It is a pleasure to take part in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe.
This is an incredibly important debate ahead of a crucial conference—COP26. Making a success of the conference and delivering for everyone across the globe is more important than ever. Covid-19 has shown how fragile humanity is and that we face some challenges together, as the human race. Whether the challenge is covid-19 or climate change, we need to tackle it together, internationally. Given that, the priorities for COP26 must aim to build on the work done so far, but also take a leap forward, so that we can take more action to ensure that we secure the global net zero target by 2050 and keep the 1.5°C pledge within reach.
As host and president of this year’s United Nations COP26 conference, the UK is in a unique position to bring nations together, set ambitious targets and commit to accelerating plans to transition to a cleaner, greener and more resilient global economy. As the parliamentary champion of nature-based solutions for tackling climate change, I will focus my remarks on that area.
COP26 is an opportunity for the UK to utilise our expertise and political will to become a world leader in deploying nature-based solutions to tackle climate change, such as tree planting, nurturing kelp forests, stopping the burning of peat bogs, revitalising our hedgerows and much more. We can all now become hedgerow heroes as part of the Campaign to Protect Rural England campaign to protect and expand hedgerows across the UK.
I am delighted that the Hastings town deal includes a partnership between Plumpton College and the Education Futures Trust, introducing seven new land-based skills programmes to our local area. Globally, nature-based solutions have huge scope to mitigate climate change, with the potential to provide over 30% of the global climate mitigation effort required to limit temperature rise to 1.5°. The Prime Minister has already suggested that as one of his priorities for COP26, and he has pledged to increase investment in that area. Moreover, the G7 recently committed to a 30x30 target by aiming to conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.
As a Member of Parliament who represents a coastal constituency, I take particular interest in our oceans and marine environments. As the Marine Conservation Society has been saying for some time, our seabeds are significant carbon stores, accounting for an estimated 205 million tonnes of carbon—some 50 million tonnes more than there is within our standing forests. It is not only our seabeds that do this, but our vegetated coastal habitats. That is why it is so important that we invest in the growth of our seagrass meadows, kelp forests and salt marshes. By taking a global lead in the use of nature-based solutions, the UK can demonstrate that tackling climate change does not have to be a huge financial burden on household income. Instead, we can enhance and nurture our natural environment for the enjoyment of all and future generations, while also meeting our net zero targets.
COP26 offers the UK a unique opportunity to lead in nature-based solutions and to achieve global agreement on the need to protect our natural environment and do more to preserve it for future generations. I know that, as president of COP26, the Government will take the opportunity to pursue that agenda.