Cop26

– in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 10th March 2021.

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[Relevant documents: Third Report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Net zero and UN climate summits: Scrutiny of Preparations for COP26—interim report, HC 1265; Fourth Special Report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, COP26: Principles and priorities—a POST survey of expert views, HC 1000; Transcripts of oral evidence on Preparation for COP26 taken before the Environmental Audit Committee on 17 March and 14 May 2020, HC 222.]

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I inform the House that Mr Speaker has not selected the amendment in the name of Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the year ending with 31 March 2021, for expenditure by the Cabinet Office:

(1) further resources, not exceeding £975,392,000, be authorised for use for current purposes as set out in HC 1227,

(2) further resources, not exceeding £76,060,000, be authorised for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a further sum, not exceeding £798,643,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.—(David T. C. Davies.)

Photo of Darren Jones Darren Jones Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 4:55 pm, 10th March 2021

May I begin by congratulating you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your increasingly iconic videos on Twitter, which, with a lower budget, provide more charm than the Chancellor’s glitzy versions on Instagram?

Five years ago, the Paris agreement committed the world to limiting global warming to at least 2° C above pre-industrial levels but called on all of us to get as close to 1.5° C as possible. The recent announcements on net zero from the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, China and others mean that we are within striking distance of reaching that Paris target. According to the Climate Action Tracker, the net zero targets that have been pledged so far could limit global warming to 2.1° C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. That builds in the announcements from China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, South Korea and others. But those welcome announcements need to be translated into updated nationally determined contributions—NDCs—that need to be submitted to the UN before COP26 and, crucially, into deliverable climate action plans.

Unfortunately, the UN’s NDC synthesis report last month raised concerns instead of hopes. As at 31 December, only 75 parties to the Paris agreement had submitted their NDCs, representing 30% of global emissions. Whereas the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that we cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels in order to limit temperature growth to 1.5° C, the NDCs submitted so far only get us to 1% of that 45% recommendation. Only two of the 18 largest emitters had submitted updated NDCs at the end of 2020, including the United Kingdom and the European Union. Of the NDCs that have been submitted, the UN notes a significant gap between longer-term carbon neutrality target announcements and commitments set out in the NDCs.

The crucial and urgent task for COP26 is therefore to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality and to bring every nation with us on the route to achieving our Paris targets. This highlights the urgent need for a full Government response, especially a diplomatic response. China, for example, has committed to achieving net zero by 2060—an important and welcome commitment—but its recent five-year plan pushed the difficult and expensive decisions into the long grass. We should not get to COP26 and just tell big emitters such as China, India or others that they are not moving away from coal quickly enough, for example, not least when we are planning our own new coalmine here in the UK. Instead, we should have British diplomats in Beijing, Delhi and other capitals asking, “What can the world do to help you move away from coal more quickly?”

Here in the United Kingdom, we have legislated for net zero by 2050. The trouble is that, increasingly, we seem to be going off track at home. Yes, we were world leaders in legislating for net zero by 2050, and we have submitted a bold and welcome NDC, but the Public Accounts Committee last week concluded that there is no credible Government plan for how we deliver on those pledges. Yes, we have the energy White Paper, but where is the net zero spending review or the net zero strategy? In the new plan for growth, which replaced the scrapped industrial strategy last week via a footnote in the Budget, the horizon scan of Government announcements on our net zero transition did not even include the net zero spending review. The Government, we understand, are planning to reduce air passenger duty on short flights within the United Kingdom. They have U-turned on the vital green homes grant initiative, withdrawing a billion pounds of funding. The Budget last week made little mention of the so-called green industrial revolution.

On heating, which we are considering on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, we have enormous challenges ahead of us. It is the second largest emitter of carbon in the UK after surface transport, yet we have not made sufficient progress in understanding how we insulate people’s homes and also heat them without burning gas in the future. As the citizens’ assembly on climate change concluded, as led by my Select Committee and five others in the House, the public expect us to be making sufficient progress and taking the difficult decisions to reach our net zero target.

The fact is—I believe we all know this—the longer we leave this, the more difficult and expensive it becomes. I do not know how long I will be in this House, but as a Member who is, dare I say, on the younger side of the bell curve, I will be quite frankly furious if Ministers around the world, let alone in my own country, delegate the difficult work to the next generation, not least because it will be too late. It is therefore vital that we make progress at home and abroad and that we get on with that important work now. That means we need more than just a letter from the Foreign Secretary and the permanent secretary asking diplomatic missions to prioritise this work. It needs dedicated climate diplomats working within each country—diplomats who can listen and report back on the concerns or obstacles faced by leaders in reaching their required contributions to limiting global temperature growth.

Only by doing that work well in advance of COP26 in November can we anticipate and respond adequately to the needs of each nation. If we fail to do so, and countries come to Glasgow in November with real concerns—whether on climate aid, the balance between wealthy and less wealthy nations or the commitments from big emitters—we risk repeating the mistakes of the Copenhagen summit, with unresolved tensions being managed during COP itself and ultimately ending in failure.

In our recent interim report on COP26 and net zero, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee expressed concerns about the lack of focus on the necessity of submitting these updated nationally determined contributions and climate action plans, and also on the potential lack of support from the machinery of government in delivering on COP26.

The CEO of the COP26 unit, Peter Hill, confirmed that there are around 160 staff within the COP26 unit, which sits in the Cabinet Office. This unit is funded to the tune of £216 million through departmental transfers from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport and others, and that is in addition to the £180 million allocated for security, representing the fact that the COP26 conference in Glasgow will be one of the largest police operations in British history. I am sure there must be more dedicated resources, especially in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, for this important work, and I hope that the COP26 President will set that out for the House today.

Lastly, we need urgent clarity on how COP26 itself will work in practice. I support the COP26 President’s aim of having an in-person summit and agree that that is the best way of illustrating equality between all nations around the decision-making table, but COP26 is not just for Heads of State and Ministers and officials. Some countries bring very large delegations; others bring smaller delegations. Can the COP26 President update the House on what the UK delegation will be and who will be included in it? There is also a great deal of wider engagement at COP, from business leaders and parliamentarians to civil society and non-governmental organisations. That usually means a large conference-style event. Indeed, the Government have said that COP26 will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted, with 30,000 delegates, but that statement was, I think, made before covid.

I have raised the issue in COP26 questions, but it is now urgent to get clarity for delegations and the wider group of COP26 attendees about how online engagement will work if they are unable to attend in person, and how it will be determined whether delegates or other visitors are able to attend in person. The COP26 President may wish to update the House today on how the Government intend to provide, if necessary, covid vaccinations, testing and quarantine services for those physically participating in Glasgow. Indeed, concerns have been expressed by many, including me, that many nations, especially developing nations, are further behind in the roll-out of their own covid vaccinations. What steps can either the UK or UNFCCC take to ensure that the delegates are vaccinated and able to take part physically during COP in Glasgow in November?

There is cross-party support for Britain’s leadership of COP26, because it is a crucial milestone. The world needs to step up. It needs to set up credible, costed and deliverable climate action plans that get us to the targets we all agreed in Paris five years ago. Those often difficult decisions cannot be pushed into the long grass and left for future generations of leaders to deal with. If that happens, it will be not just a failure of politics, but a failure of humanity, because our planet will be unrecognisable compared with today if we fail in this task.

Climate migration following huge swathes of land around the equator turning into desert will pose a challenge to countries in the northern hemisphere and other parts of the world like never before. Difficult issues, such as the future management of Antarctica, will become live issues as potentially habitable land becomes available, while other habitable land is lost. Shortages of food, water and energy in the face of dramatic geopolitical changes and new national security threats will make covid look like a minor problem. In that context, and with that sense of urgency, while I welcome the commitment to net zero that will get us near the Paris target, we have to see deliverable climate action plans lodged at COP26, with countries’ leaders taking the difficult decisions and bringing forward investment—including climate aid from wealthy nations—to show the world that we take this issue seriously not just in rhetoric but in reality.

We want the COP26 President and his team to be successful in delivering the required outcomes. All of us in this House, I am sure, support him in those endeavours, but we also want to be assured that the Prime Minister and his Government are fully getting behind the COP team so that, come November, we will be celebrating the success of COP26, not mourning its failure in the face of climate disaster.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I thank the hon. Gentleman for opening the debate and for his extremely unexpected but very kind remarks.

It will come as a great surprise to everyone that I am about to announce a time limit that has not been heard of for some time. The time limit in this debate will not be three minutes. It will initially be eight minutes. I should explain this unusual situation: the reason is that so many colleagues, at the last minute, withdrew not from this debate but from the previous debate, thereby leaving more time for this debate. We will therefore start with eight minutes, which is likely to reduce to about seven minutes, but I do not envisage its reducing to three minutes. I call Tom Tugendhat.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 5:07 pm, 10th March 2021

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—and let’s push those eight minutes, shall we?

It is a great pleasure to be in the Chamber today talking about COP26, because it really is the absolute key event this year.  We are going to get through covid, and we are already well along in the right direction due to the brilliance of various people in Government, in science and in the NHS, and many, many thousands of volunteers around the UK. That will free us and the world to focus on the real existential threat that we face, which is, of course, climate change.

