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Climate change event: Environment Secretary pledges push for green finance at COP26

Mobilising green finance will be a government priority for COP26 and will take the fight against climate change “to the next level”, according to Environment Secretary George Eustice. 

Mr Eustice was speaking at a University of Exeter Green Futures event alongside Plymouth MP Luke Pollard, his opposite number for Labour, and the Deputy Leader of the Green Party Amelia Womack.

Pressed on where the money will come from to finance the transition to a low carbon green economy, Mr Eustice told the University of Exeter Business School’s Professor Gail Whiteman, who was chairing the event, that this autumn’s climate change summit in Glasgow could be a green “finance COP”.

“We’re seeking to land at COP26 the first steps of a mechanism to get a credible market so that you can get institutional finance into some of these green projects,” the Environment Secretary said.

He added that the UK will be “pushing” projects such as LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance), under which companies and governments pay countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Ghana for carbon credits – which organisations can use to compensate for their emissions – as well as work to establish a “biodiversity market” to provide green funding for rewilding projects.

Pointing to the UK’s commitment to earmark 30% of its overseas public climate funding on nature-based solutions, Mr Eustice said: “The really big thing that we’ve got to achieve is resource mobilisation, we need other donor countries to make finance available so that we can support projects that will halt deforestation and help some of the less developed countries address these challenges as well and help mitigate the impact of climate change.”

However, Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and the Shadow Environment Secretary, told the audience that when it comes to urging other countries to “step up” on green finance, the UK had “lost its platform to be a moral crusader”.

“At the very point when British diplomats are working around the world to try to persuade countries to step up on climate finance we’re stepping back from our commitments to the world’s poorest on international aid, which also has a significant climate impact as well.

“We seem to be very good at saying, ’do as we say not do as we do’.”

Mr Pollard expressed concern that the achievements of the G7 and ambitions for COP26 were a “victory of soundbites over substance”, highlighting the UK’s lack of progress on its legally binding carbon targets and how the Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a plane from London to Cornwall for the G7 summit.

He also said more action is needed on the roadmap to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, saying that while the government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 this will require significant investment in infrastructure.

“I worry that so much of the decarbonisation efforts rely on you already being affluent. Lots of people are on low wages and renting in the private sector so don’t have the agency to put in air source heat pumps, triple glazing, external wall insulation or the charging points.

“We’ve got to find a way to make sure decarbonisation is accessible to all, not just to those who have lots of money in the bank.”

Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, said that we have an opportunity to “reimagine what we can do and achieve” but warned that up-front investment is required to protect people long-term from the risks of climate change.

“We need to be creating a world where the greenest option is the cheapest and the easiest option,” she said.

“We can’t look to the future and make a greener version of this current world. It’s like building a hospital: you put up those upfront costs and yes it’s expensive but the long-term benefits it provides means we’re protecting and serving people for generations to come.”

Watch a recording of the live event here:

Date: 20 July 2021

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