energy efficiency should always be our first port of call, and I agree with the noble Baroness.