I am delighted to follow my friend Darren Jones, under whose chairmanship the BEIS Committee has begun to expose some of the questions that we need to answer in the coming months. I am also delighted that we are working together on that, because one of the things I have discovered since taking the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee is how little of our international reach is exercised by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I thought that the largest and most seminal conference absorbing our diplomatic network and shaping our diplomatic output for this year would be run by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, but it is not: it is run by the Cabinet Office, and run very ably by my right hon. Friend the COP26 President; I am delighted that he is supported so well by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It was a bit of a surprise to me, but then again, I suppose I should not be surprised, because our Europe policy is also run by the Cabinet Office, and not even in this House, so perhaps I should expect our Americas policy and our Africa policy to be run by the Cabinet Office. Eventually, perhaps only our Scottish policy will be run by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, but that would be a great shame. Maybe that can bring us back to talking about the importance of focusing on the joined-up policy that we need to see.

While the Select Committees have come together and have been working together, it is also worth pointing out how well the Government have begun to work together. When the French started their process, it resulted in the Paris COP21 that everybody remembers. That was not only a success at the time, but with the election of President Biden, it has become a renewed success as Paris has just been signed up to again by the United States. It took them two years, hundreds of diplomats and a former Prime Minister to bring all that together. That work was really, really tough. What my right hon. Friend has picked up on is that he started later with fewer staff and in the middle of the covid pandemic, and that makes it really difficult. However, I can report from, if he will excuse me, spies in other camps that the pace at which he is producing results is already very well received. I am delighted to say that in conversations I have had with representatives from other countries—I am not going to name them, but they are people who have spoken to him in recent days and weeks—they have reported that he is certainly well on the way to delivering a result.

Of course, this is not just down to my right hon. Friend; it is also down to our partners around the world. Many people have heard me in this House condemning communism, but I have to tell the House that I have actually been working very closely with a communist in order to try to achieve some of the results that we are all trying to share. He is my opposite number and colleague in the Italian ParliamentPiero Fassino, the former communist mayor of Turin, who now chairs its foreign affairs committee, because this conference is of course being organised jointly with our Italian partners. We have all welcomed my right hon. Friend’s co-operation with them.

In the run-up to our going to that wonderful city of Glasgow—my favourite city in the north—later this year, I very much hope that we will get a chance to see some of the progress along the way. My friend, the hon. Member for Bristol North West, has set out many of the targets that we should be looking to, and I hope that he will be as co-operative in reporting back to this House and to Parliament generally to make sure that we can help to guide the process. This will be one of those moments when we can define the future—we can change policies not just in this country but around the world to make these aims possible. We need to be talking actively not just about carbon offshoring and carbon pricing but about how we transform the very nature of the societies in which we are working. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Antarctica and, indeed, other areas being made uninhabitable. We need this to be a policy that is not just led by the Cabinet Office but touches on every single aspect of Britain’s foreign policy.

Whatever happens with the aid budget—I know that many of us hope that 0.7% will be rather more respected than do others—what we decide to do in aid, in diplomacy and in how we structure our trade policy will have a direct consequence on whatever my right hon. Friend agrees with partners around the world. That is why I very much hope that his role, as he sees it, will not just be about a conference—not just about an event, a day and a moment—and not even just about a deal, although it is a hugely important deal. Actually, this will be about a change of structure, a new understanding and a new partnership that engages all of us and—yes—the Biden Administration, who have already demonstrated such interest, as well as our partners in the European Union, our partners in the Commonwealth and, indeed, those countries with whom we have often found it harder to work. If we do not get this right, we will feel the pain—it is true—but we will also see an increased salination of the rice fields of eastern China, an increased desertification of the many parts of the world that are already struggling, and an erosion of the ability of many communities to sustain.

This year, the World Food Programme was rightly awarded the Nobel peace prize— a well-earned prize. I was fortunate enough to speak to its director general, Governor David Beasley, who is an amazing individual and a great friend of our country. He pointed out what I think is well worth remembering: if we think that the migration crisis that we saw in 2015 out of Syria was something serious, just imagine the crisis that would be caused if my right hon. Friend the COP26 President and his friends and partners around the world were to fail in Glasgow. I hope he knows that he will have the support of the whole House, and he will certainly have the support of the Committees, as we try to help him to shape and achieve the results that we all need.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 5:15 pm, 10th March 2021

I echo the words of the last speaker, Tom Tugendhat, about how monumental the decisions will be that need to be taken this November, because November’s COP26 in Glasgow is a historic opportunity for Britain to provide leadership to the world on climate change.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Darren Jones and his colleagues on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, who have produced detailed reports that should be influencing the Cabinet Office and shaping the agenda in the run-up to COP26. Scientists and climate experts are urging the Government to lead the way in adopting ambitious deadlines for achieving net zero along with shorter-term interim targets, and it is those targets that are vital. The former Prime Minister committed the UK Government to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The BEIS Committee said last week that

“no details have yet been provided on how success will be measured” for COP 26. We cannot achieve significant carbon reductions by empty words, good PR or grandiose declarations. It takes action.

I have to say, last week’s Budget does not give us much hope of demonstrating world leadership. In fact, for some of us, it is a cause of despair and shame. The decisions by the Government to freeze fuel duty and to dig a new coalmine, and the pathetic scale of the Government’s environmental policies are a dereliction of duty to the planet and to future generations. It is a failure of Government, who could have acted to create hundreds of thousands of climate jobs in areas from wind turbines to tidal lagoons, from electric car charge points to tree planting, but there was no evidence of the scale of investment and scale of ambition that the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West called for. Instead of tying corporate tax breaks and investment write-offs to clear climate criteria, the giveaways announced in the Budget could hinder, rather than help our carbon reduction strategy.

The verdict of Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit was that this was

“a Budget that didn’t even try to get the Conservatives on track to their net zero target”.

Today, there are reports that the Government will cut air passenger duty on domestic flights. Frankly, I would struggle to find a more regressive policy, and I speak as somebody who represents a constituency with Heathrow in it. I would struggle to find something that is more regressive than encouraging domestic aviation before we have had that debate and discussion and the development of the environmental aviation strategy.

It is crystal clear to me that this Government have no co-ordinated plan and no cross-departmental agenda to drive the decarbonisation that we seek. This is not just my view, but that of the Public Accounts Committee, which has been quoted. The PAC published a report on achieving net zero with the brutal conclusion, “Government lacks a plan”. Never have four words better summed up an Administration than that.

In terms of the modest 2050 target, the Committee said, damningly:

“there is little sign that it”— the Government—

“understands how to get there”.

I will raise just one other point from the report, which said:

“Local authorities will also play a major role in the move to net zero, and Government will need to engage more with local authorities about how they can contribute”.

The irony is that today we learned that across the country more than two dozen councils are on the brink of bankruptcy, stripped of the funding to provide the statutory services their communities need, let alone the funding they need to take on the challenge of climate change.

The autumn statement is expected to be delivered on the eve of COP26. I just say to the Government that we hope for something better then. Otherwise, unless a serious plan is brought forward and unless there are significant resources attached to that plan, what leadership can the UK Government hope to offer the rest of the world? What authority can it possibly have in those vital discussions, when we are trying to bring together others, some more recalcitrant than others, who will be brought to the table to have a serious discussion only when they see others leading by example?

I believe that without drastic action COP26 risks exposing the UK Government as a laughing stock on climate change if we are not careful. I urge Ministers to change course and show some leadership. I urge them now to look at the reports our Select Committees have produced. They provide not just an agenda of issues to be addressed, but a direction that the Government could take. Otherwise, it is a betrayal of future generations. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West claimed the future for himself. Well, some of us older ones have an interest in the future as well, with our children and grandchildren. This November will ensure, hopefully, that they will have a planet that they can survive on and flourish on.

From the evidence I have seen so far—it is not just me; I think it is independent experts as well—the leadership the Government are showing is nowhere near the scale or commitment we need to demonstrate to the rest of the world what can be done, what needs to be done and what our country can contribute.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

The time limit is now reduced, but it is only reduced to seven minutes.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 5:22 pm, 10th March 2021

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your generosity in this debate.

Although it may have been a little hard to determine from the remarks by my immediate predecessor in this debate, John McDonnell, he welcomed this debate and I join him in doing so. I congratulate Darren Jones on his opening remarks. He is right that there is a consensus across the House. We all want to see COP26 as a hugely successful conference, not just for the UK but for the whole world, to set us on a path to zero emissions by 2050, an ambition that was set out some time ago.

The objectives for the COP26 series of discussions, which of course were due to have taken place last year had it not been for covid, were actually set at Paris five years ago. It is worth reminding ourselves, at the outset of my remarks, of the four particular commitments that were set for the forthcoming conference. The first was to enhance Governments’ nationally determined contributions. This will be the first time since Paris that they will have been ratcheted up. The second was to invite each country to provide a long-term strategy, to give a pathway to decarbonisation by 2050. Where I agree with the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is that it is beholden on the Government to set out clarity over the path to 2050, not just the target.

The third commitment was to do with finance. There was $100 billion per annum mobilised for the poorest countries to help them green their economies and adapt to the impact of climate change. We need to see how that is going to be delivered when we get to Glasgow.

Finally, there was the issue of the rulebook for a global carbon market to avoid double counting and to set the standards. Here, I think the UK has a great opportunity to show its famed global leadership. This conference will be the largest ever held in this country in terms of the number of countries participating, and I hope that most of them will be able to be here, in one form or another, in person. It is a real opportunity for the nation to lead the world and for the Prime Minister to put his stamp on the future.

As the UK is acting as host country—with Italy, as has been said—we will act as a neutral arbiter in these negotiations. We need to ensure that every country—every Paris signatory, at least—is supported in bringing forward its updated nationally determined contribution. At the beginning of the Paris conference, 186 of the 196 parties attending had presented their nationally determined contributions. I know that progress has been made, but we have a long way to go to match France’s performance when it hosted the last of this series of conferences.

