Net Zero and UN Climate Summits: Scrutiny of Preparations for COP26 – interim report Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Arrangements for COP26

1. We welcome the Government’s headline ambitions for COP26 but note that no details have yet been provided on how success will be measured against each of these goals. We recommend that the headline ambitions be expanded to a clear list of measures, with a set of criteria attached to each in terms of how success will be measured. We ask that the Government share these details with this Committee in its response to this report. (Paragraph 6)

2. We welcome the assurances from the COP26 President on the level of resourcing that is available to the COP26 Unit. It is vital that, as the largest summit ever organised in the UK and a critical event in the global response to climate change, COP26 is provided the greatest levels of resourcing and is held in highest priority across Government. (Paragraph 10)

3. The success of COP26 is dependent on effective diplomacy. It remains unclear whether the COP26 Unit has been assigned a dedicated diplomatic team, nor the extent to which the diplomatic network is engaged further than having received correspondence from the Foreign and Development Secretary. We recommend that the COP26 President, alongside the Prime Minister and Foreign and Development Secretary, make it publicly clear that the full force of the British civil service is being appropriately applied to secure the desired outcomes from COP26 this November. (Paragraph 11)

4. It is essential that Parliament has sufficient opportunity to question the Government’s preparations for the COP26 summit. Opening the process up to scrutiny is key not only to ensure accountability in the planning and preparations to facilitate a successful Presidency, but also to promote public and stakeholder confidence in the work of the COP26 Unit. (Paragraph 14)

5. We welcome the COP26 President’s commitment to appear before the Committee. We invite him to confirm his willingness to appear before the Committee on the three occasions set out above, and to provide detail on any other approaches to facilitating Parliamentary scrutiny of COP26 preparations that he intends to take. This approach should be extended to all devolved legislators. (Paragraph 15)

6. We welcome the fact that questions to the COP26 President are now included on the regular rota of questions to Government Departments on the floor of the House. We welcome the opportunity to have questioned the COP26 President at the despatch box on 24 February, in his first appearance in this capacity. (Paragraph 17)

7. We welcome the COP26 President’s engagement with APPGs and his plans to explore the potential for further briefings with these groups, which are a key link between parliamentarians and wider stakeholder groups. However, this should not be considered to be a substitute for public scrutiny by Parliament, which will be key to ensuring transparency and accountability. (Paragraph 19)

8. We recommend that the COP26 President work closely with the Leader of the House to align the autumn recess with one of the COP26 weeks in November. We note that the first week of COP26 also coincides with Parliament week and will support any initiative both to maximise the opportunities for Member participation at COP26 and public engagement with the process.(Paragraph 22)

9. The inclusion of backbench Members within the UK’s COP26 delegation would widen access to UK parliamentarians on a cross-party basis in the year of the UK’s Presidency. We recommend that the Government follows the precedent set by previous COP Presidencies, by expanding its delegation and widening access to parliamentarians. We recommend that the COP26 President engage with the Committee and other parliamentarians on the appropriate composition of the delegation and update the Committee as soon as any decision is made. The leaders and relevant ministers of devolved governments should also form part of the UK delegation. (Paragraph 25)

10. We welcome the assurances that public health is a priority for the COP26 Unit, while acknowledging the challenges presented by continuing uncertainties. We recommend that the UK Government engages on this issue constructively with the Scottish Government. The Government should share, in response to this report, the proposed health protection and contingency measures it will put in place in various scenarios relating to the continuing pandemic. (Paragraph 27)

11. We welcome the stated aim of delivering an in-person summit and agree that this would allow for the most effective engagement with the widest number of countries—particularly those most at risk of climate impacts. However, the Government must also plan for the distinct possibility that large parts of the summit will have to be moved online or downscaled because of prevailing risks from covid-19. We recommend it outlines the steps it is taking during planning to make COP26 a success regardless of the format. We further welcome the intention to explore how digital events can increase participation in the summit and request further details as they become available. (Paragraph 30)

12. We ask that the COP26 President sets out how the conference procedures will be adjusted to reflect the possibility that delegations from certain countries (where, for example, covid vaccination roll out has been slower or where new variants of the covid virus are discovered) may not be able to fully participate physically in the conference; and what steps will be taken to ensure equality of access to the conference between developed nations (where vaccine roll out has been quicker) and some developing nations (where vaccine roll out has been slower). In addition, in the scenario that country delegations are reduced in size, we ask the COP26 President to set out how other important stakeholders—such as city leaders and business leaders—will be invited to take part in proceedings if they are unable to physically be at the conference. (Paragraph 31)

Legislating for the Sixth Carbon Budget

13. We welcome the Government’s decision to accept the CCC’s advice on the level of the UK’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution. In the year of the UK’s COP26 Presidency this sends the right signal about the Government’s commitment to domestic climate policy. However, while we acknowledge the need to fully assess the sixth budget advice, we reiterate the need for the Government to show global leadership by taking decisive action on the UK’s domestic ambitions. We recommend that the Government commit to accepting the sixth budget advice in full and lay the Statutory Instrument required to give effect to it as early as possible. (Paragraph 34)

14. We further encourage the Government to follow the advice of the CCC in engaging with the public and other stakeholders early to ensure that necessarily detailed delivery plans accompany legislative targets in a timely fashion, building in the considerations of Climate Assembly UK. (Paragraph 35)

Published: 5 March 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement