[Relevant Documents: Third Report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Session 2019–21, Net zero and UN climate summits: Scrutiny of Preparations for COP26 – interim report, HC 1265, and the Government response, HC 120. Oral evidence taken by the Environmental Audit Committee on
As people can already see, many Members want to participate in the debate. My advice is for Members to make short contributions so that we can get everybody in not just to this debate but to the following one.
I beg to move,
“That this House
has considered COP26 and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
It is a pleasure to open the debate on COP26 and limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. I would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee for recognising the pressing need for this debate and all Members who have offered their support.
The 2015 Paris agreement commits parties to:
“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.
The difference that just half a degree can make has been underscored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on 1.5°C. It could mean many millions more people being subjected to life-threatening climate events from unprecedented crop failures and food insecurity to risks from diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, extreme heat and sea level rises. Staying below 1.5°C is essential for all of us, yet the IPCC’s most recent report warned that unless there are
“immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”
Globally, far from being on track for the 45% emission reduction by 2030 that scientists say is essential, we are on course for an emissions rise of 16%.
That is the context in which the UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow. That is why the coming decade has been called the most consequential decade in human history, and it is why, as COP26 president and as the nation that led the industrial revolution, fuelled by coal and colonialism, the UK has a particular responsibility to lead the transition to a sustainable, just and resilient world in line with the science and with climate justice.
I thank the hon. Member for opening the debate, and she knows I listen carefully to what she says. I really welcome the net zero strategy the Government announced this week. I think Ministers do deserve credit for being the first major economy to legislate for net zero, and we are decarbonising faster than any G7 country. I realise that for our opponents there is a temptation to pour scorn, express cynicism and say it will never be enough, but as somebody who is nationally recognised as being a thought leader in this space, which part of the Government’s net zero strategy outlined this week would she like to praise and give credit to?
I have no problem in praising the Government’s targets. What I have problems with is looking at the fact that there is a dearth of actual actions to meet those targets. That is what we see again and again. The Climate Change Committee has itself said that there are no real plans to deliver the targets that are set. Frankly, the climate cares very little for targets. What it wants are the concrete policies to meet them.
I commend the hon. Lady for everything she has done in bringing these issues to the House for our attention. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as host of this year’s conference, must be vocal and committed in relation to our net zero emissions, and thereby pose as role models for others to follow. Does the hon. Lady agree?
No one questions the hon. Lady’s commitment on these issues, but is it not a bit unfair to criticise the Government for a lack of concrete action when, for example, the proportion of electricity generated by coal has fallen, since 2013, from 40% to less than 2%? That is a real change. When it comes to looking forward, a number of new technologies are still necessary if we are going to avoid the climate tipping point. Does she agree that investment in science and technology is going to be a crucial part of the mix?
The right hon. Member is absolutely right. The power sector is the one sector that is going faster than the others, and that is an area where we can have a greater amount of confidence. My colleague, Wera Hobhouse, did just whisper to me, “Thanks to the Lib Dems when they were in coalition Government”. It is also of course to do with some of the big changes made some time ago under Margaret Thatcher—we would not necessarily say that they were done for the right reasons and in the right way, but they certainly did get emissions down—and I do pay tribute for that particular part of the equation.
On science and technology, yes, of course they are going to have a massive role to play, but so too is Government changing the policy framework within which decisions are made. The difference between some of us on this side of the House and those on the right hon. Gentleman’s side is that, all too often, it sounds as though Conservative Members are imagining we can continue with business as usual but, with some technology, just changing the technologies we are using to deliver that business as usual. What we recognise is that we need not just behaviour change, but systems change. We need to change the kind of economic system we have, which is a far bigger change than what we have been talking about so far.
Let me just make a little bit of progress, and I promise that I will let others in.
The UK presidency has identified four goals for COP26. The first is to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5°C within reach, but I want to say to the House that the climate does not actually care much about target dates. What matters is how much carbon has been emitted into the atmosphere and how much will be emitted over the rest of this century. The figures are quite stark, so I hope that the House will indulge me while I go through them.
Based on the IPCC’s calculations, the global remaining carbon budget—the total we can afford to burn between now and the time we reach net zero if we want to give ourselves a two thirds chance of staying within 1.5°C of warming—is just 320 billion tonnes from the start of next year. Given that we are currently burning through that at a rate of 40 billion tonnes a year, it does not take much to do the maths and to conclude that, by 2030, it will be gone if we do not rapidly rid ourselves of fossil fuels. That is the global picture.
To replay that in the domestic picture for our own carbon targets, if we divide the global budget equally on a per capita basis, but also allow for our disproportionate responsibility for the cumulative emissions in the atmosphere—after all, we were the leaders of the industrial revolution—it has been calculated that it would leave the UK a budget of just 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is a vanishingly small amount in the wider scheme of things when we adjust still further to allow for the carbon burned overseas in the service of UK consumption as well as our territorial emissions. Measured like that, our total carbon footprint is about 500 million tonnes a year. Again, I say to the House: do the maths. That gives us barely five years before our 2.4 billion tonne budget is gone. That is the reality. That is the inconvenient truth.
The hon. Member is making an excellent beginning to this great debate, and it is so good to see so many people speaking. What does she make of the cuts to international aid, which have made the problem for the future outlook even worse?
I will certainly be coming to that shortly, because I cannot think of a more damaging thing to have done a matter of months, as it was, before the COP26—a big global summit at which we need to have the trust of the developing countries. I think the idea that one of the richest countries in the world would just slash our aid budget is absolutely unforgivable, and we cannot be surprised that some of the poorest countries do not have confidence in us.
The hon. Member is making some excellent points in her speech. On the point about developing nations, it is the most vulnerable who pay the price, and international climate finance is based on debt, which is locking these countries into more debt. Would she not agree that now is the time to look at grants to help these developing nations and communities get out of that?
I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. It is quite shocking for people to realise that so much of our climate finance is actually in the form of loans, not grants. Given that we are talking about some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, which are already trying to cope with the impacts of climate change, for which they were entirely not responsible, I think the idea that we are then going to ask them for interest on those debts is absolutely obscene.
I was very proud to support this debate, and I am delighted that the hon. Member has secured it. Is that not why the concept of climate justice is so important? We should recognise the historical obligation we have in this part of the world for having contributed to climate change to those who have done the least to cause it and who are being hit first and hardest. That is a concept the Scottish Parliament has recognised and is trying to live up to, and it is a standard that we still have not heard the UK Government accept. Would it not be helpful if, at the end of this debate, the Minister said that the UK Government accepted the need to achieve climate justice?
“It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences.”
Yet he has not grasped the implications of his own statement. As the hon. Member has just said, climate justice means the biggest economies doing far more and being far more ambitious than net zero in 30 years’ time. Climate justice means cutting emissions at home, without overreliance on international offsets or costly and uncertain negative emissions technologies. Climate justice also means recognising the obscenity of continuing with business as usual knowing that young people, especially those in climate-vulnerable countries, are paying for it literally with their futures.
I thank the hon. Lady for her excellent speech. Following that point, at COP26 do we need to get proper funding for technology transfer to the poorest countries in the world, which need such technology to protect their environments? Unfortunately, the signs following covid, where there has not been a proper sharing of vaccines or vaccine knowledge, are not good. We have to internationalise our knowledge freely across the whole world in order to protect the environment on which we all rely.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, with which I wholeheartedly agree. I particularly agree that if we look at the covid pandemic as an example of international co-operation, it does not augur well. If we cannot properly share technology and vaccines even when our own wellbeing depends so directly on that, it does not augur well for the climate crisis. We absolutely need the kind of technology transfer to which he refers.
Let me say a few words about the Government’s own track record, because we are not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, let alone the sixth carbon budget, which is the first to be based on net zero by 2050, rather than the older 80% reduction. Just last month, Green Alliance calculated that the Government policies announced since 2020 will cut emissions by just 24% by 2032, and that the policies out for consultation, even if enacted, would still fall far short of the fifth carbon budget. This week’s publications of the net zero strategy and the heat and building strategy lack ambition. They lack urgency and—crucially—they lack the serious funding we need. As a result they still do not do enough to get us back on track. Time is running out in the race for our future, and the Government are barely over the starting line.
Not only are the Government not doing enough of the right things, but they are actively doing too many wrong things. Consider some of the most egregious examples on the charge sheet: a £27 billion road building scheme; the expansion of airports; scrapping the green homes grant just six months after it was introduced; stripping climate change clauses out of trade deals; and an obligation still in statute to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum. Perhaps most egregious of all, we are pressing ahead with Cambo, a new oilfield off Shetland. No wonder the Climate Change Committee has concluded that the Government continue to
“blunder into high carbon choices”.
Leading by example on climate and nature matters, not just here at home, but because globally the first rule of diplomacy is to walk your talk. Perhaps it is not surprising that, despite what I am sure have been the best efforts of the COP26 President-designate, the Government have so far failed to persuade many other countries to come forward with climate targets aligned to 1.5°C. Indeed, Gambia is currently the only country whose climate pledge is compatible with 1.5°C. Based on the UN’s assessment of the nationally determined contributions submitted so far, the world is on track for warming of around 2.7°C. That cannot be allowed to happen. Shamefully, almost 90 countries responsible for more than 40% of global emissions, including China and India, failed to meet the UN deadline at the end of July to submit new pledges ahead of the Glasgow meeting. What more will the Government do to galvanise more ambitious action to keep 1.5°C alive? What is the President’s plan post-COP26 if the world’s collective pledges are not compatible with 1.5°C?
The Government’s second goal for COP26 is to adapt to protect communities and natural habitats. Globally, Ministers need to lead efforts for a new post-2025 public finance goal, specifically for adaptation, and ensure that other countries and the multilateral development banks follow the UK’s commitment to ringfence 50% of climate finance for adaptation. We need a scaling up of locally led adaptation and support that is accessible and responsive to the needs of marginalised groups. We also need ambitious and rigorous ecosystem protection and restoration incorporated into the enhanced nationally determined contributions and adaptation plans of all countries. Nature, with its vast ability to store carbon and cushion us from shocks such as flooding, is our biggest ally in the fight against climate breakdown. It is therefore shocking that just weeks before the start of COP26, more than 100 fires have been reported on England’s peatlands. They are a vital carbon store, and it is environmental vandalism to set fire to them right now. The climate and nature emergencies are two sides of the same coin, and they need to be addressed together with far greater co-ordination.
