Mr President, before I begin today’s statement, I would like to say a few words about the heinous attack which took place yesterday morning in front of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
On behalf of the whole Assembly, I would like to pay tribute to the swift and professional response of the extraordinary men and women of the emergency services, who have once again been the best of us.
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Center has now reduced the nationwide threat level from substantial to severe, which means that an attack is highly likely. The police are keeping us and the Home Secretary informed of developments and of course we will keep the House informed of the investigation as it continues.
And now, Mr President, with your permission I would like to make a statement on the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, which has been held in the beautiful city of Glasgow over the past two years. last few weeks.
It was the largest political rally of any kind ever held in the UK. 194 countries were represented.
We had about 120 heads of state or government. 38,000 accredited delegates. And there were countless tens of thousands more in the streets, parks and places outside. It was a summit that many people predicted would fail. A summit that I fear that some will quietly want to fail. Yet it was a summit that proved skeptics and cynics wrong. Because the COP26 did not only succeed in keeping 1.5 alive. He succeeded in doing something that no United Nations climate conference has ever done before by uniting the world to call the hour on coal. In the previous 25 COPs, until Berlin in 1995, none gave a mandate to remove a single piece of coal from a power station boiler.
For decades, tackling the root cause of carbon emissions has been as difficult as eating the proverbial elephant. It was so big no one really knew where to start. But in Glasgow, Mr President, we took the first bite. Because we got a global commitment to phase out coal – and as John Kerry has pointed out, you can’t phase out coal without reducing it first as we move into it. other sources of cleaner energy – and we have, for the first time, a global recognition that we will not bring climate change under control as long as our power plants consume large amounts of the sedimentary super-polluter that is coal.
That alone is a great achievement, but we haven’t just signaled the beginning of the end for coal. We also checked our boxes on cars, species and trees. The companies that make a quarter of the world’s automobiles have agreed to stop building carbon-emitting vehicles by 2035 – and cities from Sao Paulo to Seattle have pledged to ban them from their streets.
We have launched a whole new model, an intellectual breakthrough, which sees billions of dollars in climate finance, investment from development banks, etc.
And we did something absolutely none of the commentators saw coming by creating a coalition of over 130 countries to protect up to 90 percent of our forests, those great natural carbon absorbers. Mr. Speaker, none of this was a happy accident or fatality.
The fact that we are here, facing a global pandemic, is itself the result of a large and complex effort involving countless moving parts. Until the very end, there was a very real prospect that no deal would be found.
And what has been achieved has only been achieved, month after month, through concerted British diplomacy, countless meetings, countless phone calls. The head shots at the UNGA, the Petersberg Dialogue, President Biden’s climate summit, the Security Council, the G7, the G20. And the example setting, several examples by the United Kingdom.
Because time and again the job of our negotiators has been made easier by the fact that the UK is not asking anyone to do anything that we are not doing ourselves. We have reduced our use of coal so much that our last two coal-fired power plants will be permanently out of service in 2024. We have more than doubled our climate finance, providing vital support to poor and vulnerable nations around the world. We have made a legally binding commitment to achieve net zero, the first of the major economies to do so. We have set a date by which internal combustion hydrocarbon engines will come to the end of the road. And we’ve shown the world that it’s possible to grow your economy while reducing carbon emissions, creating markets for clean technology, and creating new green jobs that lower emissions and increase prosperity.
Each of these achievements was not only great news for our country and our planet, but another arrow in the quiver of our fantastic team in Glasgow. A team led by the President of the COP, the Right Honorable Member of Reading West. From the moment he took the reins of the COP he has been absolutely tireless in his efforts to achieve the change we need. And while I’m pretty sure what he really needs right now is a well-deserved break
I don’t think any of us here will be able to hold him back as he sets out to push countries to go even further and ensure that the promises made in Glasgow are kept and not watered down. But success has many parents and I want to say a big thank you to the leaders of our own COP unit, in Downing Street and across government in embassies around the world, and to the United Nations who have gone out of their way to make the event will work and guide through the agreements that have been made.
I also want to thank everyone on the ground at SEC in Glasgow – security, catering, transport, the ever-cheerful volunteers, police across the country who have protected us from harm, the public health authorities who have kept us safe. have protected from Covid – and everyone in the Scottish government. And above all I want to say thank you to the people of Glasgow, who had to endure so much disruption in their city and still welcomed the world. I’m telling the people of Glasgow – we couldn’t have done it without you.
Is there still more to do? Of course there is. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we can safely close the book on climate change.
In fact, I can’t think of anything more dangerous than giving yourself a pat on the back and telling yourself the job is done. Because this job will not be finished until the whole world has not only gone to net zero, but has arrived at its destination.
A goal which, even with the best intentions of all involved, cannot be achieved overnight. If COP26 filled me with optimism about our ability to get there, I cannot claim to be sure today, because we have seen countries that should really know better how to drag their feet on their Paris commitments. But if, and always if, they keep their promises, then I think Glasgow will be remembered as the place where we made a historic deal and the world started to turn the tide.
Before Paris, we were on our way to four degrees of warming. After Paris, this number fell to three, still catastrophically dangerous. This afternoon, after Glasgow, it is close to two. Still too high, the numbers are still too hot, but closer than ever to the relative safety of 1.5, and with a whole new roadmap to get us there.
Aristotle taught us that virtue does not come from reasoning and instruction but from habit and practice. So the success of the Glasgow Climate Pact lies not only in the promises, but also in the movement the whole world has now made from setting abstract targets to adopting a comprehensive work program to achieve these. targets and reduce CO2 emissions.
We are now talking about the how rather than the what and get into the habit of reducing the CO2 emissions that spread not only to governments, but also to businesses and billions of people around the world. That’s why I think COP26 was a success and 1.5 is still alive.
This is something that every person in the UK can and should be proud of, and I commend this statement to the Assembly.