King Charles III gave a strong call for action at his opening address to the United Nations climate conference in Dubai, known as COP28.
At a time when the window to achieve global climate commitments continues to narrow, strong representation and maintaining high ambition matters more now than ever. A substantial delegation of U.K. ministers and business leaders have taken this spirit to Dubai, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. This will demonstrate the United Kingdom’s continuing commitment to tackling climate change as the most pressing global priority.
Alberta has also sent its own substantial delegation.
The setting for this year’s conference is tough. Globally, we continue to see significant challenges around the cost of living, including both in the U.K. and Canada. In our countries, this has generated lively debate on how best to approach delivering our climate commitments. Recognizing this challenge in the U.K., Sunak recently outlined some tweaks in policies on how net-zero commitments will be met. However, he did not scale back on the legally binding commitment for the U.K. to reach net-zero by 2050, nor its carbon reduction targets for 2030 or 2035, which are just as important if we want to reach the 2050 goal.
The U.K.’s success in decarbonizing faster than any other major economy — with emissions reduced by more than 48 per cent between 1990 and 2021 — allows the U.K. some space to take stock and, where needed, make pragmatic adjustments to policies that may disproportionately affect those facing the most significant financial pressures — such as providing extra time to make electric vehicle purchases and to decarbonize home heating through the adoption of heat pumps and boilers that are more efficient.
Much like in Canada, decarbonizing our energy sector continues to be a challenge but is also a vital pillar of the U.K.’s net-zero transition. We, too, have a goal for the sector to be net-zero by 2035. The U.K. has established its place as a global leader in wind power. It is home to the four largest offshore wind farms in the world and, with an even larger one in development, we are on track to generate up to 50 gigawatts in offshore wind energy by 2030 — about one-quarter of our future energy needs. Our progress in renewables is complemented by large investments in our low-carbon energy mix that will include the deployment of small modular nuclear reactors ($362 million), carbon capture clusters ($35 billion) and improved electrical grid connectivity.
Why does this matter to Canada? Canada and the U.K. have many of the same decarbonization goals, driven by international commitments. We share many of the technical, social and political challenges surrounding net-zero policies and the drive for technology development as a key enabler for decarbonization. These joint challenges have led to deep collaboration in areas such as hydrogen, low-emission transportation, the phaseout of coal from power generation and many joint research and development projects in clean technology. Our businesses already share substantial technology and expertise — the agreement between B.C.’s Svante Technologies and the U.K.’s carbon capture company Storegga to deliver integrated projects around the world is a good recent example.
Nevertheless, we can do more to learn from each other to reach net-zero and help ensure we stay on track to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees — including through the exchange of regulatory and workforce training approaches needed to grasp the economic opportunities from decarbonization, to how we manage our power grids and best utilize carbon capture.
At COP28, amid the flurry of negotiations, announcements and new commitments, our ministers and officials will be working to advance these opportunities so we can deliver real action and leadership in how we meet our net-zero commitments.
Jonathan Turner is the British Consul General in Calgary.