United Nations Population Fund Report

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Wednesday 24th May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The Government share the view outlined by my noble friend, on all the points. As she said, the report makes for grim reading in parts, although I think it is optimistic. We learn, for example, that, in the 68 reporting countries, around 44% of partnered women are unable to make decisions over healthcare, contraception or sex, which I found a shocking figure. The FCDO invests in a broad range of programmes in maternal, newborn and childcare, such as on access to voluntary family planning, HIV/AIDS care and ending FGM. My noble friend asked for examples. These include: the Global Financing Facility; reproductive health supplies; and our support for the FP2030, the grass-roots Safe Abortion Action Fund, and the Africa-led movement to end FGM, to name just a few.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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My Lords, the UN report estimates that 257 million people around the world do not have direct access to safe and reliable contraception, which means that they have no choice in deciding how many children they want. In the light of this, is it not crucial to restore the family planning programmes that have been cut by the Government as a result of the reduction in development aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI? How soon will these reductions, which the Government made, be reversed, in particular to their aid for family planning?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I cannot give a date for the return to 0.7% from 0.5%. I hope that happens as soon as possible; I know that view is shared by many in this House. But we remain a significant funder. Between 2015 and 2020, we supported an annual average of 25 million women and girls to use voluntary modern contraception. We believe that, every year, that prevented nearly 9 million unintended pregnancies and 2.8 million unsafe abortions, and saved more than 8,000 women’s lives, as well as preventing the trauma of over 81,000 stillbirths and 48,000 newborn deaths. Since 2018, our aid to the women’s integrated sexual health programme has supported nearly 10 million women to use modern methods of contraception. We believe that in 2021 over 12,000 maternal deaths and 1.8 million unsafe abortions were averted as a direct consequence.

Climate Change in Developing Countries

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Thursday 30th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for securing this debate. As he illustrated with frightening clarity, climate change and biodiversity loss are the defining challenges of our time and many developing countries including Commonwealth members are particularly vulnerable.

This is not a futuristic scenario. This is not all about predicting where we are going to end up, much as that matters and is important, but, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out, it is happening now. He made that point forcefully and extremely well and it was picked up and echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Collins.

Just in the last year we have seen drought in Australia, flooding in New Zealand and record weather patterns in Pakistan, causing mayhem for millions of people. We have seen heatwaves in India claim lives and wipe out livelihoods. The recent report, which has been mentioned a few times, from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that nearly half the world’s population live in the danger zone of climate impacts. It is also estimated that climate change will push 100 million people into poverty by 2030. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made clear, the pain will be felt and is being felt disproportionately by women and girls. I reassure her that this is recognised and reflected in the programmes we are developing and have already developed.

Meanwhile, extreme weather and damage to nature are fuelling a raft of other problems—food insecurity, water scarcity, pandemics and, as the most reverend Primate said, conflict and instability to name just a few. Unprecedented global action is therefore needed to tackle climate change and to protect and restore nature on a scale that we have never seen before. This must be coupled with full-scale economic transformation, the global shift to net zero, and climate-resilient and, crucially, nature-positive economies. It will require trillions of dollars of investment. I will come back to that point in a few moments.

In this, the UK values its strong relationship with our fellow Commonwealth members. In an increasingly turbulent world, this family of free nations continues to work together to advance our common values and address our shared challenges. Key among them, the thread that runs through them all, is a terrible concern about what we are doing to the world’s climate and environment.

As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, in total the Commonwealth represents 2.5 billion people, so this is an incredibly valuable club and we can get more out of it on this agenda. However, the Commonwealth has long been a strong advocate for the concerns of its most vulnerable members. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that this includes the 25 small island developing states. Although they are not part of the Commonwealth, I include the British Overseas Territories, which were referenced earlier, in response to my noble friend Lord Naseby. I believe that I am the first Minister to have the overseas territories mentioned in my title and I intend to do everything I can to be their champion in government. The Foreign Office, or FCDO, is like air traffic control for the OTs; the levers of delivery are across Whitehall. I have been bombarding colleagues across government with very bossy letters about the need to step up and support our overseas territories much more than we are doing at the moment.

