What we believe climate change success should look like

Sussex politicians share their hopes and expectations for the outcome of the 2021 COP26 Climate Change conference

Tackling climate change is many schoolchildren’s number one priority. Photo credit: Anna Scott, taken at COP26

As global leaders left Glasgow in their fuel-guzzling private planes, after the glitz and glamour of high-profile speeches, much of the real work of COP26 began. This week has been one when junior ministers and civil servants started the hard graft of agreeing real targets and measures to underpin the promises made by political leaders. 

Vague commitments are translated into specific treaties and agreements – or not.  In the words of the Christmas carol, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

Sussex Bylines asked three local politicians to share their hopes and expectations for the outcome of COP26 ahead of the final speeches.    

Peter Kyle – Labour

Peter Kyle is the MP for Hove & Portslade and shadow minister for schools

Peter Kyle: Time for climate delivery, not delay. Photo credit : UK Parliament official portrait

COP26 matters because it will profoundly affect the world our children and grandchildren grow up in. It matters because it is a serious test of our ability and our willingness of the world’s governments to come together, bring a halt to climate change and to build a better future.

I have five key hopes which I desperately want the conference to deliver. The first is that climate action must start at home. This means I want the UK to commit to investing £28bn every year until 2030 to tackle the climate crisis, so we can protect the planet and create secure jobs in the UK.

Secondly, I hope that the rich, developed countries can support the most vulnerable and poorer countries which includes massively increasing the Covid-19 vaccine supply for the world’s poorest countries.

Thirdly, calling for 1.5C-aligned targets from the big emitters, phasing out fossil fuels, and ensuring a just transition for workers.

Fourthly, end deforestation and ensure there’s a robust Net Zero and Nature Test for all government spending. And finally, to require financial institutions and FTSE100 companies to publish their carbon footprint and adopt credible 1.5C-aligned transition plans. These measures are all achievable and are needed right now.

Here in Hove and Portslade we see the benefits of the transition to a clean energy future every time we look out to sea – the Rampion Wind Farm is a visible icon of positive change.  During my visits to local schools I’m told loud and clear by students of all ages that tackling climate change is the number one priority they want from their politicians and that’s why I’m saying it’s time for climate delivery not more climate delay.

Cllr Zoë Nicholson – Greens

Zoë Nicholson is the current Leader of coalition-run Lewes District Council, which rotates the role of leader between the Greens and LibDems

Zoë Nicholson: Change starts with the local community.. Photo credit: Carlotta Junger Luke

Many of us are worried that COP26 is not going to go well.  I share that concern.  This morning I read an article that suggested that reaching 1.5 degrees would not be that bad! It felt like we were being softened up for accepting that delivering on real climate action was not possible. I felt angry, scared and powerless and took to twitter to vent.

This feels all too familiar for me, and yet I get to experience the great privilege of putting Green policies into action in our Council. This week I talked with our council team about our solar farm project, our partnership with a local company which is working on local carbon concrete, building net zero council homes, creating more natural flood defences, so many great things.

So when I despair at what might come out of COP26, I am reminded that I am a leader of a council. I’m a councillor, doing what I can, with what I have, with the people of the local community.  And that’s where change starts.

Cllr James McCleary – LibDems

James McCleary is the current Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council

James McCleary: Transition to a greener economy is within our grasp. Photo credit:  Lewes Council Facebook page

The United Nations has been bringing countries together for its Climate Change conferences for years (hence the ’26’ in COP 26), but there has never been one that has felt more urgent than that taking place in Glasgow at the moment. We are seeing an almost universal recognition of the scale of the challenge that climate change presents to the future of humanity. Indeed, the effects are already with us as we see more frequent extreme weather events around the world including here in the UK. 

Many people will give their own perspectives on the detailed policies that will have an impact, but I am particularly interested in seeing action taken to support those with the least in our society, to make the transition to a low carbon lifestyle.

We must see a society-wide transition in the way in which we live but many of the ways to do that such as electric cars or new heating systems for homes are seen by many as being out of reach financially. If we want to make a serious difference then a fundamental transition away from fossil fuels means retrofitting millions of homes with clean energy and improved insulation.

This requires real ambition from leaders to ensure that this transition happens in a way that does not exclude those who cannot afford to pay for air source heat pumps or photovoltaics (PV) panels. Scaled up, this also means wealthy countries like the UK being prepared to contribute financially to accelerate net zero carbon ambitions in poorer countries around the world. This is all within our grasp and the billions required to incentivise and subsidise this transition are available if the political will is there, too.

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