The last active day in the House of Commons before their Summer break took place just over a week ago with a very important debate as part of the day. Thankfully two of our Sussex MPs took part in the session, one of whom was Caroline Lucas who is widely recognised as being a national specialist within Parliament on the environment. As it happens, she was the first person to speak following the MP who had organised the debate on the subject of COP26. Caroline referred to how on the following day there would be merely 100 days before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference would take place. So that means that today is 90 days before that event will begin. Tragically the COP26 event was delayed by a year due to the COVID situation across the earth. However, given that this Summer has been the hottest in modern history, perhaps the Government will go much further in its environmental commitments than they would have done a year earlier.
Over the last few days Professor Liz Bentley, the chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society said the world was already 1.1C degrees to 1.2C degrees warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. Given that 32.2C degrees was recorded at Heathrow Airport in west London that seems very challenging but the comment from Ms Bentley was that
“If you take that [1.1 to 1.2] up by another 0.3C, these heatwaves are just going to become much more intense”; “We’re likely to see 40C in the UK although we have never seen those kinds of temperatures [before]”.
Along with the heat the amount of intense rain which has impacted our nation and indeed here in Sussex along with other parts of Europe is also part of the major change to our weather experience. As Caroline Lucas stated very clearly in the first few words of her statement
We urgently need clear direction from Government detailing how they plan to decarbonise each and every sector, raising global ambition and giving other countries a clear reason for why they too should go further and faster in their national commitments to limit global heating. Failure to act is not just dithering—it is dangerous and often deadly. Turning to some of the goals set out by the COP26 unit, the first is to: “Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach”.
It seems vital that by the time the next 90 days are over and COP26 begins that all of our MPs will have added their voices to the call for a clear direction. The other Sussex MP who participated in the debate on the 22nd July was Sally-Ann Hart who is the MP for Hastings and Rye. Her comment included these words
Making a success of the [COP26] conference and delivering for everyone across the globe is more important than ever. Covid-19 has shown how fragile humanity is and that we face some challenges together, as the human race. Whether the challenge is covid-19 or climate change, we need to tackle it together, internationally.
She went on to also refer to the 1.5C issue so we have a very clear call from two of our 16 local MPs to respond to this issue and to work across the world on these themes. My own view is that given we left the EU a few months ago that actually the effort to work with other nations will prove to be much more difficult for our nation than would have been the case. Given that MPs are all based in their constituencies until the 6th September when they will return to Parliament, it would seem very sensible for all of them to communicate with the people they represent. They need to let us all know how they will add to these calls from Caroline Lucas and Sally-Ann Hart. Here in Sussex, we have five Government members and so perhaps they can unpack the views of the Government as to how COP26 will tackle the climate in partnership with other nations in our world. Over the last few years apart from Caroline who regularly speaks about COP26 the others have referred to it a total of 7 times together. It was fascinating what response one of them received back in February 2020 before COVID and the increase in temperature and rain levels. Henry Smith from Crawley received an answer from Heather Wheeler who was a Minister:
The UK was disappointed at the lack of progress made at COP25 in Madrid. The UK and Italian diplomatic efforts will be squarely focused on achieving a successful COP26. COP is about more than negotiations; it is about real change happening across countries, civil society and the private sector. These broader elements will be a primary focus of COP26.