The UK announced its contribution, a 68% reduction in emissions against the 1990 benchmark, last December. Several other countries have set out high-profile ambitions since, including China, Japan and South Korea looking to get to net zero by the mid-21st century, and some presenting nearer-term targets ahead of COP26. However, we still have to see progress from some major economies, including Russia, Brazil and Australia—and I know that the US will now be joining; we need to see where it gets to, too. Perhaps the COP26 President will update us on his discussions with President Biden’s special envoy, John Kerry, who was in the UK very recently.

I want to touch on two other aspects—first, how does Parliament engage in scrutinising progress? The Environmental Audit Committee—in common with other Committees, as we have heard—has undertaken various sessions in relation to COP26. The first was a year ago, when we engaged with stakeholders who were involved with previous COPs to establish what the Government’s preparations needed to focus on. We then had a session with Nigel Topping and Fiona Reynolds in May last year on the role of finance in leading the way for the upcoming COP, and we also questioned Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN convention, last year. We questioned my right hon. Friend the COP26 President, who was then President-designate, in September last year.

Nine Select Committees have locus in relation to this issue, and we have all agreed to work together in scrutinising the UK Government preparations. We, as the Environmental Audit Committee, will lead the first of those scrutiny sessions, on cross-Government arrangements and the machinery of government, tomorrow morning. I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend the COP26 President will be attending, with two of his senior officials.

The eyes of the world will be on us to make a credible success of COP. The challenge is across many areas. We need to use the national events that we have to demonstrate UK leadership. The UK has met the first and second carbon budgets and has already reduced emissions below the level expected in the third carbon budget, up to 2022. However, as is widely acknowledged, we are not on track to meet either the fourth or fifth carbon budgets, which were legislated for on the basis of an 80% cut in emissions using the 1990 baseline by 2050, rather than the more ambitious net zero target that we now have in legislation.

A major ramp-up is needed, as is acknowledged by the Committee on Climate Change, to achieve that, and the UK will have to make more progress. Although it has been succeeding in the power sector, emissions are either not falling or not falling fast enough across transport, agriculture, housing and industry. Bringing forward the petrol and diesel car ban is welcome, but it is not the only measure that the Government have to take—[Inaudible.]

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has exceeded the time limit. I was trying to give him a little leeway, but the system will not allow me to let him finish his sentence. We therefore go to Kilmarnock, and to Alan Brown.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 5:30 pm, 10th March 2021

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I must say that this is the first time I have ever had the chance to get my red pen out and add to my notes, rather than having to scrub notes out frantically. It is a pleasure to follow Philip Dunne, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

COP26 is clearly the most important COP since Paris, and it is critical for our net zero commitments. It is a chance for the UK to be on the world stage, but we have to ask whether matters are in hand. If we look at the Cabinet Office estimates, I would suggest not. We know that the Cabinet Office COP26 budget for this financial year was revised down from £216 million to just £22 million due to the postponement, but what has been achieved to date with that expenditure? What will the future budget look like? We do not really know, which in itself shows the entire farce of the estimates process.

Has the memorandum of understanding between Police Scotland and the UK Government been signed off, underwriting the estimated £180 million policing cost? Where is the budget line for that? We can still recall that the Home Office did not stump up for the Lib Dems’ party conference in Glasgow in 2013, which left Police Scotland £800,000 out of pocket. It is critical that the Police Scotland budget is not affected.

As a member of the BEIS Committee, I was pleased to take part in an inquiry about the COP26 preparations. Darren Jones has covered it admirably, but I will reiterate some key recommendations that need to be considered. First, we need to ensure that the correct resource allocation from the civil service is in place. That needs a real focus from the Cabinet Office, not its current obsession with Union units. In the last couple of years, the Cabinet Office has also been a propaganda unit—first for Brexit, now the Union. Let us get a focus on COP26, which is a real priority.

We need to put in place measurable outcomes of success. The Committee has also suggested that parliamentary engagement needs to extend to the devolved legislatures, as well as the Westminster process. That brings us to the fact that leaders and relevant Ministers of the devolved Governments should form part of the UK delegation, as well as Opposition MPs. Let us show inclusivity as part of COP26, whatever Governments elsewhere do—but that will take real leadership from the COP26 President, given that we know the Prime Minister’s view on Scottish devolution.

We need the UK Government to set the sixth carbon budget as soon as possible, incorporating the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change in full. Serious consideration needs to be given to resetting the fifth carbon budget, which currently is not aligned to net zero.

Something else that I will throw into the mix is reconsidering the cuts to the foreign aid budget. As the right hon. Member for Ludlow pointed out, a lot of finance needs to be mobilised to help developing countries. We have started to debate the damage and loss going forward. It sends completely the wrong message that the UK, as the host country, is cutting its foreign aid to the poorest countries in the world.

Clearly covid has been an overriding UK Government priority, and they have to deal with an emergency, but it feels as if the extra time gained from the postponement has not been put to full use. We need more information on the preparations. Certainly we need some kind of decision-making timeline made available that ties in with public health assessments, and plans to ensure that no countries are left out going forward. We really need more progress on the agreement over the nationally determined contributions. It is critical that all spend associated with the preparations is transparent. There can be no more lucrative contracts for friends and cronies.

Leading by example also means having proper domestic policies in place, just as the Scottish Government have. It is a terrible state of affairs that we are still awaiting the heat and building strategy and we are still awaiting the hydrogen strategy. It should be noted that the Scottish Government have a 5 GW hydrogen production target, which is the same as the UK’s, so Scotland is showing much more ambition. Again, Scotland has a transport decarbonisation plan in place for a net zero target of 2035, but we are still awaiting the UK Government’s transport decarbonisation plan.

Without these key policies, there is no net zero strategy, and policies without funding commitments are effectively redundant. While there is a 10-point plan with a figure of 600,000 heat pump installations a year, this means nothing without a funded programme to back it up. That programme needs to be aligned with energy-efficient installations and should start targeting off-grid properties. There are 3,000 deaths a year in the UK related to fuel poverty, so the UK Government also need to invest far more directly in energy efficiency and demonstrate a net zero transition that will not push up energy bills and create more fuel poverty.

When it comes to transport, Scotland can demonstrate the world’s first hydrogen double-decker buses. The Scottish Government have facilitated orders for electric and hydrogen buses from Alexander Dennis Ltd. Where is the UK Government’s national bus strategy? This is the type of leadership and joined-up thinking that is lacking at the moment.

I would ask the UK Government to be bold, and to abandon nuclear. This is not going to be the technology saviour they demonstrate to the rest of the world. We still cannot deal with nuclear waste, so we really do need to move away from this. Ahead of COP26, they should give sign-off for pumped-storage hydro. Floating offshore wind, green hydrogen, and wave and tidal technologies are the renewable technologies to focus on, so can we confirm ring-fenced contracts for difference pots for those? We should look at innovation in power purchase agreements for smaller marine projects to allow them to get to market.

Those are technologies that the UK and in particular Scotland, as the host country, can show to the world and be part of a coherent plan for an energy strategy. We need to be able to demonstrate it as part of the overall plan to lead other countries and make COP26 a real success. There is a lot of work to do in domestic policy and a lot of work in the negotiations that lie ahead of COP26 to make it a success.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Just for everybody’s information, the wind-ups will start no later than 6.28 pm with Deidre Brock. There will then be shadow Minister Matthew Pennycook at 6.38 pm, the COP26 President at 6.48 pm, and Darren Jones at 6.58 pm.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 5:37 pm, 10th March 2021

Mr Deputy Speaker, I sense that you are probably not as familiar with Glasgow as the Chairman of Ways and Means, who preceded you in the Chair, but I, as a former Secretary of State for Scotland and, indeed, a Scottish Member of Parliament, am delighted that the United Kingdom Government have brought COP26 to Scotland—to Glasgow. As we all know, Glasgow is a great city that can handle this event, and notwithstanding the issues that people have rightly raised about what is achieved at the conference, I believe Glasgow has every ability to host an event of such scale and to do it in a memorable way.

I do hope that we will see the new President of the United States attend the event. I had the rather dubious duty of welcoming the previous President of the United States to Scotland on one of his visits to the United Kingdom. At that event, he told me that he loved Scotland, but very unfortunately he did not follow it through during his presidency by removing the punitive tariffs on whisky.

Despite some of the remarks that we have just heard from Alan Brown, I hope that we will see the full engagement of the Scottish Government in a positive way for this event. When we face a global climate emergency, the cost of the Lib Dem Scottish conference in 2013 is not really the issue of the moment that we need to be addressing or hearing about. I want to see the Scottish Government engage positively. I was encouraged to hear the First Minister of Scotland addressing businesses in relation to COP and the opportunities that it would bring. That is the tone that we want to hear. Also, it is not a competition between policies pursued by the Scottish Government and those pursued by the UK Government: I welcome the progress that has been made on many fronts in Scotland, but that does not mean that everything is right. Likewise, there are many positive aspects within the UK, but within Scotland, we could do better.

The principal point that I want to make in my contribution is that I want to see widespread public and civic engagement flowing from this event. I think most of us in the Chamber are familiar with major events taking place where there is little or no public engagement. The circus comes to town; all the important people arrive; they are all cordoned off; they are in their cars; and there are all the events, yet the average member of the public has little engagement or connection with them. Under my analysis, COP26 will not be a complete success unless we have engaged extensively with the wider public. The clear message is that each and every one of us owns climate change. Each and every one of us makes a difference, and if we exclude members of the public—if they do not feel part of this event, and it feels distant and remote from them—we are not going to achieve that.

