Cop28

– in the House of Commons at 12:21 pm on 16 November 2023.

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Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) 12:21, 16 November 2023

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered COP28.

I am glad to come to the House today to discuss this important subject. We discussed COP28 at a recent reception hosted by the all-party parliamentary group for climate change last month, and also at a recent meeting of the Environmental Audit Committee. I welcome the interest of colleagues from across the Chamber. I note that the all-party parliamentary group on the environment has just released its report on the subject, including nine recommended priorities for COP28. That, too, is a welcome contribution to the debate.

The upcoming conference of the parties, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, comes at a really important moment in tackling the climate crisis. Amid record temperatures and emissions, the first comprehensive stocktake of progress against the Paris agreement at COP28 will show that the world is badly off track. We have made significant progress through the Paris agreement, with temperature projections shifting from a 4° increase before Paris to an increase of between 2.4° and 2.7° after Glasgow, thanks to the nationally determined contributions that countries have said they will make.

But we know that is not enough. In Glasgow, we cemented the goal of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 1.5° and made that our north star, and that has been carried forward by the UAE presidency. The latest science, and the impact that we see even at 1.1°, shows us why that is so important. A top priority for the UK is to leave COP28 with a clear road map to keep a ceiling of 1.5° in reach.

The UK heads to COP28 with a record at home and internationally that is second to none. The Prime Minister recently reaffirmed our commitment to net zero and set out a new approach to get there. This will make it easier for businesses, supply chains and households to adapt to the new normal. We will build on our previous successes and continue to lead.

I am not sure that we are always as good as we should be at sharing this story, of which the nation can be proud. At home, we have decarbonised more than any major economy on this planet, cutting our emissions by 48% since 1990. Not only have we decarbonised faster than any major economy on the planet to date, but we have the most ambitious plans and the most ambitious nationally determined contribution for 2030 of any major economy. Our commitment is to a 68% reduction by 2030. By comparison, the EU, which has been a genuine force for good in this space, has an NDC of 55% by 2030, although it hopes and expects to exceed that. How have we done that? Our inheritance was not a great one. As recently as 2012, nearly 40% of our electricity came from coal. Next year, thanks to the policies of this Government, it will be zero.

We inherited in 2010 an electricity system in which, almost unbelievably, less than 7% of our generation came from renewables. In the first quarter of this year, it was nearly 48%. We have transformed our renewables base. We have eliminated coal. I am aware of no country anywhere that has done more and gone further, faster, but leading in that way is not enough for us, as a country that produces less than 1% of global emissions, right though it is that we should do so. We also have to lead the global conversation, and that is exactly what we did at COP26. When we took on the presidency of COP26, 30% of global GDP was covered by net zero pledges. When we handed on to Egypt, it was over 90%, and I am proud to say that this country led that conversation.

Not only are we leading, but the rest of the world is accepting the need to act, even if nationally determined contributions and national plans do not yet match what is needed to meet the net zero challenge, but I am pleased to say that ours do. We have ambitious targets, and we will deliver on them. As I said, we have to make sure that the other 99% of global emissions start to follow the same trajectory, so our offer and engagement will be all about encouraging the rest of the world to join the UK on a net zero pathway.

Two years on from Glasgow, the need to accelerate action is more urgent than ever. The world needs to decarbonise more than five times faster than we did in the last two decades. The country in the world that has cut its emissions more than any major economy, namely the UK, has reduced them by 48% in 31 years, but according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body that advises us on this, the world needs to cut its emissions by 43% by 2030 from a 2019 baseline to keep net zero alive. That shows us the challenge. We need to be peaking globally by 2025.

The latest United Nations framework convention on climate change nationally determined contributions synthesis report shows that emissions are set to be 2% below the 2019 level by 2030 if all the commitments made so far are met—2%, when the science says that we need a 43% reduction. The latest “State of Climate Action” report from the World Resources Institute carries a similarly stark message: we need to accelerate the transition rapidly. Only one of its 42 indicators for the progress needed by 2030 was on track.

We also have to be up front about the fact that we face significant challenges coming into this COP: geopolitical tension, conflict and a challenging macroeconomic context in which Governments are battling inflation and debt. G20 relations are strained, as I witnessed at first hand when I went to the Climate Ministers G20 meeting in Chennai. Some countries are seeking to stoke divisions, to deflect from their own responsibility to take action. At the same time, record temperatures and widespread climate impacts are increasing the need to act on adaptation, loss and damage, as well as reduce emissions. We need broad-based progress across all pillars of the Paris agreement at COP28.

Finance will be a critical part of the transition. Developed economies need to deliver on their promise to mobilise $100 billion in climate finance for developing countries. We all know that we were due to deliver this in 2020 and, collectively, we fell behind. In Glasgow, we set a course correction to meet the goal by 2023. I am pleased that today’s report from the OECD shows that we are ahead of the projections we set out in Glasgow. We delivered $89.6 billion in 2021, and the OECD has indicated that it is likely—not definite, but likely —that the $100 billion goal was in fact met in 2022. Delivery of that commitment is something that the UK has championed, and I am pleased to say that we recently made our biggest ever climate finance commitment through our $2 billion contribution to the green climate fund.

There is also an urgent need to realign the financial system so that it is fit to address the challenges we face today, including climate and development. The science is unequivocally clear that urgent action is needed. The vital work done by the IPCC and other scientists makes clear that the risks and impacts we face will grow significantly as temperature increases, including the risk of breaching tipping points, which will accelerate that negative trend.

At COP28, we want to see progress across five areas, the first of which is commitments to keep 1.5° alive. Coming out of the global stocktake, we need renewed consensus and increased ambition to keep 1.5° within reach. We also need a clear, forward-looking road map with a commitment to peak global emissions by 2025; global targets for key sectors, particularly those that are hard to decarbonise; and commitment to action, including through initiatives such as the breakthrough agenda and in other key areas such as forests, the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons and clear guidance for the next round of NDCs, which will be a central feature of the Belém COP in the Amazon in two years’ time.

The second area is clear progress towards a clean energy future, including a commitment to triple global renewable energy deployment and double energy efficiency by 2030. That sits alongside a clear commitment on phasing out unabated fossil fuels—our position on that issue is unchanged since the G7 commitment that the UK helped to deliver earlier this year—and to phase out coal power, building on COP26 outcomes.

The third area is reform of the international financial institutions to unlock trillions for global challenges including development and climate action, and delivery of our existing commitments, alongside $100 billion per year in climate finance for developing economies. As I have mentioned previously, the OECD’s latest report on 2021 figures shows that developed countries are on track to meet that goal.

The fourth area is improving adaptation to climate change, delivering on our Glasgow commitment to double adaptation finance by 2025, and establishing an effective loss and damage fund to support countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. We are pleased that the transitional committee that was set up to reach agreement on what that loss and damage fund should look like has put forward a recommendation to COP28. The UK was instrumental in securing that recommendation, and we hope it will be agreed by all parties at COP28. We will continue to advocate for the priorities of the most vulnerable: we held a third climate and development ministerial at the pre-COP event last month in Abu Dhabi, which I co-chaired, to do just that.

The fifth area is that we want real progress towards protecting, restoring and sustainably managing nature—for example, by making concrete progress on the historic agreement we landed to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Action to deliver net zero is not just a matter of doing the right thing, or of avoiding harm: it is crucial to our security and prosperity here in the UK, both now and in the future. The global net zero transition could be worth £1 trillion to UK businesses between 2021 and 2030. UK businesses are in the vanguard of recognising the opportunity that springs from net zero: over two thirds of FTSE 100 companies and thousands of small businesses have pledged to reduce their emissions in line with the 1.5° target under the Race To Zero campaign. Over half of the signatories to that campaign are from the UK.