Let me move to the third goal of mobilising finance. The COP26 President has stated that delivering the 10-year finance pledge is a matter of trust. Yes it is, but when that pledge has not been delivered anything like in full, trust is at breaking point. Any leverage that the UK might have had in persuading others to step up has been carelessly thrown away by its becoming the only G7 country to cut overseas aid in the midst of a pandemic. That unforgiveable decision means that climate programmes are being slashed, leaving some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries bearing the brunt. For example, aid to Bangladesh has been cut by more than £100 million. It is not too late to change direction, restore the official development assistance budget, ensure that climate finance is genuinely new and additional, and increase our commitment so that we are providing our fair share.
We must also act on loss and damage—a subject far too long consigned to the margins of negotiations. I welcome the UK presidency’s more constructive approach to that issue, including making progress on operationalising the so-called Santiago Network, but we need to do more. We must facilitate a process to scale up dedicated finance specifically for loss and damage, and we must acknowledge that as the third pillar of climate action, on a par with mitigation and adaptation. We must ensure that it has its own dedicated space on every COP agenda, and take forward calls for a specific loss and damage champion. It is long past time for the more wealthy countries to put aside their concerns about liability and compensation, and instead to come from a place of solidarity and human rights, in order to make meaningful progress on loss and damage and delivering new finance. As the young Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate has said:
“Our leaders are lost and our planet is damaged…You cannot adapt to lost cultures, you cannot adapt to lost traditions, you cannot adapt to lost history, you cannot adapt to starvation. You cannot adapt to extinction.”
The climate crisis is pushing many communities beyond their ability to adapt.
The fourth goal of the COP26 presidency is to work together to deliver. No one would argue with that, but I go back to the context in which these talks are being held. The summit is taking place while the pandemic continues to rage in many of the poorest countries, as a direct result of vaccine apartheid. Only around 2% of the populations of low-income countries have received even one dose of the vaccine, and of the 554 million doses promised by the richest nations, just 16% have so far reached their destination. That failure is morally obscene, as well as running entirely counter to our own self-interest. If COP26 is to succeed, the concerns and justified anger of countries in the global south urgently need to be addressed. That means providing enough finance and vaccines to match the need, waiving intellectual property rights, and transferring technical capacity and expertise.
Glasgow is not only crucial for delivering climate ambition and finance in line with the Paris agreement; it is also a litmus test for safer, fairer, more inclusive forms of economic restructuring and global governance. It is a chance urgently to shift to an economic system that values the long-term wellbeing of people and planet above the endless growth that, in the words of the OECD, has generated “significant harms” over recent decades. When the climate crisis is caused by our extractive, exploitative economic model, we cannot expect to win the chance for a better future by re-running a race that we see we will ultimately lose, and that everyone else will lose as well.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to intervene before she winds up her speech, and I am pleased that she secured the support of the Backbench Business Committee to hold this important debate ahead of COP26, which starts in under two weeks. She has spoken powerfully, and in the light of what she has said, does she agree that the UK is showing leadership in, for example, including international aviation and maritime emissions in our sixth carbon budget—we are the first and, so far, only country prepared to do that? She has called on this country to do that for some time, so will she at least welcome it?
I thank the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee for his intervention. I welcome the fact that aviation and shipping will be brought into our climate budgets but, as always, the devil will be in the detail. I have great concern that some will try to find ways of assuming that technology can get us out of this hole as well. I suggest that it cannot, and that we need proposals such as those made by the citizens Climate Assembly on a frequent flier levy. I think we need to change behaviour, rather than think that technology will get us out of the hole, but I look forward to seeing the Government’s plans. [Interruption.] I am winding up, Madam Deputy Speaker—I have less than four minutes. You will be pleased to know I have a page to go, and I am rattling through it.
To conclude, if the UK Government are to rise to the challenge of being president of the most important global summit in a generation, and if we are to keep 1.5° alive, we need a justice reset to be at the heart of all four of the Government’s objectives. Will the Minister therefore say what more will be done to ensure that countries such as China, Russia and Brazil step up, and to demonstrate more ambitious leadership at home? Will she urge her colleagues in the Government to reverse the aid cut and step up with new funds for loss and damage, and will she propose a revision to our own domestic emissions reduction target based on that new understanding of what constitutes our fair share of the global climate budget?
I am championing in Parliament the new climate and ecological emergency Bill, which sets out a legal framework to do just that. It is backed by more than 115 MPs and many councils, businesses and organisations, and I commend it to the Minister. This is our last chance—our best chance. The young people who are striking for the climate and for a safer world know that. The workers who are demanding a just transition know that. The businesses that are, frankly, far outstripping Governments when it comes to climate targets and actions know that. It is time for the Government to recognise that we can all win, and that to successfully rise to the challenges facing us all—to seize this chance—is perfectly possible with the political will. If we do not do it, we will never be forgiven by history.
Order. I realise that Caroline Lucas took a number of interventions, but I just remind her that we try to get as many others in as possible, and the guidance for opening speeches is a maximum of 15 minutes. I am afraid that I am going to have to impose a time limit straightaway, which will be four minutes.
It is an honour to be called so early in this most important debate. I congratulate Caroline Lucas on obtaining it at such a timely moment, and on speaking with her characteristic enthusiasm and charm, if I may say so, while not relenting on the urgency of the problem and the challenge that we face.
I will be attending the COP as Chairman of the Liaison Committee with a number of other Select Committee Chairs, and we will be concentrating very much on how we scrutinise the Government’s performance to deliver the COP goals. I think that this House sometimes gets a little negative, by finding fault with what the Government have or have not done. We should ask creatively and think positively about what the Government are going to do in the future and hold them accountable for that. [Interruption.] That is not a criticism of the Opposition. I have been in opposition as well; I know what it is like. This is too important. That is what we are going to do. We want the Government to define the metrics by which they will measure the performance of their own Departments.
I do not agree with all the hon. Lady’s figures, but if hon. Members watch the video that I produced just before the conference—if people google “Bernard Jenkin COP debate YouTube”, they will find the 11-minute video that I launched about climate change—they will see that she almost understates the perilous future that humanity faces on the present projections. The IPCC’s midpoint projections show that we are planning, as a race, to put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and the end of this century than in the whole of human history so far. That is completely unacceptable, but that is the current trend. We have to change that.
We have to change the population projections. We cannot have over 11 billion people on the face of this planet by the end of this century; we will destroy the opportunity of our children and our grandchildren to survive. We cannot continue the massive decimation of species in our oceans and on our lands among the five living kingdoms of species on this planet. We are seeing an acceleration of species decline as we speak. And we cannot continue the wanton despoliation of our planet—the rape of our seas, the plundering of natural resources, the destruction of carbon-absorbing habitats—which is also still accelerating, despite all that we are doing.
In order for us to address that, this country must demonstrate that we can do and lead better than anyone else. I am the first to admire how the Prime Minister has put the environment at the top of the Government’s agenda, set targets and put this issue at the heart of the national debate, but we must still do much better. The machinery of government is simply not up to this. The Cabinet Committee system and the Cabinet Office are not thinking strategically enough about these huge challenges to deliver what is necessary. I have long complained, in this House and in my work as a Select Committee Chair, about the lack of strategic capacity at the heart of Government. That is what we must now address, and that is what I will be addressing.
It is a pleasure to follow Sir Bernard Jenkin in probably the most important debate that we could hold on any topic, notwithstanding what we have been discussing earlier today and all the other important issues that we have to face up to.
I agree with the analysis of Caroline Lucas, so I will not repeat it; I will get straight to the heart of what must we do rather than discussing what the problems are. Even a former sceptic, as I believe the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex is—clearly, he is not a sceptic now—has cottoned on that the question is what we do now and what issues we should be addressing.
I freely acknowledge that there are strengths in the Government’s approach, but there are also weaknesses, so I will use my time to focus on a few of those. While I am getting myself into trouble, however, may I welcome the former Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn? He has been a constant campaigner on these issues and has led the way for the rest of us.
The weaknesses on the Government’s side include the question of home insulation. I am proud to have been one of the lead sponsors of the Labour party’s Opposition day motion in 2019 declaring a national climate and environment emergency, which made our country the first in the world to do so. I want a green recovery and a green industrial strategy. I want it for the north-east of England, just as I am sure, Dame Rosie, you want it for Yorkshire. There are jobs in this; there is a positive contribution that we can make.
I wish to draw attention to the position of our great oceans in all this. I do not think the effect that we are having on the sea gets the attention it deserves. The oceans act as a natural climate moderator, mediating temperature, driving the weather and determining rainfall, droughts and floods. Crucially, they are also effective in absorbing heat and carbon dioxide.
My right hon. Friend mentioned his own track record in relation to the amount of work that needs to be done. Is he aware of the enormous amount of people who need to be trained even to install heat pumps, which is the Government’s current proposal? The umbrella body says that we need thousands more workers to be trained for that. What assessment has he made of the challenge to the workforce and the people who will install all this new technology?
I think my hon. Friend is on to a very good point. I am struck by the limited number of heat pumps that are proposed, given what was earlier presented. Moreover, there is some scepticism as to whether they work to deliver the sort of output that people currently get from their gas boilers. I am also worried about how my constituents will pay for them. Although there is a subsidy of £5,000, the remaining sum is still a large amount of money for a working-class family to find. Even on the assumption that the boilers work, not everyone lives in a home that is suitable to have them installed—we think of the obvious example of flats and so on. I am not saying we should not explore all these technologies, but we need to be aware of the limitations.
The Government have wrapped their package up as one big package that will deliver results. They are, frankly, being optimistic, so we need to be sceptical. However, we also need to keep an open mind on issues such as smaller nuclear reactors that the Government, rightly, have put money behind and are exploring. It is very early days for what would be a relatively new industry for us if it were not for the defence sector. There probably is a positive role to play here, so that is an aspect of the Government’s policy that I would welcome.
My right hon. Friend is making some very good points. There are reports today that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are trying to change a report on phasing out fossil fuels. Is it not for the UK Government to make sure that all countries are working together to meet targets and reach the 1.5°C limit?
I was very disappointed to hear those reports on the broadcast news this morning. Being a Newcastle MP, I have to be cautious as to what I say about Saudi Arabia, for reasons I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend Clive Lewis says, “Don’t hold back.” I have probably got myself into more than enough trouble today, without flirting with yet more of it.
The time for our country to make a clear stand and to show clear leadership is now. It is our opportunity to build on the Paris agreement. I hope we do so and I wish the Government well in their endeavours. I want to give as much positive support to the Government’s efforts as I can. Are they doing enough? Probably not. We need to do more.
It is an honour to be called in this debate, and I congratulate Caroline Lucas on securing it. I am conscious of the time, so I would like to make my remarks first of all on what is happening locally in my constituency and in the county, and then talk a little bit about leadership, which has been referred to already.
