As COP27 comes to an end, UK climate leadership must not
As COP27 draws to a close, we should recognise the historic breakthrough made in agreeing to set up a fund to assist vulnerable nations hit by climate disasters.
As every COP and every international conference teaches us, however, words and communiques are the beginning and not the end of delivering real-world progress.
The next, more difficult, step will be agreeing how the world can come together to fund this and, crucially, how we can resurrect global ambitions for reducing the emissions that is causing this damage in the first place.
Right now, parliamentarians have a large in-tray of domestic concerns and economic challenges to deal with. Despite these pressing concerns, many members across both houses and all parties remain committed to working together to deliver on our net zero and nature targets.
We must turn our climate and nature commitments into ambitious but practical policies
We do this because it is our collective duty to play our part in leading and inspiring change across all levels of society and business to deliver on the global commitments reached.
But also because achieving a low carbon economy presents us with solutions to tackle today’s cost of living and energy crisis and because the rewards will be enormous – for competitiveness, growth, security, health outcomes, skills, jobs and the wellbeing of current and future generations.
However, discussions at Sharm El-Sheikh brought into sharp focus that whilst the destination we are aiming for may be the same, the challenges we face as individual countries to respond to the climate crisis are not.
While United Kingdom legislators focus on the potential of a green economy, for legislators in other countries, their focus is on survival and managing the devastating impacts of climate change they are facing in the here and now.
Every country will have to meet its own unique climate challenges and plot its own pathways out of the crisis. But in the UK, we need not only a national but an international response, developing tools and technologies that can be used not only in the UK but shared with other countries who we can both support and from whom we can learn.
As the first nation to industrialise, our historic emissions place us in the top ten polluting countries globally and together with our continuing high rates of consumption as a nation make it clear we have a moral responsibility to support countries most at risk, and to deliver on and develop new initiatives for financing climate adaptation and decarbonisation on a global scale.
Al Gore observed at the Summit that political will is itself a renewable resource. It is a neat metaphor, but we now need the machinery of government to pipe that resource through every department of Whitehall and make good on the Prime Minister’s promise to ensure UK climate leadership “pervades all aspects of government now”.
This is urgently needed, because in the UK we cannot yet claim to have our own house in order, despite having had legislation in place since 2008 that binds us to delivering net-zero emissions by 2050.
Just as the Climate Change Act led the world, we have an opportunity to set further policy and legislative blueprints to help speed a clean and fair transition for every sector at home and globally.
We are now a quarter of the way into a decade in which we must turn our climate and nature commitments into ambitious but practical policies if we are going to avoid the most severe and irreversible consequences of climate change.
The public understand the need to move faster, with polls consistently underlining their desire for the UK to show leadership. They see our global role in driving change as a source of national pride, as well as an enormous opportunity for prosperity and wellbeing.
The role of parliamentarians and their work has never been more important in supporting government in its duty to lead. The scrutiny we provide and the choices we make will underpin and shape the task and success of delivery.
Mario Cuomo famously said that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose: It is easy to use inspiring language to make the case for saving the world – but now, the detailed task that transforms rhetoric into policy reality must take centre stage.
Baroness Hayman, Crossbench peer and co-chair of Peers for the Planet.
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