Net zero is already an engine for growth and revitalisation of formerly deindustrialised areas in the UK. We are a leader across a number of areas: we have the world’s five largest offshore wind farm projects and the world’s No. 1 ranked green finance centre, and we are leading the way in developing an approach to carbon capture and storage, to name a few examples. Action on climate and nature is also crucial for our energy security and to reduce exposure to future global shocks, such as those caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The North sea’s transition to a clean energy powerhouse with 50GW of offshore wind by 2030 will reduce exposure to volatile international energy markets and be an engine for clean energy exports. Action on adaptation and nature is crucial in a world where food security is increasingly under threat.

However, we need everyone with us on this journey. The opportunities are huge: in 2023, we will see a record $1.8 trillion invested in clean energy alone. According to the International Energy Agency, electric vehicles are on track to account for two thirds of new car sales globally by 2030; the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles is taking off, and it will spread to other sectors quickly. At COP28, we need to show progress on delivering the historic agreement we landed in Glasgow. We must use UK expertise to scale green finance, support others to accelerate the transition in key sectors of the global economy, and set a clear pathway to 1.5°. At this point, I am happy to hear from other Members.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero) 12:35, 16 November 2023

Simon Stiell, the UN climate executive secretary, said at COP27 that we need

“everybody, everywhere in the world, every single day, doing everything they possibly can to address the climate crisis.”

That is the scale of the challenge ahead of us, and the global stocktake synthesis report has underlined what is at stake. We are falling short on mitigation, adaptation and finance. Current NCDs are 20 to 24 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent short of what is needed to limit warming to 1.5°. The conclusion is stark: there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. Indeed, in meetings I have had recently with climate scientists, they have warned that although they want to cling to the hope of keeping 1.5° alive, they fear we are now in the territory of 2°. At 2°, we lose our coral reefs, for example; that is not a solution that we should be happy to live with. Echoing Simon Stiell, the global stocktake report states that

“much more action, on all fronts and by all actors, is needed now”.

One would not know it from the speech that the Minister has just made, but we do not have a Government who are taking the action on all fronts that is needed now: we have a Government who are not just stalling, but taking us backwards. I thought it was quite a cheek for the Minister to cite electric vehicles, given that the Government have just rowed back from the 2030 ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles. The motor manufacturing sector, including the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Ford motor company, was quite happy with that 2030 date. The only reason that date was moved was that in the wake of the Uxbridge by-election, the Prime Minister wanted to play party politics with net zero. The Minister is quite audacious at times: he said that some countries were seeking to stoke division at COP, but that is exactly what his Government have been doing in recent weeks on net zero.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

The rest of the European Union has set the deadline of 2035. It was right that the United Kingdom Government set the ambition for 2030, but we recognise that things are changing: we have had covid, and there is still a need to roll out infrastructure. I think the hon. Lady is being ungenerous, since we will now be in line with the rest of the European Union, and we have a higher take-up of EVs than many other countries.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

In all the conversations I have with businesses, they say that they want certainty and a strategic sense of direction; they want to know where they are going, so we should not move the goalposts. There was no reason to row back from that target, and as I have said, the motor industry itself has expressed concern. That industry needs to develop a market in new vehicles now, so that in a few years’ time, we will have the affordable second-hand market that we need so that people can afford to make the transition. The right hon. Lady is absolutely right that the infrastructure is not there, but that is a challenge that we should rise to, getting a comprehensive network of public sector charging points, grid connections and so on. She will have heard that from Labour at its recent party conference.

Let me turn to domestic progress. Again, to listen to the Minister, one would think that everything was going swimmingly. The Climate Change Committee has assessed that the UK is unlikely to meet its NDC to reduce emissions by 68% between 1990 and 2030. The Government’s own carbon budget delivery plan conceded that Ministers only have plans for 92% of our NDC, but they have said that they are confident about delivering those emissions savings—that is something we often hear from the Minister, without any actual detail about how we will get there. In fact, it has been assessed that the Government have credible plans for only 28% of the required emissions reduction. There is a lot of work to be done.

The Climate Change Committee assessed the Government’s policies in October with and without the Prime Minister’s climate climbdown, and found a 20% increase in the proportion of the NDC pathway covered by “insufficient plans” having taken into account the Prime Minister’s intervention. It said that the

“widespread uncertainty for consumers and supply chains”, is more difficult to quantify, but, as I have said, at all the meetings I have had, people are saying that this has absolutely knocked them off course. There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for going down the path to net zero and I am told that there is a lot of private sector finance ready to invest, but they need a stable economic climate, not a Prime Minister who is U-turning just when action is needed.

Following the disastrous contracts for difference auction, the proportion of the electricity supply pathway with significant risks increased by over 5,000%. The refusal to help renters contributed to a fivefold increase in insufficient plans for buildings. When the Government’s policies are, as the Climate Change Committee found,

“making Net Zero considerably harder to achieve” and driving up energy bills, how can Ministers go to COP trying to boast about how well things are going in the UK? I do hope for action before COP. We have the autumn statement next week, and we were expecting some plans—I think the Chancellor promised in the spring that he would bring them forward—in response to the Inflation Reduction Act and the measures we then saw in the EU. I hope that we do get something on that front to at least reassure businesses that the Government still have net zero in their sights and see it as an important part of a future industrial strategy for us.

The UK used to be at the forefront of global climate action, and again the Minister was being a bit cheeky when talking about the progress that has been made since 2010. I think he entered Parliament when I did in 2005. Is that right?

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

The Minister may recall being on the Green Benches in 2008 when the Labour Government introduced the world’s first Climate Change Act, which was then adopted by more than 100 countries around the world. It was groundbreaking.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

If the hon. Lady wants to have a history lesson—and we did, indeed, come in together—she will remember that it was David Cameron, as the leader of the Conservatives, who was the first leader of a major party in this country to call for a climate Act. I think the Liberal Democrats leader followed suit a few hours later, and the Labour Government then eventually did so. I served on the Joint Committee, chaired by the brilliant David Puttnam, that put this into place, so I will not take any lectures from her. It was the Conservatives who led the charge to get that going—the first major party to support it—and I was pleased to see it put on the statute book. We were of course the first major economy in the world, and the first Government, to legislate for net zero overall.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

It was a Labour Climate Change Act brought in by the now shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband. I can see why the Minister may be desperate to try to claim credit for it, because the Government have so little else that they can claim credit for, but it was a Labour Act introduced by a Labour Government. It is because that was enacted that we have seen so much progress, and as I have said, it was taken as a model for many other countries to follow. However, we are now setting entirely the wrong example to other countries by scaling back on our net zero ambition and last year the Prime Minister had to be forced to attend COP.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

The Minister will have an opportunity to respond in his wind-up at the end, but I suppose I will give way once more.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

This is a really important topic, and it is important that we get our language right. The Government have not scaled back our net zero ambitions for either our NDC in 2030 or net zero by 2050. The hon. Lady can make lots of points, partisan or otherwise, but it would be great if she acknowledged that this country has, under this Conservative Government, cut emissions by more than any other major economy on earth and has the most ambitious plans for 2030.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

The Minister will also know that the Government had to be taken to court, because it is one thing declaring targets and ambitions, but unless they have the strategy—[Interruption.] The Government were taken to court, and that is why they had to produce the delivery plan earlier this year. The Climate Change Committee, which by his account was all his idea because it was all his idea to introduce the Climate Change Act, has said that the Government are not on track to meet their ambitions. So the Minister cannot just rely on grandiose boasts about where he wants to get us to if he does has not have a plan to get us there, and it is very clear that he does not have a plan to get us there.

The Minister said that we represent only 1% of global emissions, which is true, but the NDC emissions gap is approximately the total combined annual emissions from the top three emitting countries. Yes, they have responsibilities, but this does need everybody everywhere to play their part. I do not think we would want to try to suggest that we were insignificant in the big global picture because we represent only 1% of the total population.

I will move on specifically to the COP agenda and what we hope to see. Will the UK be calling for the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, and does the Minister agree with the global stocktake report—[Interruption.] I am just about to come to that. I know the Minister mentioned it, but does he agree with the global stocktake report that fossil fuel subsidies are stifling cost-effective low-carbon alternatives? The global stocktake report states that

“lifetime emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure will exceed estimates for keeping…1.5 °C within reach”.

