Alok Sharma, President of COP26, answers MPs’ questions.
Oral Answers to Questions
The President of COP26 was asked—
Succession of the UK Presidency: Timeframe
1. What his timeframe is for the succession of the UK presidency following the COP26 conference. (905812)
The UK took on the COP26 presidency on 31 October last year at the start of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. We hold the presidency throughout this year until the start of COP27 in November, when we pass the presidency baton to Egypt. We are already working closely with Egypt and other partners to ensure that countries deliver on the commitments they made at COP26.
Will the Minister use his remaining time as President to pivot the conference away from making climate change the No. 1 goal to making energy security the No. 1 goal?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the reasons the UK has reduced its dependency on gas is precisely that we pushed out in terms of renewables. We have the second-biggest offshore wind sector in the world and we want to quadruple it. What I want, as part of the solution to tackling climate change, is a clean energy transition across the world.
One of the set-backs at COP26 was the failure to reassemble the coalition we managed to put together in Paris in 2015, which met the high ambition to bring both developed and developing countries together to put pressure on the big emitters to pull weight. In the transition to a new presidency, what is the current President doing to try to rebuild that coalition ahead of Egypt taking on the role?
I just gently point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Glasgow climate pact was delivered as a result of consensus brokered by the UK across almost 200 countries. What we now need to ensure is that we get countries to deliver on the commitments they made. That is what I am focused on during the rest of my time as COP President.
Glasgow Climate Pact: Role of Businesses
2. What assessment he has made of the role of businesses in implementing the Glasgow climate pact. (905813)
COP26 was one of the first conferences where there was a significant presence from the private sector. Collectively, business made a significant number of commitments. Five thousand international companies have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, including over half the FTSE 100.
I thank the President for that answer. My constituent, Wayne McGuire of Grove Innovations in Tring, does excellent work fitting heat pumps to households, which can be a vital assistance in reducing the use of coal, as agreed to in the Glasgow climate pact. What provisions have the Government made following COP26 to support other businesses like Grove Innovations and ensure that the installation of green technologies is viable for all households?
I thank my hon. Friend’s constituent, Wayne McGuire of Grove Innovations, for the work he is doing to ensure a green energy transition in our own country. With regard to support, as announced in our heat and building strategy last year, the Government are launching a new £450 million boiler upgrade scheme, providing upfront grants of up to £6,000 to install heat pumps.
Loss and Damage Fund
3. What discussions he has had with his (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) international counterparts on the development of a loss and damage fund. (905814)
COP26 was the first COP where a section of the cover decisions was devoted to loss and damage. We agreed a new Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage, which will discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities that avert, minimise and address loss and damage.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that many consequences of climate change are already locked in, regardless of ongoing efforts to mitigate them, and that the consequences will fall mostly on those least able to cope and on those least responsible for the crisis. Can the President confirm that his Government will be aiming for an equitable loss and damage agreement that compensates developing nations and recognises the disproportionate role of developed nations in causing such loss and damage?
I note the point the hon. Gentleman makes. He will know that the UK already funds internationally relevant activities relating to loss and damage, including humanitarian and disaster response support. With regard to the Glasgow dialogue, that will be a consensus-driven process. Ultimately, all parties will have to reach a collective decision on the outcome and results of that dialogue. What we want to ensure is progress during this year.
The IPCC’s latest report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) mentioned, acknowledged loss and damage, and warned that it is most concentrated among the poorest, most vulnerable populations. The loss and damage mechanism was established at COP19 back in 2013, and recognised in Paris in 2015; its details, however, are still to be finalised. The Scottish Government stepped up to the plate in Glasgow on that issue, followed by private enterprises and others, such as Wallonia. It will clearly be the subject of even more international attention at COP27. As COP President, what pressure is he putting on his own Government to follow the Scottish Government’s lead?
As I said in response to an earlier question, the UK is already funding activities internationally that are relevant to tackling loss and damage. The hon. Member knows that we are doubling our international climate finance commitment. My role is to broker consensus among almost 200 parties. That is why we are beginning to ensure that by the time we get to Sharm el-Sheikh we have made some progress on the discussion on loss and damage, but I hear what she is saying.
