02 Feb 2024
by Weronika Dorociak

Environmental Audit Committee meets to discuss outcomes of COP28

Last Wednesday, the Environmental Audit Committee met to deliberate on the results of COP28, held at the end of last year in Dubai.

Graham Stuart, Minister of State for Climate, outlined the objectives that the UK aimed to accomplish at the conference, i.e. achieving ambitious global stocktake outcomes, leading urgent action to ensure the viability of the 1.5 degree target, reaching agreements on funds and arrangements related to loss and damage, establishing a framework for the global goal on adaptation, and making strides in climate finance. He talked about the UK’s role in the historic decision to transition away from fossil fuels and triple renewable energy usage, as well as its £60 million commitment to the loss and damage fund.

Despite the overall success of the UK at COP28, Stuart admitted that the outcomes fell short of the desired extent. Specifically, commitments and language concerning emissions, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and fossil fuels could have been more robust. There was room for additional progress towards adopting new coal power, and the UK could have better recognised the circumstances of the most climate-vulnerable nations.

According to the Minister, the world is not on track to meet the 1.5 degree target, and COPs allow countries to keep on bending the curve.

Other highlights include:

  • General election: Stuart was questioned about the Government’s ability to meet climate goals considering the upcoming general election, but assured the Committee that the biggest challenges are related to international collaboration rather than domestic administrative structures. He said that the UK is well prepared to continue playing the leading role in combating climate change.
  • Carbon capture and storage: Stuart was unable to commit to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) contracts being signed before summer recess, but acknowledged the environmental and economic opportunities associated with carbon capture.
  • New oil and gas licences: The Minister was challenged on the Government’s new oil and gas licences, with MP Anna McMorrin saying that they contradict COP28 agreements. He insisted that they strengthen the UK’s ability to get to net zero and protect jobs.
  • NDCs: MP Barry Gardiner asked the Government about the steps the UK is taking to update its NDC by COP30, noting that the stocktake concluded that the implementation of current NDCs would decrease emissions by 2% when 43% is needed. Alison Campbell OBE explained that an internal team is analysing guidance and will deliver a cross-government approach through cabinet committees in the next year. Stuart added that the UK is not a problem and that other countries must join the net-zero pathway to address the challenge of achieving a 72% reduction in emissions by 2030.
  • Climate finance: Stuart stressed that we need trillions for climate finance and emphasised the need to focus on multilateral development banks. He also said that we are on track to treble adaptation finance.
  • Loss and damage fund: MP Caroline Lucas asked the Minister how big he thinks the fund should be and whether contribution should be mandatory. He did not explicitly endorse mandatory participation, but emphasised the crucial aspect is to initiate and advance the fund's progress.
  • Biodiversity: The Minister acknowledged that biodiversity and net zero go hand in hand. He highlighted substantial funding announcements and initiatives recognising the role of nature and forests in climate adaptation.
  • Cooling systems and energy efficiency: Stuart confirmed that the National Cooling Action Plan will be published by 2026. He stressed that cooling will contribute to increased emissions, unless we find the right technologies. MP Claudia Webbe asked whether the Government will introduce a take back recycling scheme for cooling equipment to reduce leakage of F gases. The Minister did not give a clear answer but pointed to the “Maximising Resources and Minimising Waste” document published last year, as well as the Global Cooling Pledge. It is worth noting that Defra is currently consulting on changes to Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations. We should also expect to see a more comprehensive view on this issue in the Government’s formal response to the Committee’s report on heat resilience and sustainable cooling before Easter.

The discussion closed with a positive remark made by the Minister, saying that COP presidency often means that a country moves towards net zero goals quicker, which hopefully will be the case with an oil nation such as Azerbaijan.

 


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Weronika Dorociak

Weronika Dorociak

Programme Manager, Sustainability , techUK

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Associate Director for Climate, Environment and Sustainability, techUK

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Authors

Weronika Dorociak

Programme Manager - Sustainability