COP26: Drilling for oil and gas in North Sea a 'challenge' for UK climate policy, says top British official

17 September 2021, 13:47 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 17:53

The UK's lead climate negotiator for the COP26 UN climate summit has told Sky News that drilling for new oil and gas in the North Sea is one of the "challenges" to making sure UK domestic policy is fully aligned with tackling climate change.

In an exclusive interview just six weeks before the crucial UN meeting, Sky News asked Archie Young if the continued granting of licences to extract fossil fuels in the North Sea issue was undermining the UK's moral authority at a time when it can least afford it.

He said: "There are always challenges in terms of making sure that every element of domestic policy is aligned and pushing in the same direction.

"But actually, I think our global leadership is recognised."

"The UK is recognised globally for the fact that we have reduced our emissions by 44% since 1990.

"We're recognised for the steps we have taken to make COP26 happen during a pandemic, we have driven forward the work.

"I have regular conversations with my counterparts around the world where they recognise the steps that we have taken to keep this show on the road, to bring people together."

Mr Young also defended Boris Johnson's COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton who was criticised for diminishing the scale of the challenge on climate change when she suggested that people could help by not rinsing their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher or freezing bread before it goes mouldy.

He said: "I have been our lead climate negotiator for the last five years.

"I live in this climate world where everybody uses terms that frankly most members of the public can't understand - and it's not for want of trying - it's the complexity sometimes of the issue and also the processes that we have to deliver it.

"So I welcome anybody who puts themselves out there and really tries to make this real for people, translates big economy-wide global ambitions into everyday actions that we can all take."

Mr Young emphasised the importance of rich nations delivering on their pledge of $100bn (£72bn) in annual climate funding for developing countries as a central issue to the success of COP26.

When asked about America's apparent reluctance to increase its commitments, he emphasised that they had recently promised increased funding, but said: "We also know that they can do more, so we continue to pressure them, to discuss with them what the opportunities might be, and we look forward to hopefully some positive signals in the weeks to come ahead of COP26.

"The 100 billion dollar goal really matters, and we are pushing donors, incredibly hard to deliver."

On China, Mr Young seemed to suggest that the world's largest polluter is unlikely to change its commitment to net carbon emissions from 2060 to 2050.

He said: "They've been clear that they have made their commitments, and the priority for them is delivering against them.

:: Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker.

"And actually I think that's an important message for everybody - this isn't just about setting the highest target you can make, it's actually about really setting targets that you're confident that you will have the policies and measures to deliver."

When asked what keeps him up at night in relation to COP26, Mr Young said: "It is the challenge of bringing together 196 countries to tackle the most existential issue that we face, recognising the very different positions, the very different national circumstances that they all face, how to bring them together around this common cause.

"But crucially to bring them together so that they will take action that is fast enough to meet the demands of the science - the IPCC has been very clear about the need for urgent action, so it's that speed of change, that is the point that we really need to hammer home."

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.