Prime Minister gives strongest commitment yet to green recovery as he calls for 'fairer, greener and more resilient' global economy
Boris Johnson has given his clearest indication yet that the UK government will push for a green and climate resilient recovery to the looming recession, arguing today that "we owe it to future generations to build back better" after the coronavirus crisis.
Officially announcing the UK's intention to delay the crucial COP26 climate change summit until November 2021, the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of international cooperation for tackling major crises, and called for a "fairer, greener and more resilient global economy" after Covid-19.
"If we are to defeat Covid-19, achieve a global recovery, and avoid a future pandemic, then we must work together across borders," he said in a short video recorded for today's UN Financing for Development virtual meeting. "Our national efforts will count for little unless they are fortified by international cooperation."
Johnson said that at present the most urgent tasks facing the world are stabilising the economy and developing a vaccine to Covid-19, and stressed that the UK was providing significant funding to support these international efforts.
"But once we move beyond the emergency phase, we owe it to future generations to build back better and base our recovery on solid foundations, including a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy," the Prime Minister added. "The UK will take this forward by hosting the UN climate change conference in Glasgow next year."
"We owe it to future generations to build back better"— COP26 (@COP26) May 28, 2020
PM @BorisJohnson on the importance of a green and resilient recovery at the @UN Financing for Development event today.
"The UK will take this forward by hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow"
👇 👇 👇#COP26 pic.twitter.com/hnKV3Fz5Z0
Johnson's comments are the strongest sign yet that the UK government remains committed to climate action in the short and long-term, and that it supports green stimulus efforts to rebuild the economy following the disruption caused by the pandemic.
It follows the PM's comments in Parliament earlier this month, when he told MPs his commitment to the net zero transition remains "undiminished", and promised to prioritise investment in low carbon infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging and renewable energy capacity post-pandemic.
And yesterday, Johnson confirmed during questions from MPs that the government would be bringing forward an economic recovery plan to Parliament before the summer recess, prompting hopes the package will include a host of new support measures for the green economy.
Calls to deliver a green recovery to the crisis have gained huge momentum over the past two months with businesses, investors, politicians and the public all increasingly vocal in demanding action. Just yesterday the EU Commission unveiled a €1.85tr recovery package that placed its Green Deal ambitions at the heart of the bloc's recovery plans.
With major stimulus packages being readied by governments around the world, there is now growing pressure to ensure that recovery spending does not lead to soaring emissions and the 'locking in' of high carbon infrastructure that would undermine the goals of the Paris Agreement ahead of COP26.
The global climate summit is seen as a particularly critical moment to rally governments into ramping up their climate action commitments in support of the Paris Agreement targets, and as co-hosts UK has a crucial diplomatic role in ensuring the success of the event.
Originally due to take place in Glasgow this autumn, the summit was postponed until next year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and disruption to international travel. The UN is now expected to take a decision shortly on whether to accept the UK's recommendation to hold the event in November 2021.
Despite the delay, Ed Miliband, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary and a key architect of the UK's 2008 Climate Change Act, today emphasised that "nobody should be under any illusions that this a brief window in the world of climate diplomacy, nor should anyone underestimate the complexity of these negotiations or the attention and focus it neds in government".
The former Labour Party leader, who was appointed to Keir Starmer's front bench team last month, said he would be working across parties to support the government in its efforts to make COP26 a success, but stressed he would also be holding it to account "because so much is riding on this summit".
He urged the government to utilise the additional planning time ahead of COP26 "wisely" to lead the world on its own domestic climate efforts as well as put in the crucial diplomatic work behind the scenes.
"Paris happened because of incredible hard work," he said. "To be in the best position to persuade others, the gov must proceed with the most ambitious green recovery in the world & move swiftly on increased domestic ambition for 2030, significantly beyond its plans for fifth carbon budget.
"These two steps are essential to have the authority to get other countries to move on 2030 targets," he added. "Government must put the diplomatic and political heft into making this event a success with substantially increased focus at the top."
Former COP26 President Claire O'Neill, who was unceremoniously ousted from the role in January, gave a cautious welcomed to the decision to postpone COP26 until November 2021, but emphasised the need for businesses and non-state actors to also play their part in pushing harder for net zero.
https://t.co/7lwNFvN2FM— Claire O'Neill (@ClaireClimate) May 27, 2020
Seems ok under circs. But flawed UNFCCC process only small part of what's needed: Everybody In with public, private, nonstate actors making firm net zero commitments and solving challenge of CO2 sequestration. Delay can't equal retreat to biz as usual.
She also offered a blistering assessment of the government's handling of the controversy surrounding the decision by the Prime Minister's advisor, Dominic Cummings, to travel to Durham during the UK's lockdown.
I've been determined not to sink to political mud slinging and focus on building a grand alliance for climate repair. But this government with breathtakingly arrogant closed minded muppets like #DominicCummngs in charge couldn't deliver a pizza let alone @COP26— Claire O'Neill (@ClaireClimate) May 25, 2020
How does 'absolute zero' differ from 'net zero', and does it matter?
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of UK food supply chains, and decisions made now could either increase or reduce future risk, argues WWF UK CEO Tanya Steele
Two of the world's leading brands are pioneering new approaches to ensure their products have a longer life
International Energy Agency and Imperial College London research further underlines strong investment case underpinning renewables sector