October 2021 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

During the parliamentary recess that coincides with the various Party Conferences I have taken the opportunity to meet up with representatives from a number of parish councils across the constituency. It is good to be able to meet with people face to face again and I know that many people welcome this. Around the constituency I see more and more community activities restarting and events taking place.

I was also delighted that international travel has opened up and that I was able to attend the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in person. This was the first Session for some time that the UK delegation had been able to attend in in person. As Leader of the UK delegation and as a Deputy Speaker it was a great pleasure to be able to welcome to Strasbourg members of the Delegation who were making their first visit as members of the Assembly. I am sure everyone benefited from being able to attend committee meetings and plenary sessions in person and conduct the accompanying diplomacy in the corridors and coffee halls of the Parliamentary Assembly. Indeed I know from many a conversation that people returning to offices are finding the less formal contact invaluable and realise how much has been missed when this was absent.

With COP26 very close now I was pleased that in this session PACE devoted a whole day to climate change and environmental rights and it was a privilege to be able to chair part of the session. The day on this subject was divided into 3 parts. In the first part there was debate on reports on the right to a healthy environment, participative democracy in deciding climate change issues, criminal and civil liberties around climate change, and the rule of law across the whole gamut of climate change and environmental protection. In the second part, a high-level panel was convened which looked across a number of issues relating to climate change and heard from a number of experts including the UK judge at the European Court of Human Rights, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the President of Hungary, the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the Portuguese Deputy Minister for the Environment and Climate Action. They each looked at climate change from their own perspectives. The third part of the debate examined inequalities as a result of climate issues and migration and environmental protection in the context of climate change. Overall, the debate considered what practical actions could be taken to combat climate change and uphold environmentalism. This marked a major contribution to COP26 and recognised particularly that any one country was not going to be able to make the most of change in itself. If we want to make change we need to be working together and working cross-border.

The UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action ahead of COP26. The summit itself will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Overall in its COP26 Presidency the UK has four clear objectives:

  1. To ask countries to commit to net zero by mid-century, with more ambitious nationally determined contribution targets for 2030.
  2. To urgently protect and help adapt our communities and natural habitats from the destructive effects of climate change.
  3. To increase funding to support these aims, making good on the $100 billion annual climate finance goal affirmed through the Paris Agreement.
  4. To close off the outstanding elements of the Paris Rulebook and accelerate delivery of the Paris Goals through collaboration between Governments, Businesses and Civil Society.

Ultimately, these aims will allow the world to keep the prospect of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C alive, thereby avoiding the worst of climate change damage.

There is, of course, lots more to do and much work in preparation. The Government will soon be publishing the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Net Zero Strategy, the Net Zero Review, as well as the Biomass Strategy and Rail Environment Plan next year. For my part I want to see these being as ambitious as possible.