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UK & World

Greg Clark: “COP28 agreement underlines how green global ambitions are good for the UK”


COP28 concluded last week with a landmark agreement to transition away from fossil fuels and triple global renewable energy capacity. When the summit began, some wrote off its prospects for success and were skeptical about Britain's role on the world stage. But once again we proved them wrong; although an agreement appears unlikely on the points, British negotiators have played an important role in bringing more than 200 countries together to agree a constructive final text.

Britain comes to this COP with a long and proud history of leadership in climate policy and action. When I was Minister for Business and Energy, we became the first major country to enshrine net zero in law. When we came into government, a third of our energy came from coal, but now the majority electricity that powers Britain now comes from low-carbon sources such as offshore wind. We spearheaded the Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26. We've shown the world what significant emissions reductions look like in an advanced economy, and most of that was done under a Conservative government.

Where we led, others followed. But they are catching up now. In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act stimulated nearly $90 billion in investment and 170,000 jobs. In China, innovation and investment in clean energy have exceeded expectations, and so have emissions predicted to peak the following year and then fall inexorably. It is remarkable that the world's two largest economies have decided to make emissions reductions part of their clear strategies for economic growth.

This topic of well-being was discussed at the COP summit. As I observed, the most persistent theme across countries of all sizes and stages of development was the need to link climate action to improvements, not deteriorations, in domestic living standards. Many found climate policies that are unaffordable to consumers or that cost more jobs than they create unacceptable. Countries are increasingly calling for climate action to meet the need for increased economic growth and energy security.

These imperatives have – rightly – underpinned UK climate policy. One of the nicest developments in recent years has been the resurgence of manufacturing and technical services industries in places like Teesside and around the River Humber as investment flows in and good jobs are created to service the now world-leading offshore wind industry. As other countries are now looking to follow us, we can benefit from this leadership by exporting technology and know-how to other countries. In Japan in the week leading up to the COP, I spoke to a number of investors who wanted to work with the UK renewable energy sector to emulate our success.

It was also clear in Dubai that much of the global investment needed to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change will come from the private sector rather than public funds. The UK is exceptionally well placed to continue to be a leading player in the banks, funds and institutions that will be arranging climate finance for these investments for decades to come.

The UK will only account for a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, but our influence on global climate policy and practice goes far beyond that. Our diplomatic prowess gives us deal-making skills. The City of London means we have a huge impact on investment far beyond our shores. And as Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, I see every week how our universities and technologists are contributing to developments that will make it easier and more cost-effective to achieve net zero and improve energy security: from battery storage that can transform renewable energy into solid power, into small modular nuclear reactors that can provide reliable, zero-carbon electricity.

The Dubai Climate Agreement is in place and will continue progress in reducing global emissions. Prosperity and security, as well as the preservation of the environment, are major goals for governments around the world. Our experience and knowledge, combined with our leading position in science and innovation, contribute to the expansion of the global market. The COP agreement highlights the great economic opportunities for Britain in the years ahead.

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