My point is that, if the UK will be calling for the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, how does he think going to COP when the Government have just announced the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill in the King’s Speech will sit when he tries to lecture other countries on moving away from fossil fuels?

The global stocktake report is clear that CO2 removals have a role, but are

“not a substitute for deep emissions reduction.”

It states:

“A rapid reduction of the world economy’s reliance on fossil fuels towards clean energy is central for reaching global net zero”.

That sounds to me like an endorsement of Labour’s clean energy mission for 2030. Unlike the Government’s short-term approach, this will increase our energy security, create good jobs and reduce energy bills—unlike, as the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero admitted the other day, the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill—and it will mean that the UK is leading the world in tackling the climate crisis.

The Minister mentioned nature-based solutions, and I was very pleased to hear that, but can he say a bit more about what global action the Government will be supporting with sustainable land management—I understand that that will be on the agenda at COP in a way that it has not been in the past—as well as terrestrial and ocean carbon sequestration? What discussions are there likely to be on the role of setting up credible international carbon markets? To give one example, we know that wetlands have huge potential, but we are still waiting to hear about the saltmarsh code—the former Secretary of State for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Coffey, may have something to say about that—and whether we can add saltmarshes to the greenhouse gas inventory. With the UK’s leading position as a world financial centre, we are ideally placed to be playing a role in creating these markets both on the nature side and on the carbon side.

It is estimated that tree loss last year was 2.1% higher than the maximum level. Will the Minister update us on that? He mentioned halting and reversing deforestation by 2030, and on the international side that is very much about stamping out links to deforestation in our supply chains. Could he give an update on how that is going, because as I understand it, it is not going well? Those issues were all highlighted in the global stocktake.

The built environment and transport are also on the COP agenda, and it would be helpful if the Minister could tell us a little more about the Government’s priorities for the talks. He mentioned the loss and damage fund, and the work of the transitional committee. It would be interesting to know more about what conversations he has had with climate-vulnerable countries, and the small island developing states in particular, because it is one thing to set up these financial arrangements, but in the past the smaller a country, the fewer resources it has, and it finds it very difficult to access the finance that is out there.

The Minister also mentioned the need to reform international financial institutions, which was welcome. I do not know whether he intends to reveal much about his actual agenda at COP before he goes—and it would be useful to know who else is going with him—but one question that has been asked of me is whether he will be attending the ministerial event on methane on 4 December. I think it is really important that we start addressing methane in connection both with the fossil fuel sector and with agriculture and waste. I hope that will be a priority for him.

To conclude, the UN has previously warned that the world is on course for a catastrophic 2.8°C of warming, in part because promises made at COP26 and COP27 have not been fulfilled. We are running out of last chances, but we can still avert the very worst of it, because we have the knowledge and tools to do so; it is just the willpower that is lacking at the moment.

The UK under Labour will, as called for in the global stocktake, transform our energy system with a plan to double onshore wind, treble solar, and quadruple offshore wind. Our warm homes plans will see 90 million cold and draughty homes brought up to standard, and Labour’s answer to the Inflation Reduction Act will restore Britain’s international leadership and create jobs across the country. Our proposals for a clean power alliance will lead ambitious countries and support the most vulnerable. A net zero target should not lead to complacency. There is so much more that the UK can and must do, not only to reduce emissions but to deliver energy security, reduce energy bills, and enable British industry to thrive over the long term. That is the vision we need to see at COP.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 12:50, 16 November 2023

It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate. COP28 will be vital, recognising the global stocktake that will be happening, and I commend the Government on the progress they have made, while also recognising, not just in this country but around the world, the necessity of a just transition.

I pay tribute to the Prime Minister, who in his speech a couple of months ago recognised that we have already been doing so well on aspects of the carbon budget. He also recognised some of the impacts that were about to unfold, particularly in rural communities like mine in Suffolk Coastal, including a transition away from oil boilers—something that we all want. He is allowing more time for that to happen, rather than the sudden impact that such measures could have had on many people in my constituency and across the country. His speech was also about aspects of housing and the energy performance certificate. Undoubtedly, in many rural parts of the country, trying to achieve EPC standard C is difficult, because there is pretty old housing—not just from 20 or 30 years ago, but considerably older. Trying to make that change meant that a lot of buildings were at risk of being removed from the private rental sector, which would not be good in terms of housing people in our rural communities.

I also commend the Prime Minister on saying, in a key part of his speech at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh last year, that there is no solution to climate change without protecting and restoring nature. That is 100% right. Again, the United Kingdom should be proud of how it has put nature, and nature-based solutions, at the heart of ensuring that we achieve net zero around the world.

In her 1988 speech, my political heroine Margaret Thatcher highlighted the risk to the world of climate change. She was pivotal in ensuring that the Montreal protocol, and its subsequent amendments, was an innovative way—indeed, the most successful agreement ever reached —to try to tackle climate change. The Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol was ratified by this Parliament in 2017, and I was pleased to be the DEFRA Minister who led that ratification. The critical outcome of that is to try to prevent 0.5°C of warming, which will help. Indeed, that is the single biggest contribution that will be made towards keeping the goal of 1.5° alive.

This is about how we tackle the issue in a variety of ways, in particular how we use hydrofluorocarbons—in the past it was chlorofluorocarbons—and thinking about the global warming power of the different chemicals we use. In my constituency, GAH Transport has been in operation for 30 years. It is a small business, but it is really making an impact with the amount of research and innovation that it is undertaking to try to use more of the sorts of chemical that reduce global warming potential. That will be an important part of the innovation we need not just in this country but around the world. I am delighted that the UK Government are funding, through international climate finance and other aspects of official development assistance, important progress in India and Rwanda. That is important progress in the cooling challenges that those countries face, not only when heating or cooling homes, but also—particularly in Rwanda, working with other African nations nearby—when thinking about the impact on agriculture, and how we can try to reduce food waste. We are supporting that important innovation to ensure that we keep the goal of 1.5° alive.

I have one request for the Minister. The United Arab Emirates, which is taking up the COP28 presidency, has not ratified the Kigali amendment, and I encourage him to raise that with the COP28 President and Ministers for that country to see whether they can do that. We need leadership across the world. The amendment is already in effect because a sufficient number of countries have signed, but it would show further leadership from the UAE to undertake that important ratification.

I admit that I am a bit of a veteran of COPs. I went to COP23 in Bonn in 2017, and to COP24 in Katowice. We had the magnificent COP26 in Glasgow, with our own president, my right hon. Friend Sir Alok Sharma. In many ways that was a game changer for nature, and it was strengthened last year at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Going back to Bonn, nature was really the Cinderella of it all. The oceans—we were already seeing the change, and the impact of climate change; we were starting to see acidification. Although the seas are still alkaline, they are getting more acidic, and it is important to recognise that power and how nature has helped us.

Oceans have effectively been absorbing so much carbon that the impacts—what that is doing to nature—are now starting to become clear. Kerry McCarthy mentioned the bleaching of coral reefs and the potential loss of those reefs, and it is important that nature goes hand in hand with climate strategy. I am delighted that the UK Government have made that a key part of what we do.

On other aspects of nature, the Minister and I have attended a variety of international meetings. Most recently we were together in India for the G20, and I was with the former Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my right hon. Friend Grant Shapps, in Japan at the G7. It has been an important part of that journey that we work globally with partners. To some extent, that has been the secret of what made the Montreal protocol work so well. Funding was given to try to help countries around the world with that innovation and transition. Some of those things are not straightforward. For example, right beneath us we have the tube system, and the way that some of these chemicals or gases were used in the past has been a key part of some of our own infrastructure. We need to change away from that, in particular by not using sulphur hexafluoride any more, or by reducing it and phasing it down as far as we can. It is important that we share our understanding and technology, and that is why what I said about India and Rwanda is an important part of making that happen.

