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Climate Change: COP 26 Arrangements

Volume 802: debated on Thursday 12 March 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Scottish Government about the arrangements for COP26.

My Lords, the UK Government are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government and with operational delivery partners, including Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council, to ensure the successful delivery of COP 26 in Glasgow. The UK Government are committed to working with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver an ambitious, successful summit for the whole of the United Kingdom.

I am grateful to the Minister, but does he agree with me that the UK Government need to provide a lead if COP 26 is to be successful? With the Secretary of State being given responsibility for this, rather than a particular person with sole responsibility, how is he going to manage this with his other responsibilities? When I looked to see who is the Minister for climate change, I found that it is not only the noble Lord who is replying to my Question but the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith. Does that not mean that there are going to be differences and clashes in Government? How are we going to achieve a coherent programme for reducing our carbon emissions right across government and right across the United Kingdom?

I think it demonstrates the importance with which we see the subject that a number of different Ministers are responsible and are involved in working towards policy to this end. The noble Lord can be reassured that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is fully committed to making COP a success. We do not underestimate the challenge that this involves; it is going to be a huge gathering, requiring immense amounts of logistical and operational planning. We are committed to doing that. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is working hard to deliver that, and we are talking to the Scottish Government about it.

My Lords, could my noble friend ensure that one of the things on the agenda for this climate change conference in Glasgow, which is so important, is whether it is sustainable to have an independent Scotland based on an economy which relies on an oil price of $100 a barrel?

What I like about my noble friend is that he is always tenacious in getting his subjects on to the agenda. Perhaps in this instance it would be best if I did not comment directly on the substance of his question.

My Lords, we welcome the Minister’s commitment to a successful COP 26. As he knows, success at the conference is predicated on intergovernmental discussions beforehand. It is only through shuttle diplomacy between the key players at the conference that anything meaningful can come out of it. Can the Minister tell us what level of engagement is currently under way with the key players around the world, particularly the United States, because without its signing up to the COP 26 conclusions it will be a very poor result?

The noble Lord is quite correct that a huge amount of international engagement will be required. We are looking to every country to put forward its nationally determined contributions this year at COP, including the United States. We have been talking to it about that. Obviously, the current coronavirus problem presents a challenge for international engagement, but we continue to do our best in the circumstances.

My Lords, further to the Minister’s answer to that question, given that the pre-meeting in Bonn for COP 26 has been cancelled and our co-chair, Italy, is facing the problems that it is, what steps are the Government taking to make sure that the necessary level of intergovernmental discussion is going on to make COP a success? What plans are there to involve parliamentarians from all countries involved in the run-up to the meeting and in the meeting itself?

The noble Baroness is right to point out that it is proving a challenge at the moment; the Bonn meeting has been cancelled but there are still several months to go before COP. Intense diplomacy and conversations are taking place by telephone, videoconference et cetera. We hope that some of the meetings can be reinstated. Of course it is vital to involve parliamentarians; many have attended previous COPs, and I am sure many will attend this one as well.

My Lords, it is vital that COP 26 is a success. After all, the future of the planet is at stake. The host nation plays a vital role, including talking to other participating countries in advance of the meeting to come to an agreement. Does the Minister share my concern that it does not bode well for the diplomatic skills of the UK Government when they are finding it hard to come to a reasonable relationship with the Scottish Government over this?

Of course we have to have extensive discussions with the Scottish Government. Those are taking place; we are discussing budgets with them at the moment. An exchange of letters has just taken place between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the First Minister of Scotland. Discussions are well advanced. Both sides are committed to delivering a successful COP.

Does my noble friend agree that an important part of the agenda for COP 26 is the migration of environmentally displaced persons as a result of climate change? Can he acknowledge that that will be an important part of the agenda that this country will host?

Of course my noble friend is quite right to point out that this is an important consequence of climate change. It is one of many different subjects that will need to be discussed both before and during the COP.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that my grandson, aged 22, spoke at COP 25. What young people will be involved in COP 26?

I do not know about the particular circumstances of the noble and learned Baroness’s grandson, but of course young people will need to be involved. An extensive dialogue with a range of civil society organisations is taking place, and it will be vital to hear their contribution, with others.