COP26 Conference Priorities — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:41 pm on 22nd July 2021.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 1:41 pm, 22nd July 2021

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate with you in the Chair, Mr McCabe, and I congratulate Mr Clarke on securing it. It could scarcely be more timely, as the extreme weather events around the world demonstrate how climate breakdown is accelerating.

With tomorrow marking 100 days to go until COP26, it is more urgent than ever to ensure it delivers. As hosts, the UK Government need to show bold and ambitious leadership, but last month the Climate Change Committee pointed yet again to the yawning delivery gap between the Government’s net zero ambitions and the absence of policies to achieve them. We urgently need clear direction from Government detailing how they plan to decarbonise each and every sector, raising global ambition and giving other countries a clear reason for why they too should go further and faster in their national commitments to limit global heating. Failure to act is not just dithering—it is dangerous and often deadly.

Turning to some of the goals set out by the COP26 unit, the first is to:

“Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach”.

We need to face the fact that even if all the current nationally determined contribution pledges were fulfilled, that would still lock the world into well over 2° of global heating. The inconvenient truth is that a target of net zero by 2050 simply does not equate to keeping 1.5° within reach. Yet 1.5° is an absolute lifeline for those in climate-vulnerable countries, and exceeding that threshold would have devastating consequences. That is why I recently reintroduced the climate and ecological emergency Bill to Parliament, which would put 1.5° in statute. I welcome the cross-party support of over 100 MPs who are backing the Bill, and urge the Government to get behind it, too.

The unit’s second goal, to

“Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats”,

is crucial. Ministers need to deliver on what the Climate Change Committee recently described as an “underfunded and ignored” area of policy. If adaptation is often ignored, loss and damage is even more overlooked. Countries are already experiencing climate impacts that they simply cannot adapt to. The damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Dominica amounted to 226% of that country’s GDP, and 100% of its crops were destroyed. That is just one example of what loss and damage means. That is why we urgently need the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage to be fully operationalised, with new sources of finance to pay for it.

With its vast ability to store carbon and cushion us from shocks like flooding, nature can be our biggest ally in the fight against climate breakdown. Yet biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in history. The leader’s pledge to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 is a step forward, but that protection must be delivered urgently in order to reverse nature’s terrifying decline. The UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, and when looking at our seas, the case is even more stark. England has 40 offshore so-called marine protected areas, but in reality, there is little protection to speak of. In order to restore nature and protect our blue carbon stores, the Government must use their new powers in the Fisheries Act 2020 to ban destructive fishing practices in these areas.

The third goal is mobilising finance, yet as it stands we are still $20 billion short of delivering on the $100 billion commitment from 10 years ago. That amount must be delivered in full before COP26, so I ask the Minister how the COP26 presidency plans to meet the $20 billion shortfall. What steps are being taken to ensure that it is delivered as grants, rather than loans, and does she recognise that by slashing our aid budget, the Government have further undermined any leverage they might have had in persuading others to step up? Ministers like to boast that the UK has increased its climate finance to $11 billion, but they fail to mention the fact that that money came from an overseas development aid budget that is being cut by £4 billion, a move that goes against the commitment for climate finance to be new and additional sources of money. Unless we deliver on all of these issues, I fear we will not have the success that is necessary in Glasgow at the end of this year.