The FCO is playing a leading role in promoting international co-operation on climate change, maintaining the momentum generated by the Paris agreement, and raising ambition, as indicated by our new net zero 2050 target.
This Government pride themselves on the special relationship with the United States. With record low temperatures gripping the US last winter, President Donald Trump tweeted that it would be good to see some of
“that good old-fashioned Global Warming”.
What progress was made during Donald Trump’s recent state visit on making him see sense on climate change?
We are very direct with President Trump. We do not agree with him on climate change, which is why we continue to uphold the Paris accord and why we are championing a UK bid to host the next big climate change conference, COP 26. We want it to be held in London at the end of next year, and if we are successful, it will tell the whole world how seriously we take the issue.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s efforts to secure the COP 26 summit for Britain. If he succeeds, how will he ensure that schools in Havant and across the country can contribute to the summit, given the importance of climate change to the next generation?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need to focus on young people, and I am sure there will be a youth event if we are successful in our bid to host COP 26, but in some ways I want to have an oldies event as well, because I want young people to see that older generations really do take this issue seriously. Their concern is that we are not as committed to it as they are, and we must prove them wrong.
The UK is now exporting more waste to countries with the highest levels of ocean plastic pollution. The ban on plastic exports to China has led to the UK offloading its waste on nations with questionable records on marine pollution. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to reduce environmentally costly plastic exports?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the scenes in Malaysia and other parts of the world of plastic waste that has often come from us are not acceptable. All I can do is salute the extraordinary work done by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in championing an end to plastics in the ocean. The international leadership he has shown is extraordinary.
I welcome the fact that, yesterday, this House of Commons voted to make the UK carbon-neutral by 2050. That is a great achievement for this Parliament. The Foreign Secretary is fully aware that the UK accounts for only a very small percentage—about 2%—of global emissions, so for the change to be made a reality for the world, other countries need to follow suit. What is his assessment of how the effort is going in other developed countries to ensure that they follow our lead?
I think we are making progress, despite the setback of not having the United States on board. As for exactly what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is doing, we have 299 people across the world whose job is entirely or partly to advocate on climate change. We are using our diplomatic network to its fullest effect.
At present, there is no primary legislation to prevent this Government or future Governments using carbon offsetting in other countries to reduce our own carbon emissions. Will the Foreign Secretary commit to such legislation to ensure that we are not simply exporting our own problems?
I recognise the fairness of the hon. Lady’s point. There will, of course, be legislation to follow relating to our net zero 2050 target and that will be the moment to have that debate.
Handling plastic waste is a key environmental challenge, as was highlighted earlier. Last week I met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, who agreed on the importance of partnership between our two Governments to tackle the issue of unrecyclable waste illegally exported to Malaysia. Our high commission in Kuala Lumpur is already on the case. Will my right hon. Friend pass on to colleagues in the Cabinet the importance of reviewing penalties for subcontractors in the UK who are illegally mixing waste for export? This is not the sort of export that the Foreign Office or the Department for International Trade want to support.
The hon. Gentleman is a very well connected fellow indeed. I have had cause to observe that before and I do so again.
My hon. Friend is extremely well connected, Mr Speaker. You are absolutely right. Prime Minister Mahathir is just one of many Prime Ministers that I know he knows. Perhaps he should be doing my job. What he says is right. As was mentioned in an earlier question, we are responsible for only 2% of emissions, so the power of UK leadership is the power of the example that we set. That is why on these issues we have to ensure that we get it right.
I am asking a rare third question on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman). She cannot be here for family reasons, but she wanted me to join in the important discussion on climate change. It gives me the opportunity to congratulate the Foreign Secretary directly not just for getting into the final two, but for being the only candidate who has the police outside his house for the right reasons. [Laughter.] Aside from the very welcome conversation on climate change that the Prince of Wales had with Donald Trump during his state visit—[Interruption.] I’m sorry, does the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) wish to intervene?
Okay, well perhaps I can start again. I want to ask the Foreign Secretary this. Aside from the very welcome conversation on climate change that the Prince of Wales had with Donald Trump during his state visit, I want to reiterate the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan). What progress did the Foreign Secretary and the Government make in trying to persuade the President of the United States to take climate change seriously, given that his response following that visit was to say that all this fuss was simply about changes in the weather?
I talked very openly with President Trump about the fact that we disagreed. He also had extensive discussions with other people on his visit. I do not comment on royal conversations, but I do know he spent a lot of time with His Royal Highness Prince Charles. The point I would gently make to the right hon. Lady is that when we disagree with our friends we do have these conversations and it would be great if she did the same with people like Maduro and Putin as well.