At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, leaders including the UK stressed the urgency of enhancing climate ambition and action in this current critical decade. At CHOGM 2018, leaders adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which has already been mentioned—an agreement to tackle marine environment problems. The UK is a member of six of the 10 action groups set up to deliver the charter and has provided support to progress the work of all the groups. The UK will continue to use its voice on the international stage to advocate for Commonwealth countries. That includes placing action on climate and nature at the forefront of our international agenda.

We know that the commitments that we secured at COP 26 will count for nothing if they are not delivered. Under our presidency, developed countries made some genuinely strong new commitments on climate finance, with many doubling or even quadrupling their support. The UK is leading by example in delivering our commitment to double our international climate finance to £11.6 billion by the financial year 2025-26. The Government fully expect to be held to account on that promise and will not leave the next Government, whoever they might be, with an impossible task in the final year. I am very pleased to make that commitment today.

Our commitment also includes investing at least £3 billion in solutions that protect and restore nature, and tripling adaptation finance from 2019 levels to £1.5 billion. I think I am responding here to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, but I cannot read my own writing. He raised 0.7% again, and he is right; I agree. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury made the same point, and he is right too. I would love to see us return to 0.7%, but it is not something that I am capable of doing. I am very keen to see it happen as soon as possible, but I am afraid that I cannot say anything more useful about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, also talked about the UK in the world. We can do much more, but it is not fair to say that we are isolated. We are seen by numerous countries around the world as the primary champion among rich countries on nature, forests, climate, indigenous people in local communities and making sure that small island and climate-vulnerable states get more finance. That is a general view and it is merited, but I acknowledge that we need to do much more.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned that he had a meeting with BII a few days ago. I think that BII has the capacity to be an incredibly valuable tool; it can leverage a lot of extra money. I strongly encourage BII to focus more on small island states and climate-vulnerable nations. It is harder to do, which is why the government bank—if you like—is well placed to intervene in those kinds of countries, as the private sector will not. I would encourage it to do much more of that and to focus on the natural environment much more, because there is no pathway to solving climate change that does not involve nature. But I agree with the noble Lord’s broader points about that.

Our refreshed integrated review, published this month, places our work to tackle climate change, environmental damage and biodiversity loss as the first thematic priority. Today’s plan is another step forward. It outlines how the Government will boost the country’s energy security and independence, reduce household bills and maintain a world-leading position on net zero. We will also continue to lead internationally, building on our COP 26 presidency. Two documents we are publishing today are the 2030 strategic framework, which I really do encourage people to have a look at—I suspect it will be ignored by the media, but is one of the most important documents that the Government have produced; it really intelligently identifies the importance of nature in this challenge, not just climate change but poverty as well—and the international climate finance strategy. They show what this leadership actually looks like.

We are delivering on our commitments, including the £11.6 billion that contributes to the $100 billion global climate finance goal each year. The international climate finance strategy sets out our ambition to support the clean energy transition, protect and restore nature and biodiversity, facilitate adaptation and build resilience, and develop sustainable cities, infrastructure and transport. Since 2011, our international climate finance investments have helped, we believe, more than 95 million people in developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change. Since that same year, we have spent over £1 billion in climate finance for Commonwealth countries. That includes programmes such as our UK Caribbean infrastructure and reconstruction fund, which is helping to build around 15 major climate-resilient economic infrastructure projects, and the Africa clean energy programme, which is also supporting the rollout of clean, affordable energy.

A number of noble Lords mentioned access to finance. We really are doing what we can to champion better access to finance. We know there is a problem; we know that small countries find the multilateral system almost impenetrable and impossible to navigate—that is clearly true. We are a major contributor to the multilateral system, and I have personally spoken to my counterparts among the other big contributors to ask them to join the UK in adopting a much more muscular approach. I do not think that our contributions to that system should just be unconditional; they should be conditional on it doing the stuff that the private sector cannot or will not do.

We are also pioneering innovative financial tools such as climate-resilient debt clauses; I do not have time to go into details here, but there are a number of really wonderful projects around that in the world. I am happy to talk to anyone who is interested.

We are working with forest countries, with a particular focus on the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Indonesia, to catalyse a step change. We committed £1.5 billion as part of the pledge we secured from COP 26. In fact, at COP 27, we created a structure to ensure that every COP will now have a leader-level moment where forest countries and donor countries report back on the progress that is being made.

