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Virtual Participation in COP26

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 14 April 2021

What plans he has to arrange for remote virtual participation in COP26 in the event of ongoing restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic. (914042)

We are working very hard to ensure that we deliver an in-person COP that allows all countries to participate on an equal footing. That is incredibly important, as many parties feel strongly that negotiations must be in person. We continue to explore how technology and other innovations can make the summit more resilient, safe and inclusive.

I am grateful for that answer. Many respondents to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s survey of expert views, both academics and former COP attendees, highlighted the value of remote participation for otherwise excluded groups, and for reducing the conference’s carbon footprint. Will the COP26 President explore the possibilities of wider virtual participation at COP, in addition to physical attendance at the conference?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I have said on a number of occasions that I want this to be the most inclusive COP ever. Absolutely, we are looking at how we can expand our digital programmes to allow for more virtualisation. I hope that, at the appropriate time, I will be able to update the House further.

A diplomatic source in the British Government is reported in the papers today as saying about the conference:

“No one in Europe thinks it’s going to happen and the US is increasingly sceptical that it can happen without a delay.”

I support the COP26 President’s aim for a physical conference of national delegations but, of course, many stakeholders are politicians, business leaders, NGOs and others. When will the Cabinet Office produce a contingency plan to give clarity to stakeholders about how engagement can take place in November?

The hon. Gentleman, again, raises an important point. He will have seen the letter I wrote to UNFCCC members on the progress we want to make over the coming months. COP26 has already been postponed by one year, and the urgency of the climate crisis has not abated. I do not sense any desire among parties for a further postponement, and we are working very hard to ensure that we have an in-person, physical COP, taking into account, of course, any covid-related contingencies.