I am very hopeful that my constituency will benefit economically from the overflow of guests and those attending requiring accommodation. That, of course, will be positive, but I also want there to be engagement with communities and groups that are already interested, and are themselves already very active on this front. For example, on Friday I am hosting an online event with a community group called Tweed Green, in Peebles in my constituency, to which members will come with all sorts of questions and issues: some about the climate emergency and what this Parliament is doing, and some on more local issues. They want to be part of this event, and we need to provide a way of their doing so. There are also lots of great local projects, such as the hydro scheme that has been run by the Keir, Penpont, and Tynron local trust. We have lots of local examples, and I am sure every Scottish Member could stand up in this Chamber and cite those examples. We want to see that level of engagement.

Of course, there are challenges, and we have to confront those challenges. I have more onshore wind turbines either in situ or in planning in my constituency, and just because, for example, people wish to oppose such developments does not make them anti-COP or anti-dealing with climate change. My plea to the COP26 President—I will be very interested in his concluding remarks—is to engage the public of Scotland: engage civic Scotland, engage stakeholders, and engage young people. I believe Scotland wants to play its part in making this a huge success. I do not in any way diminish the challenges that have already been raised by other speakers about what is achieved within the conference arena: if we achieve nothing there, that will of course mean that the event has not succeeded. However, to conclude, I reiterate that in my view, the event will not have succeeded unless we engage with the people of Scotland.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons) 5:44 pm, 10th March 2021

It is a great pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend David Mundell. My immediate priority is to ensure that the Government have the wherewithal to deliver this. They have many key priorities at the moment, not least the recovery from covid, economic rebuilding, consolidating Brexit and establishing the UK’s new place in global affairs, but what could be more important to that fourth priority than COP26, which represents such a critical opportunity for the world to address the increasingly severe impacts of the climate crisis? Darren Jones, the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, described it as a “crucial milestone”, and my right hon. Friend Philip Dunne said:

“The eyes of the world will be on us”.

The UK has often taken the lead on climate issues, and this presidency is a chance to push for ambitious commitments from partners across the globe. I personally favour the idea of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, embodying treaty commitments to limit fossil fuels coming out of the ground or to bind states to offsetting carbon capture and storage. We already have a good record on that in our own country, and it is important that our own policies reinforce the UK’s commitment to this work. Examples include our commitments to international marine reserves, which promote carbon capture; to agricultural reform and rewilding; to our net zero target; and to insulating homes and reducing carbon emissions from transport. Incidentally, we are going to have one of the biggest hydrogen production green energy hubs in Essex, at the new freeport that was announced last week.

The key to success in the past has been the significant effort and resources expended on conferences like these, long before the conference itself. I was reminded by my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a little while ago that the French employed a former Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, and he had 12 months and 200 diplomats at his disposal to support the preparation for the Paris COP in 2015. I very much congratulate the COP26 President, my right hon. Friend Alok Sharma, on his appointment and on being given a Cabinet-level role for his COP presidency. He is wholly devoted to it, but it is vital that he has a team with both the resources and the clout, not just to bring our international partners together, involving many Foreign Office resources, but to ensure that the Government Departments work together to deliver on our own targets and our own work.

I serve on the Public Accounts Committee, and we had to report that the net zero target was not effectively embedded in policy making on a cross-Whitehall basis, so I ask my right hon. Friend: what is the machinery of government that is going to back him up and support his work in the run-up to COP26? We have been expecting a written ministerial statement, and we still expect it. I have been invited to guest on the Environmental Audit Committee tomorrow, and I expect I will press him on this subject then if he does not want to answer that question in the debate this evening. The question is: how much real clout does the machinery of government give the him to deliver this very substantial and defining task for the Government?

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow pointed out, the Select Committee system in this House is already getting well prepared. Three Chairs of Committees have commented already in this debate, and the Committees are linking their inquiries. The Transport Committee is looking at zero-emission vehicles, the Treasury Committee has been working on decarbonisation and green finance, one of the key summit issues, and the Science and Technology Committee is looking at the potential for hydrogen to meet the UK’s net zero target. The Committees are also demonstrating their flexibility and willingness to collaborate, and I am delighted that they are coming together in this way, effectively to form a kind of informal committee on COP26 to scrutinise the work of the Government in the run-up to the COP summit.

I have to say that this is also an effort to limit the demands on my right hon. Friend the COP President’s time so that there is no duplication of evidence taking by different Committees. As I say, he is coming before the Environmental Audit Committee tomorrow. I ask him what commitments he can make to the programme of other meetings that I, as Chairman of the Liaison Committee, am setting out and that other Committees are setting out, in order that we have a coherent programme of scrutiny of the work of the Government up to COP26.

The big challenge here is for the Government to put themselves in the global picture on the most important global summit we are likely to see them undertake in this Parliament; there will be G7s, G8s and NATOs, but nothing is going to cap this. This is the defining COP summit that has to crown the achievement of the Paris summit. I very much hope that this will be seen as a British diplomatic success and not as something that other countries have had to sort out for us. My right hon. Friend has an enormous task. I congratulate him again on his appointment and wish him all the very best. He should come to the Select Committees, perhaps privately, if he needs us to add pressure in order to ensure that he can deliver the task that the Prime Minister has given him.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 5:51 pm, 10th March 2021

I am delighted to follow Sir Bernard Jenkin, all the more so because I think he just said he supported the proposal for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty—a new commitment to leave fossil fuels in the ground. If I heard him right, I would be delighted to work with him to help to achieve that.

COP26 is arguably the most crucial global summit in recent history, so it will be vital that the COP26 unit receives all the support and funding necessary to deliver a successful COP, even if that goes beyond the £260 million it has already been allocated. The world is watching and the stakes could not be higher. I welcome the fact that the COP26 President-designate is now full-time, able to dedicate all his efforts towards the COP, but if we are to achieve the results we so desperately need the whole of Government needs to be oriented towards a successful outcome from the negotiations. That means greater consistency and ambition across Departments if we are to show credible climate leadership, and it means having the plan that the Public Accounts Committee clearly identified as conspicuous by its absence.

It also means addressing the weakness and incoherence of our domestic climate policy: the Government’s failure to call in the recent decision to allow a new coalmine in Cumbria; the £27 billion road building programme; the freezing of fuel duty for the 10th year; the approach whereby air passenger duty is apparently to be reduced; the absence of serious climate action in the Budget; and the lack of a guarantee that measures such as the super deduction tax break will not be available for high-carbon investments. The list goes on, and with a record such as that it is no wonder we are off course to meet both our fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Not only that, but of course those budgets are based on an 80% emission reduction target by 2050, not net zero. No wonder, either, that the latest annual progress report from the Committee on Climate Change highlighted that the Government have failed on 17 of their 21 progress indicators and that just two out of 31 key policy milestones have been met.

When presented with facts such as those, Ministers like to say, “We have reduced emissions by over 40% since 1990”, but let us have some honesty here, because that is true only of territorial emissions, not imported emissions. It has been achieved only by offshoring so much of our manufacturing—in essence, outsourcing our emissions to countries such as China. As well as greater ambition at home, we must also use our presidency to redouble our diplomatic engagements to reinforce the need for strong Paris-aligned climate ambition.

On the arrangements for Glasgow itself, I appreciate that discussions are still ongoing about whether it will be physical attendance, online or a hybrid mode, but however the negotiations take place, everything must be done to ensure full and equal participation of the global south and of civil society. That, of course, means equitable access to vaccines, and on that I echo the words of the Chair of the BEIS Committee. Countries in the global south have already expressed concern in response to the call by António Guterres for preparatory negotiations to take place online. Any online negotiations must be inclusive and all countries must have the technical and financial support they need to participate on equal terms.

Moving on to outcomes, the UN is reporting that only 75 countries so far have brought forward new NDC commitments and that together they would reduce emissions by only about 1% by 2030, which is far from the 45% recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We are on course for climate catastrophe, yet a successful COP26 will not be defined by emission targets alone, crucial though those are; it will also mark the start of a process to set a specific target for climate finance beyond 2025. On this, the Government talk a good game, with the Prime Minister repeatedly boasting that the UK has doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion, up from £5.8 billion. While it is true that the UK performs well in some areas—for example, providing the majority through grants and allocating 50% to adaptation— all is not as it seems, as is so often the case with this Government.

The entirety of the UK’s climate finance commitment comes from the aid budget, which the Chancellor is cutting from 0.7% to 0.5%. That is despite the fact that, under the UN framework convention on climate change, climate finance was negotiated by all parties in good faith as new and additional finance. It was understood to be additional to the long-standing commitment to ODA, not taken from money that developing countries were set to achieve anyway. Not only is this morally wrong, it will also undermine the trust that we so desperately need as we head towards the negotiations in November.

As an immediate step, I call on the Government to reverse the cut to the aid budget and to ensure that the finance is genuinely new and additional. As COP26 host, the UK must also call on other countries to bring forward new and additional commitments to climate finance, including at least 50% allocated to adaptation; grants, not loans; and a significant increase in the finance provided to the least developed countries and small island developing states. Just 3% of climate finance reported to the OECD for 2017-18 went to small island developing states—countries that are on the frontline of the climate emergency.

