COP26 Minister praises Harrogate schools and Climate Action Festival for setting example for rest of Britain

The man at the head of this week's global COP26 event has praised Harrogate climate campaigners for leading the path to change.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 5:06 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 5:15 pm
Alok Sharma, appointed the UKs President for COP26 by Boris Johnson, said Harrogate Climate Action Festival was the perfect example of how to bring people together to tackle the problem.

Alok Sharma, appointed the UK’s President for COP26 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said Harrogate Climate Action Festival was the perfect example of how to bring people together to tackle the problem.

In a week which has seen a flurry of new pledges at the UN summit in Glasgow, Mr Sharma also praised the smaller but no less important efforts of Harrogate schools and local pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate in the climate battle.

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He said: “There is no festival better than a climate action festival.

“I congratulate organisers Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition, which has brilliantly demonstrated that tackling climate change is an all-of-society endeavour bringing together business, civil society and government.

“I have met a range of society and youth groups in every country that I have visited in my COP role. But I would like to pay tribute to schools such as Harrogate High School and Zero Carbon Harrogate for promoting sustainable travel initiatives.”

Mr Sharma MP’s comments came after Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones drew his attention to Harrogate Climate Action Festival during a recent debate in the House of Commons in the run-up to the current UN summit hosted by Britain.

Mr Jones said there were “promising signs coming from Glasgow in the international conference’s first week that progress could be made on the road to reaching ‘net zero’ on the planet by 2050 .

Among the pledges made so far by world leaders at COP26 to prevent try to environmental catastrophe announced are:

A commitment to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030;

India’s first pledge to be carbon net zero by 2070;

An agreement to stop deforestation globally by 2030.

Welcoming developments in Glasgow so far, Mr Jones said: “There are some promising signs coming out of the early stages of COP26 such as the agreement to limit methane emissions which are incredibly harmful in terms of warming and also the agreement to roll back deforestation.

“The methane measure alone could shave 0.1 to 0.2 degrees centigrade off the projected global temperature increase.”

Launched last Sunday, the summit has not only attracted world leaders - with the notable absence of the presidents of China and Russia - but thousands of activists, experts, protesters and the occasional celebrity.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg told young protesters that politicians attending COP26 were only “pretending to take our future seriously”.

The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior sailed up the Clyde towards the conference venue with youth climate activists on board from countries most at risk from global warming.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio caused a bit of a stir when he showed up in Scotland’s biggest city in his capacity as an UN climate change representative.

Despite a wave of demonstrations from thousands of protesters, including members of Extinction Rebellion Harrogate, a positive vibe has emerged from the myriad presentations, discussions, negotiations and diplomatic tête-à-têtes at COP26.

Harrogate MP Mr Jones is hopeful that the world will finally take significant steps to bring global warming under control in the remaining days of the UN summit.

But he says the jury is still out on whether the international community is going to step up fully to meet the commitments agreed by 195 countries in The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Jones said: “There is still some way to go in producing a comprehensive plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees to which everyone can sign up.

“That is the ultimate aim of COP26 although I think that this remains in the

balance.”

But the Harrogate MP also argues that whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson is right to be “cautiously optimistic” after hailing the new deal signed by 103 countries to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade isn’t the whole point.

What also matters, he said, is what we do at the local level, the only place where we can all make a difference.

“I know that the carbon footprint of Harrogate is small compared to the UK. I know too that the UK’s carbon footprint is small compared to economies like China, India and the US.

“But we should not use this as an excuse to do little.

“If communities all over the globe take the view that the problem and its solution are the responsibility of someone else we have little hope of success.

“Locally we need to play our part.

“I encourage everyone to travel sustainably where possible, to use less, to re-use more and to recycle.

“We need to do simple things like plan meals to limit food waste, buy products with less packaging or share essential car journeys with others.

“Our impact locally may be small but it is important.”

COP26 in Glasgow is due to finish on November 12.