COP26 climate summit: We need to be honest about the lack of progress to tackle global warming – Ian Murray MP

COP26 made modest progress in Glasgow in tackling the climate emergency. But it’s not the transformation that we needed, and we must be honest about this.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 4:55 am
A man watches the approach of a wildfire from the roof of his house near Camarillo, California (Picture: David McNew/Getty Images)

Before the climate summit, the world was estimated to be on course for about 2.7 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100. The Glasgow Climate Pact reduced that to approximately 2.4C.

So, yes, this is progress but it is glacially slow – it doesn’t meet the urgency of the task in hand and is miles away from the crucial target of 1.5C.

The biggest failure of COP26 was the breakdown of the alliance of developed countries to be able to keep the pressure on others to act.

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There is no better example than in Scotland and the UK. The Scottish government is unjustifiably self-congratulatory with its “world leading climate targets”, because there is no way they will be met unless greater action is taken.

The agreements made at COP26 are not legally binding and we are relying on self-policing to ensure they materialise. We all now need to walk the walk, now that the talking is over.

The success of implementation is interdependent on each other and that is why regular updates and measurement is required to make sure every country is doing their bit.

Keeping 1.5C alive is out of reach unless we reduce and ultimately stop using fossil fuels.

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It was deeply disappointing to see COP forced to change the “phase out” of coal to “phase down” as a result of obstruction from India.

While the impact of this change is not to be understated, we cannot lose hope or motivation. Instead, we must lead by example.

A just transition from fossil fuels must be at the top of our agenda. It must put jobs, communities, and their local economies at its heart.

The political will needed to drive a just transition is missing from the UK and Scottish governments, and it is that lack of a demonstrable strategy that makes people feel defeated by the scale of the challenge.

However, it is possible and there are good examples of where we can demonstrate that a just transition, which protects jobs and livelihoods, can be achieved.

Take the Scottish Acorn carbon-capture-and-storage project. It is projected to create 25,000 highly skilled and well-paid jobs that will use many of the talents currently deployed in the North Sea oil industry, but neither the UK government nor Scottish government are willing to put their all into it.

We can have a transition and it can be fair.

I have also been encouraged by the way business now sees this as an opportunity. Green businesses are seen as an advantage in the market which is an enormous step forward.

There are trillions of pounds available in private finance for companies to deal with climate change and this will make a difference, but governments need to help with their financial contribution and move from the “green rule makers to green market makers” as the US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry demanded.

So, while COP26 wasn’t everything we hoped it would be, it’s vital that we keep up the momentum, lead by example and build on the positives.

In the end, it is up to all of us.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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