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Climate Change: Aims for COP 28

Volume 834: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023


Asked by

My Lords, we want progress in five areas: ambitious new commitments and action, including a pathway to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach of the global stock-take; scaling up clean energy through commitment to triple renewables, double energy efficiency and moving beyond fossil fuels; progress on finance reform, delivering on $100 billion for developing economies; building resilience to climate impacts, including doubling adaptation finance and establishing a loss and damage fund; and, finally, progress towards restoring nature.

I thank the Minister for his reply. As he will know, one particular focus at COP 28 is the agricultural sector, and in particular how it will be possible to reconcile feeding a growing world population and reducing the very extensive emissions from the agricultural sphere. Can he say a little bit more about what kind of agreement we are likely to see at the end of COP in relation to the agricultural area?

The noble and right reverend Lord makes an important point. Agriculture is one of the most difficult areas to decarbonise. It is of course linked into a lot of the action that has been taken on nature. It is one of our priority areas and we will be doing what we can to progress agreement.

My Lords, information uncovered this week by the Centre for Climate Reporting purports to show that the UAE is planning to use its role as the host of COP 28 as an opportunity to strike a new generation of oil and gas deals in Africa and Asia. Does the Minister agree that the oil sustainability programme is completely contrary to the letter and the spirit of the global climate talks? What action will the UK Government be taking in considering this new information?

Obviously, the reports that we saw in the last few days were concerning, but of course we are not aware of what was discussed in private meetings. The UAE presidency was not appointed by us, but we support it in what it has said publicly in terms of advocating for an ambitious deal.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. The Government announced in September that they were renewing our membership of the Energy Charter Treaty. Does the Minister agree that the treaty, and our membership of it, does nothing to support the objectives of COP 28 that he has just outlined to the House? Will a decision be made before COP 28 meets to withdraw, as other countries have done, from this outdated and damaging treaty?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. As she mentioned, we are reviewing our membership. I do not know when a decision will be taken. I hesitate to use the word “imminently” after the last question, but I am sure that we will want to act as quickly as possible.

My Lords, staggeringly, we lose more than 15 million trees globally each year due to deforestation. The Center for Global Development predicts that we will lose at least 1 million square miles of forested land by 2050. Can the Government give an update on their pledge to the COP 26 to reverse deforestation by 2030? Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government will use COP 28 as an opportunity to reconsider this key commitment?

The noble Lord makes an important point. We helped to secure an agreement on the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and the agreement on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We were pleased to support that during our COP presidency and want to continue doing so.

My Lords, a big part of the UK’s COP 26 presidency during the Glasgow conference was the global methane pledge: the focus on methane and the fact that in the next 10 years, slashing our methane emissions will be crucial if we are to stay below the 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. What progress do the Government expect to see on methane in COP 28? Will the Government be taking further progress in the UK, particularly on methane flaring from oil and gas installations, to the COP discussions?

The noble Baroness is right that action on methane is important. It is one of the focuses for discussion that we will take forward. I have answered questions on flaring before in this House. She will remember that we are taking action to eliminate flaring completely by the end of the decade. It has reduced considerably in recent years, but clearly we need to go further.

My Lords, the richest 1% are responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66% combined. We all know that a well-established principle is that the polluter must pay. The Government now have a choice. They can levy wealth taxes on the ultra-rich, to reduce their capacity to pollute, or let the climate crisis deepen. Which of these options will the Government exercise, given that they are keen to set the intellectual agenda for COP 28?

The noble Lord never disappoints in terms of his advocacy for more taxes on—well, everyone, effectively. He might want to talk to his own Front Bench about some of these policies. The UK is very proud of our record on decarbonisation and we are very proud of our record on helping the poorest communities. We have committed £11.6 billion of expenditure on international climate finance by 2025-26, including £3 billion to protect, restore and sustainably manage nature, and tripling the UK fund for adaptation to £1.5 billion by 2025—so we can be proud of our record.

With regard to adaptation, nature and resilience, the Minister outlined the overall level of commitment, but in the latest rounds of ODA allocation this has been cut by £24 million for the most vulnerable countries around the world. This is a reduction of 49% to developing nations. Does the Minister agree that COP gives a superb opportunity for any UK representatives to give a statement that those cuts will be restored for the most vulnerable nations on earth?

Well, I just said in my previous answer that we have not reduced our commitment to international climate finance and all the various areas that it covers. The Prime Minister and senior Ministers are attending COP 28 and the noble Lord might want to watch for any announcements that are made at that point.

I do not want to repeat the five points that I have made. Obviously, we want to make progress on all of them. That is probably unrealistic; it is a negotiation and there are many countries with different agendas going into it, but we will negotiate in good faith and the overall pledge to take action on 1.5 degrees is probably going to be the most important point, but there are a number of other important negotiating points as well.

My Lords, we get quite a lot of our gas from the UAE. What assessment have our Government made of the pollution caused by the flaring and venting of methane by that state?

Flaring and venting is something to be avoided by all member states. The noble Baroness is right that we do import a lot of liquid natural gas. Of course, if she and others were not so keen to halt the UK’s extraction of oil and gas, we would not need to import so much from the UAE. So perhaps she might want to indulge in a little bit of introspection.

My Lords, since there is space, an issue that is fast rising up the climate agenda is private jet flights, which of course have enormous levels of carbon emissions per passenger. Are the Government looking to examine the impact of those private jet flights, and indeed to take any action about flights into the UK?

The noble Baroness asks the question on the day that the first international flight with sustainable aviation fuel was launched by, I think, Virgin Atlantic, across to the US. Obviously, that is only one and there is a lot of progress to be made, but sustainable aviation fuel does offer one of a range of potential solutions. I know that the noble Baroness would just ban everything, but that is not practical in the real world. We want to show people that of course we can make progress on progressing the agenda against climate change, but not necessarily by banning everything they want to do.

My Lords, perhaps I might say how pleased I am, personally, to see that the Minister has escaped the recent cull. Does he agree with me that, on balance, it is probably justifiable to use all this energy travelling to the United Arab Emirates for the Prime Minister and senior Ministers to come to an agreement—maybe even for the First Minister of Scotland to go there, using up all this energy as well? But what is the justification for the leader of Glasgow City Council, and entourage, doing it?

When the noble Lord started off with praise, I was waiting for the “but” to come into the question. The noble Lord will be pleased to know that I am not going to COP. My Secretary of State is there, with a number of other Ministers from the Government. I do not know what council leaders are going for, or what their role is going to be; that is something that they will need to answer for to their own electorates.