Loss and damage is an overlooked area of the Paris agreement but is profoundly important for vulnerable countries—so important that failing to address this pivotal issue could lead to the collapse of the talks at COP26. Currently, no financial support has been agreed for loss and damage, despite the most vulnerable countries having to take on the debt to deal with consequences of global heating. In January this year, Mozambique was hit by Storm Eloise, which killed more than 1,000 people, destroyed 100,000 homes and flooded thousands of hectares of crops. At that point, the country had yet to recover from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in 2019, which pushed its public debt to almost 110% of its GDP.

We cannot let vulnerable countries be pushed further into debt by the climate crisis. The UK must put its pre-existing position, which has been to block loss and damage, to one side. It must use its role as a neutral COP26 president to thoughtfully and effectively facilitate a way to progress action on loss and damage finance and to stand in solidarity with communities that are suffering the worst impacts right now. At the heart of COP26 is the issue of climate justice, and as summit hosts, we will be judged on our ability to deliver it.

Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 5:57 pm, 10th March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow Caroline Lucas. If I recall correctly, Ronald Reagan had a quote on his desk in the White House that was along the lines of, “There’s no limit to what you can achieve or how far you can go, as long as you don’t care who takes the credit.” I see the role of the COP26 President as quite unusual in politics, because what the President, his team, this Government and this country have to do is get the world to agree to a set of different things along our achieved aims, and not care who gets the credit but get the job done. I have huge confidence in the COP26 President and his ability to do that.

I will not repeat what has been said about NDCs and various issues by other Members, who have made thoughtful speeches. I will identify three key areas in which I would like to hear the Government’s and the President’s plans on where we are going and how exactly we will achieve our aims not just as a country but as a world in trying to deal with this global problem. Those three areas are carbon emissions, carbon sequestration and rare metals, mining and manufacturing.

On emissions, we have already heard from many speakers about the need for a big increase in the number of countries submitting more ambitious NDCs. We all accept that, and I am sure that the COP26 President is working for it. The key thing that I am interested in is the plan to improve it. How will we try to achieve it materially? Even if we succeed in getting lots of countries to sign up for more ambitious net zero targets, which I am confident we will be able to do, and can back that up with concrete plans, in essence, in a few years’ time we will be going around this merry-go-round again. I am therefore very interested in the COP26 President’s plans for how we will achieve that.

To follow on from the remarks made by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, who talked at length about the need for finance and mobilising climate finance, about which she is completely right, what are our plans to mobilise the asset of the City of London? There is huge good will in the City of London, as I know through the work that I do with the all-party parliamentary group on bankers for net zero and as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for renewable and sustainable energy—PRASEG—and through dealing with a great deal of liaison among APPGs, the COP26 President and the Government on COP26. There is a lot of enthusiasm, but how will the Government take that enthusiasm and positive energy and turn it into results on a global scale? Let me quote the Lord Mayor of London, William Russell, at a talk I was at recently. He said that the message should be:

“go green or go home”.

That is the message we should take to the City of London and to others.

On carbon sequestration, many experts—I notice that experts are back in fashion—have said that in order for us to achieve net zero by 2050, even if we decarbonise at the rate we all know we need to decarbonise at, it may be necessary to take something in the region of 120 gigatonnes to 160 gigatonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere. I had to look up what a gigatonne was. I knew that it sounded very big but I needed to work out how big. For information, it is 1 billion metric tonnes. Indeed, a metric tonne is 1,000 kg. That is a lot of carbon.

Getting the technology and achieving the target will require a huge amount of private sector innovation for technologies that have not yet even been invented in many respects. Government can help. In the United States, there is tax relief on carbon removals investment, for example. But we may need to do things to sponsor carbon removal markets and try to help consumers and businesses direct their spending on capital to new technology. One example is called Zero Exchange, which is led by Daniel Korski, Ryan Shea and Lichelle Wolmarans. There may be other examples, but this is one way of providing a carbon removal market. These are the sorts of innovative ideas that I would like to see championed at COP so that we can funnel capital that we know is there and harness that enthusiasm and energy into positive results to take carbon out of the atmosphere. That does not get enough attention.

Finally, on rare metals, up until the renaissance, human beings used about six or seven metals. In the industrial revolution, we used about a dozen. Now, with rare metals included, we are using in the region of 89 or 90. Why am I talking about rare metals in this debate? Rare metals such as lithium, which is key for batteries for electric cars and wind turbines; niobium, which helps us make energy-efficient vehicles and steel structures; and coltan, which is a key ingredient for mobile phones, do not come out of thin air. They come out of the ground. Most of those metals are not located in this country or even in Europe. The United States has a bit, but China has a significant amount and they are also found in sub-Saharan African and South America.

I have two questions related to rare metals and mining. This is something that none of us likes to think about, because we like to think of the green revolution as entirely clean, but, in order to make the green things, we will have to get some of those rare metals out of the ground. The first of my questions is an environmental one and concerns the standards of that mining. We must make sure that those standards are as high as possible so that we do not cause environmental damage, which, sadly, is the sometimes the case. The second is a geopolitical one. Are we content for this to happen just in other countries, or are we willing to do some of the heavy-lifting ourselves, and, indeed, to finance it as well?

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) 6:05 pm, 10th March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow Bim Afolami. He is absolutely right: negative emission technologies have not been developed yet, and yet they are vital for us to get to net zero.

Hosting COP26 in the UK, especially as it marks the beginning of the implementation of the Paris agreement, is a great honour. We are asked significantly to increase our ambition and achieve what we promised in 2016—let us remember that we now have to get to net zero, not just to 80% of emissions.

The UK has a historic responsibility for causing the ecological and climate emergency. We must now use our power on the international stage to get to net zero, address the nature crisis, and lead by example globally. We must push for the strongest possible ambition from our international partners, but we cannot do that if our own credibility is undermined. Therefore, we need clear and ambitious domestic targets for which the Government can be held responsible immediately. Getting to net zero in 29 years’ time means little if we cannot hold the Government to account in the meantime. We are, as we have already heard, way off when it comes to hitting our own targets, so is the rest of the international community. We must do better.

COP26, as we have already heard, is not all about us. Island nations risk losing entire cultures to sea-level rises. New species risk going extinct every day that we allow illegal deforestations to continue. Every day that we delay action, we get closer to new tipping points in our national ecosystem. We must make sure that the money we put into COP26 includes adequate support for the global south, so that it has the same access and can participate as usual despite the pandemic. The UK Government must commit to offering visas to delegates and accredited civil society from the global south. Every year, hard-working, dedicated activists are turned away from contributing to international climate policy. Furthermore, let us ensure that people from across the UK, from across all backgrounds and from across all ages are involved in the preparation of this conference. COP26 is a vital historic moment for international climate action; let us not waste it.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 6:08 pm, 10th March 2021

I am delighted to participate in this debate on estimates for COP26. Two years ago, as interim energy Minister, I helped to secure for the United Kingdom and Italy their joint bid to host COP26. I am delighted to see the progress that has already been made by my right hon. Friend Alok Sharma. I want to put on record my admiration for him personally. Having worked extremely hard to climb the ladder of ministerial office to become a Secretary of State, he has decided to relinquish that office to become solely COP26 President. That demonstrates his commitment to the necessary values and the outcome that is needed from COP—he is not merely a simple politician but has put himself in the place of a true statesman.

If this COP is to be a success, as was the COP in Paris five years ago, it is absolutely right that we need to be driven by values and outcomes. It is quite clear that net zero by 2050 will slowly—perhaps more quickly—become the goal that comes out of COP26. I was the Minister who signed the net zero target into law on 27 June 2019, having led the debate in Parliament. It is easy to say that net zero should be legislated for, but since then I have seen the demonstration of the UK’s potential to lead this debate and to enact change. We have seen France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and, hopefully, the United States sign up to net zero by 2050, with China potentially signing up to net zero by 2060. We emit 1% of the world’s global emissions, yet this is where the UK can achieve and succeed in demonstrating that, as Wera Hobhouse mentioned, we can lead by example.

To achieve net zero, we need to ensure that COP26 is not just a high-level summit with similarly high-level lofty ambitions just from Government. If it is to deliver change, it needs to be about a whole-of-society approach, which means taking a long-term strategic position, not merely talking about what is happening in 2021. To put it into context, just 4% of the UK population even know what net zero means. That demonstrates the scale of the challenge we face in reaching net zero. We need a vision that can embrace the need for human behavioural change. This is where climate change policy 2.0 needs to be carved out. I shall come on to talk about the technological and energy supply changes that we have seen when it comes to climate change policy, but we now need to embrace the human dimension—we need not only to embrace humans’ hopes for change but understand their fears and how those fears can be tackled in future.

The UK has led on emission reductions in the G7: we have reduced emissions by 40% since 1990, despite growing our overall economy by 70%. That demonstrates that we can ensure growth regardless of the need for change. Between 2008 and 2018, we reduced emissions by 28%, yet we have now we set a target of reducing emissions by 68% by 2030. That is a huge escalation in ambition, which is welcome but still a challenge. Of the 28% reduction between 2008 and 2018, 56% of the decrease was in energy supply. Make no mistake: that was the low-hanging fruit.

We now need to reach far higher to get to far more difficult-to-reach sectors such as transport. Power and energy supply made up 66 million tonnes of the 496 million tonnes that we emitted in 2018; transport made up 115 million tonnes of that, yet its reduction between 2008 and 2018 was just 3%. To achieve the reductions that we are going to need, we will have to embrace systems-wide policy making that embraces operational research and does not rely just on announcements and speeches, which will not deliver policy change and will not allow for successful policy implementation.

