Over the last fortnight the UK welcomed the world to Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
The summit was asked to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ and this was met with the Glasgow Climate Pact agreeing to phase down coal and providing a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
UK leadership has been clear to see not only at this conference but throughout the UK’s presidency of COP. Now, at least 90 per cent of the global economy is covered by net zero commitments, an increase from the 30 per cent when the UK started the COP presidency in 2019.
The UK will retain the presidency of COP for a further year and will use this time to push for further action on reducing emissions and supporting developing countries with access to new green technology.
The Pact has seen nations agree to accelerate efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and the phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. 65 countries have now committed to phasing out the use of coal power, and all major coal financing countries have committed to end international coal finance by the end of 2021. There is more work to do, of course, to ensure that all major emitters sign up to phase out coal.
The summit also saw more than 130 leaders, representing over 90 per cent of the world’s forests, pledge to end deforestation by the end of the decade, backed by almost £14 billion of public and private funding.
COP26 was always about more than just two weeks, with much work taking place in Parliament ahead of the summit. Earlier this year as a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee I chaired an evidence session where we questioned the President of COP26, Alok Sharma, about his vision for the summit, and ahead of Glasgow our Committee launched a report entitled ‘A climate for ambition: Diplomatic preparations for COP26’.
It is not only on the global stage that the UK is acting, but work is being done at home as well. The Government’s Environment Act, which has now been passed into law, puts in place a world-leading framework for environmental improvement and governance including legally-binding targets and environmental improvement plans. The Environment Act will deliver long-term targets to improve air quality, biodiversity, water, and waste reduction and resource efficiency.
Additionally, at COP26, HM Treasury announced new rules requiring financial institutions and listed companies in the UK to come up with net zero transition plans.
Of course, this work must continue after Glasgow and that is what I will continue to pursue both as Crawley MP and a member of the Conservative Environment Network parliamentary caucus.
Henry Smith MP