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Cop26 will be an ‘embarrassment mechanism’ for world’s biggest polluters, says Ed Miliband

Exclusive: Shadow business secretary called for tougher climate action from China and Australia at an event hosted by The Independent

Wednesday 20 October 2021 17:52
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<p>Ed Miliband says Cop26 is an ‘embarrassment mechanism’ </p>

Ed Miliband says Cop26 is an ‘embarrassment mechanism’

The Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow should act as a “large embarrassment mechanism” for the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, according to Ed Miliband.

Speaking at an event hosted by The Independent on Tuesday, the shadow business secretary said that big polluters such as China, India and Australia must arrive at the UN climate summit starting at the end of this month with tougher emissions plans.

More concrete action from big emitters will be key to “closing the gap” between the world’s current climate pledges and what is needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the aspiration set by countries under the Paris Agreement, he said.

“Some people will be thinking, what is the point of these [summits]? Lots of people flying around the world, is that really a good idea?” he said.

“I see them as a rather large embarrassment mechanism. It’s basically a way to put world leaders on the spot and to make them account for what they’re doing. It’s a forcing mechanism.”

Mr Miliband, who represented the UK at the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, singled out Australia as a country that must be put under the spotlight.

“We have very friendly relations with Australia, [but] Australia is doing very badly on climate,” he said.

Watch the full recording of the event in the video below

COP26: The summit to change our future?

“My message to Australia is step up: step up on a decent net-zero target for 2050, step up on a decent 2030 target.

“This is about [stepping up] to one’s friends, as well as countries that aren’t naturally one’s friends. Everybody’s got to be in here. Nobody gets a free pass because this is the ultimate collective action problem.”

Tom Steyer, the US environmentalist and businessman who also joined The Independent’s virtual Cop26 discussion, added: “It is impossible to look at global progress on reducing emissions without talking about China.

“China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world and is more than twice the next biggest which is the US.

“When we think about where we’re going as a planet, to think we can meet our goals without the active participation of huge countries in terms of population, like China and India, and resource-rich countries like Russia, seems to me to be just not true.”

A recent progress update from the UN found that, when taken collectively, countries’ current climate commitments would see greenhouse gas emissions increase by 16 per cent by 2030, when compared to 2010 levels.

To have a chance of meeting the 1.5C target, emissions would need to fall by 45 per cent by 2030.

Mr Miliband, who was joined at The Independent’s Cop26 discussion by WaterAid’s Mozambique country director Adam Garley, added that his “one big worry” for Cop26 was a lack of clear leadership from the UK government.

“There’s a paradox about the UK. Our targets are good internationally compared to other countries, but our delivery has been incredibly poor,” he said.

He added that the UK’s long-awaited plan for how it will meet its net-zero target, which was released on Tuesday, “repeated the problem” of promises over action.

“They’re not willing to make the public investment necessary to make this transition [to net zero] with the urgency and fairness that is required – when all the evidence is that investing now on climate saves money later,” he said.

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