I pay tribute to everyone in Hertford and Stortford—individual residents and groups—who is working every day to highlight this issue and to take practical steps. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a series of events by the Hertford and Our Changing Climate group of local residents, who are very, very focused on the practical steps we can all take to make a difference. They talked about where we can put our cash, what investments we can use, what cars we can drive, what changes we can make to our own homes, and to our transport and habits—very practical behavioural change. I applaud them for that initiative.
I am so glad that my hon. Friend is opening her speech by talking about local action, on top of the international change that the Government can instigate. Winchester Area SuperHomes, which is really pressing the retrofit issue, is a great example in my constituency of local action. I used to think it was all about recreating the green deal or the green homes grant. That is important from a national perspective to help our communities, but actually a lot of the answer can be found in our local organisations and I am so pleased she is mentioning them.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, because it is really important that we encourage and recognise the work our constituents, individually and in groups, are doing.
I would also like to mention the Bishop’s Stortford Climate Group, who hold my feet to the fire and all our feet to the fire. They challenge because they care. Our constituents really care about this issue. They are holding events called “the gathering” in the next few weeks, including local authorities, individuals and other groups, to keep the momentum in the run-up to COP26, which is so important. I thank them for that. I thank the efforts of both my local authorities, at district level and county level. I will mention one particular project that I think has huge potential to change our lives in Hertfordshire, and that is the Hertfordshire-Essex rapid transit—HERT—project. Such local projects will scale up and make a difference to us all on a national basis.
I accept that there is lots happening, but there is lots to do. On the question of leadership, the Government and the country are taking a really important leadership role. Being the world leader in setting targets, such as the 2050 net zero target and interim targets within that, is a really important thing. I do not think we can overstate that. We have had the shorthand for some of the targets—coal, cars, cash and trees—which encompass some of the key areas on which we are taking a leadership role. I understand that with the nature of the task and the challenge before us it is very easy to say, “Nothing is enough.” However, I do not think we can overstate the effort and the leadership this country and this Government are taking.
There are lots of aspects of leadership, but one of aspect was touched on earlier: investment in research and development and innovation. As has been mentioned, behavioural change is really important, but the technological change that will happen and will need to happen to address this challenge is happening. I believe it will happen even more quickly in the next few years. We can do it. We should all get behind the scientists, technicians and engineers who will deliver it for us, and I commend them.
It is good to speak after Julie Marson, because in many ways she embodies the best of those on the Conservative Benches on this issue.
I will congratulate the Government on some of the work they have done, and continue to do, on moving towards rectifying our climate crisis. However, the analogy I would use it this: imagine we are all sat in a car heading off a cliff edge. What we actually need is a big, hard handbrake turn to avert that cliff edge. What we have at the moment are a Government who are gently taking their foot off the accelerator. Quite simply, that is not good enough. We need a big shove on the brakes: a big handbrake turn and a big skid to turn away from there. That is not happening. I am happy that they are taking their foot off the accelerator, but frankly, for where we are at the moment, that is simply not good enough. The depressing fact is that we are still having these debates. We are still talking about keeping the temperature down to 1.5° C, even though we know this is an existential threat. We are fiddling not just while Rome burns, but while the planet burns. For those of us who have known about this for 30 years or more, that is frankly ridiculous and future generations will never forgive us.
The 2021 IPCC report was a code red for humanity, but alas a green light for business as usual for this Government. As I said earlier this week, there are two problems with the Government’s net zero strategy: net and zero. Zero, because we know, as those who were quick enough to get on the internet and see what documents the Government had put up will have seen, that aviation emissions will be increasing well beyond 2035. We will be pumping out millions of tonnes into the atmosphere well beyond 2035 and beyond 2050. And net, because the negative emission technology we are relying on to suck the carbon out of the atmosphere does not exist at scale yet and shows no signs of doing so.
Let us be honest: I believe the net zero strategy is classic greenwash, big on soundbites, small on detail and absolutely limited on systemic change—the kind of systemic change that we need if we are to avert a climate crisis.
Despite the UK being the only G20 member that is on target to achieve its commitments to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C, according to the annual Climate Transparency report, we are consistently being slammed by climate activists for not doing more. I therefore suggest that Extinction Rebellion activists sail to one of the other G20 member countries next time they wish to glue themselves to roads and trains, which disrupts the lives of everyday British people.
The report also says that the UK has lower per capita emissions output than the G20 average. Why is it that the UK consistently goes above and beyond in its commitments to reach net zero while almost every other nation falls below their fair share of climate action? We must therefore openly debate the realities of paying to reach net zero. The Government’s Climate Change Committee estimated that, to reach the 2050 target of net zero, the UK’s low-carbon investment would need to increase fivefold to around £50 billion a year by 2030. Other estimations have been significantly higher. However, the true cost, of course, is simply unknown.
The Treasury has not ruled out further tax rises to pay for the green revolution either, and how can it? At first glance, electric cars may be cheaper to run than traditional internal combustion engines but the cost to the Exchequer will be significant, because only 5% of VAT is charged on domestic electricity, which is used to charge electric cars at home, while the Chancellor received £37 billion in fuel duty and vehicle excise duty revenues in the last financial year. Losing that would create a tax vacuum equivalent to 1.5% of GDP, which will only come, invariably, through higher taxation. It is highly unlikely that that will be levied on green technology, so it will be the people left behind who cannot afford expensive electric cars and live in places that do not have the infrastructure who will undoubtedly shoulder the extra tax burden.
The same may also be said regarding the recent announcement that hundreds of millions will be spent to persuade people to get rid of gas boilers and purchase expensive heat pumps. Even with a £5,000 grant, that is still out of reach for the vast majority of working people, and those who can afford them will be forced to rely on expensive alternative heating arrangements because heat pumps provide only background heat. Bills will inevitably rise again for those unable to switch as they fund grants given to those who can.
My constituents in Blackpool will not thank the Government if they are faced with rising fuel bills, increased taxes and energy shortages, all in the name of being the world leader in achieving net zero, while much of the world stands by and watches.
“unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to…1.5 °C…will be beyond reach.”
Today, we live in a world with global warming of 1.1°C, yet it is a world already ravaged by forest fires and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. It is a world made poorer by rapid biodiversity loss and made more geopolitically unstable by profoundly changing climate patterns. Despite that, my generation may be living through the last days of relative climatic, environmental and ecological stability. It is this realisation that makes COP26 and its outcome so important.
Like others, I can see that the Government’s net zero strategy published this week was an important but overdue intervention. Its ambitions for renewable electricity generation are laudable, the emphasis on decarbonising household heating welcome, and the desire to reduce the greenhouse footprint of our transport sector commendable. And yet, action falls short of the rhetoric, especially when addressing the costs of the transition for households. The heat pump strategy, for example, needs to go further. Indeed, it will benefit only about 0.3% of Welsh households. Instead, greater capital resourcing should be given to the Welsh Government, who are responsible for housing as a devolved competence, so that they can implement a whole-house approach, addressing both insulation and heating supply.
That is just one example, but unfortunately, there are many more, which prompts the question: why? It seems that the answer lies in the Treasury and perhaps its hesitancy to accept the climate crisis for what it is: an existential crisis. It is short-sighted in the extreme for some to suggest that we cannot afford the transition. It is the cost of inaction that is unaffordable. The Treasury’s “Net Zero Review” details that the number of natural catastrophes has risen markedly since the 1980s and Munich Re has calculated that global disasters exacerbated by climate change caused $210 billion-worth of losses in 2020 alone. Meanwhile, the Climate Change Committee found the annual net cost over the next 30 years for the UK’s transition to net zero to be £10 billion, or 0.5% of GDP.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need to find positive ways to allow our constituents to be involved in making our cities and towns greener? For example, the new 110,000-tree Hempsted woods in my constituency will give every schoolchild the chance to plant at least one tree. That will be alongside the green energy from solar, wind and hydrogen that we hope to produce there. Does he agree that this is the sort of local initiative that goes alongside the national commitments?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I agree wholeheartedly. If we are to get to grips with the crisis, it will require both the national and local action that he described so eloquently.
The cost of inaction is unaffordable. Even if we were to disagree on that point, the alternative—a world aflame, flooded and barren—outweighs any short-term Treasury reservations about the cost of the green transition. To put it simply, we can and must do more. I urge the Government to support the COP26 President in the final weeks before the summit so that we achieve global successes on emissions commitments and ensure that the Chancellor’s forthcoming Budget meets the biggest challenge of our age.
It gives me enormous pleasure to speak in this place before an event of such magnitude. The agenda and discussions at the COP26 summit in just a couple of weeks’ time will be centred, quite rightly, around global vision, yet the outcomes that I believe we all want to see, and must enact, have to be at a local level across every city, town, village and community across our country.
I would like to draw the House’s attention, not for the first time in this place, to what is going on in my constituency, which I and all my constituents are so passionate about. We want to ensure that we leave this planet in a much better state than we found it for the next generation. I think of the great work that has been done on cleaning up the River Wharfe in my constituency, protecting our precious green open spaces and lobbying hard against the Aire valley incinerator, which I have spoken about many a time in this place. We have been able to make great progress on these challenges, which I face locally, but there are also many great initiatives that are happening. I pay credit to Climate Action Ilkley and businesses such as Airedale Springs, which has already taken great measures, putting solar panels on the business’s buildings so that they can provide green energy to support what it is doing.
The spirit of my constituents is exactly the attitude that I will take when I go to COP next month to speak on the benefits of regenerative agriculture and improving soil health and water quality through such farming techniques. We have already seen the great work being done in this place domestically, and it was a great pleasure to support the Environment Bill yesterday as it moves through this place. When it is passed, it will ensure that we have cleaner rivers, better air quality and more woodland planting.
The Government have also given their 10-point plan an airing with respect to how we will get the green industrial revolution moving, but our work in the fight against climate change cannot be contained to these shores. That is why the Government must use the COP26 presidency to get other countries in line with our environmental objectives. They have already made great progress through the G7 summit in Cornwall earlier this year under the leadership of the Prime Minister.
My hon. Friend is making some powerful points about what we need to do. On non-fossil fuel energy and domestic security and supply, does he agree that we should be doing lots more on nuclear, including with small modular reactors, and on marine energy, harnessing the power of tides and waves in our own country?
I completely agree. Small modular reactors definitely need to be explored and can definitely be a positive mechanism for our country to drive forward green, clean energy, which will help many of our communities. It comes back to the point that we want to have a positive impact across every city, every town, every village and every community that we represent.
As a result of the leadership shown by our Prime Minister at the G7, we have managed to get a commitment to limiting the global rise in temperature to 1.5°, achieving net zero and supporting developing countries to be greener. At COP26, the Government need to take a tougher stance on ensuring that other countries play their part in achieving those objectives, but not be complicit in doing so.
