17 November 2021
Dunne questions PM on COP26

Philip Dunne, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, questions the Prime Minister on the COP26 conference in Glasgow and the delivery of net zero in the UK at a meeting of the Liaison Committee.

Chair: Thank you, Prime Minister. We will expect that. We move on to Philip Dunne, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

Q94 Philip Dunne: Prime Minister, in your opening remarks to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, you made clear your own personal commitment. I think you said it was the moment when we began “irrefutably to turn the tide and to begin the fightback against climate change”. What changes do you think you need to make to the structure of Government to be able to deliver net zero Britain?

The Prime Minister: I think the Government is well structured to deliver net zero in the UK. What we have is a COP president in Alok Sharma who will help to continue to make sure that the world’s climate change objectives are delivered.

Alok will work with the incoming Egyptian presidency of COP and the Emiratis, who will run COP28. The real job of work is global: we have to make sure that everybody—all 190-plus countries—stick to the commitments they made, and make COP26 real.

Q95 Philip Dunne: So his focus will be on delivering the global commitments. At the moment, he chairs the Climate Action Implementation Committee, which relates entirely to the UK delivery. Will he continue to chair that committee?

The Prime Minister: Yes.

Q96 Philip Dunne: When did you last chair the Climate Action Strategy Committee, which sits above it?

The Prime Minister: I cannot give you the date, but not very long ago.

Q97 Philip Dunne: Would you mind letting us know? When will you chair the next one?

The Prime Minister: We are driving the whole green industrial revolution throughout Government. It is something that I set out in the 10-point plan almost exactly a year ago. We have been leading it from the centre but rely on Departments of State to get on and do it. I pay tribute to Alok, but I also pay tribute to BEIS and Kwasi Kwarteng, who are running with this agenda. Since we produced the 10-point plan, we have seen investment in green technology in this country in the order of £15 billion, and the creation of many thousands of jobs.

Q98 Philip Dunne: That is the point, Prime Minister. You have set a strategy, and there is good co-ordination in developing the net zero strategy across Departments at civil service level; the challenge is that at BEIS, only a sixth of activities relate to this agenda, and other Departments are being left more or less to their own devices to deliver, and there is not the kind of oversight that would allow you to ensure they are delivering.

The Prime Minister: That is not true, because— Philip Dunne: Well, we are behind on the fourth, the fifth and the sixth carbon budget projections for the coming— The Prime Minister: Yes, but the oversight is being given by me. We are driving the 10-point plan. On CB6, for instance, the only way to do that is to put in the cleaner, greener forms of heating. We are continuing to push on very hard with that. It will be tough, but it can be done. The lesson of clean technology over the last 20 years or so is that, provided Government get behind it and show that they are committed to it, the price will come down. The price of EVs is falling, and the price of wind and solar has fallen very sharply.

Q99 Philip Dunne: If the COP President is to continue to chair the implementation committee, that sounds like a good idea, although it is UK-focused and will divert him from his global role, which seems challenging for him. Will you discuss with him the remit, composition and reach of the committee, to make sure it has the necessary powers to deliver across Government? All the evidence we have had before our Committee is that there is a considerable lack of joined-up activity across Government to deliver this agenda. We have multiple Ministers appearing before us, and they regularly say they do not have responsibility for the subject we are talking about.

The Prime Minister: The whole of Government is working to deliver this agenda. You can see the efforts in the results that they are producing. We are securing record sums of investment in green technology; we are reducing our carbon output and we are creating many tens of thousands of jobs.

Q100 Philip Dunne: Finally, the UN Secretary-General said in his opening remarks that his intent for the next year is to establish metrics to measure countries’ performance in meeting their NDC commitments at COP. Are you intending to introduce new metrics and measurements so you are able to measure your own performance, or the Government’s performance against their commitments?

The Prime Minister: The measurements are clear for everybody to see. They are there in the reductions of CO2 that we achieve. One of the things that was achieved in COP26 was an agreement on the Paris rule book, so that everybody has common metrics and dates by which they judge progress.

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