Thinking a little more broadly, I will briefly touch on my time at the Department for Work and Pensions. I do so because I know that a lot of these measures will need financing. We made an important decision to make reporting to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures mandatory when it comes to pensions. If we think about the trillions of pounds of assets that are in global business and being invested, it makes sense for businesses to think ahead about the impact of climate change, and for investors to do so as well. That does not mean that things will happen overnight. Businesses must be conscious of what the impact of climate change will be, and frankly they need to start financing to try to mitigate that impact or adapt towards it. As a slight aside, I welcome the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, and I hope I can persuade the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions to adopt that in future as well.

In order to ensure that we achieve net zero by 2050, we do have to think of the planet—of course we do—and we have to think of people. A lot of this is quite an uncomfortable transition and a change to a way of life, and we must make it as straightforward as possible. I also know that we can be prosperous as a consequence of these changes, whether that is through green jobs in the UK, or ensuring that instead of spending lots of money on having to adapt, mitigate or deal with crises in different parts of the world, we build such measures into our systematic way of growing globally in terms of our prosperity. That is why it is so important that the £11.5 billion of international climate finance is still a key part of the Government’s strategy.

My constituency contains a nuclear power station, Sizewell B. It was home to Sizewell A, which is now being decommissioned, and planning consent has been given for Sizewell C. It really matters for our energy supply that we have a mix. There is also a lot of offshore wind in the southern North sea. The impact on the onshore infrastructure required to bring that into our network is a source of much concern in Suffolk, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister is well aware of that. I will not dwell on that—I intend to bring it up another time—but to take the national and global position, we need to work out how we will make that transition fair, thinking of the impact on communities and on nature. I know that my right hon. Friend is wise about those matters.

The shadow Minister referred to the greenhouse gases inventory. I agree that we should look to bring saltmarsh, woodlands and so on into the inventory. I am delighted that DEFRA’s chief scientific adviser, Dr Gideon Henderson, is undertaking that work. I wish him well and hope he will be able to work at pace. I will shortly talk about mangroves—my favourite, they are magic and it would not be a speech from me if I did not talk about them—and we have to recognise that saltmarsh is our equivalent of mangroves. In my time previously in DEFRA and in the past year, I tried but did not quite get there—I really need the Marine Management Organisation to work much more collaboratively with Natural England and the Environment Agency to make it more straightforward to plant saltmarsh. There have been too many complications with licensing in different ways, and it is very frustrating. Like mangroves, saltmarsh is multipurpose. It can sequester carbon, it can be a good flood defence, and it is a brilliant habitat for many of the migratory wading birds that come to our shores. I am very keen that we make good progress on making that happen.

On emissions, I want to thank Robert Caudwell who did a report for DEFRA on lowland peat and the impact of farming and agriculture. I wrote the foreword to the Government’s response earlier this year and welcomed the investment towards tackling the emissions, because it is a significant amount. It is of course important that we have food security, but we also need to tackle emissions from agriculture in a measured way. Wider work on the restoration of peatlands has been a passion of mine for several years.

My right hon. Friend mentioned deforestation, which was one of the key elements of COP26 in the leaders’ pledge, various declarations and the coalition of ambitions. I am known for wanting to make sure we turn ambitions into action, and I know that the House will share that thought. I was, therefore, delighted that we were able to contribute to the Amazon Fund, which will help Brazil in particular. That was announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year. Progress is being made on getting the forest risk commodities legislation ready, and I hope it will be laid before the House before too long. It is important that as we make these changes we do our best to reduce deforestation and our demands through supply chains, and I commend the companies that have already made those changes. There is more to do, and I hope more will be done very shortly.

Nature-based solutions can be symbiotic and provide much more value for money in achieving what we want to achieve. It has not always been the case that actions taken to reduce carbon have been beneficial to the environment. That is not a criticism. The dash for diesel had other impacts, especially with particulate matter 2.5. People did not know at the time, but we should recognise now that the dash for diesel had an impact on other aspects of the environment and it is important that we consider both as we make further changes.

I have a particular passion for mangroves. I tried to brand them “blue forests” to make them a bit more accessible around the world, but they are magical. They are magic because, bang for buck, they are better at carbon sequestration than the Amazon forests. They have been in place for a long time, but they are also under threat, because they make brilliant wood for building homes and boats. I commend countries such as Mozambique that have put in national protections. We should think about how much of the Commonwealth has mangroves, because at the moment they do not get rewarded for the protections they have put in place.

Communities do understand; it is not just about carbon. What is magic about mangroves is that they provide a brilliant place to develop aquaculture. The fishing industries locally can be sustainable because of the opportunities for the growth of fish stock and protection from other predators, just by the nature of the mangroves. They also have an impact on coastal erosion and protection. Haiti in the Caribbean suffered a devastating hurricane some years ago, but, while the areas with mangroves were still damaged, they were the quickest to recover. That is why I am on a mission, and will continue to be so as long as I have breath, to champion mangroves whether in this House or as I regularly did in ministerial meetings around the world.

The magic of mangroves needs to be recognised more, and that is why I was pleased that for COP28 the UAE made a commitment to plant more mangroves. My right hon. Friend the Minister and I went different ways after the G20 in Chennai, and I had the privilege of visiting the second largest mangrove forest in the world at Pichavaram, and it was exceptionally special. I love that the community also recognises how special the forest is and how important it is to protect it. I am conscious that other parts of the world have had a slash and burn approach in the past to generate other aspects of the economy, but now Governments and communities have recognised the importance of stopping deforestation, as my right hon. Friend mentioned.

On the history of climate change, I give credit to the Labour Government who introduced the Climate Act 2008, and we took a generally cross-party approach to it. David Cameron introduced “vote blue, go green” and was really behind the change. The Act legislated for an 80% reduction by 2050, and it was actually my right hon. Friend Mrs May, when she was Prime Minister, who made the change to a 100% reduction by law. Those legal targets matter. We should also recognise that it was Boris Johnson who really made a difference at COP26. He brought nature and the world together to make sure that we would keep up the momentum.

There is no doubt in my mind that covid was a bit of a body-check to progress on many environmental matters, but it is important that we keep accelerating, and I wish my right hon. Friend the Minister well at COP28. I know that several Ministers are going, including Lord Benyon from DEFRA and my successor as the Secretary of State. It matters that we are there. We need to bring others with us, but they will not come with us if we just attack what they do.

Just last week, I was in Beijing where I met Minister Huang, the president of the Committee on Biological Diversity that led to the immense global biodiversity framework agreed last December in Montreal. We have to work with China and with other countries—I think in particular of Minister Yadav in India. I was able to explain what I thought was the Prime Minister’s just transition, but we certainly cannot reduce our ambition; we have to work with other countries, and challenge them but bring them along, because it matters that everybody makes their commitment.

It does not matter if the United Kingdom or any other country is the first to reach net zero—what matters is when the last country hits net zero. We need to ensure that as many countries as possible achieve that by 2050, if not before, and I wish my right hon. Friend the Minister well in the negotiations. I know there is ambition in our thinking about some of the different approaches that need to be taken. I hope that he will also be key to the Commonwealth playing its part. At the UN General Assembly, I was delighted to chair the first meeting of Commonwealth Ministers for environment and climate, and there was certainly ambition there. Let us turn that into action. I have great confidence in my right hon. Friend making that happen.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business) 1:11, 16 November 2023

I will start with a short reality check. Climate scientists are forecasting with near certainty that 2023 will set a new record as the hottest year. October global temperatures soared 1.7°C above the late-1800s average for that month. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, September 2023 surpassed the average July temperatures from 2001 to 2010. Those records are not merely being broken but being shattered. Heatwaves, droughts and floods have resulted in significant human suffering, claiming thousands of lives, disrupting livelihoods and displacing scores of people.

The burden of these climactic shifts falls disproportionately on those regions and communities that have contributed least to the crisis. East Africa, a region with minimal contribution to global carbon emissions, has faced devastating drought and famine, with estimates earlier this year suggesting that two lives were being lost every minute. Meanwhile, low-lying nations such as Tuvalu facing the real threat of extinction in the coming decades are creating digital back-ups of their entire existence and culture, complete with ancestral knowledge and value systems.

