Extreme heat ‘wake-up call for everyone’ in UK, says Cop26 president Alok Sharma

The Cabinet Office minister said climate change had to be dealt with.

20 July 2022

Cop26 president Alok Sharma said the recent extreme heat had been “a real wake-up call for everyone in this country” about the impact of climate change.

The Cabinet Office minister said climate change had to be dealt with and that the hot weather seen across the UK in recent days was what “many millions of people across the world are experiencing on a regular basis”.

He was speaking during a session of Cop26 questions in the House of Commons, which also saw Labour criticise former chancellor-turned-Tory Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak’s position on tackling climate change.

PA infographic showing peak temperatures recorded on July 19 2022
(PA Graphics)

As Cop president, Mr Sharma was responsible for leading preparations for the 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties held in Glasgow in November last year.

Labour shadow climate change minister Kerry McCarthy said: “Last month the Committee on Climate Change issued a scathing annual progress report warning of major policy failures and scant evidence of delivery on net zero.

“And this week, as we’ve heard, the Government had to be dragged to court to be told its climate plans are so woefully inadequate they’re unlawful and must be revised.

“What kind of leadership does this set if the country holding the Cop presidency can’t get its own house in order?”

Mr Sharma responded: “On the issue of the net zero strategy, just to point out the Climate Change Committee has described it as ambitious and comprehensive, and the world’s most comprehensive plan to reach net zero.”

Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero Ed Miliband
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband described onshore wind as a ‘vital tool’ in tackling climate change (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He added: “The principle (that) is absolutely right is that we need to do everything we can to make sure we are dealing with this issue. The last few days have been a real wake-up call for everyone in this country.

“It’s what very, very many millions of people across the world are experiencing on a regular basis. We have to deal with this issue.”

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “Only this morning the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Sunak), the front-runner in the leadership race, said he would double down on the onshore wind ban because of and I quote, the distress and disruption onshore wind causes.

“What is causing distress is the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. What is causing disruption is the most extreme weather in our country’s history. And onshore wind is a vital tool in tackling these crises.

“Yet the bizarre state of the Tory Party means the former chancellor panders to the fanatics and sides with the sceptics. Will the president now repudiate this position and condemn it for the dangerous nonsense it is?”

PA infographic showing UK hottest days on record
(PA Graphics)

Mr Sharma replied: “I am not really in a position to repudiate anybody else’s proposals. If I may, what I would say to him is that we have a very clear plan in terms of expanding offshore wind. There’s another 32 gigawatts … there are another 32 gigawatts which is effectively in the pipeline.

“I think in terms of solving the energy security strategy, we need to keep everything on the table. There is already 14 gigawatts of onshore installed across the country. And I think where communities are positively welcoming onshore in return for reduced bills, that is an issue that we should keep on the table.”

Elsewhere in the questions session, Conservative MP Andrew Murrison suggested a moratorium on waste incineration.

Dr Murrison (South West Wiltshire) said: “In March, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) published some excellent new targets for incineration. Will he follow through on that and make, as one of his objectives for the remainder of his presidency, a moratorium on waste incineration?”

Mr Sharma said: “The role that I currently have is trying to corral international action. He raises an important point, I will make sure that it is raised with the appropriate department.”

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