Get to work implementing COP26 climate pact, UK businesses and green groups urge Government

Pictured: COP26 President Alok Sharma speaking to media as the summit concluded on 13 November. Image: UNFCCC

The CBI has today (7 December) sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress, the UK Corporate Leaders Group, WWF UK, Green Alliance and E3G. The CBI notably represents around 1,500 member businesses and more than 188,000 non-member organisations.

Building on the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) COP26 debrief report last week, which said the UK will need to “genuinely increase ambitions” to meet the new commitments agreed at the summit, the letter recommends that the Government reviews how it implements green policies and also re-assess remaining policy gaps.

The letter expresses concerns that policies that support climate action, at present, are not being implemented rapidly enough or in a manner that is joined-up across Government departments. It urges more involvement from the Treasury, Foreign office and the Prime Minister’s Office in particular.

On the issue of policy coherence, the letter calls for a rapid implementation of a new net-zero stress test for all policies, including comprehensive measures to transition away from fossil fuels. Also raised are trade deals, carbon pricing and “unambiguous” regulation for the financial services sector, to redirect financial flows at scale away from high-carbon and other environmentally damaging activities.

The circular economy is also flagged, with the letter urging Ministers to get back on track with the implementation of the Resources and Waste Strategy and its supporting Waste Prevention Action Plan. The Strategy – the first comprehensive update to UK policymaking in this area for more than a decade – has been plagued by Covid-19-related delays to consultations on key measures, including deposit return schemes and new extended producer responsibility requirements for the manufacturers of hard-to-recycle goods such as mattresses and clothing.

Additionally, the letter calls for new environmental, carbon sequestration and nature restoration objectives for the agriculture sector. The UK Government confirmed last week that farmers will receive payments for improving and conserving soils and grasslands from next year, but is facing criticism over the scheme, with green groups saying it does not pay enough or have a broad enough remit.

Without greater policy coherence, the letter implies, the UK will not unlock the full economic or social benefits of a well-managed net-zero transition.

“There is a huge opportunity for the UK to seize in showing continuing leadership of the global effort to address the climate emergency,” the letter summarises.

“As the Glasgow Climate Pact demands, we must use the remainder of our Presidency to push for accelerated action and implementation, leading by example.”

The UK’s COP Presidency officially continues, now, until COP27 begins in Egypt next November.

The UK Government has repeatedly argued that it is already a “world leader” on climate action, as it is the first major economy to legislate for net-zero by 2050 and has now backed this with the Sixth Carbon Budget.

However, the CCC and other green groups have pointed out that there is still much more to be done to meet these targets, with the Government not always following scientific advice on how best to deliver them. The Net-Zero Strategy provided some clarity on plans for accelerating delivery, but stopped short of listing new sector-specific decarbonisation targets, and only contained plans for around half a million green jobs by 2030, when the Government is targeting two million. 

Keeping 1.5°C alive: The COP26 summary report for business

Compiled from our first-hand insights and experiences in Glasgow, edie has compiled an exclusive report that amalgamates and summarises all of the key announcements and business takeaways from every day of COP26 – including notable news stories, video interviews, podcast chats, and an exclusive foreword penned by COP26 President Alok Sharma.

Click here to access your copy of the report, hosted in association with EY, Grosvenor and Virgin Media O2.

Sarah George

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