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Lord Foulkes: To be a world leader on climate change we need to put our own house in order first

3 min read

Lord Foulkes outlines his key priorities ahead of COP26, in order for the UK to secure it's position as a world leader in the fight against climate change. 

While the Coronavirus is the greatest immediate threat facing the world, the effect of climate change is by far the greatest long-term threat.

Combatting both requires collaboration at every level in every country across the world, not least in each part of our United Kingdom.

The next focus on united action is the international climate conference, COP26, due to be held in Glasgow in November. Such unity received a setback when, Claire O’Neill, the planned chair of the talks was removed from her post in February.

The new Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, has been given overall ministerial responsibility, notwithstanding his poor voting record on green issues, but it is not yet clear if there will be another person appointed to chair the talks.

There have also been reports of rivalry between the UK and Scottish Governments about the arrangements for COP26 which is why I tabled a Parliamentary Question in the Lords.

It would be inexcusable if any such misunderstanding or rivalry threatened the success of COP26. We need Glasgow 2020 to be as significant in terms of fighting climate change as the Paris Agreement has been.

Governments of the UK and all devolved administrations need to use this event and the run up to it to show global leadership. It was not encouraging that Mary Robinson, former UN climate envoy, declined to give her support to the UK plans through their lack of coherence.

So, we need to lead the way in showing that Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) close the gap between what science tells us we should be doing and our existing commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Second, we must encourage action at a global level sector by sector, with aviation, shipping, steel, cars and cement being key areas.

But the key need is to establish credibility for the UK to be a world leader by putting our own house in order first. Here are my top six priorities.

We must:

  1. Address planning obstacles to onshore wind in England along the lines of the Scottish promise
  2. Develop decarbonisation and implement “roadmaps” for the priority areas of energy, transport, housing and resource efficiency
  3. Adopt strategies for land and ocean carbon sinks
  4. Approve departmental plans for each Ministerial Department
  5. Strengthen cross-departmental coordination to avoid the clashes that are epitomised by the Heathrow runway decision
  6. Make this and every Budget contain “green” benchmarks for areas of spending and taxation

But our national action will be undermined if any aspect of trade negotiations underway contain measures that would pull us in the opposite direction.

The House of Lords is taking a really impressive lead on all of this with the establishment of the cross-party climate caucus “Peers for the Planet” (P4P) under the leadership of former Lord Speaker, Helene Hayman, and lead author of the Climate Change Act, Bryony Worthington, which has already substantial and expanding support in the Upper House.

P4P has already raised the profile of this issue at Westminster and will do so increasingly as COP26 approaches.


Lord Foulkes of Cumnock is a Labour Life Peer. 

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