COP26 Presidency: Priorities
4. What progress he plans to make in tackling climate change during his COP26 presidency. (905815)
8. What his priorities are for the COP26 presidency. (905819)
11. What his priorities are for the COP26 presidency. (905822)
12. What his priorities are for the COP26 presidency. (905823)
As I have already noted, we are working with Egypt, as the incoming holder of the presidency, and other partners to ensure that countries deliver on the commitments that they signed up to in the Glasgow climate pact. We want to ensure that there is progress on adaptation, finance and, of course, support for developing nations, and we need to ensure that all countries revisit their 2030 emission reduction targets.
At a local level across Keighley and Ilkley we have experienced the real impacts of climate change, including flooding in Utley, a landslide in Riddlesden, and severe water issues along Redcar Lane in Steeton. As we look to build on the deal achieved at COP26 last year, how will we work with international partners to make real progress on adapting to the damaging effects of climate change?
A number of colleagues have raised the IPCC report, and my hon. Friend raises a vital point. The report was a grim reminder to the world about climate change and how it is affecting our planet. What it underlines, and this is what we are doing through our presidency, is working with parties to ensure that there is faster progress on adaptation—particularly on finance, with the commitment to double adaptation finance.
Domestically, we are putting in place robust measures, including £5.2 billion to tackle coastal erosion and flooding in the UK.
One of the great successes of our COP presidency was the amount of private capital dedicated towards net zero. It increased from $5 trillion to a staggering $130 trillion. How will my right hon. Friend keep up that momentum?
As my hon. Friend highlights, net zero has become one of the clearest financial trends. I pay tribute to Mark Carney and his whole team for establishing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, to which she refers. I hope that during this year additional private capital will sign up to that alliance. Part of the work of GFANZ is to ensure that some of the funds are directed towards climate resilience projects in developing nations. We are working with GFANZ and other partners towards that objective.
It is vital that the UK seizes the opportunities of net zero to create new industries and green jobs. How is the President of COP26 prioritising skills to help the United Kingdom and the world to achieve our ultimate goal?
My hon. Friend is right to link achieving net zero with jobs creation. Of course, as we build these new green industries, it will require equipping workers with the right skills. I congratulate him on the hard work that he did in ensuring an award from the UK Government of £380,000 to Borders College in his constituency to develop green courses in entrepreneurship and carbon literacy. I look forward to visiting the college with him next week.
My right hon. Friend has committed to getting the Santiago Network on loss and damage running to provide concrete solutions. Will he provide a further update on that?
Work on the Santiago Network is under way. Submissions are being requested from parties. As my hon. Friend knows, it is a two-year programme. We want to ensure that by the end of the year, and by COP27, we have operationalised the Santiago Network, and that there is funding available to provide technical support to countries that need it.
I thank the President for attending the meeting on small island developing states recently; they really appreciated that. If global warming is kept at 2°, we will lose 99% of our coral reefs; if it is at 1.5°, we will lose 70%. It seems particularly appropriate, with COP27 being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, that that should be a priority. Could the President tell us whether it will be?
It is absolutely a priority. The hon. Lady makes particular reference to support provided for adaptation, and as I said we reached a commitment at COP26 for developed nations to double the amount of money going towards adaptation finance by 2025. I want to ensure that we are on trajectory by the time we get to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Reuters reports today that data show that the corporate world remains far from aligned with global climate goals and that some countries have gone backwards since the agreement. What does the President have to say to that?
There is clear recognition within the private sector that net zero is the right approach. It is obviously what customers and clients want, but it is also good for the bottom line. My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan) referred to $130 trillion of assets being committed to net zero, and we need to ensure that those commitments are in line with the science. That is one of the things that the UN Secretary-General is looking to do through his expert group.
The Glasgow climate pact and, indeed, the COP26 priorities contain a commitment to keep 1.5° alive, yet the UN Environment Programme production gap report warns that Governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with 1.5°. Real climate leaders do not license new oil, gas or coal and no amount of climate checkpoints will change the climate reality. Will his Government scrap their checkpoint as inconsistent with climate leadership and rule out new fossil fuel licences once and for all?
We put forward a plan for how we wanted to ensure that our climate compatibility checkpoint was consistent with our legally binding commitment to net zero by 2050. That consultation closed on Monday. I hope that the hon. Lady responded to it and I know that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will come forward with its views on the checkpoint in due course.
Just over 100 days after world leaders agreed vital efforts to limit global warming at COP26, a UN report has issued a stark warning of the dire consequences of inaction. This Conservative Government are asleep at the wheel when it comes to delivering a secure and stable future. Will the Minister go further and act faster to cut emissions, commit to adaptation finance and prevent the “atlas of human suffering” from becoming a grim reality?