First, we require a systems-wide change to Government delivery. The COP President currently sits within the Cabinet Office, which is right, but post COP we need a net zero Department that unites all Departments across Whitehall. We also need to embrace partnership working. COP26 will not be a success just through the efforts of the Cabinet Office and my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West, no matter how phenomenal a job I believe he is doing. I follow his Twitter feed every morning, noon and night and it is amazing what he is achieving, but he is one man. We can do so much more by embracing other institutions, such as universities, local authorities and devolved mayoralties. We should also focus on how we can create net zero regions, as I know we are doing, to drive systems change for the future. Universities stand ready—as a former Minister for Universities and chair of the all-party group on universities, I know that there is group of universities for COP26—and they will be at the forefront of delivering on research when it comes to achieving net zero.

On research and how we reach the scale that we need to achieve for the future, we need to take a mission-based approach, in respect of not only societal adaptation and change but new science and innovation structures to deliver net zero. The Prime Minister has spoken of “moonshots”, and we can frame COP26 and net zero by using the moonshot approach. The Government’s 10-point plan has set out ambitions for what we can achieve in the next 10 years; 600,000 heat pumps by 2028 is a great target, but we need to focus on wider ambitions, including expanding hydrogen supply. We need to be setting sector-wide approaches that are ambitious, but can be realised and delivered through structures—even legislation. That would enable these ambitions to be driven in a really tough way, rather than just being policy announcements.

Finally, we need dedicated climate change research and technological funds that are internationally based for COP26. We are hosting the G7 this year, and we have huge international ambitions for the United Kingdom. Why not place our faith in science, innovation and research by creating new funds that the UK can lead to get other countries behind us and deliver on net zero for the future?

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West 6:15 pm, 10th March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend Chris Skidmore, especially as he finished on such a key point about how advances in technology can help us to deal with the immense challenge that we face. It is also incredibly welcome that COP26 is happening in Glasgow, in our United Kingdom.

When we think of the environmental agenda and dealing with carbon dioxide emissions, we must be aware that we have to do it in a way that not only enables but enhances our ability to be a strong manufacturing country, so that we bring back manufacturing to the United Kingdom, rather than seeing it go abroad. Key to that is having affordable energy, especially for heavier industry. Manufacturing ought to be a key part of our levelling-up agenda, especially in the north of England; that would be incredibly welcome.

I have a bit of a concern about part of this debate not only here, but more broadly, and that relates to the Cumbrian coalmine. It is almost as though people are choosing wilfully to disregard the fact that this coal is metallurgical coal—coking coal. The purpose of this coal is for use in the steel industry. There are no economically viable alternatives to the use of this coal. If we do not use it, we do not have a steel industry. It is not thermal coal. We have a commitment to get rid of thermal coal from the system, but we ought to recognise the importance of metallurgical coal. The mine in Cumbria will be supporting 500 jobs directly and about 2,000 indirectly. Much of this coal will be used in the United Kingdom, so when we set our faces against the Cumbrian coalmine, we are setting our faces against a significant number of jobs, which are so welcome in the north of England.

Some people approach carbon emissions almost as though by exporting important manufacturing jobs we can reduce emissions in the United Kingdom. But when we export the emissions, the jobs and the manufacturing, the carbon does not respect national boundaries; it will still have an impact on climate change across the world. We have to recognise that the United Kingdom has high environmental standards, so having manufacturing here means less carbon is produced than if the same manufacturing were happening overseas. We ought to spend a little bit more time celebrating the fact that UK manufacturing has such high standards.

When we think about how we provide energy to deal with climate change, we often focus on wind turbines and solar energy, but we ought to think a little more about the contributions from the nuclear industry. I have always thought about the baseload supply that the nuclear industry can provide. I understand now that the proper term we should be using is “firm energy”—the energy that we can reliably use in manufacturing and other sectors, having the certainty that the supply will be there, no matter what. It is also a green energy. The carbon footprint of nuclear power stations is about the same size as for solar, so it ought to be seen as a very long-term commitment to energy supply, and it will deal with concerns over carbon. Can my right hon. Friend, in dealing with this important issue through his presidency of COP26, provide any certainty to the nuclear industry? It is important that the United Kingdom has a tempo of building these power stations: the industry provides high-quality jobs, and there is great investment in skills, which we need to retain in the sector. After all, the nuclear industry will provide firm green energy, whatever the weather, the time of day or the day of the year.

Probably the one energy source that is better than nuclear fission is nuclear fusion, so I congratulate the Government on their ambitious plans to develop the spherical tokamak for energy production fusion prototype. This prototype is intended to develop a commercially viable fusion reactor. COP26 ought to be about not just the things we cannot do or that we must constrain but being ambitious about the technological advances that we can look forward to in future. This prototype can be part of that.

In the north-west of England, in particular, there is a wealth of talent in the nuclear sector, whether in Cheshire, Lancashire or Cumbria. We have the Institute for Materials Research at the University of Bolton. The University of Manchester has an amazing history and legacy in the nuclear, or atomic, sector going back as far as John Dalton and then Ernest Rutherford, and now there is its continuing expertise with the Dalton Nuclear Institute. We have a wealth of talent, and we ought to be focused far more on technological solutions to concerns such as climate change and carbon emissions. What could be finer to announce at the COP26 summit than that the future of green energy will deliver on our levelling-up agenda, using the talents of so many people across the north-west, building on our heritage, and making Bolton the location and the future of safe, reliable and abundant energy by siting the spherical tokamak prototype there?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:22 pm, 10th March 2021

I thank Darren Jones and his colleagues for enabling this important debate to be held today. I also thank Members from across the House for their contributions. They have made some excellent points about the Government’s plans for COP26, with many focusing on the lack of clarity around the efforts made so far on the road to COP26 and to our critical net zero targets. We have heard repeated calls for the Government to outline their proposed path to net zero, not just their targets, as was suggested by the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne. Certainly, speaking as a representative from a Scottish constituency, the continued uncertainty over their plan for the involvement and participation of devolved Administrations in the delegation, as outlined by my hon. Friend Alan Brown, seems unforgivable given the lead that Scotland is taking on climate issues.

The thing to really focus on is the Government’s planning for COP26. If that planning exists, there is, I am afraid, little evidence for it. There may be a few targets floating about, but there are no details of the strategies, no plans, and no route map to reaching all those targets. There may be a nationally determined contribution, which sounds impressively whizzy, but there is none of the real grunting heave of an effort needed to move us along towards any kind of emissions reduction. There is so little ambition, drive, vision or political capital being expended. The motions are being well rehearsed. If going through the motions was what was needed, we could all sleep soundly in our beds, but the truth is that we are facing the nightmare of a crisis worse than the pandemic—it is unimaginable, but the scenario is that terrifying. The UK has a Government playing shadow puppets with the issues. Perhaps worst of all, the UK is supposed to be leading world discussions in a few months’ time.

As COP21 showed in creating the Paris agreement, delivery on an ambitious programme and a visionary agenda requires the agenda and the programme first, but it also needs a whole of Government effort and a comprehensive and dedicated diplomatic effort to pull it off. The French Government showed themselves capable. They delivered. The evidence given to the BEIS Committee suggests that the UK Government will miss the train altogether.

The Committee was told that the diplomatic effort of the UK amounted to the Foreign Secretary and the permanent secretary in that Department sending a few letters to diplomatic staff to remind them about it. It was a note to remind them to do their homework, as if the diplomats needed that. The previous COP26 President told the Committee of the chaos and infighting in Whitehall that bedevilled her attempts to get anything done, although the CEO of the COP26 unit assured the Committee that everything was hunky-dory now and that they are working night and day to deliver.

I had a look at the COP26 team on the website, and there were a couple of folk from environmental think-tanks and pressure groups in among the career civil servants, but there was also a former deputy head of press at Tory HQ—now policy adviser to the COP26 President—and a former Tory special adviser, who is now the strategy director. Then there are a couple of bankers and a businessman bringing his experience of emerging markets, but that lack of focus on environmental and climate change expertise does not inspire confidence.

I have no doubt that these civil servants will do their jobs efficiently and well, and I have no doubt that the diplomats engaged as regional ambassadors will deliver on what they are asked, but they need political leadership and the investment of political capital, and that is missing. If I may, I point to the evidence that Lord Deben gave to the BEIS Committee in July last year, speaking as chair of the Climate Change Committee. Responding to a question about whether sufficient progress was being made towards the net zero target, he said:

“We are clearly not. In almost every sector, we are failing…The Government are not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budget”.

He went on to say that measures were “not taken quickly enough” and that the Government

“have simply not done the radical things that need to be done.”

That is fairly unequivocal. He went on to say that using the pandemic as an excuse for inaction, rather than a “springboard” for action would be unforgivable. We are sliding down that slope from which there may be no return, and we are still waiting for Government action.

Even the arrangements for the summit in Glasgow are opaque. We have a bald and unconvincing headline Budget figure with no more to it. We have an agreement with Police Scotland that there will be no detriment to its budget, although some of us remember that the same was promised for the Gleneagles G8 in 2005, but Scotland still got left with that bill. There appears to be little if any consultation, engagement or interaction with the Scottish Government over this event, which will be on their patch.

While I am seeking clarity, I hope the COP26 President will see his way clear to elaborating on the arrangements with MCI over accommodation. There appears to be some exclusivity being claimed for that organisation, and the booking website appears to suggest that using any other accommodation provider in Scotland is likely to result in some loss to the customer. I am sure he will agree that that unintentional slur should be corrected at the earliest possible opportunity.