As we approach COP28, it is therefore encouraging—although long overdue—that the conference will focus more on frontline communities, and especially those in least developed countries and small islands. That emphasis must translate into tangible financial support. That is an area where Scotland has set a precedent as the first country in the global north to commit funds to climate loss and damage, pledging £2 million at COP26. Last year, the Scottish Government allocated an additional £5 million to non-economic loss and damage, supporting initiatives preserving the heritage of affected communities. Those sums are, of course, small compared with what is required globally. Finance provided by rich countries to help the poorest deal with climate change remains woefully inadequate. However, the Scottish Government’s action has encouraged others to follow, with about $300 million thought to have been pledged globally to address loss and damage.

At COP27, a landmark agreement was reached to establish a dedicated fund aimed explicitly at supporting vulnerable nations and communities who are grappling with the irreversible effects of climate change. That action must be accelerated, and the finance offered must be additional to that already available for mitigation and adaptation—and it must be in the form of grants not loans. Support for adaptation initiatives is simply inadequate.

Countries of the global north not only bear a substantial responsibility for the destructive consequences of climate change through our emissions but have benefited from the competitive advantages that the early adoption of fossil fuels and industrialisation provided. Therefore, surely wealthy nations have a moral obligation to recognise that historical responsibility and lead by example. First Minister Humza Yousaf and Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition Màiri McAllan, who will represent Scotland at the conference, will make that case to delegates.

Action to address loss and damage gets to the heart of what we mean by climate justice. It is a principle that is equally important at home as it is globally. The Scottish Government are committed to ending our reliance on fossil fuels in a way that is fair and leaves no one behind. That is exemplified by the just transition fund: the Scottish Government’s 10-year, £500 million investment to support projects in the north-east and Moray as those regions transition to net zero. The principles of a just transition are also enshrined in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019, emphasising the creation of green, sustainable jobs and addressing economic inequality.

The actions needed to reach net zero by 2045 will transform all sectors of our economy and society, and will require rapid structural change. In Scotland, and indeed throughout the UK, we have seen how unplanned structural changes in the past have left intergenerational scarring and deprivation, most notably in our former coalmining communities. Our transition to net zero must be managed differently.

In October alone, we have experienced two extreme rainfall events, including Storm Babet, which disrupted transport, destroyed infrastructure and crops, led to the evacuation of communities, and tragically took lives in Scotland and across the UK. The health of our environment, economy and society is interlinked with how well we mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. That is why the Scottish Government are making an extra £150 million available in this parliamentary term on top of £42 million annually for flood risk management, and £12 million on coastal adaptation.

The Scottish Government’s climate change plan update outlines nearly 150 policies, setting a pathway to meet our ambitious emissions targets by 2032, including a 75% reduction by 2030. We have reached significant milestones. In 2020, almost 100% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption in Scotland was generated from renewable sources. Although the Scottish Government have met targets and missed others, at the last count the Government missed their annual emissions target by only 1.2%. That tells us two things. The actions of the Scottish Government are helping us to track very closely to where we need to be against the backdrop of some of the most stretching targets in the world. Equally, there is a great deal left to do.

Of course, the delivery of Scotland’s climate ambitions is also contingent on action by the UK Government in reserved and shared areas, and that certainly has not been helped by the Prime Minister’s recent abandonment of key net zero commitments. The sheer scale of his policy reversals may have a significant impact on Scotland, not least in the preparation of our own draft climate change plan. I am afraid that the King’s Speech only deepened those concerns. The problems with the announced new licensing system have been highlighted by both climate scientists and anti-poverty campaigners, so I do not need to go into them, but analysis from earlier this year showed that new oil and gas fields in the North sea will produce only enough gas to meet the UK’s needs for a few weeks a year. If the Government were serious about strengthening the UK’s energy security and bringing down people’s energy bills, they would start by announcing robust measures to incentivise investments in renewables. I think in particular of tidal stream—I speak about that regularly in this House—similar to what we are seeing from the EU and the US, as well as matching the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund.

People in Scotland are rightly asking how it is possible that they are facing unaffordable energy bills when in 2020 Scotland produced enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of every household in the country for more than three years. They are also wondering why in a country where we produce six times more gas than we consume, Age Scotland’s figures suggest that a scandalous 50% of people aged 55 to 64 are living in fuel poverty.

We are also seeing the damaging impact of Brexit on environmental protections and standards, which Members on the SNP Benches warned of repeatedly. The Tories’ Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 threatens the high standards that Scotland enjoyed as an EU member, before we were removed against the wishes of the clear majority of people in our country. Just this week, we heard the UK Government’s plans to reduce the safety information required from chemical companies to register substances to an irreducible minimum. The UK’s registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—UK REACH—is already falling behind the EU’s regulations, and that move will only heighten the risk of toxic substances entering the environment.

In the realm of national security, the Defence Committee’s recent report on climate change found that the Ministry of Defence could do much more to measure and reduce its carbon emissions without eroding military capability.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I hear what the hon. Lady says about chemicals; the Government are planning to produce a new chemicals strategy. She may not be aware that the European Union refused to allow the United Kingdom access to all the information on REACH. The cost of replicating exactly the same information is huge. She needs to be mindful that we are trying to support business, while recognising that the European Union could have given us access and refused to do so.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business)

That is just another complication caused by Brexit, which has been a disaster for the UK.

As I mentioned, in the realm of national security, the Defence Committee has taken a close interest for some time, so it seems that some sort of environmental audit would be appropriate for Ministry of Defence activities.

Whoever wins the next election faces a long road to rectify the decisions of the current Government. Hon. Members should not take my word for it, but it does not bode well for the UK’s standing on the climate crisis ahead of COP28. Lord Deben, the former chair of the Climate Change Committee, said in the summer that by failing to act decisively in response to the energy crisis and building on the success of hosting COP26, the UK has lost its claim to global climate leadership.

To restore influence and authority ahead of COP28, the Prime Minister should take heed of the letter from the all-party parliamentary group for climate change, which Members from different parties across the Chamber have signed. It calls on the Prime Minister to appoint a Secretary of State-level UK climate envoy ahead of COP28, after the Government scrapped the role of special representative on climate change within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We want the UK Government to support climate-vulnerable countries by committing new and additional grant-based finance to the loss and damage fund, and championing a just global energy transition by engaging with affected workers and supporting other countries to fairly move away from fossil fuels.

As we all know, the Paris agreement binds countries to stop the planet heating by 1.5° by the end of the century. However, current policies are set to heat it by about 2.4°. That trajectory spells disaster for the planet. We must play our part in reversing it immediately.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 1:23, 16 November 2023

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for water, sanitation and hygiene, I declare an interest relevant to this debate and to the future of our globe. I am honoured to be part of this debate on such an important issue. No other important issue is raised so many times by young people when I visit schools in Putney, Southfields and Roehampton, and by the many members of the Putney Environment Commission, which I set up shortly after I was elected for local people interested in taking action on climate internationally, nationally and locally. Last night we had a meeting about what we can do to rewild local streets in London, and are looking forward to playing our part in action before and after the United Nations climate change conference, COP28. I will attend the conference, with a delegation of 10 MPs. It is important that parliamentarians are at the conference, meeting experts and activists who are all working towards ensuring a green future and the action on climate and nature that is so important for our long-term survival.

This year, 2023, will be the hottest year on record. Every day we witness the climate crisis unfold, from the effects of El Niño to the UK battered by storm after storm. Currently, between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change. The world’s poorest people, including women and girls so often on the frontline, are paying the highest price. Under current estimates, we face a 40% shortfall in fresh water by 2030—not very far away. Water scarcity is escalating, which affects trade, economies, poverty reduction, food and nutrition, but also migration—an issue that is a subject of many debates in this House and will only be exacerbated by climate change. That is the tip of the iceberg. The disruption and damage that the climate crisis causes and will cause to all our lives cannot be overstated. As the Minister said, the world is badly off track to agreeing the Paris agreement targets and keeping 1.5° alive.

