The annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change took place in Bonn, Germany, from 6-17 November. I led the United Kingdom delegation, accompanied by my honourable friend Dr Thérèse Coffey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment). As demonstration of the UK’s action at all levels, the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham also attended.
The UK’s priorities for COP23 were to maintain the global political momentum to combat climate change and to promote the UK’s global climate leadership. We demonstrated this commitment to combating climate change through a series of high profile announcements, most prominently the UK-Canada Powering Past Coal Alliance to phase out unabated coal power, joined at COP23 by 28 countries and States. We announced over £300m of programmes to support developing countries tackle climate change. This included £177m for sustainable infrastructure in Latin America; £40m for a climate fund with Germany for reducing emissions in developing countries; £27.5m to help the world’s largest cities tackle climate change; and £62m towards two initiatives to support Latin America halt deforestation. We also announced that we will double our funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2017 to £230,000 – the scientific body whose evidence underpins global climate action.
The context of this COP gave it particular significance, in particular given the recent series of devastating extreme weather events, Fiji as the first Small Island Developing State Presidency, and the US’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
In the negotiations we succeeded in keeping the process on track towards agreeing the rules that will underpin the Paris Agreement by the end of 2018, and in creating the conditions for a collective raising of ambition by 2020. Outside negotiations we highlighted our impressive domestic and international action including the recent Clean Growth Strategy, and opportunities for the UK’s low carbon sector. Since 1990, we have cut emissions by 42 per cent while our economy has grown by two thirds. This means that we have reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation, while leading the G7 group of countries in growth in national income over this period.
The Green is Great UK Pavilion had nearly 50 events showcasing UK low carbon expertise and opportunities. Highlights included the international launch of the Clean Growth Strategy, the signing of the ‘Because the Oceans declaration’, and the showcasing of UK business, academic and NGO expertise.
During COP the UK ratified two important climate change agreements: the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol (on developed country action before 2020) and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol (on phasing down hydrofluorocarbons), one of the first countries in the world to do so.
The UK, negotiating as part of the EU, secured its main negotiation objectives: progress in the multiple negotiating tracks on the work needed to implement the Paris Agreement; and a clear vision for next year’s ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ – a collective process which will take stock of current efforts and drive future global ambition.
Other important outcomes from the negotiations included agreement to showcase and accelerate work on pre-2020 action; agreement of a Gender Action Plan and a Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform to promote greater inclusion in climate action and UN processes; and the launch of an Ocean Pathway Partnership to strengthen the inclusion of oceans in the UN climate process.
Climate change will rightly continue to be at the forefront of international activity over the next year; President Macron will host the One Planet Summit in Paris next month; it will feature strongly at the Commonwealth Summit in April 2018; it will be prominent in the work of the G7 and G20, hosted by Canada and Argentina respectively; and California will host a major summit for cities and regions in September 2018. Meanwhile the “Talanoa Dialogue” process will run through the year culminating in COP24 in Katowice, Poland and there is further detailed work to be done to conclude the Paris ‘rulebook’ by the end of COP24.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: