HomeWeatherClimate change has already arrived in UK, says Cop26 president

Climate change has already arrived in UK, says Cop26 president

The president of the Cop26 summit Alok Sharma has said the UK is already experiencing the impact of climate change, as a group of Tory MPs shared their concerns about the cost of pursuing green policies.

The government minister said he was shocked by recent photographs of the wildfires in Greece – but pointed to last month’s flash flooding in London as an example of extreme weather events in Britain.

Mr Sharma told BBC’s Newscast podcast: “Unfortunately it’s not just Greece, we’re seeing around the world. And even in our country, right? In July when I was hosting a meeting of climate ministers here in London, London experienced in 24 hours one month of rainfall.”

It comes as Conservative MPs in “red wall” seats across the north of England were caught out complaining to one other about the possible costs involved in cutting carbon emissions.

Discussing the government’s green agenda, Tory Ashfield MP Lee Anderson reportedly told a WhatsApp group of Tory MPs: “This will not go down well in Red Wall seats at all.”

Mr Sharma has been criticised for refusing to rule out new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea or an underground coal mine in Cumbria.

Grilled about the plan for a coal mine near Whitehaven, Mr Sharma told the BBC: “When it comes to this coal mine I’m pleased there’s going to be a public inquiry. And we’ll see what comes out of it.”

He added: “It does get raised by civil society groups when I talk to them. And I explain to them there is no coal mine – there’s going to be a public inquiry about this. There isn’t one at the moment, that’s the point.”

The Cop26 minister has also come under fire over the number of flights he has taken around the world since the new year, but environmentalists have defended his attempts to hold face to face talks with leaders.

Defending plane travel for the purpose of forging vital international agreement, Mr Sharma said it was particularly important for developing nation delegates to take part in talks “face-to-face” at Cop26 in Glasgow this November.

“Everyone has been invited and we hope as many world leaders as possible come to this,” said the conference president. “The best way of getting this done is doing it face to face.

“It’s really important that developing nations are able to sit at the same table as the big economies, the big nations, look them in the eye, face to face, and have this negotiation.”

Mr Sharma said he expected more countries to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – their own national climate action plans – before the Cop26 summit begins, urging major polluters like China and India to come up with new targets.

“At the current count around 112 have submitted their NDCs,” he said. “What we need of course is all the big economies to come forward. We want to see what China’s going to do. We want to see what India is going to do.”

“We’re also trying to get countries to commit to going to net zero in their economies by the middle of the century,” Mr Sharma added.

The UK government said earlier this week it would relax some travel restrictions to help delegates attend the climate conference, including a shorter quarantine period for those from so-called “red list” countries who have been vaccinated.

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