In my lifetime the climate has changed. It has done so at a pace few imagined possible. If we project forward that change, and without effective action we must, the consequences are horrific. For everyone conscious of the legacy we leave for future generations – and I hope that’s all of us – this week is a call to action for the world.
I still hear from people who do not believe that climate change is real (or if it is that we shouldn’t or cannot stop it). I also hear from some who believe that only by giving up on all economic growth (the same growth that funds our health service and much more besides) can we make the necessary changes.
Neither extreme is right.
The U.K. was the first G7 economy to make net zero a legally binding commitment and we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030 (compared to 1990).
This builds on proven success: over twenty years we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 nation but have done so while still growing our economy and improving living standards at home and overseas.
The next steps will be more demanding but by seizing the initiative and putting the extraordinary capabilities of the private sector to work on behalf of the planet – as we have on alternatives to diesel and petrol engines – we will succeed. In taking a lead the U.K. is not only doing what is morally right but taking a first mover advantage in technologies critical for the centuries to come.
COP26 which we are hosting in Glasgow is a vital opportunity to encourage other nations to take the steps we have and ensure we collectively limit global warming, as we must.
In the Summit momentum is building for robust climate action, 90% of the global economy is now covered by net zero commitments: up from 30% when the UK first took on the COP26 Presidency.
We have also seen the biggest step forward in protecting the world’s forests in a generation: 100 leaders committed to reverse forest loss by 2030. This pledge is backed by £14 billion and covers 85% of the world’s forests. Among the signatories is Brazil guaranteeing action to protect the Amazon rainforest.
Commitments can (with modern technology) now be tracked. Governments can be held to account for their actions. The U.K. has made great strides but with little more than 1% of global carbon emissions we cannot do this alone. This week in Glasgow is a stirring example of what can be achieved if we work together globally. It needs to succeed.