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COP26: Countries must pull in the same direction

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This week we learned more about the UK government’s plans to tackle climate change and move the country to 100% clean electricity by 2035.

Those plans include:

  • £620m in grants for electric vehicles and charging points
  • £350m to help the UK move to electric vehicles from petrol
  • £625m to plant trees and restore peat to absorb carbon dioxide
  • More money for carbon capture and storage hubs
  • Grants of up to £5,000 for householders to install low-carbon heat pumps

Apparently, the raft of changes could “support” the creation of up to 440,000 jobs in the UK.

It all sounds positive, but like in most of these stories, the reality is more complicated.

Success depends on the security of the energy supply and massive investment into wind power.

Of everything announced, the concept of changing from gas boilers to heat pumps has got the most attention. For most, though, this would not be a straightforward change, and the grant scheme will only cover around 90k households.

electric car charger

Then there’s the electric car grant. This was once a £5,000 grant but was reduced to £3,500 for vehicles up to £50,000 in value. This has now been reduced to £2,500 and only for vehicles up to the value of £35,000. The headlines sound good, but in reality, the Government is offering less.

Fossil fuels and major leaks

The bad news isn’t solely coming from the UK.

We have the issue of countries worldwide that plan to scale up fossil fuel extraction over the next decade. The UN says this is incompatible with efforts to keep global temperatures at safe levels.

More concerning is the huge leak of documents that show how some countries are trying to change the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that will be used at the COP26 summit.

The IPCC is the body of the world’s leading climate experts. It prepares comprehensive reports that bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change. These reports are used by governments to form the substance of conversations and eventual agreements at summits like COP26.

The leaked documents comprise more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties sent to the scientists compiling the report.

The leaks show that while most comments from governments are overwhelmingly aimed at improving the quality of the final report, countries like Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia have asked the UN to play down the need to quickly move away from fossil fuels.

The leaked documents also show some wealthy nations questioning the need to pay more to poorer states to move to greener technologies.

With COP26 just days away, this is deeply troubling. If the summit is going to have any success at all, lobbying, cronyism and backroom deals like this must be eliminated.

Thankfully, the public now knows about these documents. This means pressure can be put on the guilty parties, but how much more of this goes on behind closed doors?

How many more of the governments, politicians and businesses that are supposed to be leading the charge are actually working against the planet’s best interests?

How many countries are secretly planning to undermine the efforts of their neighbours?

We have high hopes for COP26, but is it any wonder citizens are left unsure about what to believe and what to do when the news they’re fed is so inconsistent.

We have to trust that our leaders will do the right thing for the world. If not, it will be down to innovative companies and individuals to push forward and secure the future.

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