The hon. Lady has to judge the Government on our record. We have cut emissions the fastest of any country in the G20 or G7 in recent years. We have the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world and we want to quadruple that by 2030. We are not reliant on Russian gas precisely because we have focused on clean energy in our country. That is what we want to see delivered across the rest of the world as well.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the key role of marine conservation in tackling climate change and that damage to the seabed and the plants that are there can be very damaging in the battle towards climate change. With that in mind, will he look at the Bill presented yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), supported by me and others? It would ban bottom trawling, which would mean that we could tackle the problem better.
I am happy to look at the Bill that my right hon. and learned Friend mentions, of course. As we know from the IPCC report, if global warming continues at current rates, by 2070 we could be in a position in which a third of all plant and animal species are extinct.
The House stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and the Minister’s COP presidency now faces an utterly changed context with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The crisis shows how global dependence on fossil fuels can support the most tyrannical regimes. This is a war underwritten by Russia’s oil and gas. Does he agree that the best route to protect our energy and national security and to undermine the power of Putin is not by increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, whose price is set on the international market, but by supercharging the drive to renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency so that all countries, including our own, have clean, cheap and homegrown power?
No one can fail to be moved by the appalling suffering of the citizens of Ukraine, including children. They are enduring unimaginable conditions, and our hearts and thoughts are very much with them.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the clean energy transition. I have said in the past that we want to see a managed clean energy transition, which is why we have put forward the North sea transition deal, and of course the Government are focused on renewables, on nuclear and on hydrogen.
An essential part of becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is reducing our demand for gas by making more progress on energy efficiency. On its own, insulating the 18 million draughty homes in our country would cut our imports of gas by 15%—double the amount we import from Russia. In his role holding Departments to account on net zero, will the COP26 President now persuade Treasury and other colleagues that it is time to finally get serious and invest at scale in the national programme to upgrade Britain’s homes, which Labour has long called for?
The right hon. Gentleman is right. Buildings are responsible for 20% of emissions in the UK; in our heat and buildings strategy, we set out our aim to ensure we insulate homes. He is right that that is how to reduce not only emissions, but costs for individuals and businesses.
Outcome of COP26
5. What assessment he has made of the outcome of COP26. (905816)
6. What assessment he has made of the outcome of COP26. (905817)
7. What assessment he has made of the outcome of COP26. (905818)
15. What assessment he has made of the outcome of COP26. (905826)
At COP26, almost 200 countries agreed to the historic Glasgow climate pact, which keeps alive the aim of limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5°. At the Munich security conference last month, John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate, referred to COP26 as perhaps the best or one of the best of the COPs, saying that it did more than Paris; it really gave life to Paris. We now need to ensure that the commitments are acted on.
Given the horrible events that we are witnessing in Ukraine at the moment, does my right hon. Friend agree that the move from COP towards more renewables is more important than ever, particularly for our European neighbours? They need to wean themselves off Russian gas and oil for the good of our world.
There is a lot of consensus in the House that the UK’s significant expansion of renewables in the past decade, particularly in the offshore wind sector, has reduced our dependence on gas. My hon. Friend is right that we need to continue to push out on this to ensure our domestic energy security. As I say, we want more on renewables, more on nuclear and more on hydrogen.
Now more than ever, we have to ensure security of supply. Following COP26, does my right hon. Friend agree that investing in technologies such as new nuclear is so important for constituencies such as mine and for the wider Lancashire area?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I was Business Secretary, we set out our 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, in which we made it very clear that we would be supporting nuclear. We have followed that through; I know that my hon. Friend will have particularly welcomed the funding that is going towards new small modular reactor technology.
I recently met the brilliant people at Rolls-Royce who are working on small modular reactors, which will help to fill the gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that more investment in nuclear power will help to combat global climate change and, more importantly, help our desperate constituents who are having to choose between eating and heating right now?
I share my hon. Friend’s view: nuclear has to be part of our clean energy mix. We are investing in SMR technology through Rolls-Royce, as he has acknowledged. It also provides an export opportunity for the UK and the creation of jobs in our industrial heartlands.
Will my right hon. Friend set out what steps he is taking to ensure that the Glasgow climate pact starts delivering this year, in 2022?
Delivery of the Glasgow climate pact is very much the focus for this year. As I said in Glasgow, we managed to keep 1.5° alive, but its pulse is weak and will strengthen only if Governments honour their commitments. Since COP, I have engaged with Ministers from more than 30 countries. I will continue to engage and press them to honour their commitments.