The UK will continue to support countries to adapt to climate change, and to avert and address the loss and damage it causes—a point that has been made by most speakers today. I would just add one thing; I am not going to repeat the moral case, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Collins, made very well. There is a gigantic gap financially between where we are and where we need to be, but that gap will not be filled by ODA; that is just not going to happen. Total global aid is $163 billion, and the cost of loss and damage, as well as repairing our relationship with the natural world, is five to seven times more than that, so it will have to come from other sources as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, identified the central role of climate as the fourth pillar in the UN. He will know—and I am going to have to be so brief—that Vanuatu, one of the smallest countries in the world, achieved a global sensation when it secured its resolution at the UN General Assembly whereby climate irresponsibility now becomes a potential avenue for litigation, which is a huge achievement. I really do pay tribute to Vanuatu.

I know I have basically run out of time. I am so sorry; there is so much to say on this issue. I will just finish with one point. As we recognised that commodity production is responsible for almost all deforestation, some time ago we created a dialogue, the FACT dialogue—the forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue—between all the key consumer and producer countries. We had our first face-to-face meeting today. We are all committed to breaking the link between commodity production and deforestation. Today’s was the most positive meeting I have ever had on that subject, and I would love someone to ask a Question at some point about this so that I can go on a bit longer. I am going to have to conclude because I am out of time. I thank noble Lords.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down, could he possibly answer my question about the private sector and the role that fossil fuel companies could play in helping to narrow this enormous gap between what is currently available in financial terms and what is needed?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I am so sorry; I know there are other questions that I also did not answer, but I spoke as fast as I physically can. We need vast amounts of money, as I said—trillions. That will largely come from the private sector—not just fossil fuel companies but the private sector across the board. Fundamentally, the challenge is not just to raise money for climate and nature. Our challenge as a species is to ensure that every decision, every investment and every political decision that is made takes into account the value of nature and the cost of destroying it. That is how we move from where we are today to where we need to be. That includes things such as subsidies. Some $700 billion a year subsidises the bad use of land and destructive land use. Imagine if that was shifted towards renewal and regeneration. That would close the nature gap immediately. There are those kinds of opportunities that we need to look for. I apologise.

Circular Economy and Elimination of Waste

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Monday 18th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Environment Bill includes powers to introduce legislation on product or eco-design—for example, to support durable, repairable and recyclable products. It will also enable us to introduce extended producer responsibility schemes for packaging and a whole range of products, as well as a deposit return scheme, or DRS, for drinks containers. We are absolutely ready to initiate a whole suite of measures that will reduce waste and remove built-in obsolescence.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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Will the Minister update the House on how the Government plan to tackle planned obsolescence? Do they favour altering consumer rights legislation, taking a regulatory approach or introducing primary legislation?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as I mentioned, the Environment Bill includes a whole suite of primary legislation measures, which, combined, will result in a move towards a more circular economy. That means tackling built-in obsolescence and encouraging manufacturers to produce products that can either be recycled, repaired or reused. It means removing waste as a default for manufacturers and shifting the emphasis as much as possible towards the producer and away from the consumer so that products are designed in such a way as to avoid a legacy of unnecessary waste.

Terrestrial and Freshwater Protected Sites

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord asks whether we will bring the target forward. The Environment Bill framework requires us to set targets by October 2022 for a minimum of 15 years, so a target set in 2022 would run until at least 2037. One of the targets we propose is on the condition of protected sites. Any targets, when agreed, would be set out in law through an SI by October. A goal of 75% is ambitious. Some cases, such as peat bog restoration, can take many years of hard conservation work before sites even come close to reaching a favourable condition.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, the Government recently said that nature-based solutions will be central to the negotiations at COP 26. What progress can the Minister report? What emphasis will there be on a global response in which other nations also restore soils and grasslands to act as carbon sinks?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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Our nature strategy, which transcends the climate COP and has direct implications on the biodiversity COP being hosted in Kunming shortly before, is three things. The first is that we want more finance for nature. We are taking a lead in this country, having doubled our international climate finance to £11.6 billion. We have committed to spending a big proportion of that new money on nature-based solutions. We want other countries to do similarly and to mobilise private finance. A second area is targets. The Aichi targets are impressive, but they are ignored by pretty much every country. We want to include a means to hold individual countries to account on those targets. Thirdly, we want to tackle the drivers of environmental destruction, such as dodgy land-use subsidies that incentivise environmental destruction and by cleaning up our supply chains. The UK is showing real leadership in both those areas.