Will the COP26 President elaborate on the arrangements with MCI? How will it make a profit, and will any of that profit be heading back to the Government? Will international visitors be getting surcharged for MCI’s services? Furthermore, has MCI been given what amounts to a Government monopoly with the arrangement that it entered into? Will he publish all the tendering documents and other correspondence around that arrangement?

The operation of the summit is one thing; the fight against climate chaos is another. Here we are approaching the setting of the sixth carbon budget, with COP26 following close behind, and still we do not know what the Government’s intentions are. We still do not have a really clear idea of what they hope to get out of the summit. The Chancellor’s Budget lacked any real commitment to environmental action or action to address climate chaos, and it seems like the efforts on COP26 will match that lack of ambition all too well.

The truth is that the current UK Government just do not care enough about the issue to want to address it. They are so blinkered to the probable effects of the changing climate that they will stumble blindly on, hoping that it all goes well in the end; so tone-deaf to the pleas of climate activists that they cannot see the benefit of copying the French and putting in the early effort to get results. COP26 is on course to be an opportunity wasted, and it will be wasted simply because the Government do not put in the effort.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 6:30 pm, 10th March 2021

It is a pleasure to respond to this debate on behalf of the Opposition. Given the importance of the subject, I hope it is the first of many over the next eight months.

I start by commending my hon. Friend Darren Jones, as well as Philip Dunne and Bim Afolami for securing the debate and for their insightful contributions. I also praise the powerful speeches made by others who participated. I will single out Caroline Lucas, who spoke powerfully about the need for participation on equal terms by all the parties at COP26; Tom Tugendhat and Chris Skidmore; the right hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell, who made an interesting point about the need for citizen engagement to realise the promise of the summit taking place in the UK; and Sir Bernard Jenkin, who—much to my delight—made the case not just for reducing demand for fossil fuels but, quite rightly, on the imperative to scale down their supply as a matter of urgency if we are to address the climate crisis.

As the first real test of the landmark Paris agreement, the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November will be a critical moment in the fight against runaway global heating. We all have a stake in ensuring that it is a success, and in that spirit I reiterate the Opposition’s desire to play a constructive role in the process and put on the record our support for whatever financial resources are required to effectively plan and deliver the conference. As the hosts of the summit, the Government are presented with not only an unrivalled opportunity to demonstrate climate leadership in the coming months, but a solemn responsibility to do all they can to maximise global ambition and to secure agreement on a road map for delivering on that ambition and the Paris agreement.

There is a wide range of distinct issues on which further progress is essential ahead of November, including the nature crisis and biodiversity loss, and what more must be done to green the financial system and find agreement on robust article 6 rules, but given the time available to me, I will touch on three specific issues that have been a feature of today’s debate. The first is mitigation.

As my hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee and others remarked, in its first assessment of global climate pledges ahead of COP26, published 10 days ago, the UNFCCC made it clear that the world is currently on course only for emissions reductions of 1% by the end of this critical decade, not the 45% reduction that is required to keep alive the hope of limiting heating to 1.5°C. The COP26 President knows that we would have liked the Government to be even more ambitious, but there is no question but that the UK’s NDC, now submitted, and the 2030 target of omissions reductions of least 68% are ambitious and will be extremely challenging to deliver. As the summit’s host, the UK needs to be making the case forcefully, both publicly and privately, for a far greater level of ambition from others, so that by November the world will have decisively closed the gap between our current temperature trajectory and where we need to be to realise the Paris agreement.

I hope that the COP26 President will update the House on the efforts he is making, in particular to ensure that large emitters that have not yet done so submit ambitious NDCs in the near future, and on what the Government are doing to compel recalcitrant nations, in particular Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia, which have merely resubmitted existing NDCs, and Brazil and Mexico, which have backtracked on their existing targets, to think again in the few months that remain until the summit.

The second issue is climate justice. As much as it increasingly defines our approach to climate here at home, COP26 is not simply about the race to net zero among advanced economies; it is also about delivering on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and making tangible progress on adaptation, loss and damage, and financial assistance.

As I know the COP26 President is aware, this agenda is a defining one for many African states, the most vulnerable developing countries and small island states. Those nations were essential to the international consensus on which the success at Paris was built, and their active consent is imperative for a successful outcome in Glasgow.

With only limited progress made in this area last year, with trust in short supply and with concerns heightened by decisions such as the cut to the UK’s overseas aid budget, this must be a diplomatic priority over the next eight months. Again, perhaps in his closing remarks the COP26 President could tell the House what more the Government intend to do in that period to demonstrate solidarity and support for those on the frontline of the climate crisis, particularly in bringing forward finance on loss and damage and in meeting. and then surpassing, the US$100 billion a year.

According to the OECD, less than $80 billion has been pledged so far, with only $12 billion taking the form of grants rather than loans. The UK’s record in that regard is a good one, but perhaps the COP26 President could remark on whether he sees loans as a legitimate means to meet the target and whether he thinks there is a need to rebalance loans towards grants to make up the $100 billion.

My third point is about domestic policy. There is an obligation on the House to engage properly with the climate diplomacy required to deliver a successful COP26. At the same time, as hosts, we cannot overlook the impact of domestic decisions on the outcome of the conference. As Opposition Members have argued time and again, the UK will not be able to play its full part in building and sustaining the requisite momentum ahead of COP26 if we are not seen to lead by example. Yet, whether it is acquiescing to the opening of a new deep coalmine in Cumbria—

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West

That coal is vital for the steel industry. If we do not produce it domestically, we import it from abroad. How does that influence the hon. Gentleman’s decision? We could have 2,500 jobs in the UK, but the carbon emissions are the same either way.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The hon. Gentleman is correct that we will need coking coal for UK steel for some years to come, but I am sure he will know that UK steel must go net zero by 2035 and less than 15% of the coking coal produced, if that, will be used for UK steel. What he misses is that the cumulative emissions from the mine will have a material impact on UK emissions, on our net zero target and on our credibility and reputation ahead of this crucial conference. I do not think the business case, let alone the emissions reduction case, stacks up.

The coalmine in Cumbria is just one example. By allowing UKEF to provide financial support for overseas fossil fuel projects when a consultation on ending the practice altogether is under way, or having a Budget, as many speakers have said in this debate, in which climate was, frankly, an afterthought—many other examples have been cited by hon. Members—the Government continue to fall short when it comes to domestic policy.

Our credibility as COP26 hosts requires the Government not only to bring forward, before 1 November, a comprehensive plan for achieving net zero but to take concrete steps now to get on track for that legally binding target, to ensure that decarbonisation and a green recovery are a top priority as we ease coronavirus restrictions and rebuild our economy, and to cease taking decisions such as the one cited by Chris Green that expose our country to charges of hypocrisy on the international stage ahead of this critical summit.

In responding to this very welcome debate, I hope the COP26 President will assure hon. and right hon. Members that he understands the very real impact of domestic policy choices on the summit and that he is personally doing all he can to ensure the Government take the steps necessary to put their house in order in the months that remain.

This decade is the crucial decade for climate action. As the landmark 1.5° report published by the UN some years ago made clear:

“The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

COP26 is the first of only two ratchet points in this crucial decade. The decisions that are made in the lead-up to it and hopefully at it, in terms of extra ambition, will set the trajectory for climate action up to 2030.

We cannot squander the opportunity for transformational change that the summit presents. As the first country to industrialise, the world’s sixth-largest economy and its host, we cannot fail in our duty to do what is necessary to deliver success at that summit. That means threading climate throughout our diplomatic efforts: our approach to the G7 and G20, the Work Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings, the plethora of international events that will take place over the next eight months and our economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, with resources to match. I will finish on this, Mr Deputy Speaker. It means the President—I know he is committed to his agenda—and his agenda having the necessary status within Government to deliver all that he needs to do at home and abroad.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma Minister without Portfolio , COP26 President (Cabinet Office) 6:40 pm, 10th March 2021

Climate change is the biggest challenge we face as a global community and we know that it does not take time off. Year after year, the world is experiencing the increasingly damaging effects of a rise in global temperatures. Last year was, on a par with 2016, the hottest year ever recorded. We witnessed wildfires blaze across Australia, Europe and the US west coast. We saw flooding and locusts destroying crops in east Africa. Earlier this year, Cyclone Ana hit Fiji, sending thousands fleeing to evacuation centres. Through my work on COP26, I have witnessed the devastating impacts of climate change: melting glaciers, sea level rises, crop degradation, deforestation and pollution choking some of the world’s greatest cities. I have spoken to the communities on the frontline of the fight against climate change. I have spoken to them about how their lives have been disrupted, how their livelihoods are threatened, how their homes are at risk. We cannot go on as we are.

I thank the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Darren Jones, for opening this debate on COP26, which we all want to see as a decisive and positive moment in the battle against climate change. He spoke with great eloquence, as have other right hon. and hon. Members. I want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) and for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) for their very kind words. I also thank my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin and other colleagues for their offers of support on the road to COP26. I also thank Matthew Pennycook for offering the Opposition’s support as we go forward. What we all agree is that this is an issue that unites us. It unites us in a common mission to protect our planet and our people.

Tackling climate change is a clear priority for the Government. We were the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero by 2050, and since 2000 we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 country. Last year, the Prime Minister set out his 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution: a plan to cut emissions, but at the same time to create high-value green jobs and turbocharge the economy. As colleagues on both sides of the House have acknowledged, we have also set an ambitious and world-leading commitment to cut our own emissions by at least 68% by 2030 on the base year of 1990. Of course now, through our presidency of COP26, we have a unique opportunity to drive global ambition but also action.