The credibility of the presidency depends on action at home. Next month, the Advanced Construction Skills Centre in my constituency will host my apprenticeships fair. Does the COP26 President agree that the jobs of the future and apprenticeships offer a credible way to take action at home? Will he support my fair? Will he say how his Government are supporting the jobs of the future?
Apprenticeships, of course, are a big focus for this Government. We have created many hundreds of thousands over the past years. Ensuring apprenticeships in green technologies is vital, and I wish the hon. Lady well with her fair.
Mr Speaker, do you and the Minister agree that, if we are to take COP26 seriously, it should be about what we do locally as well as what we do nationally? Is the Minister aware that the company that the House of Commons Commission has chosen for the contract to construct the holocaust memorial building, which I fully support, rather than putting all the materials and the waste and all that traffic on the river, which would be easily done, will put it on the road, to snarl up London traffic and pollute the air? Could we look at this question locally and nationally, right now?
I note the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. He will appreciate that it is not part of my responsibilities, but I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, and other relevant colleagues will have heard his call for action.
In its report this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put forward its bleakest warning yet, stating that “progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks”.
It emphasised the urgency of immediate action, concluding:
“Half measures are no longer an option.”
Given that, will the COP President outline what concrete steps have been taken since COP26 to scale up finance for adaptation, whether he will increase ambition in the light of the report, and whether he will commit to bringing a plan to this House on how we will meet the 2025 target?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Of course, the report was a stark warning—yet again; another code red—that we need to take action. I set out in answer to earlier questions what we are doing to push forward, particularly on finance—we are doubling adaptation finance. We will ensure that, by the time we get to COP27, the trajectory has moved forward.
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (905827)
Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is at the forefront of all our minds, as are the brave and courageous people of Ukraine, who are having to defend themselves from the despicable onslaught of Putin’s forces. Supporting and standing with Ukraine is rightly our most immediate priority, but as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report earlier this week highlighted, the chronic threat of climate change has not gone away. That is why we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that countries deliver on their commitments set out in the Glasgow climate pact.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the path to net zero not only creates clean, green energy but makes us energy resilient, which will further reduce our need for imported oil and gas?
My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I can tell her that when I speak to Governments around the world, they see the UK as a leader in the clean energy transition. On my recent visit to Vietnam, for instance, they were particularly keen to understand the revenue mechanisms we have put in place to ensure more private sector investment in our offshore wind sector.
T3. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the voices of environmental and human rights defenders are heard in the COP process, and that their safety and security are protected worldwide? (905830)
At COP26 and in the lead-up to it, we ensured that the voices of civil society and youth were heard, and I am sure that is something that all future COPs will want to ensure too.
T2. The energy security of Europe will clearly be central to the security of us all. I commend the COP President for his tireless work to promote the growth of renewable energies across Europe. Will he update the House on his plans to press ahead with the nuclear agenda in particular, with our allies in Europe? (905829)
Thankfully, the UK is not reliant on Russian oil and gas because we have invested significantly in renewables, and we will continue to do so. However, my hon. Friend makes an important point. Every country needs to think about a managed clean energy transition and security of supply.
T4. The next generation of jobs and apprenticeships is going to be delivered in the industries that the COP President talks about. Would he praise those employers reaching out to young people at my apprenticeships fair just a few weeks ago in Consett for all the work that they are doing to deliver great jobs in these high-tech sectors for the next generation? (905831)
Employers in the private sector are going to be vital to the transition to net zero. I commend all the employers who attended my hon. Friend’s apprenticeships fair and indeed employers across the country for everything they are doing to ensure a clean transition by 2050 in our country.
T5. Many countries will be considering how they can reduce their dependence on Russia for energy supplies. Will my right hon. Friend use his presidency to help other countries to ensure that they can diversify their supplies and use renewable energy with British assistance? (905832)
Yes; my right hon. Friend makes a really important point. We are working with developed country partners to see how we can support other nations to make that transition to clean energy and to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
Does the President recognise that consideration for biodiversity loss needs to be given parity in the Government’s plans for environmental protection, alongside their existing plans for delivering net zero?
As the hon. Lady will know, we had a big focus on nature at COP26 and we had a commitment from over 140 countries representing over 90% of forests around the world to ensure that they are protected. We will of course continue to work on this issue with partners around the world.