By Jonathan Reynolds MP
THE COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow has now come to an end. The importance of this opportunity can’t be underestimated.
Without significant action on climate change, all the problems the world is grappling with – migration, conflict, inequality, food shortages, wildfires, health problems – will worsen.
Assessing where we are now is an important moment in deciding how the UK should use the remaining 12 months of our Presidency before it passes to Egypt.
On the face of it, the summit was not the breakthrough we would have liked.
To put it one way, if you added up the emissions pledges that were made at the Paris summit in 2015, they amounted to a disastrous 2.7 degrees of global warming.
After Glasgow the pledges we have get us to 2.4 degrees. You may well have spotted the UK President, Alok Sharma, in tears on the stage. Clearly there is a lot more to do.
But I do think there was some progress at Glasgow. Greta Thunberg has done an incredible job as a campaigner but in my experience if you just always tell people everything is terrible, they switch off and it becomes counterproductive.
The processes agreed at COP26 mean that hope of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees is still alive.
The switch to annual pledges is very important in this as it allows for ambition to be significantly ramped up.
Unfortunately, Australia has got this off to a bad start by stating it will not increase its ambition over the next year.
We have to use the remainder of the UK’s Presidency to challenge this.
There were useful side agreements on methane, deforestation, and coal financing. Perhaps most of all, hitting net zero is now unquestionably a story about the next wave of global growth and jobs.
Any countries that sit this out will suffer a real penalty. The use of coal for power around the world is now on borrowed time – it’s simply a matter of how fast it goes (and I say that coming from a family of County Durham miners, but coal’s time is over).
A UK Government with sufficient ambition could be a world leader in this.
I’ve said before that we must be honest about our share of emissions and report those from imports as well as domestic production.
It’s why Labour have promised to quadruple national investment in this area, going quickly and big on things like energy efficiency (which means savings on your gas and electric bills) and to transform industrial processes like steel production.
Our trade policy should reflect this too – the Conservative Government is wrong to drop climate clauses from the Australia trade deal.
If you want a trade agreement with the UK, it should be on a level-playing field with us.
Finally, our domestic decisions must reflect our ambitions. You cannot open new coal mines and oil fields and cut taxes on domestic flights – whilst cutting rail expansion plans – if you want to get this right.
Glasgow has kept the window open for a Government of the future with sufficient ambition to provide the transformation required. I long to see it happen.