Nick Hurd: Paris Agreement ratification must be matched by business-driven domestic policy

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Minister of State has confirmed that the UK will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change "as soon as possible", but insisted that the treaty must be replicated by a resilient domestic low-carbon energy policy developed in collaboration with the business sector.

Nick Hurd provided the keynote speech at an event in London last night (6 September) hosted by the Aldersgate Group, which explored the key priorities for the next international climate summit in Morocco.

The BEIS Minister insisted that Marrakech COP22 in November will enable the UK and other countries to shift from “compliance and aspiration” to Paris Agreement implementation, and ensure that Britain remains on target to meeting its climate finance targets.

Speaking about a possible timeframe for the UK’s approval of the Paris deal, Hurd said: “We will ratify Paris as soon as possible. Each country goes though a process of domestic approval. The tradition is that ratified treaties are negotiated as part of the EU bloc and that is my understanding of the Paris deal.

“It was always understood that Paris ratification would be one of the items at the front of the domestic process and also because of the issues surrounding Brexit, but there’s clear leadership and we welcome that. We will review the process but I am pleased to say that we will ratify Paris and we will do it as quickly as possible.”

Hurd’s comments seem unlikely to abate the pressure mounting on the UK to rapidly follow the US and China in officially ratifying the Paris Agreement over the weekend. While conceding that ratification would allow Britain to reassert its position as a global leader in climate action, Hurd insisted that the deal will not be “the only game in town” at Marrakech COP22.

He highlighted that the Paris treaty will only become an effective tool for global emissions reductions if matched by other “extremely important” international negotiations such as the Montreal Protocol and low-carbon initiatives such as Sir David King’s Mission Innovation scheme.

‘Business voice must be heard’

Hurd also discussed the priorities in the coming months for the UK’s domestic climate and energy policy. One of his main responsibilities as BEIS Minister is to finalise the Emissions Reduction Plan, which the Government has pledged to approve by the end of the year. According to Hurd, the plan will play a key role in providing confidence for the business sector, which he insists will play a crucial role in helping the UK achieve a transition to a low-carbon economy.

He said: “We must secure the Emissions Reduction Plan, which will tell market stakeholders the direction of travel for the Government’s new approach and provide a signal for investment. It is clear that the easy work has been done, and it is going to become significantly more challenging. We need a process of engagement with the private sector and civil societies so we can undertake a shared challenge.

“As we think about the future of our economy and how we maximise investment, we must look towards how we approach decarbonisation, and resource and energy efficiency. And for this to happen the voice of business needs to be heard. I have always been of the view that the full involvement of the private sector is crucial to help us achieve a low-carbon agenda.

“We need a voice of business that is bold, positive, ambitious and backed by evident action. I am very keen to work with business to ensure that the Emissions Reduction Plan is credible and sufficiently substantial, and that the industrial strategy fully reflects the most up-to-date thinking for private capital opportunities. If we get these two things right, we will be well on track to ensuring we rise to the challenge for this country to move to a resilient, low-carbon economy where business plays it’s part.”

Green economy wishlist

Hurd used his keynote speech to reiterate a widely-held belief that the merger of business operations into a low-carbon industrial strategy will provide a ‘golden opportunity’ for the private sector.

The new BEIS Minister’s comments will be broadly seen as good news for the green economy, which is desperate for the new business-related department to drive industrial climate action and deliver an ambitious Carbon Reduction Plan. Now the pressure is on Hurd and his BEIS team to use the opportunity presented by the newly-formed BEIS department to boost environmental and energy issues higher up the Government’s agenda.

Hurd was speaking on the same night that Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark spoke at a BEIS reception for journalists, where he proclaimed “there is an opportunity for an upgrade” across British industry, to ensure the nation’s businesses, infrastructure and cities are “fit for the future”. Read that full story here.

George Ogleby

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