COP26 Conference Priorities — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:18 pm on 22nd July 2021.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East 2:18 pm, 22nd July 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate the collaborative effort of the hon. Members for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) and for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) and my hon. Friend Darren Jones in securing this important debate.

In addition to covid-19, an even more devastating crisis is already here. In recent weeks, we have seen extreme rainfall and deadly flooding in Germany, Belgium and China; volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines; heatwaves and devastating fires from Siberia to Canada; and the Amazon rainforest releasing more carbon than it can absorb. The upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow provides a crucial opportunity to address such an existential threat.

The most urgent priority for COP26 is to ensure that we stick to the 1.5° target set in the Paris agreement of 2015. The scientific community is clear that anything more than that is a death sentence for millions of people around the world. It is therefore vital that we align the UK’s emissions reduction pathway to a fair-share analysis of the remaining global Paris-compliant carbon budget.

Research from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research warns that the UK’s current emissions pathway implies a carbon budget at least two times greater than its fair contribution to delivering its 1.5° commitment. Not only is the Government’s commitment to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 perilously unambitious; they are not even on track to meet it. A 2030 net zero target is essential to meet the scale and severity of the crisis. The Institute for Public Policy Research is clear: the UK needs to invest £33 billion per year if it is serious about meeting its own 2050 net zero target. Will the Minister do all he can to commit at least to that?

The UK Government will host COP26 in just 100 days. They must use their leadership role to push for an approach to the climate crisis that is integrated with the active restoration of nature, especially ahead of the COP15 biodiversity summit in October 2021.

Worldwide fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5 trillion per year. It is estimated that eliminating those subsidies would cut global carbon emissions by at least 21% and air pollution deaths by over half. The UK Government claim that they do not have any fossil fuel subsidies. However, the fossil fuel subsidies tracker estimates that the UK Government’s subsidies equate to £165 per person. The UK Government must come clean with the public and end their subsidies for dirty energy.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we must raise our ambition to forge a new social settlement: a green new deal to rebuild the country with a more just and sustainable economy. We must take every urgent and radical action, including the nationalisation—yes, the nationalisation—of fossil fuel companies, to save our future. Without much more ambitious Government intervention, the urgent action required to preserve a habitable planet will be too slow. That will cause unimaginable disruption and could cost millions of lives, most of them in global south countries that have contributed the least to the climate disaster.

It is vital that the protection of all workers and communities is guaranteed during the transition to renewable energies. The big polluters and corporate giants must bear the costs—not ordinary people. Most of all, the Government’s catastrophic handling of the coronavirus crisis cannot be replicated when it comes to tackling climate change. Only an unprecedented collective restructuring of our society will guarantee the wellbeing of both people and planet.