4 December 2021
Let's not lose sight of climate progress

COP26 has recently come to its conclusion, and I know that globally, nationally, and in the constituency itself, there has been a mixed reception to the Glasgow Climate Pact.

I understand people’s concerns, especially the concerns of young people. As Secretary of State for Education, I am regularly meeting children and teenagers, all of whom worry about the future of this planet and feel that progress is not being made quickly enough. It is clear climate change is no longer an abstract problem we have to deal with ‘some time down the line’ and that our children may have to face the consequences of our actions if we do not act. I know too that this is an issue that deeply concerns those who are older, who want to leave a healthy planet behind to their children and their grandchildren. All of this was evident during Stratford Climate Action’s march earlier last month.

In our concern, however, I think it is important not to lose sight of the progress we have made already, even over a short period of time. As a country, we have cut emissions by 43 per cent since 1990 and we aim to make that 68 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2035. Importantly, we have achieved that 43 per cent figure while growing the economy by 75 per cent. There are critics who argue the economy should be secondary to combating climate change and that growth is not important as long as we are using fossil fuels. But I believe the reason we have reached this consensus, and why addressing climate change has so much public support, is because we have brought people with us and because we have focused on the economic benefits of green jobs and green industry. If we try and push too far too soon, without the technology in place and without the alternatives for industry, we will be in the unfortunate position of losing that public support.

Notwithstanding this, there is a lot to celebrate about COP26. When the UK took on the COP26 presidency, in partnership with Italy, only 30 per cent of the world was covered by net zero targets. Following the latest COP, that figure is now at around 90 per cent. The Glasgow Climate Pact will accelerate the global rate of progress tackling climate change. Every participant country has now agreed to further their current emissions targets for 2030 in 2022. We also used COP to bolden our own vision for net zero.

We will produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadruple what we produce by 2030. This is in addition to our hydrogen strategy which will generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity, also by 2030. This will support our ambition to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. We are also investing in carbon capture technology to store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide, again by the end of the decade.

To meet our ambitious targets, we need to combine the determination of the public sector and the innovation of the private sector to drive us forward. This is a journey we have to go on together, from Stratford-upon-Avon to the USA, from Coventry to Cape
Town, and if if the last 18 months has taught me anything it is this: there is nothing we cannot achieve when we set our mind to it.


First published in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald