14 July 2021
Questions to the President of COP26

Alok Sharma, President of COP26, answers questions from MPs.


The President of COP26 was asked—

Civil Society and Youth Groups

Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con)

What steps he is taking to consult with (a) civil society and (b) youth groups in preparation for COP26. (902685)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

I have established a civil society and youth advisory council, which is the first of its kind at any COP. It is working with the UK presidency to deliver a successful summit. The co-chairs are youth climate activists, one from the global north and one from the global south. I also meet civil society and youth groups on my international visits, to ensure that their voices are heard.

Andy Carter 

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that children in our schools can play a crucial part in helping us to get to net zero by becoming young climate leaders? In my constituency there are groups such as Warrington Youth Voice, which last month organised its first green schools conference, and pupils at Penketh Primary School have come together to take steps to reduce energy use in their homes. Will my right hon. Friend encourage Members of the House to reach out to schools in their constituencies, and build greater understanding of the work of COP26?

Alok Sharma 

What an excellent question. I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing to encourage youth climate activists in his constituency, such as those in Warrington Youth Voice and at Penketh Primary School. As he knows, last month we sent a COP26 schools pack, designed to engage students with climate action, to schools across the UK. In May, MPs also received a UK engagement pack.

Limiting Global Temperature Rise

Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)

What steps he is taking to help ensure that COP26 outcomes commit to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. (902686)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

We are pressing all countries to come forward with mid-century net-zero commitments, and aligned ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets. We have seen some progress. When the UK took on the COP26 presidency, less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net-zero emissions target, and that figure is now 70%.

Sarah Olney 

The Government claim that the UK has reduced its emissions footprint by 42% since 1990, which is a commendable feat. That has been achieved in part by offshoring manufacturing and outsourcing many emissions to countries such as China that produce the goods we consume. If we factor in those emissions, the UK emissions reduction is possibly as little as 10% to 15%. Ahead of COP26, what steps will the Minister take to include the full scope of our emissions in the accounting, including those arising from UK consumption, supply chains, and international aviation and shipping?

Alok Sharma 

The hon. Lady talks about aviation and shipping, and we have included those in the sixth carbon budget. The role of the UK COP presidency is to ensure climate action and ambition across the whole UK, and that is what we are working to deliver.

Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

Keeping the 1.5°C limit alive is now, quite rightly, one of the Government’s stated aims of COP26. Although we do not doubt the COP President’s personal commitment to delivering on that objective, the Government as a whole are patently still not doing enough. If we are to markedly increase the global ambition for 2030 targets, forge a coalition with vulnerable nations to hold the major emitters to account, and mobilise the climate finance that is essential to unlocking any agreement, we need sustained engagement and focus from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, and we need it now. With just over 100 days until this critical summit, does the COP26 President recognise that if senior members of the Government do not raise their game quickly, there is a real risk of failure in Glasgow in November?

Alok Sharma 

There is a concerted effort across the whole of Government to ensure that we press other countries to come forward with ambition. We are, of course, seen around the world as a leader on climate action, in terms of both the actions we have taken and the commitments we have made. The Prime Minister has regular dialogue with world leaders, as do the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary with their counterparts.

Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) [V]

Current carbon budgets will see the world miss the 1.5°C target, with all the disastrous consequences that will have. The UK’s portion of that carbon budget is up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 higher than is proportional to its population. France put in the effort for global improvement in the Paris agreement, but we have seen nothing comparable from the UK Government. When will we see that change? What conversations is the right hon. Gentleman having with his Cabinet colleagues about the immediate actions their Departments should be taking to reduce the UK’s carbon contribution?

Alok Sharma 

I respectfully disagree with the hon. Lady. Since 2000 the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G20 nation, and our national determined contribution of at least 68% reduction in emissions on a 1990 base year by 2030 is world leading, as is the commitment in our carbon budget. We are doing our bit but, of course, there is always room for all of us to do more.

Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)

Has Britain lost her credibility when asking developing nations to pay to decarbonise, following the Government’s affirmation yesterday of their cut to UK international aid spending?

Alok Sharma 

I have seen at first hand, when I was Secretary of State for International Development and, indeed, in other roles, that UK support continues to transform millions of lives for the better across the world. The hon. Gentleman will know that we will continue to spend over £10 billion this year in aid, and of course we now have certainty that we will be returning to the 0.7% target.


Member Engagement with COP26

Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)

What plans he has made for hon. Members to (a) engage with and (b) attend COP26. (902688)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

As I said in response to an earlier question, all Members of Parliament were sent a COP26 pack in May, which provides ideas for engagement on climate issues with their constituents. With regard to attendance at COP26, we will set out more details very shortly on how parliamentarians can register their interest to attend.

Elliot Colburn [V] 

Reducing greenhouse emissions and tackling air pollution is a priority for many Carshalton and Wallington residents, not least because we have the Beddington incinerator in my constituency. In the spirit of engagement, I hope to host a local COP26 event later this year to discuss how we can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What steps is the COP26 President taking to ensure that the public can engage with COP26 and play their part in this important event?

Alok Sharma 

I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing in hosting a local climate event in his constituency, and I would urge all hon. and right hon. Members to consider doing the same. We are today also launching the local authorities and mayors COP26 engagement pack. Of course, we want everyone to play their part in taking climate action; I have always said that we want this to be the most inclusive COP ever.


Geothermal Energy: Net Zero Target

Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)

What recent assessment the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee has made of the role of geothermal energy in the UK reaching net zero. (902690)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

The Committee that I chair has been working with Departments across Whitehall to develop our plans to deliver on our carbon budgets and, indeed, our net zero commitments. The Government consider geothermal energy a low-carbon technology that is within the scope of our new £270 million green heat network fund, which supports the commercialisation of low-carbon heat network projects and opened for applications earlier this month.

Steve Double 

The COP President will know from his recent visit that Cornwall is leading the way in the development of geothermal energy in the UK with two wells being drilled and many more planned. However, the people developing this new technology need the Government to back it to ensure that we can realise its potential, and they need certainty to make their plans in the near future. Will he ensure that the Government come forward with a renewable heat incentive for geothermal as soon as possible?

Alok Sharma 

May I say that I very much enjoyed my visit to Eden Geothermal with my hon. Friend? It was particularly pleasing to note that some of those working in the project had made the transition from the oil and gas sector owing to their transferable engineering skills. As I set out, the fund has been launched, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue further.

Upholding COP26 Commitments

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)

What steps he plans to take to help ensure that all COP26 parties uphold the commitments of that conference. (902693)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

The UK presidency is focused on delivering a successful COP26 with ambitious outcomes across mitigation, adaptation and finance. We will use our presidency year to champion the outcome, maintaining close collaboration with our partners and, indeed, the COP27 presidency to make those commitments a reality.

Alec Shelbrooke 

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work he is doing. I urge him to put in place mechanisms that could quickly address issues that may blow the objectives off course, as has happened since Paris.

Alok Sharma 

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As well as pushing for net zero and 2030 emissions reduction targets, we are indeed asking countries to set out their long-term strategies to demonstrate how they will turn ambition into action. In addition, we want to resolve the outstanding issue of transparency in the Paris rulebook, which will allow for reporting by countries of progress on climate action.


Topical Questions

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (902725)

The COP26 President (Alok Sharma)

Last week, we set out our high-level two-week programme for COP26. The conference will open with a world leaders’ summit followed by a range of themed days of activity, including on finance, energy, youth, nature, adaptation, gender, science, transport and the built environment. These days will also be an opportunity to showcase specific global action on tackling climate change. I look forward to welcoming parliamentarians to Glasgow and we will very shortly be inviting Members of both Houses to formally register their interest for attendance at COP26.

Harriett Baldwin 

As the president-designate says, it is not just world leaders and Governments who are needed to make COP26 a success, but parliamentarians from around the world. As chair of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we will be hosting events for parliamentarians around the world, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will encourage his officials to accredit as many parliamentarians from international delegations as possible.

