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Lord Speaker addresses COP26 meeting

8 November 2021 (updated on 8 November 2021)

The Lord Speaker addresses a meeting at COP26 in Glasgow

Let’s never forget the crucial role that Parliaments will play in the conversation on climate change long after COP26 has ended

On Sunday 7 November 2021, the Lord Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, addressed the British Group of the Inter Parliamentary Union (BGIPU)'s Parliamentary Meeting for COP26 at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.

In his speech, the Lord Speaker spoke about the important role parliaments will have in delivering the outcomes of COP26. Read his full speech below.

"Thank you, and many thanks to my colleague Mr Speaker, for his remarks.

I also want to thank the IPU and the BGIPU for organising this important meeting in the fantastic setting of the Kelvingrove Museum.

Now, you can probably tell from my accent that I’m “from around here.” I was born and raised in the West of Scotland, in a town called Dumbarton on the banks of the Clyde. I still live there now, when I’m not carrying out my duties from the Woolsack in the House of Lords.

Dumbarton is about 20 minutes' drive from here, or (much more appropriately for this audience at COP26) it is 30 minutes travel by train, or an hour and a half by bike. There is, in fact, a lovely cycle path from where we are sitting right now through Dumbarton and Loch Lomond and the West Highland way.

So, I’m proud to welcome you all to this part of the world, my home, for this crucial COP26 meeting.

My family and I often visit this museum. In fact, two of my grandchildren are here today with me. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a truly inspiring place for our gathering.

The exhibitions that surround us now are reminder of our amazing planet and all that is at stake during our discussions.

It reminds us of the natural and technological precious assets that we could lose forever.

It reminds us of the cultures that could be wiped away, if we don’t take action.

And it reminds us of the duty we have as parliamentarians in the battle against climate change.

Even when the global economy shut down as a result of the pandemic, our emissions only dropped by 6%. This illustrates the enormity of the challenge ahead of us if we are to maintain the necessary pace for lasting change.

So we have to find real, radical and alternative solutions to reduce the global temperatures, and that’s the challenge we’ve got ahead of us.

As parliamentarians we have a real responsibility. We have a duty to speak for all the people of this planet, including those whose voices are not always heard, and yet are the most affected.

As Pope Francis has said:

“We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

This brings me on to the reason why we are gathered in this room, which is to reflect on our roles and how we can make a difference.

As we know, this COP26 summit only lasts 2 weeks.

But when we depart and the cameras go away, what are the risks if the dialogue suddenly stops after that?

Where, then, will these important conversations about the emergency that faces our planet, continue?

It is, of course, in our Parliaments.

It is in these institutions from which these issues can be debated, and more importantly, actioned, through legislation.

Daniel Greenberg, a parliamentary lawyer, captured this idea very well when he recently said. I quote “rhetoric is not always as empty as it may appear on the surface. In Government and Parliament, one sees all the time how apparently endless dialogue suddenly emerges into real world change.”

He went on to give the example of the Parliamentary debates over the Good Friday Agreement, and how ultimately that dialogue directly led to peace for the people of Northern Ireland.

The success of the Good Friday Agreement was down to many years of face-to-face engagement and dialogue which helped to foster and repair relationships.

The lesson for us here is that to achieve our agreed climate goals, our engagement must continue beyond these two weeks.

And so, such dialogue, the lifeblood of our Parliaments, can lead to change.

As Lord Speaker, I am aware that the House of Lords plays an influential role on the climate change debate in this country. I count myself fortunate to be sharing the Chamber with some of the leading thinkers on climate change.

The red benches of the House of Lords and the green benches of the House of Commons are well-known around the world, but I would contend the House of Lords is, in terms of our expertise and contribution in this area, impressively green!

Let me give you just a few examples. In the House of Lords we have our own Committee on the Environment and Climate Change, set up this year, and chaired by Baroness Parminter. Its remit is to hold the Government to account on issues like biodiversity and ensure that climate change action is embedded into all areas of government policy.

We have in our ranks the current Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben. As well as having the Peers for the Planet group, chaired by Baroness Hayman who do excellent work. Both Lord Stern and Astronomer Royal Lord Rees of Ludlow are renowned globally for their work on climate change and related fields.

When the Environment Bill comes back to the Lords next week, we will see Green Peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb fighting for local support to our transition to a zero-carbon economy.

You’ll see the Duke of Wellington continuing his campaign for sewage-free rivers.

And you’ll see Baroness Hayman of Ullock fighting for cleaner air.

These examples are just a few to demonstrate that The House of Lords is a place of dialogue, scrutiny and concrete action.

In this work, House of Lords complements the House of Commons by proposing amendments to legislation, many of which are accepted by the Government. Our House is replete with subject based experts who ensure that our laws stand the test of time.

So, I want to end by thanking you again for your participation, and most importantly your future action and commitment.

Let’s never forget the crucial role that Parliaments will play in the conversation on climate change long after COP26 has ended.

And I hope that when my grandchildren, sat just here, return to this museum, in years to come, they know that their Grandfather and you, my colleagues chose to do the right thing for our planet using the important Parliamentary platform we have been given.

Thank you."