Devizes MP, Claire Perry, is no longer part of the Conservative government. In particular, she is no longer the Minister for Clean Energy. At the time of writing it is far from clear who has taken over this brief—all we know is that Theresa Villiers is the new Secretary of State for the Environment whilst Jo Johnson (brother of Boris) is Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy–with no-one, as yet, given the specific job of ensuring we stick to our climate change commitments.
I am disappointed and concerned by these changes as it is apparent that preventing global warming is not even a low-priority for the new government and, in addition, the voting history of the new Environment Minister is a little patchy, to say the least. I will watch developments closely.
On a more positive note, Claire Perry has been nominated as the President of COP26. That’s going to take a bit of explaining (see below) but it is a good thing in my opinion.
COP stands for Conference of the Parties, in this case the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change. The framework convention was set up in the early 1990s and most of the world’s nations have signed up to it. Progress towards the framework’s aim of preventing climate change is assessed by annual conferences (i.e. by the COPs). The twenty fifth of these—imaginatively named COP25—takes place in Chile this coming December and, amongst other issues, will decide the location of COP26 in November of 2020. It is widely expected that this will be in the UK and, if so, Claire Perry will be in charge of ensuring COP26 achieves its aims.
COPs have run every year since 1995 and, so far, have achieved precisely nothing. There is no sign whatsoever that there has been any slow-down in the ever-increasing rate at which humanity fly-tips greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. There have been agreements, notably the Kyoto and Paris protocols (named after the cities where the relevant COPs took place), which have aimed to drastically cut back emissions but these have not been effective. For example, even if countries stick to their commitments under the Paris agreement, annual world-wide emissions will still go up.
COP26 could change all that! Next year’s conference is in the year when the Paris convention comes into effect. If the Paris agreement is to actually start achieving anything then it is essential that countries come to COP26 with serious emission-reduction proposals. Slowing the rate of rise is no longer good enough. Every country on Earth has to have a plan for real cuts (don’t worry about the US, Donald Trump is not forever and America won’t let us down in the end).
The UK claims to be leading the world on this. Our commitment to net-zero in 2050 is a big step but it needs to be backed up by a detailed and credible plan. If our country can do this in advanced of COP26 then we really will have the moral authority to twist the arms of others. COP26 could be the conference where the world’s nations finally commit to reducing emissions rather than just slowing their rate of rise. COP26 could be the event we look back on, in the future, as the turning point—the time when the human race stepped back from the climate brink and started the journey towards a carbon-free future.
So, no pressure then Claire!
27 July 2019