This week, as everyone knows, the UK is hosting global leaders in Glasgow for the COP26 Climate Change conference.
The fact this conference is securing such widespread coverage in the media is both a reflection of the growing recognition across the world of the danger climate change presents, and the public’s determination that their elected officials tackle the challenge.
As Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, I have said for some time that this conference is an opportunity for world leaders to show ambition, willingness and enthusiasm. The last UN Climate Change conference in Paris resulted in the promise to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees – now Glasgow must be the conference that brings that promise closer to reality.
I write at the beginning of the week, but there has been early success – with over 100 world leaders committing to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. We need our forests to provide habitats for species, but also to absorb a significant amount of carbon, so this is an extremely welcome announcement. But it must be backed up by meaningful standards. My hope is that hope this commitment will be included in the UN metrics, which the UN Secretary General announced in his speech during the Opening Ceremony, so that there is regular internationally measured accountability against these pledges.
I shall be attending COP26 from Thursday to Saturday. I am hosting a session with two other select committee chairs (one Labour, one LibDem) for international parliamentarians, to discuss how parliaments around the world can hold their governments to account to deliver on the pledges they make at COP26. Our session will also be addressed by parliamentarians from Indonesia, Pakistan and Uganda.
I am also closing the final session on nature day on Saturday at a DEFRA hosted session on natural capital with Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, who wrote the seminal report guiding UK government policy on how we recognise nature, in discussion with Lord Stern, Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy.
I am aware that there will be some for whom the measures announced at this conference will never go far enough – and some who simply do not believe evidence of human impact on the planet’s climate.
But I am convinced that this conference can and must make a major difference in decarbonising our world. In the words of HM The Queen – “I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.”