Dr Coffey mentioned mangrove forests. I am also a fan, having been to visit mangrove forests in Bangladesh when I worked for Water Aid. I had the privilege of visiting a coastal community in Bangladesh, where the climate crisis is already extremely real. It used to be a freshwater area where people survived by fishing, but it has been salinated. I sat with a group of women in that rural area where they could not harvest or grow anything—there was nothing they could do. They wanted to move anywhere else, but were stuck in an area that seemed arid, like a desert from the future, where climate change was making such an impact on communities. I have said many times that climate change is not something that will happen to us; it is happening now. That was understood by the recent COPs, but needs to be understood even more. If we are too late, there will be no concrete action to effect change at the scale we need.

The main outcome needed at COP28 is obvious: an agreement for no new fossil fuels. Many organisations such as the International Energy Agency have said that to achieve global net zero emissions by the year 2050, there should be no new fossil fuel extraction projects beyond those already committed. How can the Government believe that approving more than 100 new North sea oil and gas projects is in any way in line with that, the legal frameworks or the views of the vast majority of voters? As other countries forge ahead with renewables, the UK is lagging behind. We need to keep it in the ground, it is very simple. Unless we and other countries get this right, there will not be the progress we need.

Climate justice is very important. Making sure that lower and middle-income countries can respond to climate impacts is essential. I hope that will be one of the biggest outcomes of COP28. In 2009, rich Governments agreed to provide $100 billion in climate finance annually to developing countries. But that goal, which originally was meant to be fulfilled by 2020, has still not been met. The £11.6 billion adaptation and mitigation finance that the UK pledged in 2019 is more loan-based than grant-based, and so only increases debt for the world’s most indebted countries.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I am very glad to hear that. That needs to be the future, because grant-based instead of loan-based is vital. I am glad that there have been changes along the way, as a result of a lot of campaigning.

I highlight five areas of concern. First, on phasing out fossil fuels, the UK Government must play their part in ending the fossil fuel era by committing to cease direct and indirect funding of overseas fossil fuel projects, including those financed by British international investment, and instead committing to rapidly scaling up investment in renewable energy at home. Secondly, on the loss and damage fund, Governments at COP28 must commit to designing a loss and damage fund with adequate grant-based funding arrangements and specific plans to support countries facing economic and non-economic losses and damage. The polluters must pay. The fossil fuel industry is posting record profits, but it should be paying for the damage it is causing. The UK Government must commit to providing their fair share of funding through grant-based funding arrangements, and should have specific plans to support countries that face both economic and non-economic losses and damages.

The third concern is the need to fulfil climate finance pledges. The UK Government must meet their own climate finance commitments with additional, new funds, not by re-badging finance already given to British International Investment or the World Bank. The fourth concern is the need to reform the global food system in order to tackle the climate crisis. Action on food and action by farmers go hand-in-hand with tackling climate change. Governments at COP28 must to commit to transforming food systems through progress on the Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on agriculture. Alongside that, the UK Government must develop a cross-departmental strategy on providing support for more resilient food systems internationally that prioritises the needs of small-scale farmers. Small-scale farmers are really the climate activists on the frontline of climate change; they will be the best advocates, and will take the best actions on climate change, but they need funding and support to do so.

The fifth concern is the need to invest in climate-resilient water sanitation and hygiene projects, and the need for policies that enable people to respond to immediate threats and to adapt to the impacts of climate change where they are. People do not want to leave where they live because of climate change. They absolutely want to stay where they are, but with water for agriculture, to grow crops and to live in hygienic conditions.

The climate crisis is also a crisis of health around the world. As we saw with covid, we need to be able to wash our hands. That is such a basic need. Healthcare centres need adequate water and sanitation. The climate crisis threatens advances in sanitation, which threatens advances in poverty reduction. We must also ensure we keep clean water, wherever it is found.

Labour will take further, faster action on the environment. Labour knows that this is an exciting opportunity for economic growth, for a new industry, and for job creation. We will insulate 19 million homes within a decade under our warm homes plan, which will cut bills by up to £500 and create 4 million jobs. We will act fast to lead the world as a clean and cheap energy superpower by 2030. We will establish GB Energy, a new home-grown publicly owned champion of clean energy generation, so that we can be really world-leading in the action that we take at home. We will deliver thousands of high-quality jobs to every corner of this great country.

Labour believes that we need a just transition to a net zero economy. That cannot be left to the whims of the market, as was the de-industrialisation of the 1980s. Social justice must be at the centre of our response to the climate and environment emergency, and fairness must shape our approach to the green transition here at home. We have to actively shape that green transition, so that no one is left behind and people and places are protected throughout. Ecological breakdown is also a major problem; the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth. Labour will ensure that we not only halt but reverse the loss of biodiversity in the UK by 2030.

In conclusion, I look forward to attending COP28 this year. I went to many international conferences in my previous work before I was an MP. I always go with high hopes, and always leave with a high degree of disappointment, feeling that we could have gone further. I could almost write the conference press releases before I go, but I maintain a high degree of hope and optimism, as more and more people work together internationally to take on the crisis. All around the world, the green sprint has now begun; there is a surge in renewables, green technology and economic growth. We are making, at pace, some of the technological advances that are needed if we are to achieve the necessary outcomes for our climate, and they are becoming affordable. I hope we can come together to stave off the worst of the impacts to climate and nature, and together create a better and more prosperous world.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 1:34, 16 November 2023

It is a pleasure to follow Fleur Anderson. She may be disappointed by what she hears from others, but she never disappoints with what she says in this House. We were in Pakistan back in February. We have an interest in issues relating to persecution and freedom of religious belief, and in how we can help through work on human rights. She is experienced and knowledgeable on the subject of water, and we visited some encouraging projects, but we were reminded of the impact in parts of the world where, unlike here, water is a scarce commodity.

I am very happy to speak in the debate, and I cannot believe it is again time for the annual COP meeting. This year it is in Dubai, where I am sure the weather will be much better than in the UK, given the storms we had recently. This year’s cross-cutting themes aim to address our main targets: technology, inclusion, finance and front- line communities.

It is great that we have the opportunity to discuss these issues. It is always a pleasure to provide a Northern Ireland perspective in debates in this Chamber and elsewhere, so that we have a united and joint approach to our climate change and net zero targets. It is also a pleasure to see the Minister in his place. I was encouraged by some of the things he referred to, such as the targets met and the goals achieved. I believe in giving credit to those who do well. At the same time, if targets are not met, then we challenge. Let us put on record our thanks where goals have been achieved. It was also a pleasure to hear from the Labour shadow Minister, Kerry McCarthy, and the SNP shadow, Deidre Brock. They made valuable contributions, as others have.

I declare an interest as a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, because I will speak about agriculture. Across the world, we have fires, floods, droughts and tsunamis. Those things do not just happen; man and woman have a role to play in the world in which we all live. Nature, I would suggest, is angry. It is nature’s way of reminding us that what we do has repercussions.

To go back to Northern Ireland, it is no secret how crucial our agriculture sector is. I live on a farm. All my neighbours are farmers and most of them are dairy men. Farming is the largest emitting sector in Northern Ireland, contributing some 27% of emissions—and that increased over the 30 years covered by the statistical bulletin to which I refer. The Government, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the National Farmers Union have committed to reducing those emissions, and it is important that that happens. It is no secret how challenging it is to cut emissions. Large organisations such as the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the NFU have had to cope and adapt in a short space of time, so it is promising to see that COP will address that this year. It is important that that happens.

On 10 December, the theme for the day will be food and agriculture. The aim will be to address innovation investment, regenerative agriculture and national transformation. That is a positive sign that our agricultural industries are being given the means of contributing to climate targets. At the Democratic Unionist party conference about a month ago, the UFU had a stand, and it has a paper on how to achieve net zero targets. Be under no illusion: farmers, landowners, my neighbours and the unions are totally committed to doing their bit to achieve climate targets. There is definitely a clear, central role for farmers.

Many comparisons can be made between the state of our climate and prevailing health issues across the UK and further afield. As my party’s health spokesperson, I am greatly pleased that health issues will also be addressed at COP. It looks like a terrific conference, and there are lots of key issues on the agenda that I would like discussed.