As a nation, we have shown that being more environmentally friendly need not come at a cost to national finances. In fact, over the past three decades, our economy has grown by 78%, while emissions have reduced by 44%. There is no excuse for other countries not to follow our lead. The United Kingdom should not be afraid to push the point.
I thank Caroline Lucas for securing this debate.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I want you to imagine the world in 2050. If our emissions plateau and we do not reduce them any further, our lives will feel very different. In many places in the world, the air will be clogged with pollution. Respiratory problems will be more widespread. Coastal cities will continue to suffer ever more destructive flooding in which many people will die, either from the flooding itself or from waterborne diseases. Vast regions will be affected by drought, some areas will even be deserts and 2 billion people in the hottest parts of the world will regularly experience temperatures of more than 60°C. There will also be a refugee crisis on an unimaginable scale as people are forced to leave their homes and seek safety in other places.
What I have described is the worst-case scenario spelled out by two of the architects of the Paris agreement. COP26 is our last chance to get our house in order so that we can reach net zero and limit the global temperature rise to 1°C. The IPCC’s special report is clear that we need
“rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land…infrastructure …and industrial systems”.
That means stopping investment in fossil fuels and it means a just transition to 100% renewable energy, instead of investing in 16 new North sea oil and gas projects. Frankly, it means the Government abandoning their ideology and obsession with the free market; putting mass investment on a post-war scale into millions of green jobs that are well-paid and unionised; and building the homes we need.
Will the Government support the green new deal Bill, which would transform our society’s infrastructure at the scale and pace demanded by the science and fix our rigged economic model, which fails the majority of people as well as our planet? Will they support the climate and ecological emergency Bill, which would substantially strengthen our environmental commitments and force the UK to take responsibility for the carbon emissions that it generates, not only within our borders but abroad?
Those least responsible for bringing about the climate emergency will suffer its worst consequences while Governments allow transnational polluters to get away with impunity. Developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year; as other hon. Members have said, that must be in grants, not loans. We need international financial institutions to step up and work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
It is an honour to follow Nadia Whittome.
I am going to change the tone of the debate, because in so much of it we have had a bit of negativity, whether that was from Caroline Lucas—I congratulate her on securing the debate—who was almost saying that we should atone for the sins of our fathers when it comes to our carbon, or from my hon. Friend Scott Benton, who thinks that it will cost us much more in taxes.
I disagree fundamentally with both outlooks. I very much believe that we can have a greener, better future and halt the decline. It is clearly an issue, but I do not believe that it is irreversible. Nor do I see our taxes rising: there will be many more green jobs and technologies in future to offset that and we will have a net gain in jobs and increase in wealth.
I see this as a more positive debate and the UK’s role in it as a very positive one. After all, taking the presidency of COP26 really is a marker in the sand, not just for our country, but for what we can achieve. COP26 presents a critical chance for countries to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, greener, more resilient global economy. We have heard many times in this debate why we need to do that for the environment, which is clearly correct, but we should also touch on how the population of this country want us to do it as well. Recent research from the WWF and Demos shows that the public are united in getting the UK to meet our climate goals, with 90% supporting the roll-out of electric vehicles and 77% wanting a more ambitious approach to low-carbon heating in homes.
I welcome the Government’s moves on heat pumps this week. I hope that we also get involved with hydrogen for home heating, which is another solution. The Government are making great progress. The UK stands in a position of authority because its nationally determined contribution is an emissions reduction
“by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels”— a significant increase on our previous target of 53%, and clearly in line with our 2050 target. Numerous Opposition speeches referred to NDCs; in fact, our NDC is far better than the EU’s target of only a 55% reduction. We are a global leader, and we are showing how we can do this faster.
I acknowledge that I am nearly out of time, but I want to touch briefly on the finance sector, which has an incredibly important part in the role that the UK can play in getting to a low-carbon future. The UK is a global leader in finance, but we must also show how our companies need to play their part. We have heard a lot about how the UK and the world can do more, but businesses can also do a lot more.
It is therefore important that we use COP to make it mandatory for all large companies to disclose their net zero transition plans, which should be aligned with 1.5°, and to set out a clear timeframe for mandatory implementation. As the House knows, I chair the all-party parliamentary group on environmental, social, and governance, so the subject is close to my heart. We need to get companies and business on board and show them the business opportunities of low carbon and the role they can play in lowering our emissions.
I thank Caroline Lucas for securing this debate.
The COP26 President has tweeted that
“to host a successful, inclusive #COP26 this November, both youth and civil society must be at the heart of both our preparations, and the summit itself”.
I agree that the climate emergency requires a democratic response, and our approach to the talks should reflect that. It is because we have not had enough democracy in our economy and in our society that we find ourselves debating the issue today. As long as only a few wealthy and powerful people make and lobby for decisions, those decisions will be taken in their interests, not the interests of everyone, and especially not those of the people most affected by the climate emergency.
Whether it gives people more power over our political institutions, over our communities or over our workplaces, more democracy is a precondition of averting climate catastrophe, but to people across the country, negotiations at the summit will feel very remote. I know that while many people believe passionately in taking actions to address the climate crisis, they also feel powerless. There will almost certainly be a chasm separating those campaigning for climate justice on the streets of Glasgow and those inside the conference hall, which is starkly highlighted by reports today of Governments seeking to water down key proposals ahead of COP26. That is why we have been meeting regularly in my constituency to produce a Sheffield Hallam people’s manifesto for COP26, bringing together campaigners, trade unionists, experts, economists, and people who just want to know how they can help to tackle the climate emergency. At a time when many feel voiceless, we aimed not only to put on record my constituents’ strong belief that more can and should be done, but to make concrete proposals about what they believe must be done.
I have come here today, to this Chamber, to amplify that voice, and to ask for the COP26 president to meet my constituents and me tomorrow, when they present their manifesto to No. 10 Downing Street. The ideas in the manifesto are wide-ranging, speaking to policy on planning and local government, energy, transport, finance, food, nature, industrial strategy, and international climate justice. Above all, they speak to the dynamism and ingenuity of my constituents in imagining how to do things differently.
Ministers have a choice at COP26. They can watch the world burn comfortably from the windows of the conference centre, or they can let down the drawbridge and bridge the chasm between themselves and the people watching from their televisions at home or marching in the streets of Glasgow—
I think I am going to be slightly off-message for most parties in the House, and perhaps even for the Government. I fully support the Government, I wish them well for COP26, and I support all the aims—who wouldn’t? It is perfectly sensible to be looking after the planet better. But rather than apocalyptic doom-mongering and hair-shirted flagellation, we need proper policy making from this. While we all support those aims, we are responsible for 1% of the world’s emissions, and even if we got it completely right, we would go down from 100% to 99%. Yes, we need to set an example—and I voted against the cut from 0.7% because I wanted us to be exporting green energy to the developing world—and let us be a first mover, but we need to keep a sense of perspective.
On that point about a sense of perspective, is it not the case that the emissions from the UK amount to less than 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and while it is incredibly important that we do our bit, we do not have a magic wand and we cannot solve the problem on our own?
I am sorry, but I just want to set the record straight. It is not the case that the UK is responsible for only 1% of our global emissions. If we look for the emissions that are linked to the products we consume that we import from countries such as China, we will not find them on our balance sheet, because they are on China’s balance sheet. That is not fair. We are responsible for far more than 1%, because of that and because of our historic cumulative emissions. Please let us have a debate based on fact.
I completely agree. In fact, one of the points that I am coming to is that virtue-signalling about exporting our emissions is incredibly counter-productive. Half our emissions have come about purely because we have exported our guilt to other people. So I agree with the hon. Lady, and, by the way, I thank her for this debate.
Here are some specifics for the Minister. Shutting down our own gasfields while continuing to import gas from other countries is not sensible policy making. I had the privilege of talking to Chris Stark, one of the Government’s senior climate advisers, who said that our renewables would be able to supply us in 15 or 20 years. We were discussing the issue in the context of security, especially in relation to Russian gas. Chris was absolutely right, but for the moment, whether we like it or not, we will be continuing to use that natural gas. It make no sense, therefore, for the relevant committees to deny an extension of the Jackdaw gasfield when we are simply importing gas from elsewhere. We should consider the mileage and pollution costs of bringing gas here by ship, and the fact that we are getting it either from the middle east or, sadly, indirectly from Russia.
Let me come to the point made by Caroline Lucas. Half our emission gains in the last 20 years have been because we have been exporting our guilt, effectively to China. Again, it makes no sense. Every time we offshore jobs and wealth creation, we are offshoring them to a country that will take longer to cut its emissions, and has 300 coal-fired power stations. We should be onshoring jobs, because we will do a better job, however imperfectly, than others in trying to reduce the carbon emissions and making that more successful or, at least, less polluting.
We need to take people with us. Most of us here are talking to an important but relatively small part of the electorate who care passionately. Perhaps more people will in time; indeed, I am sure that they will. At the same time, however, we must talk to the people who are worried about bills—who are worried about keeping their families, their children or mum and dad warm this winter. If we do not take people with us, we will lose this debate. Hearing the Californian Windsors lecture hoi polloi from their private jets is hugely counterproductive. Again, we need a sense of realism.
There is a series of practical questions that I would like the Minister to answer. Does she agree that having a housing policy involving low density and greenfield development is no longer sustainable? We all know that the most carbon polluting form of housing is the kind of detached houses that we see in greenfield development. We need land use to be much more effective in this country, not only for quality of life and for plenty of reasons that people involved in planning care about, but also because of the environment.
Wind power is a great success story, and the sceptics have been proved absolutely wrong. Many of the wind turbines that we see out in the North sea are actually made on the Isle of Wight by Vestas. I am delighted that Vestas is there, and I hope that the Government will help me to ensure that it stays there, because it wants to increase the size of the massive blades that it is building. But what news on wave power? What news on tidal power? We have been waiting for years. We have very strong tides in this country, and while tidal power will never provide 100% of our energy supply, it could provide up to 10% or 15%.
Finally, and most important, there is nuclear power. We have avoided this for 10 or 15 years, much to our cost now. I congratulate the Government on the money that they are putting in, but we need to invest considerably in a series of small-scale Rolls-Royce nuclear reactors which will create jobs in this country, and to do it on an industrial basis.
“Code red for humanity”: that is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called this crisis. It says that we need to mobilise on a warlike footing if we are to prevent the human tragedy and conflict that would result from a failure to meet the 1.5° target.
Scott Benton and others have argued about money. What does it profit a man if he maximises the income to the Exchequer but loses his granddaughter’s future? The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that delaying action on climate change would double the UK’s national debt simply because of the cost of coping with the consequences of air pollution, flooding and heatwaves. The argument about finance is wholly on this side’s favour.
