West Sussex MP at COP26 - World needs to go fairly cold turkey on hydrocarbon addiction

The world needs to tackle its addiction to hydrocarbons quickly to limit the impact of the climate crisis, a West Sussex MP attending COP26 has warned.

MP Andrew Griffith at COP26
MP Andrew Griffith at COP26

Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and South Downs, was appointed the UK’s Net Zero Business Champion by Boris Johnson this time last year.

He is at the COP26 in Glasgow this week and spoke to us about the work already done to reduce emissions, the need for action and the opportunities ahead.

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We are facing a ‘climate crisis’ he said and the conference is the ‘last chance’ for the world to take action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Without action he warned of more volatile weather events and climate change on a ‘catastrophic scale’ globally.

Even in the UK, 40 per cent of indigenous species would be endangered or at risk of extinction.

Although we are a ‘small cog in a very large wheel’ he encouraged everyone to take action and have a role.

This could range from shopping more locally and seasonally, wasting less food and water or asking pension providers to invest in companies ‘that are part of the low carbon future’.

Net zero business champion

In his role, he has been working with small and large businesses to impress upon them the need to take action as well as highlighting some of the opportunities for them.

Actions might be making their businesses more resilient and sustainable and creating less fragile supply chains, or catering for the growing number of customers making sustainable purchasing decisions.

Businesses are also looking at their own activities and seeing how they can decarbonise, from solar energy coupled with storage facilities or charging networks for fleets of electric vehicles.

Carbon sequestration in agriculture is also being explored, while locally Mr Griffith has been talking on the subject of climate change to Greening Steyning, Steyning businesses and Coastal West Sussex to name a few.

He said: “Lots of brilliant businesses are already making the most of the opportunities.”

At COP26 he is hoping to discuss actions on a global scale.

‘Decisive decade’

The 2020s has been described as a ‘decisive decade’ to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Mr Griffith said: “We need to see the world halve its emissions over the next decade. Personally I think that’s possible.”

He pointed out how the UK has committed to 78 per cent by 2035.

Some of the actions countries should sign up to include eliminating coal, switching to nil emission vehicles, more funding for the developing world and the planting of trillions of new trees.

Asked about potential stumbling blocks, he described how the world had to go ‘fairly cold turkey’ on its ‘addiction’ to hydrocarbons quickly.

He thought it would not be possible to stop their use overnight, but action should be agreed to phase them out giving replacement technologies such as hydrogen fuel an opportunity to scale up.

Will there be a cost?

While there seems to be near unanimous agreement about the need to reduce emissions quickly, some have questioned where the financial cost will fall.

For Mr Griffith tackling the crisis was ‘90 per cent will’ and he did not think people would be paying a lot more.

He pointed to already ballooning energy costs due to the UK being ‘held over a barrel’ by energy producing nations.

Investing in more renewable energy would both reduce costs and emissions.

A lot of recent coverage has focused on heat pumps replacing gas boilers in people’s homes.

He described how nobody would have their boiler ripped out and told to buy an expensive heat pump for tens of thousands of pounds.

But like electric vehicles he expected the costs to come down significantly with technological improvements and production at scale, making both a realistic option for many when they are considering replacements in the near future.

He explained: “We are in the very early days of this revolution.”

‘Let’s get the ball rolling’

In the meantime he suggested ‘we can all take action that will get the ball rolling’ from families, to consumers, businesses and society as a whole at affordable prices without making great sacrifices.

He highlighted some initiatives already taking place in West Sussex from Horsham’s repair cafe to many local food producers.

When it comes to COP26, he is looking out to see if they could turn the ‘blank cheque’ agreed at Paris six years ago into ‘concrete action’.

They need to see the biggest countries, not just places like Brazil and Indonesia but also EU nations, to agree to phase out coal and combustion vehicles.

And when it comes to what the UK needs to do to reduce its emissions, Mr Griffith said he did not think the answer is to ‘put a spoke in the wheel of human progress’.

In aviation he pointed out how the carbon footprint of modern airplanes is 62 per cent lower than it was a decade ago, adding: “Imagine what we can do over the next ten years.”

While the technology already exists to remove carbon from the economy, the challenge is to scale it up and deploy it.

Mr Griffith is hopeful this can be achieved by human ingenuity and investment assisted by government policy and consumers armed with more information.

He concluded: “There is a role for government, but there is a role for us all.”