‘COP26 should be postponed’ says Foreign Affairs Committee Chair as environmental inquiry is launched

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INPUT on what Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s environmental diplomacy strategy and COP26 should look like is launched amid waiting for government response about the future of the climate change summit.

In addition to launching the inquiry, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s chair is suggesting that COP26, which is due to be held in Glasgow in November, should be postponed in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chair of the Committee, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, commented on the announcement: “Cooperating to manage and even reverse the causes of a changing climate transcends borders.

“It demands international cooperation and scientific understanding.

“Diplomacy has a critical role to play in the coordinated effort against climate change, and the annual COP summits provide a moment to bring world leaders and experts together to assess the continuing challenges and pace of progress.

“These conferences have proved indispensable, but this year’s is in doubt.

“With COP26 planned to take place in Glasgow this November, will the UK and Italy be able to build consensus to make it worthwhile?

“Resources and focus will be concentrated elsewhere.

“Containing the spread of coronavirus and mitigating the damage caused by Covid-19 will be more pressing but the UK must retain a focus on COP26 if it is to be worthwhile.

“That will require resources currently deployed on the coronavirus to be used to prepare for COP26.

“This unprecedented pandemic makes it reckless to bring people together.

“It is clear that in order to ensure that COP26 is a success, it must be postponed.

“COP26 was only part of the environmental strategy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“This inquiry will examine the effectiveness of the Office’s wider commitment and ask what more can be done to ensure that environmental diplomacy is a coherent element within the UK’s strategy for global engagement.”

Theui inquiry will examine how effective the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s environmental diplomacy strategy is, how the Office works alongside other government departments on this issue and its management of the tension between environmental goals and other diplomatic objectives.

In particular, the Committee will focus on preparations for COP26, speaking to other recent host countries and attempting to learn from their experiences.

Additionally, the Committee will ask how environmental diplomacy can be employed to address the governance of the polar regions.

The Committee welcomes written evidence on:

  • What should the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s environmental diplomacy strategy look like?
  • How effective is the Office’s current approach to environmental diplomacy? Does the UK use all available tools (sanctions, tariffs, trade negotiations, UN activity) to promote its objectives in this area How does it ensure lasting and concrete achievements in this area?
  • How does the Office work with departments such as BEIS and Defra on this issue? Does it have sufficient expertise in this area?
  • How do the UK’s environmental & decarbonisation goals interact with other diplomatic priorities, such as the pursuit of new trade deals?
  • Does the Office effectively use environmental diplomacy to deal with the polar regions? How will Antarctica be governed after the Antarctic Treaty System expires in 2048?
  • How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the UK’s approach to environmental diplomacy?

COP 26

  • What role should the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have in preparing and setting objectives for COP 26? How well is it performing to date?
  • What lessons can be learnt from the experience of previous COP hosts, particularly the French experience preparing for COP 21?
  • What does the Office need to do to ensure that COP 26 is a success?
  • Which countries should the Office be prioritising for their diplomatic efforts in relation to COP 26? How should the Office be engaging with these countries?
  • How should the UK seek to ensure that outcomes are delivered after the summit?

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words.

The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs.

Each submission should contain: 

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by midnight on 4 May 2020.

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.

More information is available here