Delivery is delayed because of a skills deficit. We do not have a workforce that is trained to deliver energy efficiency targets. I should like to see all our car mechanics paid one day a week by the Government to retrain to service electric vehicles, and gas workers retraining to service hydrogen boilers. We need to retrain our offshore workers to work on wind turbines rather than oil rigs, and our construction workers to retrofit our 29 million homes. Until we have the workforce, we will never meet any targets and the costs will only increase.
Imperial College’s Energy Futures Lab has, I am afraid, given the lie to Bob Seely about nuclear. It has said that the rapidly reducing cost of solar and wind power means that nuclear is no longer a cost-effective pathway—yet more civil servants in Government are working on nuclear than are working on solar and wind.
One of the big announcements to be made at COP26 is about the global green grid, pioneered by the Climate Parliament, which I chair. It will establish a global system of interconnectors to take renewable energy from where the sun is shining, where the wind is blowing, where the tides are coming in and going out, to where it is needed around the globe.
The COP has to deliver on these main things. Powering past coal is absolutely vital. The announcement from China that it would no longer fund coal-fired power generation in other countries was a critical step, but we now need China, India and Australia to get on board with the powering past coal convention. The delivery of the £100 billion a year to the developing world is about trust, and so is loss and damage. Addressing loss and damage is essential to building that trust. Low-lying countries and small island developing states cannot adapt to climate change, and they need compensation.
I said in my maiden speech that the climate crisis was the most important issue we faced, and in the six years that have passed since then, it has got even more urgent each year. COP26 is the best chance we have of mitigating the damage and keeping the target of 1.5° alive, but as Caroline Lucas said in her excellent opening speech, time is running out, for the people and the planet, but also for COP26 to be set up to succeed. In a week and a half, we will have to lead by example, to consolidate partnerships, and to crack down on the biggest polluters. We need ambitious updated nationally determined contributions. We need to honour and build on our commitments to climate finance for poorer countries, and we need strong action on biodiversity, fossil fuels and loss and damage. This is a big, big challenge.
On the positive side, in terms of our setting an example, we have some ambitious national plans and there are encouraging words in the net zero strategy. The Government are good at setting targets, and their own climate advisers rated them nine out of 10, but they gave them “somewhere below” four out of 10 for their efforts to meet them. We need to lead by our actions. We need real green investment in the upcoming spending review. We know that it makes sense and we know that it saves money in the longer term as well as saving the planet. If we can find money for the covid emergency, we need to find money for the climate emergency. We have to reduce investment in fossil fuels, whether it is oil in the Cambo field and at Horse Hill, coal in Cumbria or gas in Mozambique. We also need stronger action on ending UK taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects, without the exemptions.
We also need funding for local government. We cannot deliver on the actions we need without local government action. The Climate Change Committee says that local authorities need proper funding to pursue successful plans such as retrofitting housing—where is the big retrofit programme that we need to decarbonise our homes?—building green homes, decarbonising local transport systems and improving waste and recycling infrastructure. On waste and recycling, I strongly agree with the hon. Lady’s comments on the cuts to the aid budget. One in three people globally do not have access to a waste management service and 90% of waste in lower-income countries ends up dumped or burned. The common practice of burning waste causes more emissions than aviation, so waste management systems need to be on the agenda at COP26. I asked about this in COP26 questions yesterday, but I did not really get an answer.
Like the planet, I am running out of time, so I will leave the last words to Kevin Anderson, Manchester University’s professor of energy and climate change. He puts it very clearly:
“Climate change is essentially a cumulative problem (C02 builds up). So each day we don’t deliver the level of C02 cuts for 1.5-2°C we go backwards—just not as big a retrograde step as it would otherwise have been, but backwards nonetheless.”
Every day this problem is getting worse. We need to be honest about the challenge, and we need to step up and deliver on it.
The climate emergency is a global crisis that we can solve only at a global level. International co-operation and mutual respect, especially with those countries who have been our long-term allies, are key ingredients for a successful COP26. Brexit and the continuing fall-out from it are a huge distraction. I am convinced that Britain could be far more effective in pulling reluctant countries who are not our allies, such as Russia and China, to the table if Europe could speak with one voice on the international stage.
The Government also have to get their own house in order. The big political difference is not about whether we are on the road to net zero but crucially the speed at which we go along that road. The greatest danger now is climate action delay. We are surrounded by powerful vested interests who want to continue with the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for as long as possible. As long as the Government are allowing themselves to be dominated by those vested fossil fuel interests, we will miss the crucial targets of net zero. There have been many examples of this. Carbon capture and storage is about keeping the fossil fuel industry going, as is blue hydrogen. Those are examples of how the Government are clearly not acting in the interests of net zero. In all the big announcements prior to COP26, the biggest gap is any announcement about how to put big investment into the renewable energy sector. I agree with Bob Seely on this point. As an island country with lots of wind and water resources, the UK could indeed be a world leader in producing renewables. Are we missing our biggest and best opportunity here?
Is it any wonder that our young people, especially, are becoming increasingly anxious about the inaction of political leaders? A recent study co-authored by academics from the University of Bath has revealed the extent of climate anxiety among children and young people across 10 countries. My thanks to Caroline Hickman, Liz Marks and Elouise Mayall for sharing their research with me, and I urge the Minister to get a copy of that report. The most worrying aspect of their study is the feeling of betrayal reported by young people. It found that 65% of children and young people in the UK felt that the Government had failed them, 57% felt that the Government had betrayed them and 48% felt that they had had their concerns dismissed when they talked about the climate emergency. We are failing our young people. It is their future and their quality of life that is in question. I urge the Government to use their presidency to set out a vision of hope for the next generation.
I am pleased to note that most Members here are well aware of the real threat and heightened risk that the climate emergency poses to the planet. We also know that with immediate concerted international action, it is still possible to limit the global temperature to 1.5°C in the long term. But the UK Government’s Climate Change Committee itself has warned that the UK’s national resilience to climate change is not keeping pace with the reality. We are not prepared here. Nearly 60% of the risks identified were given its highest threat rating, including loss of land, poor soil health due to flooding, risks to food supply and lack of drinking water. COP26 is not only our best chance; it might be one of our last. The UK’s devolved nations can frankly no longer wait for the UK Government to show real leadership; they must be given a broader role. It is too important an event to be left entirely to a Prime Minister with so little self-awareness that he took a jet to the G7 talks in Cornwall.
My Scottish National party colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by the volume of constituents getting in touch to protest against the Cambo oil field, which the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister about, asking him to reconsider the plans in the light of the severity of the climate emergency we are facing. This is a UK Government who are seriously considering opening the first deep coalmine in 30 years. This is a Government who, just this week, again failed to back the development of Scotland’s carbon capture and storage facility.
I cannot take any interventions, I am sorry.
One in 10 Aberdeen jobs are dependent on oil and gas. This is a community that feels every ebb and flow of the oil industry, and we are losing highly skilled people living in a naturally advantageous location with much of the necessary pipeline and subsea infrastructure already in place. That is absolutely senseless. Why are the Government not putting serious money into solutions that could solve the needs of heavy industry, such as hydrogen development as featured in the St Fergus proposal?
In the very short time I have left, I want to focus on loss and damage. Throughout the Brexit process, we heard time and again that this Government want the UK to stand on its own feet and be internationally admired by all. Well, here is their chance. The COP established the climate change impacts loss and damage mechanism in November 2013 in order to address the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to its effects. This mechanism’s role was recognised at the Paris climate conference, but the countries that have historically been primary contributors to climate change have not formally established their financial obligations. It is essential that this is properly addressed during COP26. Developing nations are already bearing the brunt of climate change, and how we consider those countries in our decision making is to say who we are and how we wish to be judged by future generations.
The hon. Lady has been making good progress on stating how the devolved Administrations are doing a great job. Does she agree that burning plastic waste creates terrible pollutants that are released into the atmosphere? The UK Government banned the burning of farm plastic waste in 2005, yet the Scottish Government banned it only in 2019.
I am sure we could all stand up and score points on a variety of things, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that matter has been addressed.
Scotland has established a climate justice fund, which we doubled this year. We feel that equity and justice must be at the heart of climate change action, and the establishment of a UK climate justice fund would send a powerful signal that previously marginalised voices will be heard. I want young people, indigenous communities and disadvantaged groups to have a say at COP26, as they are the most affected.
2020 held the record for the highest number of environmental activists murdered in one year, with 227 killed worldwide. That is a shocking statistic for many of us, but I am sure it is no surprise to indigenous communities that put their safety on the line every day and bear the brunt of these crimes simply for trying to protect their homes and communities. Their protests must not be in vain and should be recognised by the decisions we make at COP26.
I welcome this debate and congratulate Caroline Lucas not only on securing it but on all the work she has done over many years to bring environmental issues to the fore in this House.
I also thank my right hon. Friend Mr Brown for drawing attention to the fact that, on May Day 2019, this House became the first Parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, which I am pleased to say many local authorities across Britain, as well as other countries around the world, have also taken up.
We have to start at a local level because, in a sense, all politics is local. If we are to win the climate debate, it is not necessarily about convincing each other in this Chamber; it is about convincing a very large number of people that their living standards and livelihoods are not under threat by greening our environment, but that a green industrial revolution is a chance and an opportunity to create a high-skilled, high-paid workforce and to create the green energy jobs of the future. That will not be done if we rely on market forces; it will only be done through substantial public investment to achieve that transition to a green economy.
I was at an excellent meeting on Monday morning organised by Islington Council to launch its brilliant green agenda. It will mean better insulation in homes; transport initiatives; using waste heat from an underground station as part of a district heating scheme; using waste heat from a stepped down transformer owned by the national grid to heat a school and neighbouring properties; and installing a heat pump in a community centre to meet the passive house standard. I was struck that local authorities do not have enough planning powers to properly insulate places and properly demand of developers that we have solar panels and greened roof spaces and that we build buildings to last much longer than the planned obsolescence after 60 years before we knock them down again, with all the environmental costs of doing so.
It is also about waste disposal. In my borough we manage a 30% recycling rate, which is better than it was but is nowhere near good enough. The rate should be much higher. Reduce, reuse and recycle is important, but achieving it also requires the Government to support local authorities, and not planning greater levels of incineration all over the country, with the pollution that results.
Let us look at COP26 as a great opportunity for the sharing of technology and wealth across the world, for investment in biodiversity across the world and, above all, for the transfer of knowledge held by the richest countries to all on this planet. If we do not do that, global warming and extreme weather patterns will continue and, ultimately, everyone will suffer. There will be no hiding place, however rich we might be.
The world came together in 2015 to set an historic ambition to limit global warming to 1.5°. Six years on, however, we are nowhere near meeting that target and instead we are fighting to keep the ambition alive. The conclusions of the IPCC report earlier this year were described by the UN Secretary-General as “code red for humanity.” It is now clear that we are in a state of crisis.
