The weekend Read: Paris summit on climate change - statement of the Secretary of State to parliament
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd): It gives me great pleasure to report to the House on the United Nations conference of parties in Paris last week. COP21 has delivered an historic new global climate change agreement that takes a significant step forward towards reducing, on a global scale, the emissions that cause climate change. For the first time, nearly 200 countries have made a commitment to act together and to be held accountable. In doing so, this agreement will help to protect not just our environment but our national and economic security, now and for generations to come. As the Prime Minister said in his speech at the start of conference:
“instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today.”
I am proud to say that there are no more excuses. With the Paris agreement, we have shown that the world has committed to action.
This deal is unequivocally in Britain’s national interest. It moves us towards a level playing field at a global level within which the UK’s society and businesses can thrive, as we transition to a low-carbon economy. This is a deal we are wholeheartedly committed to, recognising that action by one state alone cannot and will not solve climate change. It is what we do together that counts.
This is a moment that all parties in the House can take significant credit for. Together, we passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which set an example to the world of what ambitious domestic climate action looks like. Together, since Copenhagen in 2009, we have supported a long, difficult and complex negotiation, which has brought us to this point. I want to pay tribute not just to the Prime Minister and my colleagues across Government, but to my predecessors as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for all the hard work they put in to bring us to this point.
As a country, we should be proud of the role we have played, leading in the European Union, working closely with major global players, including the US and China, and leading many of the negotiations. My Department, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, has worked tirelessly to build the political conditions and the capacity to enable countries to act. The UK team in Paris last week showed commitment, passion and resilience. When Laurent Fabius asked me to chair the finance session at 4 am on Friday morning, I was well supported, and when I left at 6.30 am, they stayed to write up the conclusions and send them to the presidency. That, Mr Speaker, was commitment.
The UK played a key role in building alliances and shared positions, especially with the most vulnerable countries, to ensure that pressure for ambition could be maximised. The deal in Paris was not done to us; it was done by us. Indeed, it reflects many of the elements that we as a country have already committed to as part of the Climate Change Act. Of course Paris is not the end of the road. We cannot sit back and say, “Job done.” Far from it: Paris is the beginning. Now the hard work to implement the agreement begins.
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Let me turn to what the nearly 200 countries have agreed. First, we have set out a clear long-term goal for the world to achieve net zero emissions by the end of the century. The long-term goal sends a strong signal to investors, businesses and policy makers that the shift to a global low-carbon economy will happen and it provides the confidence needed to drive the scale of investment required. We have confirmed our collective ambition to limit global temperature rises to below 2° C. We have agreed a further aspiration of 1.5°. However, the current level of commitments by individual countries will not meet this ambition, so crucially, countries will come back to the table to assess overall progress towards the 2° goal in 2018 and every five years thereafter.
As investment grows and the costs of low-carbon technologies come down, the Paris process will provide not just the opportunity but the political pressure to step up individual countries’ emissions reductions targets. Starting in 2020, countries are expected to update their own plans to cut emissions, and will be legally obliged to do so again every five years, thus providing regular political moments to scale up ambition.
This agreement is not only comprehensive in its scope, as it also recognises the role of both developed economies and emerging economies in helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries to protect themselves from the effects of climate change as they transition to a low-carbon economy.
Over the last five years, the UK’s £3.87 billion international climate fund has been helping millions of the world’s poor better to withstand extreme weather and rising temperatures. At the UN Secretary-General summit in September, the Prime Minister announced a significant uplift to increase climate finance by at least 50% with £5.8 billion-worth of climate finance over the next five years to support poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change and to curb emissions. This is part of a global commitment to mobilise $100 billion a year from both the public and private sector to protect the most vulnerable and support economic growth from 2020. Other developed countries, including Germany, France, the US, Japan, and Canada have all recently announced increases in their climate finance.
Important as the Paris agreement is, we will achieve our ultimate ambition only if it acts as a catalyst for transformational action from all parts of society. That is why it has been so important to see real action over the last month from business and civil society. A new initiative, for example, called “Mission Innovation”, will see some of the biggest global economies—including the UK, US, and India—doubling their investments in clean energy research and development. Crucially, it is private investors who will join us in this endeavour to bring down the costs of low-carbon technologies.
Here in the UK, we have committed to doubling spending in clean energy research and development, so that by 2020 we will be spending in excess of £400 million. That pledge has been matched by 19 other countries worldwide. This is in recognition of the fact that we will tackle climate change effectively only if we find technologies that are both clean and cheap. Let me emphasise that the announcement I made last month—that I would set out proposals to close coal by 2025 and restrict its use from 2023—added to the momentum at Paris.
The Paris agreement truly marks an historic turning-point. It builds on the Kyoto protocol, and for the first time ever provides the comprehensive framework in which not just developed countries, but nearly every country of the world has committed to take the global action needed to solve a global problem. Of course, it was hard fought and of course it required compromise to bring everyone with us. Of course, too, it has not solved every problem in one go.
Now we have to set about implementing the commitments made, but we should not underestimate the significance of what has been achieved. All parties have recognised that economic and global security requires us to tackle climate change. All have come together to commit to a single goal—net zero carbon emissions by the end of the century. All have agreed to set out plans to curb emissions and to be held accountable for their actions. We have made a huge step forward in meeting our responsibilities to this and future generations. As the excellent Executive Secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said:
“I used to say we can, we must, we will. Now I can say we did.”