Anne-Marie Trevelyan: What we know about COP26’s ‘international adaptation’ champion

The UK Government has appointed Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan to the role of International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26. But as the first woman appointed to a senior role for the crucial climate summit, Trevelyan has a patchy history on climate action.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan: What we know about COP26’s ‘international adaptation’ champion

Trevelyan previously served as the Secretary of State for International Development (DFID)

Trevelyan, Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, was announced as the UK’s International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 earlier this week, in an announcement that was dwarfed by ongoing stories of infighting in Downing Street.

According to the Government, Trevelyan will be tasked with engaging with governments of other countries that are most affected by the climate crisis and will drive support from the international community and the private sector.

Trevelyan said: “I am delighted to have been appointed Adaptation and Resilience Champion. It is vital the UK’s COP Presidency shows the world we are listening to the voices of those most impacted by climate change and that we will lead global action to address their concerns, from loss and damage, to access to finance.

“I look forward to working with our partners across the globe to represent and drive our high ambitions on the adaptation and resilience agenda.”

Trevelyan has previously served as the Secretary of State for International Development (DFID) for six months in 2020 but stepped down when the department was merged with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to create the new department Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. She joins COP26 President Alok Sharma in transitioning from the DFID ministerial team to form part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key climate cabinet to steer negotiations at COP26 next November.

Trevelyan is the first woman appointed to a position of prominence as part of the COP26, which were due to take place this month, before being pushed back because of the coronavirus. Reports emerged that the UK was going to roll with an all-male group to deliver the key climate negotiations, viewed by many green groups as the ultimate opportunity to raise global climate ambitions to the needs of the Paris Agreement.

She joins Sharma, Lord Callanan, Zac Goldsmith and Kwasi Kwarteng – who have all led recent virtual meetings on global climate coordination. Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab will also play key roles in the delivery of the conference.

While it is welcome that the UK has sought to address gender balance as part of the COP26 delivery, the selection of Trevelyan has raised eyebrows, with many focusing on her pro-fracking history.

As outlined by the Independent, Trevelyan used the build-up to the 2015 election to share stories on social media as to why fracking “is good for UK economy, self-sufficient needs & environment.”

Before winning Berwick from the Lib Dems in 2015, Trevelyan was focused on getting the Northumberland constituency to oppose windfarms being built in the area.

Trevelyan has defended her position of windfarms, telling the Huffington Post: “My challenge to onshore wind which damaged Northumbrian landscape without the wider impact needed to reduce the base load requirement for our energy supply in the early 2000s is one I stand by.

“Now, in 2020, technology has progressed to ensure that we can use both onshore wind and importantly offshore wind to help feed our power grid.”

Environmental history

The pro-fracking controversies headline what is a consistent voting record against raising climate ambitions.

As noted by They Work for You, Trevelyan has “consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change”. Notably, Trevelyan voted not to call on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030, voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry and voted against a motion calling on the Government “to rebuild the economy so that it works in the interest of the many, not just handing out rewards to those at the top” and bring forward “a green industrial revolution to decarbonise the economy and boost economic growth”. Trevelyan also voted to apply the Climate Change Levy tax to electricity generated from renewable sources.

However, Trevelyan has acted as a vice-chair on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry aimed at improving biodiversity and the environment in the UK and has been pushing for the introduction of an England Peat Strategy, which could assist with natural carbon storage and sequestration.

Additionally, Trevelyan has outlined her support for a national levy on disposable coffee cups to cut back on plastics waste. Writing in the Independent, she noted: “it seems to me that the quickest way to reduce the two billion thrown away plastic-lined cups and their plastic lids each year is to motivate shoppers, as we did with the 5p plastic bag charge.

“I believe only a real levy of something like 50p a cup will break the bad habits we have all developed of drinking coffee on-the-go, without consideration of the waste we are creating.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Trevelyan also set up a Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility to enable UK retailers and fashion firms to work with charities like the Fairtrade Foundation and the Ethical Trading Initiative to improve working conditions and access to healthcare for supply chain workers in developing nations such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. 

Matt Mace

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