'Zero Jags' John Prescott turns green campaigner at Cop26

Former UK deputy prime minister tells Glasgow delegates to learn from his home city of Hull

As Britain’s deputy prime minister, he was known as “Two Jags” for the luxury cars at his disposal – a taste which clashed with his image as a working-class stalwart.

But John Prescott has sold his Jaguars to save the planet and now styles himself “Zero Jags” as he returns to the fray with a cameo at the Cop26 summit.

Mr Prescott, 83, is in Glasgow on the penultimate day of talks, which is dedicated to cities and regions, to tell delegates how they can learn from his coastal home city of Hull.

The city aims to use the River Humber estuary as a powerhouse of renewable energy and guide other coastal regions to go green.

The Humberside coast is home to one of the world’s biggest offshore wind farms and there are plans to expand solar and hydrogen energy in the area, which is vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Estuaries can serve as carbon sinks because of their natural wetlands, but are often home to industrial hubs, like Hull’s oil refineries, which make them a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities such as Hull, which aim to tackle the issue, are promoting their vision on Thursday as the two-week session of talks near its end.

“It’s not the nation states who will ultimately deliver net zero – it’s regions,” Prof Dan Parsons, a University of Hull environmental expert who is working with Mr Prescott, told The National.

He said Mr Prescott was putting his political heft behind what insiders call the Humber Model for decarbonising estuary areas.

“It’s all about how we decarbonise a whole region like the Humber,” Prof Parsons said. “We’re creating a living laboratory about how you decarbonise estuaries.

“Hull and the Humber have a massive role in the explosion in offshore wind.”

The UK government is backing the Humberside wind industry with a £266 million ($356m) investment, which it says will create more than 1,300 jobs.

The city has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2030 – two decades before the 2050 deadline, which the government has set for the whole of the UK.

Mr Prescott said he wanted to “promote the great work we’re doing on the Humber, which could help cities and regions around the world”.

He joked that a fish and chip shop's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint in Hull had turned the climate summit into "Cod26".

His appearance at Cop26 is one of his first in public since he suffered a stroke in 2019, which had lasting effects on his speech.

He said it was his seventh visit to a UN climate summit. As deputy to Tony Blair, the UK’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, he helped negotiate the Kyoto Protocol – one of the watershed climate treaties.

Transport and the environment were part of his sprawling brief in Mr Blair’s government. But he attracted ridicule for his Jaguars as well as his insistence, on one occasion, on taking a 230-metre trip in a government car.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 2:14 PM