The world is now hotter than at any time in the past 12,000 years, over a million species are now threatened with extinction and this year every corner of the planet has experienced extreme weather, from devastating cyclones, hurricanes and storms to soaring temperatures, wildfires and flooding.
Action in this decade will be critical to preventing catastrophic climate breakdown, yet we know that the current pledges will not be enough to limit global temperature rises. Tackling the climate emergency can no longer be consigned as a problem for tomorrow. There is no more time for delay and no room for excuses.
When discussing the climate emergency, I often find myself thinking about my faith. Central to Islam is the idea of harmony with the natural world, and the Koran states:
“waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.”
It also calls on Muslims to
“walk gently on the earth”.
And it calls on Muslims to treat our shared home with care and reverence.
Many Muslims are already coming together to protect our planet and to tackle the threat of global warming. In September, led by the Muslim Council of Britain, mosques across the country held a “Big Green Jummah” at Friday prayers, and the UK has its first eco-mosque in Cambridge. Earlier this week, Muslim organisations came together to issue a joint statement ahead of COP26 calling for urgent climate action.
With COP26 just around the corner, it is imperative that the Government lead by example. Climate action and green investment must begin at home, yet the Government have committed a measly £4 billion to fund low-carbon initiatives, a quarter of which has already been scrapped alongside the disastrous green homes grant. This small figure does not come close to matching the scale of the crisis we face.
While simultaneously failing to pump the necessary funds into green initiatives, the Government are supporting the opening of a new coalmine in Cumbria and the opening of the Cambo oil field. If nothing else, COP26 must signal the final death knell for coal and fossil fuels. The Government could set an example for the world by ending all oil and gas exploration in the UK and throwing their weight behind the shift to renewable energy.
My constituents in Manchester, Gorton care deeply for the future of our planet, and they are desperate for the Government to step up and act before it is too late.
I thank Caroline Lucas for securing this important debate.
The climate emergency is the single biggest issue we face both nationally and globally. In order to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of global warming by limiting the increase to 1.5°, the climate must be a prism through which every political and economic decision is taken, yet it is clear that this Government are very far from where we need them to be in both leadership and action.
COP26 is a critical opportunity to secure a global agreement on the scale of climate action needed to limit global warming to 1.5°, but the UK Government risk squandering the precious opportunity we have as the host nation. There is scant evidence of a concerted diplomatic effort by the UK Government over the past two years to secure the attendance and commitment at COP26 of the most polluting nations, many of which are set to be absent from Glasgow. There is no evidence of a concerted effort to give confidence to the countries of the global south that the UK is committed to a just transition. Cutting UK aid in the run-up to hosting the COP is a disastrous approach to negotiation on carbon reduction measures.
The Government’s approach to the UK’s own net zero challenge is also falling far short. Publishing a net zero strategy at the last minute because hosting COP26 without one would be an international embarrassment is not the act of a Government sufficiently committed to climate action. Continuing to permit the exploration of new oilfields in the North sea and a new coalmine in Cumbria is not the act of a Government sufficiently committed to climate action. Failing to commit anything close to the scale of the investment required to deliver the speed of transition we need is not the act of a Government sufficiently committed to climate action.
In contrast, our local councils are delivering at pace. I am proud of both Lambeth and Southwark Councils, which were among the first in the country to declare a climate emergency and are both making climate action a top priority. But they need both additional resources and powers to make the scale of change that the climate emergency demands, including in relation to the planning system, where tackling the climate emergency must become a core aim.
When I was first elected in 2015, I brought together organisations and individuals in my constituency who care about climate change and we formed an organisation called the Dulwich and West Norwood Climate Coalition. Next week, we will deliver our letter to the Prime Minister ahead of COP26, signed by hundreds of local residents and community organisations. We ask him to secure the agreement we all need to tackle the climate emergency and secure the just transition that we need. My constituents across Dulwich and West Norwood understand the scale and the gravity of the climate emergency. Many are already doing everything they can to reduce carbon emissions. They are desperately looking to the Government to show leadership on the international stage, and secure the scale and ambition of agreement necessary to secure the future of our planet for our children and grandchildren.
The climate and environment crisis is a key issue for my constituents. They recognise that this crisis is an inequality issue, that the poorest nations and the poorest people within all nations will be affected, and that without taking the actions that are needed, the survival of future generations is under threat. The impacts of climate change on human health are clear. We see this on the news almost every day: rising temperatures, pollution and an increased frequency of extreme weather events are already causing severe impacts on human health, as well as on planetary health.
As I mentioned, the most dramatic impacts of the climate crisis are on deprived communities: landslides caused by deforestation; the industrial pollution of water supplies; and the suffering of old and young trying to escape rising temperatures while living in makeshift homes. In 2019, environmental disasters displaced more than 25 million people in 145 countries and territories. In the UK, extreme weather events also have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, including older people, people on lower incomes, and others who may live in more polluted areas with less green space. As Caroline Lucas said in her excellent speech, despite the UK’s recent commitments to reaching net zero by 2050, we know that progress is not sufficient to reach net zero targets. The third UK climate risk assessment shows that only half the risks and opportunities identified are having the action that they need. It is ridiculous that the Government are even considering giving approval to drilling the Cambo oilfield.
The agenda on housing, fuel poverty and affordable low-carbon warmth is of vital importance to the public’s health. We must do more on that, as it will help in reducing our carbon emissions and ensuring that people are warm. Similarly, we need to have a better and greater impact on the transport system. Although I welcome what has been committed to, we need to recognise that in Greater Manchester a single fare is £4-odd, whereas in London it is £1.40. Finally, we must commit to an economic recovery that is healthy, green and sustainable, and has equity at its heart.
First, I require to put on record the fact that it is perverse that COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, yet the Scottish Government will not be formally represented. That said, this is not a constitutional debate. I accept that this is the issue of our time and national boundaries will not be respected by global warming. Therefore, everything has to be subservient to that, but there is an issue there.
As many have said, this is the issue of our time. It challenges humanity and every other species. It is not just ourselves who live on this planet; it is a wondrous planet, which we recognise. I recall reading as a child about the extinction of the dodo. A child now would have an almost limitless book of species that are being wiped out. We are doing incredible harm to animals and wildlife that lack the consciousness of what is befalling them, done by us. We have to change that, because otherwise the future for our children and grandchildren will be grim indeed. They will curse us if we do not take action, and speedily. Neither superheroes nor science will be able to save us. We do have to change.
I recall reading the book by the author and scientist Jared Diamond on civilisations, in which he wondered why those on Easter Island, which was once populated, had cut down the forests that existed there and then the final tree, meaning that life could no longer continue there. He was unable to give a precise reason, but it did show that societies can bring about their own demise. What happened to Easter Island could be a microcosm of what happens to our whole planet if we do not make changes—and soon.
Climate change is disproportionately affecting the poor. Of course, wealthy countries and, indeed, wealthy individuals can try to insulate themselves but, as we have seen with the tragedies in California and Germany, it does not matter how wealthy a society is: the change to weather patterns will not recognise that and pass by. That said, climate change will, as others have said, impact disproportionately on the poor not simply in our own land but throughout the developed world and around the globe. Those nations that are least able to afford it will face the harshest consequences. There are issues relating to what we have to do, because we will have to subsidise. We have had more than our fair share. We may not be generating, and we can argue over the precise percentage, but we contributed in the past and have to recognise that others must have an opportunity and we have to change.
Finally, we have to take people with us and have a transition. Wind turbines are going up in my constituency, as they are off the whole eastern coast of Scotland, yet we are not seeing the jobs coming for the manufacturing of turbines or the benefits coming to our community. We are going to see cabling to take the energy created off Scotland’s shores down to the north-east of England. That is not right.
We are living in the most important moment of human history, when our actions will determine whether we prevent climate catastrophe. If we fail to rise to the challenge, billions of lives will be devastated, unimaginable numbers of lives will be lost and the existence of much of life on Earth will be put in real danger. When the IPCC warns of code red for humanity and NASA scientists warn of climate emergency, we must act like we are in an emergency—because we are.
Words are cheap; action is how our generation will be judged. That means doing everything possible to avoid the 1.5° tipping point, at which point all sorts of devastating climate domino effects kick in. With current warming of 1.2°, we already have devastating fires in Greece, deadly floods in New York and much worse elsewhere. It will get worse no matter what we do, but every fraction of every degree makes a huge difference. For example, the climate impacts of 1.5° and 2° of warming are worlds apart. That change is the difference between life and death for low-lying coastal countries such as Bangladesh. At 2°, 420 million more people will face extreme heat waves and 200 million more people will be exposed to increased water scarcity. All that is frightening, but what is even more frightening is that we are on track for not even 2° but nearer to 3° of warming. The consequences do not bear thinking about.
A thin layer of green wash will not achieve 1.5°. If we rely on the same broken economic model that brought us to the brink of disaster, we will not achieve 1.5°. We must treat this as what it is: the biggest battle that we have ever faced. We need to get on a war footing, which means that every decision and budget decision must be focused on this emergency. Every part of our vast capacity—human talent, machinery and financial—must focus on this emergency. It means ending all new fossil fuel production and shifting fossil fuel subsidies into renewables. It means technology-sharing and delivering the $100 billion per year financing commitment to those countries most likely to be hit by, but least responsible for, this catastrophe. What we do not need is what our Government are doing: plans for more oil and coal fields and ambitious targets backed up with inadequate plans and woeful levels of funding.
But there is hope: we have the policies needed to prevent catastrophe, summed up in a green new deal. We have the alternative technology; currently, we do not have the political will. Climate catastrophe does not have to be our destiny: it is a matter of choice.
When I visit schools and community groups throughout my Vauxhall constituency, I am struck by how evident this issue is for so many people, including some of the young people in primary schools. They see that it is an emergency; I am not sure why our Government do not. The impact of this issue is felt by so many constituents in Vauxhall, and I pay tribute to the many of them who wrote to me to urge me to take part in this really important debate. It is clear that human activity is responsible for this catastrophic rise in global temperatures. This rise is already making much of the polluted world uncomfortable to live in, and will lead to some of it becoming uninhabitable. We can already see the impacts. In September 2017, the people of Dominica saw their lives turned upside down when category 5 Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure, left much of the population homeless and wiped out key parts of the country’s economic sectors.
Overall, Hurricane Maria cost the lives of 3,000 people and the economies affected nearly £70 billion. In just three weeks, that one storm cost the world the same amount as our furlough scheme in the UK. The failure by Governments to tackle this climate catastrophe is making and will continue to make hurricanes much stronger and impactful. Maria was far from unique. We saw many other hurricanes. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wrecked the US south coast and the Caribbean.
