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Crunch time: COP28 is an opportunity to show we are staying on track with our net-zero commitments

3 min read

COP28 provides a chance to show international leadership on nature recovery and the expansion of renewable energy projects. Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, discusses what the committee believes should be on the agenda for COP28

The United Kingdom is only seven years away from our 2030 commitment to cut emissions by 68 per cent. Efforts must continue apace to keep on track for this interim target on the road to net-zero. COP28 ought to focus minds and spur progress.

COP26, chaired by the UK, brought forward international agreements to keep 1.5°C alive by securing revised nationally determined contributions (NDC), tackling deforestation and marking a step forward in the phasing out of coal for energy production.

The UK is in a strong position to build on this leadership; after all, we were the first major economy to legislate for net-zero. The Prime Minister has recently emphasised his commitment to net-zero, and the committee looks forward to receiving further detail about how revisions to net-zero policy will keep the UK on track. Overall emissions have been cut while the economy has grown, and the government has supported low carbon clusters around the country.

The UK is also demonstrating ambitious goals for nature. In England, this includes the biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirement that will protect nature while enabling the development of land: a world first. We can expect BNG legislation in Parliament in November, and this new duty will apply to developers from January. GSK has been the first UK company to announce its plans to publish disclosures as to how it will safeguard nature in its activities. I look forward to hearing more from the government on its plans for nature recovery ahead of COP28.

Environmental goals must be met in tandem with financial progress: an approach that is gaining momentum in the private sector. Ahead of COP28, the committee will report its findings on the financial sector and the UK’s net-zero transition, making recommendations in this important space. Later this year, we will examine the government’s plans to develop natural capital and the green economy, and consider what more financial institutions can do to make their investments nature-positive. This is important and time-critical: the UK is the most nature-depleted country of the G7, and the recent 2023 State of Nature report made for sobering reading.

It is a very positive sign that the Prime Minister plans to attend the conference and will be at the top table to secure ambitious agreements with his counterparts.

The committee is currently reviewing how the national electricity grid can develop to satisfy future energy demands. I was encouraged that the Prime Minister recognised grid capacity as a significant issue to be addressed last month, and that work is underway to audit grid infrastructure. From increasing input from renewable energy projects to supporting output to charging points for electric vehicles, the grid is central to decarbonising the economy.

On the international stage, my wish list for COP28 is simple. The UK, with its scientific and negotiating expertise, must continue in the vanguard of initiatives to promote nature recovery in all parts of the globe, thereby contributing to global cooling and genuine offsetting of emissions. The UK must show global leadership in expanding renewable energy projects while weaning the economy off fossil fuels with their volatile pricing.

It is a very positive sign that the Prime Minister plans to attend the conference and will be at the top table to secure ambitious agreements with his counterparts. We’re facing crunch time for our global climate, and as a global community, we must keep our eyes firmly focused on the net-zero prize.

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