'We need more ambition – Britain can lead by example at COP26'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the opening ceremony for the Cop26 summit at the Scottish Event

Boris Johnson at the opening of COP26 in Glasgow - Credit: PA

We still have time – but it is running out fast, and the COP26 conference now under way in Glasgow is our best, last, chance to prevent catastrophic temperature rises.

The local and global aspects of climate change are intersecting, as extreme weather is linked to flooded basements in north London as well as polar ice melts and the droughts driving mass migration and conflict across many of the world’s poorest countries.  

This is not an issue any of us can now avoid. And whilst Britain is no longer one of the world’s top carbon emitters, historically we have been a major contributor and have a responsibility to lead. So when Boris Johnson’s government allows Australia to drop temperature commitments from our trade deal, or proposes a new oilfield at Cambo, or even considers a new coal mine, it is fair to insist that reality should match rhetoric.

Karen Buck at the Westminster North general election count. Picture: Julia Gregory, LDRS

Karen Buck says that we can no longer avoid climate change - Credit: Archant

To maintain any hope of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees we have to halve emissions by 2030– yet recent UN analysis makes clear that current climate pledges will only achieve emissions reductions of 1% by the end of this critical decade, not the 45% required. We need more ambition. Britain can lead by example, investing at the scale needed to achieve net-zero and generating new, skilled, green jobs in the process.

We have to support the most vulnerable by reversing the overseas aid cut, and delivering the $100 billion pledge to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to climate change. And we must pressure the big polluters by calling for 1.5C-aligned targets from the big emitting countries and the phasing out of fossil fuel; protect nature by ending deforestation, and mobilise private finance behind climate action by requiring financial institutions and FTSE 100 companies to publish their carbon footprint and adopt credible 1.5C-aligned transition plans.

The world cannot afford failure and the scale of climate breakdown that could follow. All eyes will of course be on the targets and commitments that can be agreed by our leaders this time around in Glasgow. We cannot, however, ignore the existing pledges that our and other governments have already made and have or are failing to meet, and for which they must be held accountable. There is still time. Just.

Karen Buck (Lab) is MP for Westminster North.