International trade will drive Britain’s green transition with foreign investment into the UK key to helping the country “level up” jobs and develop new technologies, trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Wednesday.
While international trade is not the main focus of the discussions at next week’s Cop26 environmental summit in Glasgow, Ms Trevelyan said the Department of International Trade is helping to build Britain’s green industrial base and create new innovations that can be exported around the world.
Her comments came as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II pulled out of hosting a major reception for world leaders at the climate change event, amid concerns about her health.
“DIT Is helping to speed the green transition by using our independent trade policy to make green trade freer — liberalising trade and environmental goods and services — and fairer, by making use of our trade levers to tackle those environmentally harmful market distortions,” Ms Trevelyan said, at an international trade committee meeting at the House of Commons.
Britain secured almost £10 billion ($13.8bn) in fresh foreign capital for its green economy ahead of the Global Investment Summit (GIS) last week.
Sizeable investments included a £6bn commitment from electric utility company Iberdrola, as it plans to invest through Scottish Power in East Anglia Hub offshore wind farms, creating 7,000 jobs.
The investment was one of 18 new trade and investment deals supporting green growth and creating 18,000 jobs at London's GIS.
The capital boost came in addition to the £10bn secured through the Partnership for the Future agreement with the UAE, which will see funds invested in Britain’s technology, infrastructure and energy transition, as well as joint pledges on climate action.
Under the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership, made with the UK Office for Investment, Mubadala Investment Company committed £9bn for the three sectors, in addition to Mubadala’s £800 million investment and the British government’s £200m for the UK life sciences sector, when the partnership was established in March.
Ms Trevelyan said Britain’s climate change ambitions will be delivered in large part through private sector solutions, “which will create considerable new trade and investment opportunities within the global green economy, which UK companies will be well placed to leverage”.
She pointed to “ground-breaking” new trade deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand, in which clean growth and the transition to a low carbon economy were key.
“DIT puts clean growth at the core of our central functions; trade policy, export promotion and attracting foreign direct investment. So these functions can play an important role in advancing the net-zero agenda,” she said.
Ms Trevelyan said Britain aimed to lead by example, to help developing countries and those unsure of how to get started on the climate change transition.
Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said all major economies must do the “maximum” they can to avert the climate crisis.
Mr Guterres said a new report from the UN Environment Programme, which showed the latest plans and pledges by countries to curb climate emissions by 2030 put the world on track for a “catastrophic” 2.7°C of warming, was a “thundering wake-up call”.
Ms Trevelyan said next week’s Cop26 event will move the conversation on from the Paris Agreement of 2016 to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C.
“If the Paris Cop was the why, and everyone signed up to why we've got to do this, Glasgow is about how. So that's the gritty, practical, what have you actually got to do,” she said.
“You've made a commitment, but how are you going to do that? I have to buy different vehicles, I have to encourage my workforce to walk to work, I have to think about my supply chain issues, which is hard. But there is a real enthusiasm, and we've been leading in supporting and giving tools to help businesses think about that.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of undermining the UK's Cop presidency by “saying one thing and doing another”.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the opposition’s energy spokesman Ed Miliband criticised a lack of commitment to the climate in trade deals, and “telling others to abandon fossil fuels” while not doing so as a government.
On the Cop26 summit, Mr Johnson highlighted his talks with world leaders ahead of the summit, adding: “It’s still too early to say whether it will succeed. It’s in the balance.”
Mr Miliband countered: “The thing the prime minister has underestimated throughout these last two years is Cop26 is not a glorified photo opportunity — it’s a fragile, complex negotiation.
“The problem is the prime minister’s 'boosterism' won’t cut carbon emissions in half; photo opportunities won’t cut carbon emissions in half.
“Can I just say to the prime minister: in these final days before Cop26 we need more than warm words.
“Above all, Glasgow has got to be a summit of climate delivery, not climate delay.”
Separately, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled almost £500 million of further funding to help in the fight against Covid-19 — as she warned that the Cop26 summit “inevitably” poses a risk of increased transmission of the virus.
With delegates from across the world now starting to arrive in Scotland ahead of the UN climate summit, Ms Sturgeon said the coronavirus situation remained “fragile”.
She stressed mitigations were being put in place around the summit — but that no new restrictions across Scotland were currently necessary.
Ms Sturgeon said hosting the global summit in Glasgow “would always have been a significant challenge”, but the pandemic made it “even more challenging”.