Miliband tells PM to ‘get off sun lounger and be a statesman’ ahead of COP26

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Ed Miliband is calling on Boris Johnson to “get off his sun lounger, be a statesman and make Glasgow the success we need it to be” ahead of the UN’s annual climate change conference, COP26, to be hosted by the UK in less than a month.

In a speech at a Green Alliance event on Wednesday, the Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary is expected to say that a “step change in action from our government and governments across the world ​in Glasgow” is needed.

His comments follow recent criticism over the Prime Minister’s decision to take a holiday in Spain amid the ongoing energy and supply chain crisis, and over the move to give MPs an extra week of parliamentary recess.

Miliband will stress the importance of COP26 and say that Johnson must not allow the summit to become the “greenwash summit”, accusing the government of being “at best bystanders and at worst contributors to global inaction”.

“When trust between developing and developed countries is the key to success and we need to persuade others to step up on climate finance, the UK took the disastrous decision to cut the aid budget, the only G7 country to do so,” he will say.

“When we are telling every major emitter they must act, the UK has done a trade deal with Australia allowing them to delete Paris temperature commitments from the text. When we have rightly made powering past coal a focus of our presidency, at the very same time the government has flirted with a new coal mine in Cumbria.”

According to a leaked email from the trade agreement negotiations between Australia and the UK, government ministers Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng referred to dropping “climate asks” to get the deal “over the line”.

Miliband will outline five Labour demands on the government to ‘keep 1.5˚C alive’ at COP26, which refers to maintaining the ambition set by the Paris agreement in 2015 of efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We need to be candid about the truth of where we are barely a fortnight from the start of COP26. We are miles away from where we need to be. ‘What is COP26 about?’ is a question I get asked a lot,” the Shadow BEIS Secretary will say.

“The answer is surprisingly simple but has never been properly set out by government: to have a fighting chance of keeping global warming to two degrees, we need to be at 41 gigatonnes of emissions in 2030 and for 1.5 degrees, we need to be at 25 gigatonnes.

“In other words, reductions of 12 gigatonnes from business as usual for a two-degree world and 28 gigatonnes for a 1.5-degree world. The best estimates are that we stand at a maximum of four gigatonnes of emissions reductions on the basis of the pledges made. This is the undeniable and frightening maths of Glasgow.”

A report published earlier this summer, which is the culmination of 14,000 separate studies and the first major review of climate change from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change since 2013, stated that it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.

The report set out five scenarios for the future of climate change with varying degrees of severity projected, but all scenarios predicted that the 1.5˚C increase will be reached by 2040 and sooner if emissions are not reduced.

Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the government to take urgent action following its publication, warning that the “the biggest threat we now face is not climate denial but climate delay”.

Starmer recommitted the Labour Party to achieving the “substantial majority” of greenhouse gas emission cuts by 2030 during an interview with The Independent earlier this year, a pledge made by previous leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour set out a plan for a drive towards a clean economy focusing on the UK manufacturing sector last November, calling for a rapid stimulus package of at least £30bn over the next 18 months with dedicated funding to low-carbon industries.

At Labour conference in September, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves pledged that in government the party would put £28bn of capital investment towards the transition to a green economy for each year of this decade.

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