There is an obvious and moral case for tackling this climate catastrophe, but perhaps what appals me the most is the lack of urgency in tackling it. I am afraid that that lack of urgency is also being shown by our Government here. We are placing a huge burden on the lives of our children and future generations. There will be more hurricanes, more rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and more droughts if we do not take action now. This will come and it will come fast.
That future does not have to be inevitable. We have to take a long look at what we are doing. We need to act today to move to a truly green and sustainable planet. Let us see an end to the peppercorn sprinkling by our Government that barely scratches the surface of what is happening. Let us commit to properly fund a new deal and make sure that we are ambitious in tackling this climate change head-on.
When I think of my postbag there are two policy issues that dominate the correspondence that I receive from constituents in North East Fife—climate change and making ends meet, whether that be mitigating rising costs or surviving the cuts to universal credit. Some might see those two policy areas as being in contradiction, but that is not how I and my constituents see it. Both areas are about the social contract and our obligations to each other and to future generations.
The publication of the Government’s net zero strategy yesterday ahead of COP26 did bring some good news, not least their formal recognition of the need to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°. But, as other Members have said, there is still a lot missing. I welcome the move to phase out gas boilers, but we know that heat pumps are not perfect, that the grants are not sufficient and that they are only part of the answer without proper investment in home insultation. I welcome the increase in funding for offshore wind, but was disappointed to see nothing on the phasing out of fossil fuels. That needs to be a key focus of all Governments within the UK. We need to ensure that we are accelerating change in the demand profile across all sectors and helping people to do their bit.
We all know that we are in a climate crisis. The real impacts may not yet be evidenced in SW1A—although I am sure that we all saw the flooding in Norman Shaw South—but they are certainly clear to those of us in rural and coastal constituencies. Freuchie Mill in North East Fife has been severely flooded multiple times in the last 18 months and coastal erosion is a real issue for areas of natural beauty such as Tentsmuir. However, that is nothing compared with what is happening in the global south, where people are experiencing the most devastating impacts of a crisis that they had the least to do with creating. I was saddened, but not entirely surprised, to read in the news today about the lobbying by developed nations against shifting away from fossil fuels and committing to the UN’s annual fund to help countries on the frontline of climate change—a fund that was agreed in 2010, but which has never been fully committed to, and that clearly needs to be readdressed at COP26.
Alexander Stafford, who is no longer in his place, called for more positivity. When I look at what is happening in my constituency in terms of community activism, I do feel positive. Last month, I had the privilege of attending, for the second time, the Line in the Sand event at St Andrews, where students, staff, school pupils and others gather as part of the global climate strike. My message to them was the same as my message today: there are hard choices to be made by all of us and it is our duty as parliamentarians to advocate to ensure that Governments make it as easy as possible for people to make that transition. It is about recommitting to our global social contract. I ask the Minister and the Government to join me in making that commitment—truly making it and actually doing what is needed to make tangible change.
I commend Caroline Lucas for leading the debate excellently and for the hard work that she does in this House to bring attention to these issues; whatever party we belong to, we all recognise that. It is not only the hon. Lady who brings my attention to such issues. My constituents tell me every week the issues that matter to them, so I am not quite sure why some Members have said that this is not a big issue. Actually, it is a massive issue for my constituents and they regularly contact me to tell me that.
As Richard Burgon mentioned just a moment ago, global temperature rises have been a consistent problem worldwide and this issue needs to be at the forefront of the COP26 discussions. It has been estimated that, to have at least a 50% chance of keeping the global temperature below 2°C throughout the 21st century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited. But in this year—2021—the greenhouse gas emissions contained in certain estimates of global fossil fuel reserves are about three times higher than they should be. That gives us an idea of the importance of the issue.
I want to mention some of the good work that is happening. One company that got in touch with me was ADS Northern Ireland, which has previously worked closely with Bombardier Aerospace back home. It outlined how the aviation industry is helping to reduce emissions to net zero. The UK aerospace industry supports what the Government call their jet zero ambitions, and states that the realisation of these goals will present the UK with huge opportunities to boost clean growth, level up and create green jobs across the whole UK. We need that in Northern Ireland, and we can do that. With that in mind, the devolved institutions will aim to deliver the jet zero ambitions, strengthen the supply chain, create green jobs and enable the UK aerospace industry to become a world leader in sustainable aircraft technology.
The UK must be at the forefront of persuading others to commit fully to the nationally determined contributions and the Paris agreement, and our actions must speak louder than our words. This year’s COP26 gives us a real opportunity to engage with those who have been less vocal on the climate change front. I commend Wera Hobhouse for saying that it will give young people a chance to raise the issues that are important to them. That is really important, because we are leaving this situation for those who come after us.
I look to the COP26 President to lead us through the conference with realism and consideration for our futures. Although we have achieved much and are travelling in the right direction, it is estimated that some £100 billion is still needed. I thank him for the work that he has done. We look forward to working hard together for the future.
We in this place have a duty to ensure that the burden is not felt by one income base. I urge the Government to spread what will be an incredibly costly initiative appropriately, and not to squeeze the middle class any further. This must be done and it must be done right, and now is the time to do just that.
We are days away from the start of COP26—one of the most important gatherings of world leaders ever to have taken place. They are coming to Glasgow with one job: to make good on the promise to cut global emissions and restrict global warming to 1.5°C, and to give the world a fighting chance in the war against climate change, because right now it is a war that we are losing. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out just last month that the national determined contributions that have been submitted so far put us on track for 2.7°C. That is not nearly enough.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of COP26. Glasgow is possibly our last chance, because the world has not lived up to what it promised in Paris. We should be in absolutely no doubt that, if we are to make up for that lost decade, it will require leadership, it will take courage and it will mean sacrifice on the part of us all. But there is no alternative. There are no other options. It has to be done and it has to be done now. As we have heard, the code red for humanity was absolutely clear: global climate change is accelerating, and human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the overwhelming cause of that climate change. The UN Secretary-General said of that report—and who could disagree?—that this
“must sound a death knell” for fossil fuels. Of course, he is not the first UN leader to highlight the issue of climate change. In 2016, his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon addressed the Arctic Circle Assembly and described the Arctic as the ground zero of climate change, highlighting that a temperature increase of 2° worldwide could well mean a temperature increase of 4°, 5°, 6° or even more in the Arctic. Last week I attended the most recent Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik. Not surprisingly, the alarming rate of climate change experienced in the Arctic and the effects that it will have there, here and across the world were high on the agenda, with scientists confirming that, with just 20% of the Greenlandic ice sheet melting, global seas will rise by 2 metres.
Earlier this week, I attended yet another excellent meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on the polar regions, at which UK and US scientists working on the colossal Thwaites glacier in Antarctica spoke in detail of the evidence they have of that glacier melting and the billions of tonnes of ice that fall into the ocean every single year, with the inevitable rise in sea levels that will follow. That is a stark reminder that, although the Arctic and the Antarctic can sometimes seem remote, they are not, and what happens at the poles has huge consequences for the planet as a whole. We are in a critical situation whereby the poles are melting, sea levels are rising and great swathes of the planet are rapidly becoming too hot for human habitation. Across the rest of the planet, already this year we have witnessed wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and unparalleled levels of rainfall in Europe, Asia and Africa. Given what we have seen, surely no one could disagree with the Secretary-General of the United Nations when he said that we are “on a catastrophic path” and:
“We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.”
That is why COP26 has to succeed.
Last night I met my constituents who had organised a meeting through Time for Change Argyll & Bute. They wanted to make sure that I, as their MP, knew exactly what they expected of me, of the Scottish Government and of the UK Government ahead of COP. That included telling the UK Government and the Prime Minister that they must now live up to what was promised in Paris and guarantee to restrict global warming to 1.5°—that there can be no more horse-trading and trying to fudge this issue, and that Glasgow has to be the turning point for the world that Paris should have been; now, tragically, it has to be seen as a squandered opportunity. I know I am not alone in engaging with constituents on this issue. Last week my hon. Friend Patrick Grady, who has just escaped the Elections Bill Committee—taking one for the team to allow me to speak in this debate—spoke to his constituents in an online forum about exactly these issues.
COP26 cannot be Government to Government or business to business; as much as it possibly can, it has to be a people’s COP. Whether in Argyll and Bute or Glasgow North, the indigenous people of the rain forest, the Inuit people of Greenland and Canada or the people of the low-lying Pacific islands, the people of the world who are going to be most affected by this have to be heard, and not just heard but listened to, because for far too long the people who have least responsibility for creating this emergency are bearing the brunt of its consequences.
This morning I attended a meeting organised by Christian Aid to talk about loss and damage and what has to be a core principle of climate justice. We were joined by people from Bangladesh and Nigeria who spoke about exactly that—how the global north has created a problem that the global south is now having to live with, every single day. Between them, historically—it is important that we think in historical terms—the global north of the UK, Canada, Russia and the United States has produced 50% of the world’s harmful emissions, while Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Chad, Niger, Malawi, Zambia and Madagascar, combined, have contributed 0.08% of harmful emissions. Yet today Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and is facing a catastrophic famine. It is a major problem for the global south, and we as the global north have to take responsibility for it. Since 2020, Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, has suffered damages estimated at around $2 billion because of natural disasters, including cyclones, floods and rising sea levels. I join my hon. Friend Deidre Brock in congratulating the Scottish Government on being so determined to make this a people’s COP and for setting up the world’s first climate justice fund to support vulnerable communities in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to address the impact of climate change. It would send a wonderful message to the rest of the world if the United Kingdom Government set up their own climate justice fund ahead of COP26.
It is a pleasure to respond to this debate, and I add my congratulations to Caroline Lucas on securing it and her powerful opening remarks. It has, as expected, been a wide-ranging debate with a large number of thoughtful and passionate contributions. Hon. and right hon. Members on both sides, particularly my own, will forgive me if I do not mention every one of them, but I feel I need to make an exception—perhaps put it down to old habits dying hard—to mention my right hon. Friend Mr Brown, who brought home very early on in the debate the importance of the matter we are discussing.
Many critical issues need to be resolved at COP26, from finalising the Paris rulebook to essential specific side deals on such issues as the phasing out of coal, reductions in methane emissions and deforestation. However, given the prominent themes of this afternoon’s debate, I will focus my remarks on two key areas where decisive progress must be made at COP26, if it is not to be deemed a failure. The first is whether sufficiently ambitious near-term climate commitments can be secured to at least keep alive the hope of limiting global heating to 1.5°C. The second is whether the developed world will finally deliver for the developing in terms of climate finance and other forms of support.
Turning first to near-term climate commitments, in his speech in Paris last week the COP President argued that
“the world must deliver an outcome which keeps 1.5 degrees in reach.”