Alok Sharma 

Obviously we want to ensure that we have a physical event and that those who apply have an opportunity to try to get accredited. As I said, for parliamentarians in this and the other place, we will be opening a registration process shortly.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow COP26 President.

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab)

The Copenhagen summit of 2009 was undone by deep mistrust of the developed world by developing countries. Rather than learning from that, rich countries are still failing to deliver on the promised $100 billion of climate finance and the billions of vaccine doses still required by poorer countries. Yesterday, shamefully, the Prime Minister decided to press ahead with the cut in our aid spending. When the COP26 President went to see the PM yesterday, did he explain that COP26 is not some international photo opportunity, but a complex and fragile negotiation, and that the aid cut simply deepens mistrust, damages our moral standing and undermines our COP presidency?

Alok Sharma 

The right hon. Gentleman raises two issues. On vaccines, he will know that we now have an offer open so that any accredited delegates who are not able to get vaccinated in their home country are able to receive vaccinations through the programme that we are setting up. Secondly, I can tell him that there is huge appreciation for the UK’s leadership on climate action around the world. That is based on conversations that I have day in, day out with world leaders.

Edward Miliband 

The COP26 President knows that world leaders and others are asking him why the UK is the only G7 country cutting aid spending in the year that we are hosting the COP. He knows that delivering support to developing countries is not just morally right, but essential to building a coalition to pressure the world’s largest emitters.

The most significant of those emitters is China. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°, we need China to ensure that its emissions peak and start to decline by 2025 at the latest. Does the COP26 President agree? If so, can he tell us what the Prime Minister is doing to engage directly with China on the issue and persuade it to step up?

Alok Sharma 

We are engaged with all big emitters; as the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am travelling around the globe talking to different countries. To come back to his point about aid spending, I just point out that this year we will spend more on aid as a percentage of our GNI than the US, Japan, Canada or Italy.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering)  (Con)

In contrast to Kettering, which generates enough renewable electricity locally to power all 45,000 homes in the constituency, this week the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, reported that 52% of the world’s urban greenhouse gas emissions come from just 25 megacities, 23 of which are in China. Will the COP26 President focus on that at COP26? (902727)

Alok Sharma 

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. That is precisely why, as part of our work, we are aiming to support countries to make a clean energy transition to solar, to wind power and to other renewables.

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)

Will the COP26 President join me in congratulating the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, on pressing ahead resolutely with the recommendations of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate, which was established by the Mayor’s predecessor and chaired by Baroness Brown? It is a fantastic example of what can be done locally in the run-up to COP26. (902726)

Alok Sharma 

I congratulate all local areas and local leaders who are doing their bit on climate action. As I said, today we are launching the local authorities and Mayors engagement pack, which I hope local authorities and Mayors will use to encourage climate action across their areas.


Christina Rees (Neath)  (Lab/Co-op)

What proportion of the billions of pounds of private sector investment and how many of the 250,000 highly skilled green jobs contained in the Prime Minister’s 10-point green industrial revolution plan to level up across the UK will go to Wales? (902728)

Alok Sharma 

We are supporting industrial clusters around the world, as the hon. Lady will know from the 10-point plan that the Prime Minister published at the end of last year, and we are seeing action across the country. She will know that the Government have recently funded some new offshore wind ports and we have seen the investment that is going into battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

There is real concern regarding the UK Government’s accommodation for COP26, which is to be provided by MCI Group with extremely high costs and unreasonable terms and conditions. Will the President provide details of the MCI contract to the Committee that is scrutinising COP26, and can he assure us that delegations, many of which operate on very small budgets and are among the worst affected by climate change, will not be deterred from attending? (902730)

Alok Sharma 

I would just point out to the hon. Gentleman that MCI has secured only about a third of the market availability for hotel rooms, and that there are alternative options for booking accommodation, which are still available. If he has specific issues, I would be happy to speak to him separately.