Yesterday I was joined by members of six House of Lords committees to quiz Alok Sharma on the government’s climate change policies and his preparations as president of COP26. The collective expertise of those committees covered topics as diverse as green finance, migration, trade policy and diplomatic relations. Our overall impression was of a government getting its house in order before this crucial event, now scheduled for November 2021. Britain’s reputation and the future of the planet hang on its success. The recent Climate Assembly project, initiated by six House of Commons select committees, found that the British public expect the government to show real leadership on climate change. Delivering a successful COP26 can do just that. But it’s a tough assignment. Organising a conference of that scale is demanding even without uncertainty about what social distancing measures may be needed. And it’s hard to imagine the mountain of diplomatic work needed to find the right balance between compromise and action that is the hallmark of successful COPs. That’s not to say that the business secretary hasn’t embraced the international nature of the conference. He spoke about his diplomatic work with China, finding ways to pursue a climate agenda with the United States, his views on what African growth means for climate change, and the need for countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change to feel included in the COP process. Travel restrictions are clearly not preventing him and his team from laying the necessary groundwork. But even the most thorough, outward-facing conference preparation in the world won’t be enough if the host cannot lay claim to being a global climate leader. We have a world leading track record, but our future success is not so clear. We cannot ask other countries to submit new, more ambitious national plans for reducing emissions without doing so ourselves; and the secretary of state had no answer to how we will meet our fourth and fifth carbon budgets.
Times 22nd Sept 2020 read more »