He was right to set himself and the world that test. Opposition Members have long called for delivering on the upper ambition of the Paris agreement to be the overriding priority for the conference. Anything else would send a clear signal that the UK was content to aim for an outcome that puts at risk, as my hon. Friend Richard Burgon said in his remarks, the very survival of vulnerable states on the frontline of the climate crisis.
The problem is that the Government have not done enough to explain what they mean by “keep 1.5 alive” or to initiate an open and transparent debate on the scale of global ambition required to achieve that outcome. As a result, we are heading into Glasgow with no real collective understanding of what is necessary to keep a limit of 1.5° within reach and every chance that the outcome will therefore fall far short of the expectations that have been generated.
That failure is all the more perplexing given how clear the science is. We know that for a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°, we need to halve global emissions by the end of this decade. We know that as a world, we are alarmingly off track, with the nationally determined contributions synthesis report published by the United Nations framework convention on climate change last month making it clear that, far from slashing emissions as required, current country pledges would lead to an increase in emissions of around 16% on 2010 levels by 2030, putting us on course for a disastrous 2.7° of heating, as many Members have said. I say to the Minister that the Government must now be open and honest with the country and the world about how much of the gap needs to be closed at Glasgow to keep 1.5° alive and what individual countries must do, in particular those major emitters who have yet to submit updated pledges, for that happen.
The Government also need to be clear about what more the world will have to do in the next few years, post COP26, to close the gap entirely. It is now abundantly clear that we cannot wait four years, or even until the global stocktake in 2023, to increase global ambition still further, if the world is to be put firmly on a 1.5° pathway. The Climate Vulnerable Forum recently proposed an emergency pact that would see states agree to return at each of the next three COPs with more ambitious targets, rather than waiting until 2025. It was telling that the COP President alluded to that proposal in his speech in Paris last week. When she responds, will the Minister confirm whether the COP President will be actively seeking agreement in Glasgow on a more regular ratchet mechanism to ensure that we make the requisite progress on mitigation in this decisive decade?
On the developing world, as Opposition Members have said many times in the last 18 months, it is vital that the voice of the global south is heard in Glasgow and that climate justice be prioritised. That is not just because it is morally right but because the negotiations are almost certain to break down if high-ambition developed countries do not retain the trust of, and thus secure buy-in from, climate-vulnerable states.
As my hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome), for Leeds East and for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), and others, said, more than anything, solidarity with those states is dependent on the developed world finally honouring the 2009 promise of $100 billion in climate finance annually to help developing nations to transition and adapt. Yet, with just 10 days left, a staggering $14-billion shortfall remains, and there is no sign of the promised German-Canadian delivery plan. We need clarity from the Government as to what progress they now expect on that issue before delegates arrive in Glasgow, and I urge the Minister to update the House on that.
As important as that $100 billion is, it is not the extent of the finance and support that developing countries will need. The world also needs to agree a significant increase on the $100 billion for the period up to 2025; to begin the process of establishing a post-2025 climate finance goal; to make tangible progress on ensuring that at least half of all climate funding is allocated to adaptation and that the balance shifts away from loans towards grants; and to deliver meaningful support, including financing, to address loss and damage and get the Santiago Network up and running, as the hon. Members for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) and for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) mentioned. Demands for progress in each of those areas have been made at COP after COP after COP, and Glasgow must be the occasion when the developed world finally acts to deliver on them.
Finally, I will touch briefly on the domestic situation, which has been a prominent theme of the debate. Of course the summit’s outcome will be shaped by prevailing geopolitical headwinds and any agreement that emerges will be the product of a phenomenally complex international negotiation, but it would be wrong to portray the role of the COP President as merely a convener or neutral broker. Those are key aspects of the role, but being the host state also confers on us a duty to set the pace on all aspects of the net zero transition and so maximise our influence in the negotiations and the chance of a successful outcome.
Opposition Members do not deny that the UK has set an example in several important areas, including publishing a detailed, albeit flawed, net zero strategy. One need only look, however, at the Treasury’s failure to lock in a genuinely green economic recovery by decisively closing the net zero investment gap to see that the Government have patently not been an exemplar across the board on climate policy and that there is much more they could do.
COP26 is our last best chance to show that the Paris agreement and climate multilateralism more generally work. Whether it is convincing G20 countries to do more, delivering for the developing world, or revisiting what exemplary climate action might be taken in the Budget and the comprehensive spending review here at home, the Government must now do whatever it takes to ensure this critical summit is the “turning point for humanity” that the Prime Minister has declared it will be.
Temperatures are certainly rising in this Chamber, which demonstrates the passion for the issue on both sides. We have some varying and different views, but we all agree that this is a crisis that we have to tackle. Today’s debate highlights how critical COP26 is in securing the commitments we need to keep the temperature rises that are so affecting climate change to 1.5° of warming, and to bring us towards our goals of the Paris agreement and the UN framework convention on climate change.
Although I respect the passion of Caroline Lucas, and her leaning for the agenda—indeed, we worked closely together on much of it over the years when I was a Back Bencher—I was dismayed by her total negativity. I thank Members on the Government Benches for their positivity about the agenda, as well as Jeremy Corbyn who made a positive speech.
Before I turn to the international agenda, I want to thank our local groups and initiatives for their work on the ground, such as the Bishop’s Stortford Climate Group, the Gloucestershire tree planters, Climate Action Ilkley, my own Somerset UK Youth Parliament and the projects that were mentioned in Islington North. They are doing so much on this agenda. It is important to bring the people with us, and we can.
To go back to COP26, ahead of the event the President-designate and Ministers have been asking countries to deliver on our four key goals: emission reductions, adaptation, finance and working together. On emissions, when the UK took over the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target, and now 80% of the global economy has a net zero or a carbon neutrality commitment and over 100 countries have submitted or enhanced their 2030 targets. I call that good progress.
Increasing ambition and action on adaptation is an absolutely key COP26 priority, with actions backing it up, and the adaptation action coalition is working on sharing knowledge and good practices. Finance, which has been heavily touched on today, is absolutely key to this agenda. The $100 billion that developed countries have committed to is about trust, and it is critical in helping developing countries to transition to cleaner economies and to protect those worst affected by the impacts of climate change. I think all hon. Members and my hon. Friends across these Benches understand that.
By the way, we will actually spend more in percentage terms on international development than America, Japan and Canada, contrary to some of the things being spread by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion. We have a huge focus on finance. We have doubled our international climate finance to at least £11.6 billion between 2020 and 2025. We have two new finance initiatives under way for biodiversity funding.
I will not give way, because I do not have much time, sadly.
Some 75 financial institutions representing €12 trillion have committed to protecting and restoring biodiversity investment in relation to climate change, and the Green Climate Fund is providing $9 billion to restore ecosystems. I very much hear what my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford said about climate finance transparency. I think this is all so important.
We have seen significant progress at the UN General Assembly. The UN has committed to doubling funding to $11.4 billion, which was followed by announcements from the European Commission, Denmark, Sweden, Monaco, Canada, Japan, Germany, the UK, France and the EU. So there is a great deal going on on this agenda, which is not to say that more is not also needed. The COP President-designate has been liaising with countries around the world to get them on board, and to get them to share their commitments because, as everyone has said today, this is not just about the UK.
We are seeing extreme weather conditions all around us, with extreme flooding, wildfires and, even here, flash floods, as well as the terrible climate-induced famine in Madagascar that was referred to eloquently. This has really focused the mind—has it not?—on the fact that this is real, and we have to deal with it. That brings me to how our net zero strategy demonstrates that this Government understand that. This is moving us to clean power, with hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs on this agenda, and leveraging in £90 billion of private investment.
I will not give way.
Contrary to what Barry Gardiner said, there is a skills and training agenda to back this up. People from the oil industry are already transitioning to the offshore wind, and indeed to geothermal power in Cornwall. I went to have a look at that myself, and what an exciting project that is and could be.
The Prime Minister did such good work at the G7. Just this week, he announced at the global investment summit 18 new trade and investment deals, which will support green growth and create at least another 30,000 new jobs across the UK, thanks to £9.7 billion of foreign investment. It has been quite a week.
That brings me to nature. We must not forget that, because the other side of the climate change coin is biodiversity loss. That is where I come in as the nature recovery Minister, and it is why this Government have made that such a priority. We have committed in law to halt the decline of species abundance by 2030. No other country has done this. It is an amazing commitment, and we should not forget it.
We worked further on the Environment Bill in this House last night, and I think that that shows what a priority nature recovery is. The convention on biological diversity from COP15, and the Kunming declaration, also committed to bending the curve on biodiversity loss. So much is going on, and our nature-based solution work in this country is committed to demonstrating, at home, that we can use nature to tackle climate change. That then brings so many other benefits and spinoffs in holding water, restoring flooding, and so much else.
At COP26 we have a nature day, which we are making an absolute priority. We will also focus on deforestation around the world, as that is an important part of what we will be doing. The forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue will be under way at COP26, as will the US lowering emissions by accelerating the forest finance initiative. We are taking action on climate change. We are leading by example and we are bringing others with us. Yes, it is an emergency and we have to do something about it, but we cannot be continuously negative. We have to be positive, lead by example, and take advantage of the opportunity in Glasgow.
I am truly grateful for all contributions from my honourable colleagues. If I have seemed ungrateful, Minister, that is because when it comes to the Government’s efforts, what matters is what the climate science demands. The climate science does not care whether the Government are making their best efforts or about their targets. It does not care whether we are doing slightly better; it cares only about whether we are doing more to reduce the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere and whether we are doing enough, and on that, I am afraid, we are not. However, I agree that this debate does not have to be about doom and gloom, and as well as huge risks there are huge opportunities. It is the frustration that many of us feel that the Government are not harnessing those opportunities that makes us feel so angry. Again and again we have seen the Treasury dragging its feet—we know; we have seen the leaked documents—when it comes to the ambitious actions we need. It is no good the Minister saying simply that we have to do something; the point is that we have to do enough, and we have to do it fast, and she is not.
My final point is about young people. At the Youth4Climate summit in Milan last month the Prime Minister said to young people:
“Your future is being stolen before your eyes…you have every right to be angry with those who aren’t doing enough to stop it”.
On behalf of those young people, for whom many of us have spoken today, we are all angry. However, being angry is not enough as we need also to be active. In that spirit, will the Minister urge the Prime Minister to accept the invitation that was sent to him by young people several weeks ago, to join a roundtable with the leaders of the other Westminster parties and discuss climate change? That follows a similar roundtable in 2019 with Greta Thunberg. If the Prime Minister is serious about putting his fine words into action, he could accept that invitation from those young people, sit down with them, hear from them, and finally act.
Question put and agreed to,
That this House
has considered COP26 and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.