The Cop26 climate conference risks becoming “just a bunch of meaningless promises” if the whole government does not come together to tackle the environmental crisis, Alok Sharma has said.
The Tory cabinet minister who led the summit last month said all his colleagues are responsible for delivering Britain’s net zero targets and meeting worldwide expectations.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said: “Given that people do see that the UK has shown a great deal of international leadership when it comes to climate, it’s important we maintain that focus across the whole of the UK government.
‘What people will judge us on is delivery on climate goals’
“When it comes to domestic policy, it’s vital that every country – including the UK – focuses on delivery.
“What people will judge us on, as they will also judge other governments on, is delivery [on climate goals].
He added: “The key issue is to show that countries are delivering on [their Cop26] commitments and they are not wavering.
“That is what is going to give confidence to parties [to the Paris agreement], the climate vulnerable countries, to civil society, but globally as well, that we are making progress on promises – that it’s not just a bunch of meaningless promises, that there is real commitment to deliver them as well.”
“[The question] for every economy is how you do that [shift to a low-carbon footing], not just one or two sectors, but across the whole of the economy. The issue now is that we push on and deliver on that particular [net zero] strategy itself.”
Sharma has also praised the corporate sector for “understanding green growth is the future” and seeing net zero as a “big opportunity”.
And, whilst not explicitly commenting on the government’s plans to cut 20 per cent of Foreign Office staff, Sharma said it is “important” to back up climate action with the “right presence” of embassies and high commissions across the globe.
The Cop26 president also praised Boris Johnson’s climate agenda, which he said the prime minister has been holding for a long period.
But firms which sponsored the climate summit last month said ahead of the event that the conference was “mismanaged” and “very last minute”.
“Shifting goal posts” and “inertia” among the event planners were also complained about, as well as the “top-down public sector approach” which shocked companies used to professionalism in high-profile events.
In addition, high costs required by the UK organisers have raised concerns about developing nations, with some claiming pavilion renting is up to 30 per cent more expensive than it was at Cop25 in Madrid.
The government also came under fire last month for telling its trade negotiators to not let environmental concerns get in the way of post-Brexit trade deals, according to a leaked document.
The document, signed by the Department for International Trade, suggests the UK shouldn’t refuse a deal if other countries do not mention environmental safeguards in agreements.