COP26 Conference Priorities — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 2:22 pm, 22nd July 2021

You are most kind, Mr McCabe. I do like Westminster Hall—it is no secret. I love to participate, so here I am, along with all the other right hon. and hon. Members who have come to make very valuable contributions. I thank them all.

Today’s topic has been and is at the forefront of the political agenda. It certainly is in my constituency; the emails tell me that, as do those who contact me—and they have for some time now. I thank Mr Clarke for asking for the debate, along with others, so we can participate in it.

Environmental awareness and climate change are becoming very prominent factors in everyday life. Climate change must be taken seriously, and I believe that it is. The Government have set out their priorities for the COP26 conference in Glasgow, and I will address some of those today.

I welcome what the Government have done—credit where credit is due. Through many of their policies, the Government have committed themselves to achieving targets and goals. It is always good to set targets and goals; they allow for success rates to be measured, which is very important. I have also been contacted by environmental organisations that feel that there are missing priorities, which I will discuss in the few minutes that I have.

A major aspect that I hope will be extensively discussed at the conference is the goal of all parties to submit more ambitious national contributions targets for cuts in carbon emissions by 2030. It is important that we commit ourselves to do it and then achieve those goals.

Since 2018, UK carbon emissions have fallen by 3% and they are 44% lower than in 1990, which is a significant fall and shows commitment by Government and others to try to achieve those goals. We are certainly taking a step in the right direction, but we all need to put in more effort. There needs to be a national contribution from all parties partaking in the conference.

The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the UK should aim to be net zero on all greenhouse gases by 2050, which is a crucial aspect of the Paris agreement that we have signed. I want the UK to persuade other countries to commit to the national determined contribution. We need to maintain the efforts we have been putting in to pioneer our own credibility. I know the Minister will always respond and that she is very interested in this subject, but can she tell us what has been done to persuade other countries to sign up and commit themselves to the NDC?

Our recent efforts as a nation have been extremely promising, particularly in regard to limiting our carbon emissions. Transport was the largest emitting sector in the UK, responsible for 27% of emissions. We can all take small steps on a daily basis to reduce that figure. In addition, there has been a major revision to better represent peatland emissions. I have raised that with the Minister at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs back home in Northern Ireland and asked what further action can be taken to decrease emissions.

The Climate Change Council has stated that getting to net zero is

“technically feasible but highly challenging,” meaning we could do it, but not without continued efforts. This work starts right here by Government, centrally at Westminster and in conjunction with the regional Administrations. As we know, the UK is committed to working internally and externally, to lead on the frontline and to inspire thought on climate change. The issue is about reminding people how important it is and then moving forward.

Back home, I am in frequent contact with the Castle Espie Wetland Centre. As Sally-Ann Hart said, there are concerns and issues about blue carbon. Blue carbon assists in coastal habitat conservation, which needs to be taken into consideration by Government in legislation and in trying to achieve those targets. Through protecting, creating and restoring these habitats, we can invest in nature-based solutions that help us to adapt and mitigate climate change. Coastal and ocean blue carbon stores are a crucial part of the urgent and varied solutions required to address the climate crisis and meet our net-zero goals.

I am concerned about the correlation between how we deal with climate change and public health. The UK Health Alliance has stated:

“Despite the climate impacts already being felt, international targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are currently not sufficient”.

To conclude, I welcome the priorities initiated by Government to take to COP26 and I look forward to the Minister’s response. This Minister is interested in this subject, and I am not saying that because she is here. I am convinced that her response will be one that everyone wishes to hear and that will encourage us. I urge the President of COP26 and the Government to take these points into consideration when discussing our strategy for climate change in this House and across the whole of this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We are always better together, and we can get better together as well.