COP26 delivered significant change. Inevitably the conference didn’t quite deliver on everything it aimed to achieve but progress has been made on cutting coal subsidies and every country is expected to come back next year with a clear plan for slowing global warming to prevent an increase above 1.5°c. There have been lots of welcome announcements such as agreements to end deforestation, cut methane emissions, phase down coal and step-up climate finance.
Leaders kept us waiting to announce the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ under which 65 countries have committed to phasing out the use of coal power. Last minute pressure from India and China meant that the overarching commitment of the Pact was to ‘phase down’, rather than ‘phase out’ coal. It was agreed that their request must be conceded. We must recognise the greater challenge for low- and middle-income countries such as India who are not currently equipped to make the changes needed. We need to share our technology with the countries who do not have resource or expertise to develop their own if we want to make net zero a reality.
A notable theme for this year’s summit has been ‘Climate Justice’. The UK have announced £165 million of new funding to address gender inequality as we tackle climate change as well as new funding to support those most at risk from rising global temperatures and to tackle climate related disasters.
Combined with our 2030 pledge to phase out petrol and diesel cars, we are now committing to the same for HGVs by 2040–joined by 24 other countries that have also made similar commitments.
Interestingly, the Government has launched a new charging point design. Good charging infrastructure will be crucial to an effective shift to electric vehicles so I am pleased that the Government is putting proper thought into how they will deliver on their ambitions.
Also on transport, we have a new global initiative to establish decarbonised shipping routes and the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, a group of states that want to reduce aviation emissions.
The UK has announced £210 million in funding, matched by £250 million from the private sector to deploy more home-grown, affordable clean energy in the form of nuclear. This will allow us to diversify the sources of clean energy that we use. This innovation will be vital- it is not enough to simply use less energy.
We must also see further research into storing clean energy. Currently, we do not have the large-scale facilities to store renewable energy to reduce waste and to have energy available for when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sun isn’t shining.
The private sector contribution is essential- they will be crucial to our ability to achieve net zero. This will be costly, and the Treasury alone can’t fund this. But, with finance in place, we also must ensure deliverability. We cannot simply transform our transport systems or ready the grid overnight. We need a full transition plan to demonstrate how we will get from where we are now, to where we want to be, and for this we are counting on the Government, innovators, and financiers.
Closer to home, I congratulate Devon County Council and Teignbridge District Council for setting out what they are doing to deal with climate change. The Devon Climate Emergency Response Group is focussing on areas key to achieving net zero such as retrofitting homes, addressing consumer behaviour and encouraging carbon storage measures such as tree-planting.
People and organisations are stepping up and playing their part which is exactly what we need to see. I very much welcome the work currently going on and look forward to seeing the hard work of those at COP26 come to fruition.
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