COP26 Conference Priorities — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:08 pm on 22nd July 2021.

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Photo of Mick Whitley Mick Whitley Labour, Birkenhead 2:08 pm, 22nd July 2021

It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, McCabe, and I thank Mr Clarke for securing this important debate.

The timing of the debate could not be more appropriate. In the last few weeks alone, Germany and China have been devastated by catastrophic flooding, while more than 200 people have lost their lives through unprecedented heatwaves in the Pacific north-west and in south Asia. Such extreme weather events are a stark illustration of the scale of the challenge before us, and an urgent reminder of the need to take bolder action to combat climate breakdown. In a few months, the COP26 conference will present the world with its best, and perhaps last, chance to avoid the worst fallout of climate breakdown. With the United Nations’ “Adaptation Gap Report 2020” warning that the world is on course to be 3° warmer by the end of the century, it is clear that we need to go much further and much faster if we are to live up to the promise of the Paris climate agreement.

This month, we learned that large stretches of the Amazon—the lungs of the planet—are so utterly degraded that they are emitting more CO2 than they absorb. As the shadow International Trade Secretary has said, that is one of the worst manmade tragedies in human history, and our Prime Minister is one of the guilty men. His refusal to support EU action against the destruction of the Amazon in 2019 was symptomatic of the wider failure to tackle ecological breakdown. In November, we have a chance to put that right. That is why I call on the Government to push for a global strategy that links together the climate and ecological crises, and that will ensure that, by 2030, the abundance and the population of species are well on the road to recovery.

We will achieve nothing at all if the poorest people in the world are asked to shoulder the cost of decarbonisation. That is why the needs of people living in the global south need to be at the very heart of the discussions in Glasgow. Developing nations have contributed least to the catastrophe that we now face, but all too often suffer the most from climate breakdown.

Leaders across Europe and America often talk about a “just transition”—in November, they have to prove that they mean it. That means not just delivering on the commitment of $100 billion a year in climate finance, but developing a far broader and more radical stimulus package that helps the world’s poorest countries decarbonise their economies, while also improving standards of living and life outcomes for their citizens.

I also believe that the world’s wealthiest countries, the UK among them, must now also begin to look at how they can accelerate their decarbonisation proposals to give nations across the global south more time to reach net zero.