Monday 15 November 2021 / 5:07 PM Climate Change / Environment / Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer responds to the Prime Minister’s COP26 statement

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, responding to the Prime Minister’s COP26 statement in the House of Commons, said:

I want to pay tribute to the COP president. Whatever the shortcomings of the deal, his diligence, his integrity and his commitment to the climate are clear to all.

And to his team of civil servants. Their dedication, their expertise, their service. Never in doubt, but always remarkable.

They knew that COP26 was the most important international summit ever hosted on these shores. Why? The simple maths of the climate crisis.

At Paris, we set out the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. That is the tipping point—beyond which the world is set to see:

·       billions of people facing extreme heatwaves,

·       countless millions displaced from their homes,

·       and the destruction of natural wonders like the world’s coral reefs.

The science doesn’t negotiate and no politician can move the goalposts. To have any hope of 1.5 degrees we must halve global emissions by 2030.

The task of Glasgow was to set out credible plans for delivering that and whilst the summit has made modest progress, we cannot kid ourselves. Plans to cut emissions still fall way short. The pledges made at Glasgow for 2030 – even if fully implemented – represent less than 25% of the ambition required.

Rather than the manageable 1.5 degrees, they put us on track for a devastating 2.4 degrees.

That’s why – according to the UN Secretary General – the goal of 1.5 degrees is now left on “life support.”

The Prime Minister praised inadequate net zero plans. Australia was called heroic, even though their plan was so slow that it was in line with 4 degrees of global warming.

By providing this cover we had little chance of exerting influence on other big emitters and we saw many more disappointing national plans.

The Prime Minister dressed up modest sectoral commitments as transformational. Earlier in COP, the Government claimed that “190 countries and organisations” had agreed to end coal.

On closer inspection:

·       only 46 of them were countries,

·       of that only 23 were new signatories,

·       of those 23, 10 do not even use coal!

And the 13 that remained did not include the biggest coal users – China, the US, India, and Australia.

With no public pressure, the big emitters were emboldened and they clubbed together to gut the main deal’s wording on coal. Only someone who thinks words are meaningless could now argue that an agreement to phase down coal is the same as an agreement to phase it out.

And there was the long-overdue $100 billion in climate finance. It has still not been delivered even though this money was promised to developing countries over a decade ago.

Failure to deliver has damaged trust and created a huge obstacle to building the coalition that can drive climate action between the most vulnerable developing countries and ambitious developed countries.

That coalition was the foundation of the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015 –

Creating a pincer movement to maximise pressure on the world’s biggest emitters, including China.

It is deeply regrettable that, at Glasgow, we did not see a repeat. Instead, developing countries were still having to make the case for the long promised $100 billion in the final hours of this summit.

Given all this and the imperative to revive 1.5 degrees from life-support, the question is – what is going to be different in the next year in the run up to COP27?

Britain has particular responsibility as COP President.

First, we need to reassemble the Paris climate coalition and build trust with the developing world. But cutting overseas aid does not build trust, it destroys it.

So, will the Prime Minister immediately reverse the cuts?

Second, there can be no free passes for major emitters. Including our friends. We are doing a trade deal with Australia, where we have allowed them to drop Paris temperature commitments. That was a mistake. Will the Prime Minister put it right?

Third, the Prime Minister is right that we need to power past coal and phase out fossil fuels. But his ability to lead on the issue internationally has been hampered by his actions at home.

It has never made sense for the Government to be flirting with a new coal mine or to green light the Cambo Oil field. Will he rewrite the planning framework to rule out coal? And will he now say no to Cambo?

Finally, will he sort out the Chancellor? The Budget, delivered in the week before COP26, as world leaders began to arrive on these shores did not even mention climate change, gave a tax break for domestic flights and fell woefully short of the investment needed to deliver green jobs and a fair transition.

Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister has been the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

And Glasgow has been a missed opportunity – a stumble forwards when we needed to make great strides, more climate delay when we needed delivery and 1.5 degrees is now on life support.

We still have a chance to keep 1.5 degrees alive but only with intensive care.

We have to speak honestly about the challenge we face to rebuild the coalition that we need and to take on the big emitters.

We can and we must change course.