I have been in contact with organisations about the clean air programme, which is tackling the air quality issues facing us all. For the first time at a COP summit, a full day’s agenda has been devoted this year to initiatives designed to

“protect livelihoods and support community resilience and stability” in the face of the advancing effects of climate change. While some may say that there is no such thing as climate change, the facts—the evidence that we all have in front of us—tell us that there is, and that something must be done about it. There will be high-level discussions about the importance of clean air, which has been proven to lead to improvements in both mental and physical health.

Some three weeks ago, I spoke in a debate about circular economies and their importance in our local communities. Ards and North Down Council, which covers the area in which I both work and reside, has a proven commitment to acting sustainably to create a vibrant and healthy economy. Recognising the contribution that local councils and devolved Administrations can make to net zero targets across the UK is perhaps the smallest but most important step to take in regulating environmental sustainability. The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly all have a key role to play. We all play that role in our own places, but when we all come together, it is the teamwork that delivers. Whether we discuss these issues at events as large as COP or more internally back home in local council chambers, we will never progress without having the conversations. It is great, and commendable, that efforts in that regard are being made at all levels of government.

I look forward sincerely to hearing the comments made at COP28, and not only from the perspective of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Again, it is no secret that I love this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I believe that it is better together. Some may have a different opinion—at least one Member who is in the Chamber now, perhaps—but the rest of us are committed to the importance of that. When it comes to looking further afield and globally, the United Kingdom of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, as well as all the regions, has a part to play—at all political levels: council, regional, and Westminster. COP provides an opportunity for a joint and united approach to meeting our targets, and that is something that we have to achieve. There are no “ifs” about it; there are no questions. We must ensure that efforts are made in this place to achieve those goals.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) 1:42, 16 November 2023

I congratulate all the Members who have spoken in the debate, which is an important one ahead of COP28. Further to the other interactions that I mentioned in my opening speech, we will be making a written ministerial statement on our priorities for COP before we go, and I will be responsible for the negotiations there.

It has been a very interesting debate, but it is a shame that Kerry McCarthy struggled so much to acknowledge the position that we are in. I have never heard it come out of her mouth that this country has cut its emissions more than any other major economy on this earth, which it has, or that it has the most ambitious plans of any economy on this earth, which it has. It would be good to have that as a baseline; there is plenty of room to pick up on issues and concerns about our performance while also acknowledging that the UK truly is a global leader. I am pleased to say we are not only leading domestically, but leading in the international space as well.

A couple of Members mentioned the Climate Change Committee in the context of the Prime Minister’s speech in September. It is worth noting that the Climate Change Committee’s analysis shows that there is “no material difference” in our progress in cutting emissions since its last report in June. We are tacking, as I would put it. However, our destination remains exactly the same. We are reassuring people in rural areas who were fearful that they could neither afford heat pumps nor be sure of their functionality, while increasing the subsidy for them by 50%, and working to build the system and drive the cost curve down, so that more and more homes can have them. That is right the way to ensure that we maintain public support for delivering net zero.

The same applies to zero-emission vehicles. Manufacturers have a ZEV mandate—an obligation to “green” their fleet up to 2030. That builds on our successful record to date; we are ahead of the Climate Change Committee’s and our own projections. We are maintaining that ZEV mandate. The Climate Change Committee spoke of “no material difference” in progress on particular changes, but the focus on grid and other aspects of the Prime Minister’s speech are all about turbocharging our efforts to deliver not only the nationally determined contribution in 2030, but net zero by 2050.

Methane was mentioned, and it is an important issue. The global methane pledge is a collective commitment intended to mobilise international action on methane. I am pleased to say that UK methane emissions between 1990 and 2021 dropped by 62%, one of the largest reductions in any OECD country, but I should also to highlight the fact that methane represents one of our biggest opportunities—the opportunity to ensure that that pledge is delivered not only domestically but internationally. It should also be noted that we are the only major economy to set a legally binding emissions reduction target, of 77%, for 2035 as part of carbon budget 6. We will see what happens at the 2025 COP in Brazil—10 years on from Paris—but the expectation is that new NDCs will come forward for 2035.

Finance was touched on in the debate. We remain one of the largest and most active donors in international climate finance, and we are making record commitments. With the aim of helping the world to adapt to the inevitable climate change impacts that we can already see, at COP27 the Prime Minister made a commitment to triple UK adaptation finance from £500 million in 2019 to £1.5 billion in 2025. The UK is also committed to maintaining a balance between mitigation and adaptation spending, and to providing at least £3 billion of UK climate finance for the purpose of protecting and restoring nature. We provide the majority of our climate finance in the form of much-needed grants rather than loans—which I think compares well with what is provided by some other donor countries—and we prioritise our contributions for the biggest challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable.

Alongside Malawi and Vanuatu, I co-chaired the climate and development ministerial ahead of the Abu Dhabi pre-COP meetings. It focused on the issue of access, which was absolutely right. We hear again and again from countries such as Samoa, whose Minister has said that the access process takes too long. At the CDM, we set out a “vision statement” expressing greater recognition of the need for national programme development to ease access to money as well as increasing the quantum. The hon. Lady is right: it is not enough to have this notional money if it does not actually flow to those who by definition, as she said, are the least able administratively to meet the requirements of some vast organisation. We need to make sure that the system fits the needs of those it serves, rather than the other way round.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I welcome what the Minister has said. I think that another problem for those countries is coming up with the evidence base to demonstrate the impact that climate change is having on them. There are currently some very good initiatives: for example, science students from the UK are going out to study marine areas. There is a great deal of interchange. Does the Minister think we could do more to facilitate that evidence-gathering, which could then be used as a basis for making an application to show the need for climate adaptation funding?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We need to make sure that technical assistance is there because, even as we try to get the green climate fund, the global environment facility, the World Bank and various others to improve their systems and ambitions to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable—shouting at both parties is like shoving a nine-pin plug and a three-pin plug together and wrapping them in gaffer tape—we also need to get a smoother system that helps them both to step up so that it genuinely flows, otherwise we will have endless frustration. Hearing Ministers from Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Samoa and elsewhere brings it alive, which is why these international meetings are useful. They remind us of the realities on the ground.

Since 2011, The UK’s climate finance has supported more than 100 million people to cope with the effects of climate change, improved the climate resilience of more than 32 million people and reduced or avoided more than 86 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nature has rightly been mentioned, and we want to see action and ambition from the presidency and all parties on transforming food systems and building policy, practice and investment for sustainable agriculture at scale. That includes endorsement of the leaders’ declaration on food, agriculture and climate action, supported by a further commitment to policy action, innovation and investment through the policy dialogue for sustainable agriculture and the agriculture breakthrough.

It is always difficult to keep our head around all these issues, as there is an alphabet soup of initiatives. I always want to check that they are not duplicative, but they are often complementary and working together.

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Conservative, Esher and Walton

The Minister is making a very strong case for the disparate issues that the Government are pressing on climate change. If we are to reach net zero by 2050, there will also need to be a massive increase in the supply of critical minerals, whether for EV batteries or solar panels. When he is going around all these initiatives at international level, what discussions is he having with the likes of Brazil, Indonesia and other lynchpin partners about joining the Minerals Security Partnership? That is the primary multilateral vehicle for addressing critical minerals.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question, which comes up frequently. When I was in Riyadh recently, I spoke about critical minerals with His Royal Highness, Prince Abdulaziz, the Energy Minister of Saudi Arabia, which is critical in this piece.

Whereas my right hon. Friend Dr Coffey went on to the mangroves, I went on to Indonesia by way of Vietnam, and these conversations came up all the time. My right hon. Friend Dominic Raab is right that making sure we have resilient supply chains is fundamental to delivering this. We are doing more on supply chains, and we are doing it faster than ever before—even faster than the industrial revolution—and it is not only happening here. It is happening in other countries at the same time, as it needs to, so we have to make sure that our supply chains can meet that action. We can best do that through collaboration. It is not just about reaching agreement on things such as critical minerals; it takes many years to develop projects and bring them through to production, which creates even more urgency.

