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Climate Change

Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What progress the Government have made on tackling climate change through international co-operation.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

What progress the Government have made on tackling climate change through international co-operation.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

What progress the Government have made on tackling climate change through international co-operation.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Climate change is not a distant threat. We must act together to accelerate action. The UK has already doubled its international climate finance funding from £5.6 billion to £11.6 billion, and is investing £220 million in a new international biodiversity fund.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Does she agree that increasing the UK’s climate diplomacy capabilities is important for a successful COP26 conference in Glasgow later this year, so that we can be more successful than last year’s conference in Madrid?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The UK was disappointed at the lack of progress made at COP25 in Madrid. The UK and Italian diplomatic efforts will be squarely focused on achieving a successful COP26. COP is about more than negotiations; it is about real change happening across countries, civil society and the private sector. These broader elements will be a primary focus of COP26.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

At the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a Stroud Greenpeace exhibition about climate change and protecting our oceans. Will the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to advocate for international agreement on climate change at the United Nations? Will the Minister tell us more about the Government’s commitment to protecting our oceans and the work on the UN global treaty negotiations?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. This is the first time I have answered a question from her, so I welcome her to her place.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s view on international oceans. We are looking for a maximum ambition on oceans to protect them for future generations, and I am working hard with Lord Goldsmith on that ambitious project.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

Both the councils in the Sedgefield constituency—Darlington and Durham—have declared climate change emergencies, but given the relatively low impact of the UK on climate change compared with places such as China, how do we convince our constituents to engage? Does the Minister agree that it is imperative that we not only challenge other countries to make progress but share the efforts that our international colleagues are making, in order to motivate and share good practice?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I hope my hon. Friend, whom I welcome to his place, will excuse my having my back to him as I speak to the Chair.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that climate change is one of the most urgent and pressing challenges we face today, so no country can solve the problem alone. COP26 in November will bring together more than 300,000 delegates from around the world to tackle climate change. It is vital that all countries come together and come forward with increased pledges and nationally determined contributions in the coming months. The UK has committed to increasing our international climate ambition and NDCs before COP26.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary

We meet today on the 75th anniversary of the Yalta conference, at which Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin carved up post-war Europe, and in doing so unwittingly created the conditions for half a century of cold war between east and west. Their mistakes were eventually fixed, but when we have conferences that affect the climate emergency today, we have to realise that it is too late to fix any more mistakes as we rapidly approach the point of no return on global warming, so let me ask a specific question. When the Prime Minister hosted the UK-Africa trade summit just a fortnight ago, he told its delegates that

“we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms.”

Will the Minister tell us what percentage of the energy deals that were struck at that summit were based on the mining of fossil fuels?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank the right hon. Lady for that question. She always puts her questions so perfectly; her diction is superb for the House. Everybody was clear about what she said.

We are weaning all the world off coal. The Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is clearing away from coal, is very important. We are leading on that and my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa, who led at the Africa conference, has managed to secure an amazing deal on that. We are looking towards the bright future that that Prime Minister has been talking about today.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary

The hon. Lady focuses on coal and boasts about the announcement on coal, but according to the Environmental Audit Committee, UK Export Finance has not supported a single coal project since 2002. I do not know whether she is uncertain about the answer or just too embarrassed to answer, but the reality is that more than 90% of the £2 billion of investment in energy deals that was agreed at the UK-Africa trade summit was committed to new drilling for oil and gas—more fossil fuels. None of that was mentioned in the Government press release, which focused instead on the paltry figures for investment in solar power. Does the Minister accept that she is part of a Government who talk the talk on climate change but never walk the walk? They make symbolic moves on the domestic front but will never take any global lead. Worst of all, they refuse to stand up to the climate denier—

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. We have to get to the question; we cannot keep reading out a statement. A quick question, please.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary

Worst of all, the Government refuse to stand up to the climate denier-in-chief, Donald Trump. Does the Minister not realise that in the face of this climate emergency we no longer have time for cowardice?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Shall I be succinct, Mr Speaker? We recognise that countries will continue to need to use a mixture of energy sources, including renewable energy and lower-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas, as part of the transition towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy. I am afraid the right hon. Lady is making too much hot air today.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

What evidence does the Minister have that the Government’s diplomacy is having an impact on the biggest polluters, such as China and United States, in that those countries are prepared to do something more than they are doing now?

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are working very closely with countries around the world. I have been to five of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations so far, and, at every opportunity I have asked them to have more ambitious targets for reducing their carbon emissions, and that is exactly what will happen when our Secretary of State meets representatives in China very soon.