Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of undermining global climate change efforts by ‘pretending’ Cop26 deal ‘is all fine’ as Downing Street vows to ‘keep the pressure on’ China and India after they blocked stronger emissions deal
- Starmer criticised PM for praising Cop26 deal on fossil fuel emission cuts
- Deal watered down by China and India at the death of the UN summit in Glasgow
- PM said summit was ‘historic success’ that ‘sounded the death knell’ for coal
Labour’s Keir Starmer today accused Boris Johnson of undermining global efforts against climate change by ‘pretending’ cop26 had been a success.
The Opposition Leader criticised the Prime Minister for praising a deal done on fossil fuel emissions, after it was watered down by China and India at the death of the UN summit in Glasgow.
Mr Johnson last night took a swipe at Beijing and New Delhi – two of the world’s worst polluters – after they connived to alter language on coal use from a pledge to phase it ‘out’ to phase it ‘down’.
But the Prime Minister used a televised press conference to insist that the Glasgow summit had been a ‘historic success’ that ‘sounded the death knell’ for coal power generation.
Hosting ‘Call Keir’ on LBC radio today, the Labour leader said Cop26 ‘didn’t achieve what we needed to achieve’.
‘I don’t think the Prime Minister helps either the global effort or himself to pretend or over-pretend that this is all fine and on track, because it isn’t,’ he said.
The Labour leader added: ‘The Prime Minister seemed to be saying yesterday that phasing down coal and phasing out coal are basically the same thing. I don’t agree.
‘I think if you phase down you are reducing but you are not eliminating – if you phase out you are eliminating.’
Downing Street said the UK can ‘lobby and encourage’ but cannot force other nations to commit to climate promises.
Following the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, No 10 said the UK had worked with partners from around the globe.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘All countries have to play a role in this, almost 200 countries working together.
‘We absolutely worked with our EU counterparts, both individually and the EU centrally in this, along with countries like the US and others who are working towards pushing for further action on net zero.’
He added that ‘we can lobby and encourage but we cannot force nations to do what they do not wish to do’.
‘But we will continue to keep the pressure on, that’s something that Alok Sharma will continue to do as his role as Cop President this year, to ensure those countries who have made commitments stand by them and those where we feel can do more, we will keep the pressure on to encourage them to come forward with further action.’
What was agreed at Cop26 and why is there anger at China and India?
The main focus of Cop26 was an attempt to agree a plan that would limit average global temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Pivotal to this benchmark was a deal on coal use.
The fossil fuel is the worst pollutant currently in use around the globe, especially by growing industrial giants like India and China.
Delegates in Scotland spent long days days over weeks arguing over the language to use to tie countries down to shutting down coal-fired power stations and not building any new ones.
The summit believed last night that they had achieved a working that could start this happening, with talk that nations would ‘phase out’ the black carbon chunks.
But at the death in Glasgow last night, it was watered down following a push led by China, backed up by its erstwhile enemy and rival India, that saw the wording replaced by ‘phase down’.
The difference is that while it holds countries to reducing their coal use, it does not hold them to ceasing altogether.
Alok Sharma last night apologised for the last-gasp change. For the Glasgow Pact to pass, support had to be unanimous.
But today he insisted it was an ‘historic achievement’ as previous Cop summits have failed to get any change on coal use.
What else has been agreed?
There has also been a doubling of money for developing countries to help them to adapt to climate change. The current goal is $100bn a year, while there could be a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025.
But the agreement also noted ‘with deep regret’ that wealthy nations had also failed to stump up a separate annual sum of $100 billion they promised over a decade ago.
During the conference, a range of wealthy governments stepped up with new pledges – totalling about $960 million – for two key U.N.-backed funds that help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change.
Still, the amounts pledged remained far below the annual $70 billion developing countries are thought to need now, an amount that could rise to $300 billion a year by 2030, according to the United Nations.
It urged countries to pay up ‘urgently and through 2025’.
There was also progress toward setting a firm target for adaptation finance, which currently accounts for just a quarter of international climate finance for developing nations, garnering only $20 billion in 2019.
In a bid to spur further ambition, major emitters will also be asked to present new targets at the 2022 UN climate conference in Egypt.
China has been particularly wary of having others scrutinise its efforts too closely. Along with other developed and emerging economies, it is now expected to report every five instead of every 10 years.
Why do we need this?
When the Paris Agreement was negotiated in 2015, it was clear the national action plans, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), that countries had submitted for emissions cuts up to 2030 left the world way off track to meet the temperature goals in the accord.
The agreement built in a ratchet mechanism that would see countries return with updated plans up to 2030 by Cop26 – which was meant to take place in 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic.
But the latest set of plans countries submitted in the run-up to Glasgow still leave the world for off track for the 45 per cent emissions cuts needed by 2030 to meet the 1.5C goal, instead heading for 2.4C of warming.
At the summit, countries were under pressure to come up with a deal in Glasgow to take steps to increase their ambition for emission cuts in the 2020s to stop the 1.5C goal slipping out of reach.
And with the impacts of 1.1C of warming already biting, there was also pressure to provide the finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis, and to address the loss and damage they are facing.
Scientists have also warned keeping temperature rises to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.
What does it mean for ordinary people in the UK?
Lives are going to change because of climate action, but the UK already has targets to cut its emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement, alongside its domestic legal carbon-cutting goals.
It is implementing plans to meet them, with measures such as the coal power phaseout, conventional car ban and efforts to switch home heating to clean alternatives to boilers planned or under way.
In the longer term, it keeps alive the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5C, helping protect people from the worst impacts of climate change.
In the UK, that means avoiding the most damaging flooding and storms, coastal erosion, water shortages and heatwaves that rising temperatures will bring.
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