To promote improved and responsible governance, we are also looking for a commitment to support the forest and climate leaders partnership at the world climate action summit at the beginning of COP. We also want to see partnership on water resources at all levels. Donor countries and the private sector need to be involved, too.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I thank the Minister for mentioning water. He is talking about the many issues he will cover when he goes to the various meetings, so does he agree that water, sanitation and hygiene are important issues to raise? Will he look out for them in the outcome documents, press releases and statements that come out after the conference?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I enjoyed the hon. Lady’s speech. Unsurprisingly, when I was in the middle east recently, water was right at the top of the agenda, reflecting its importance. I attended the Net Zero Council meeting in Manchester last Thursday, and it was my pleasure on the following day to go to the Severn Trent water treatment works in Stoke. By the end of next year, it is expected to be the world’s first carbon-neutral water treatment works, for which I pay tribute to Severn Trent. Again, it shows the importance of water, which is so often forgotten. Water is one of the workstreams of the Net Zero Council, which was established this year to bring together the Government and business to develop road maps for each sector of our economy.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal for her driven, heartfelt efforts to make sure that nature’s contribution to the climate is fully recognised. The reason for holding the climate and development ministerial is that climate and development are two sides of the same coin. If there could be a three-sided coin—I am stretching my metaphors—the third side would be nature, because climate, development and nature go together.

We have talked about the importance of forests, and we have to make sure that the people who live in and around these carbon sinks—they are not just carbon sinks; they have many other qualities—have economic incentives that align with what we want. We have to make sure that they see development and opportunity for their families. It is only on that basis that we can even ask them to protect the nature that has been so denuded here. If we are to ask others to protect their nature for the general benefit, we need to make sure that it fits with development, as well as contributing to climate and nature.

I thank my right hon. Friend for Suffolk Coastal for all she has done. Her enthusiasm for mangroves is clearly shared across the House. They are a bit of a miracle. Making a difference often costs a lot of money, so we have to try to align incentives as much as possible. We need projects in which very small amounts of funding can make all the difference, so that mangroves stop shrinking and start expanding, and so that people return from the city to work with their families around the mangroves as part of a prosperous community. The mangroves need to be prosperous while developing as a carbon sink.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business)

It was very interesting to hear about the importance of mangroves. I would also be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about peatlands. How will he be supporting them at COP?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The Congo has extraordinarily large and important peatlands, which have the same basic dynamics. Everything is different, and every country is different, which is why we have to pull different things together, but the fundamental principle is that we have to create a system in which the local people—from the governor of the province down to the indigenous villagers—are better off by maintaining and keeping these peatlands. We are keen to make sure that the role of peatlands is understood because, again, they are a critical enabler. Lost peatlands cannot easily be replaced, and they are part of the negative tipping point we could reach if we do not take urgent action.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I welcome the Minister’s enthusiasm and recognition that peatlands have an important role to play but, at the moment, they are emitting carbon because of how they are treated in this country, particularly when it comes to grouse moor management. Does he agree that we need to address those practices? Many peatlands are also sites of special scientific interest or are meant to be protected for nature in other ways.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I will not stumble into another Department’s area of responsibility. We work collectively across Government to share the burden of making sure we meet our net zero targets.

In wrapping up the debate, I assure hon. and right hon. Members of the Government’s commitment to delivering on net zero at home and internationally. Although there is evidence that a peak in global emissions is within sight this decade, we need emissions to peak by 2025 and to reduce by 43% by 2030. The sobering reality is that, this year, global emissions are likely to reach a new peak, as Members across the House have said. Keeping 1.5° within reach requires nothing less than a paradigm shift.

As I said in my opening remarks, the UK accounts for less than 1% of global emissions. Beyond what is directly within our grasp, the question before us is how we can help to create the will and the capability to move the remaining 99%, for which the major emitters, in particular, will be crucial.

I would like to close by offering some reflections on the UK’s role in helping to drive forward international progress in this critical decade. For hon. Members who are interested, we have set out in greater detail the UK’s vision and role in driving forward international action on climate and nature to 2030 in our 2030 strategic framework, which is available online. It sets out six key global challenges, and how we will use our international partnerships, strengths in finance, expertise and domestic leadership, trade and investment, and world-leading strengths in science and innovation to drive forward progress.

The first point to make is that though the gap looks unassailably large, we must not lose hope and fall into a council of doom. The reality is that efforts to date have succeeded in bending the emissions curve away from apocalyptic levels of warming of 3° or more. In some sectors, notably energy and electric cars, the transition is taking off. The IEA’s latest world energy outlook predicts a peak in fossil fuel use by 2025, due to what it describes as the “unstoppable” growth of low-carbon technologies. Solar and electric vehicles particularly stand out. Since only last year, the IEA has revised up its global solar 2050 capacity forecast by 69% and increased by 20% the number of electric vehicles it expects to be on the roads by 2030, such that it is expecting electric vehicles to comprise two thirds of new car sales by 2030.

The lesson we should draw here is clear: rapid, large-scale transformation is possible. The challenge is that we need to replicate this success across all sectors of the economy. There will be no single silver bullet to driving the transformational systemic change that we need on a global scale. We will deploy every important lever we have to accelerate action in this critical decade, building on the framework we put forward in the Glasgow pact and our 2030 strategic framework. That includes working through the United Nations framework convention on climate change, bilaterally and through other channels. Working with others who are like-minded, and others, we need to see countries upgrading their climate targets. There is no point in having a global stocktake eight years after the Paris agreement if it does not lead to a ratcheting up of the nationally determined contributions to match the requirements that we find from the science. In particular, we need the major emitters to do that. Countries representing more than 90% of global GDP are covered, as I have said, by some form of net zero target. Those countries now need to align their near-term targets with the commitments that they have made. We will harness our global diplomatic network, international development offer and partnerships to drive forward action.

We will also be taking action to realign financial flows in line with the Paris agreement and a nature-positive future. We will use our strengths as a global green finance centre and role as a shareholder of key financial institutions to reorientate finance flows and tap the power of markets to make progress towards unlocking the trillions required. We will accelerate transitions globally through targeted collaboration with others, focusing on the most important, highest-emitting sectors, through initiatives such as the breakthrough agenda, so that we can reach positive tipping points and avoid negative ones, and so that clean tech is affordable and accessible across all sectors of the global economy. We will also continue to push to accelerate the global energy transition, for example, through our long-standing leadership on phasing out coal in the Powering Past Coal Alliance. We will also champion the need to phase out unabated fossil fuels and at the same time transition the North sea into a clean energy powerhouse here at home.

Let me touch on that issue, as it was raised by others. We have new licences in the North sea for oil and gas because we continue to need oil and gas. We will need oil and gas in 2050 and beyond. Our production is falling, without new licences, at a rate of about 9%. With no new licences and no new investment, we will not see a greening of the basin. Worse, we will see the loss of the subsea and offshore engineering capability we need, as it will either leave this country or be made redundant, rather than being retained here.

Deidre Brock raised the issue of a just transition. There is a true transition to be made, and opposing new oil and gas licences in this country when we are a net importer of both, and when the emissions that will come from imports such as liquified natural gas would be higher, makes the Opposition parties friends of oil and gas workers, but just not those in this country. The approach of those parties will not make any difference to how much we consume, but it will make a difference to our emissions, and not in a good way, and it will lose the very engineering capability we need to deliver the transition, as well as a very material contribution to our ability to make that change, which is of course the £50 billion of taxes that we expect to get from the sector over the next five years. The Opposition parties are in entirely the wrong place. They have put optics ahead of doing the right thing, and it does not take a lot of reflection or analysis to come to the conclusion that we are doing the right thing.

We must globally focus on the positive tipping points we need to accelerate the global low-carbon transition. I thank hon. Members from across the House for their contributions to this debate, and I hope that my team and I will be able to count on the support of everyone in the House, despite all of the global challenges we face, to make the upcoming COP the success that the world needs it to be.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered COP28.