Colleagues have raised a range of issues, and I would like to focus on three of the key topics that have come up. First, what are our aims for COP26? What are we planning to achieve? Secondly, do we have the resources to deliver? Thirdly, how are the practical planning and logistics for the event progressing?

I can tell the House that we have four key aims for COP26.We are asking nations: first, to commit to global net zero and, vitally, as colleagues have noted, to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with net zero and keep the goal of limiting average global temperature rises to 1.5° within reach; secondly, to set out plans urgently to protect communities and natural habitats and to help them to adapt to the damaging effects of climate change; thirdly, to agree funding to support these aims, making good on the $100 billion commitment in public finances that was agreed at Paris and, of course, also unleashing private finance. I agree with colleagues when they say that the $100 billion figure is totemic. It is a matter of trust for vulnerable countries, for developing nations, and donor countries must deliver on that. At the end of this month, we will be holding a climate and development event. It will be a ministerial event, attended by Ministers from donor countries and from vulnerable countries, but it will also involve civil society, and we will talk about the issues around climate finance. Fourthly, we want to work to close off the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook and accelerate delivery of the Paris goals through collaboration between Governments, businesses and civil society.

My right hon. Friend Philip Dunne mentioned article 6. He is absolutely right; it is one of the items that we will have to close off, as well as timelines for submitting further nationally determined contributions, reporting transparency, and, of course, delivering through the energy transition, nature and transport campaigns that we are running as part of COP26.

We have made progress to date. When the UK took on the COP presidency, less than 30% of global GDP was covered by net zero commitments. That figure stands at 70% today, and it includes Japan, South Korea, the USA and China. In December last year, the UK co-hosted the Climate Ambition Summit, with 75 world leaders making concrete commitments to tackling climate change. However, as hon. Members have noted, the UNFCCC NDC synthesis report, which was published last month, demonstrates that we have much, much more to do when it comes to these near-term emissions reductions targets.

Colleagues have rightly asked if we have adequate resources dedicated to the task in hand. In summary, the answer is yes. I am supported by the full weight of the British Government in this endeavour, with the Prime Minister leading from the front. He chairs the UK Government’s climate action strategy Cabinet Committee, which sets the UK’s path to net zero, and I chair the UK Government’s climate action implementation Cabinet Committee, which sets the UK’s delivery of its climate plans. This means that there is full Cabinet oversight of policy and delivery.

With regards to the resourcing of COP26, I can tell the House that there are over 200 posts in the COP26 unit, and a number of Departments have also created dedicated COP26 teams, including Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, all heads of mission have been instructed by the Foreign Secretary to make delivery of COP26 objectives a top priority. They are supported by our overseas network of over 430 climate and energy attachés. This is the world’s first diplomatic network dedicated to this agenda.

I, of course, am now working full time on COP26. I have personally engaged with Ministers in more than 50 Governments, including recently with India’s Prime Minister Modi, US special envoy John Kerry, who was here on Monday for discussions with us, and China’s special envoy for climate change, Minister Xie Zhenhua.

Of course, we will work with like-minded colleagues around the world to deliver at Glasgow. I speak regularly with negotiating group chairs and chief negotiators, the United Nations, development banks, civil society groups and business. In recent weeks, I have also made a number of international visits, where I have always felt well supported by the UK Government network. All in all, we are well resourced for COP.

Turning to event logistics and planning, COP26, as colleagues have noted, will be the biggest international summit that the UK has ever hosted. It might be useful if I explain to the House how the event will work. It will be delivered across two sites. The Scottish events campus will be the United Nations-managed space. It will host the formal negotiations and will see delegates from 197 parties come together, alongside accredited observer organisations.

On the other side of the River Clyde, in the Glasgow Science Centre, the UK Government will host a platform for the general public and stakeholders to have their voices heard through events, exhibitions, workshops and talks that promote dialogue, awareness, education and commitments in the climate change space. As part of our preparations, Glasgow City Council has launched a host city volunteer programme for COP26. I can tell the House that it has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with more than 7,000 applications to date, far exceeding the 1,000 volunteers that we need.

My right hon. Friend David Mundell will be pleased to note that through the “Together for our planet” campaign, which we launched last November, we will work with partners to inspire the public across the UK to be more engaged in climate action in the run-up to COP26. I agree that we cannot have an event that is seen by the general public as one where world leaders fly in and fly out without any connection to the lives of people across our country and, indeed, across the world.

I have also established an international civil society and youth advisory council to support our COP preparations and to ensure that we deliver an inclusive COP. We are progressing planning for an in-person event, with consideration of how we can best use technology to increase inclusion and sustainability. In addition, robust contingency plans for the range of covid-19 scenarios are being prepared, so that we can rapidly adapt were it to prove necessary.

My team has regular engagement with the Scottish Government and Scottish operational delivery partners through a monthly operational delivery board. We have a joint delivery framework that has been agreed with partners, including the Scottish Government, endorsing an inclusive, all-UK approach to COP26. I have also invited Climate Change Ministers from the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to participate in a devolved Administrations group to ensure effective engagement and collaboration on COP26. I can confirm that the next meeting is scheduled for later this month.

A number of colleagues raised the issue of budgets. Discussions on costs for COP26 are ongoing and final budgets are yet to be confirmed, but let me be very clear to the House that we will ensure that the right resources are made available for this summit. Of course, we also want to deliver the event in a manner that represents value for money for the taxpayer, and we are following robust procurement, assurance and peer review processes.

We have also secured sponsorship to take the cost burden off the taxpayer. Our current principal partners are SSE, ScottishPower, Sky, Sainsbury’s, NatWest Group, National Grid and Hitachi, and we are actively seeking more. We will ensure that this event is safe, secure, sustainable and inclusive, and above all that it leaves a lasting legacy in the United Kingdom, allowing Glasgow to flourish as the host city.

I very much welcome the interest from hon. Members and Select Committees, and of course from all the all-party parliamentary groups that have shown an interest in COP. I think that is right and proper, and I have said that I will engage as much as I can with parliamentarians and all-party groups and work with them so that we can bring about success at COP26.

In conclusion, I do not underestimate the challenge of delivering on all our goals for COP26. That is why we are putting the full weight of the UK Government, working with partners around the world, behind our efforts. I also want to see the green thread of climate action running deep through our G7 presidency and, indeed, through the range of international events that will happen between now and COP26. As an international community, we must deliver at Glasgow, for the sake of our generation and future generations.

Photo of Darren Jones Darren Jones Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 6:56 pm, 10th March 2021

I thank the COP26 President for his full response, for which I am grateful in so many ways. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee and the Liaison Committee for granting this important debate, and I am grateful for the contributions from so many right hon. and hon. Members this evening.

In the time allotted to me, I will reflect briefly on some of the major issues that came up. There was a clear consensus across the House on the urgency of bridging the gap between political announcements and actual delivery in countries around the world. I was encouraged to hear the COP26 President’s confirmation of dedicated climate attachés in the Foreign Office. As many have said, the concept of a climate diplomat will not go away after COP26; it will stay with us in many countries around the world as we continue to grapple with this issue in the decades ahead.

COP26 is an opportunity for the UK not just to persuade countries to do the right thing but to show them how we have done it ourselves. For all the criticisms—I will come back to some of those in a second—we have made great progress in the UK, especially in decarbonisation of power, something that we can show other countries around the world how to achieve through our companies, our innovators and our engineers.

That could be helpful, I might suggest, for countries that are perhaps dragging their feet a little on NDCs. The shadow Minister, my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook, mentioned Australia. I should declare an interest, since I am married to an Australian and half my family lives there. Australia needs to make more progress in its climate commitments. While we are negotiating trade deals and perhaps showing the way in which companies, British and otherwise, can make a difference, we might want to couple that climate diplomacy with—that old phrase—industrial strategy as an opportunity for both countries to take forward.

The commitment today to climate aid was also very important, and it will be important even after covid. I know that it is difficult for wealthy nations, having borrowed so much money to deal with covid, to make climate aid commitments, but there is no choice; we have to do it. Indeed, poorer nations are in more difficult situations than wealthier nations, even in the context of covid spending. They are unable just to borrow on international markets to pay, and it is therefore more important than it was pre-pandemic for wealthy nations to step up to their obligations.

Of course, a number of points were also made about the UK’s own domestic performance, which is not directly related to our delivery of COP26 but is important symbolically, to show the world that, as president of COP, we lead with our action as well as our commitments. Here I wish to comment on coalmines in the UK. I agree entirely that the coalmine proposed in Cumbria is not about heating. Indeed, we have enormous challenges on decarbonising heat in the UK, be it hydrogen, heat pumps or heat networks, since we have so much progress to make and so little finance earmarked to make that transition. The steel industry—a foundational industry that I support very much in the UK—is going through a period of transition and needs to go through the net zero transition. That would be a good example, albeit following the scrapping of the industrial strategy, of how Government action, in partnership with industry, can facilitate the net zero transition even in difficult circumstances. I am afraid that we seem to have been missing that opportunity.

There is clearly cross-party support in the House for us to achieve our ambitions at COP26, including from Select Committees and all-party parliamentary groups. I thank my fellow Committee Chairs who spoke in the debate. Our Committees have agreed to collaborate on this issue to ensure full coverage and support for the Government in the delivery of COP26. All of us look forward to supporting the President and his team and hopefully attending COP26 in Glasgow in November, then celebrating the success of that conference as we move from a commitment in Paris to delivery on the ground.

Question deferred (Standing Order No. 54(4)).

The Deputy Speaker put the deferred Questions (Standing Order No. 54(5)).