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COP26 Energy Transition Council launched at Clean Energy Ministerial side event

The COP26 Energy Transition Council was announced at 'Passing the Tipping Point: the next decade of clean energy cooperation'- a Clean Energy Ministerial side event, in a keynote speech given yesterday by Lord Callanan on behalf of COP President Designate Alok Sharma.

Firstly, please let me pass on apologies from our Secretary of State and COP President Alok Sharma, who was unable to make the session today. It is a pleasure to step into his place and address you all at this event, a significant milestone on the road to COP26 and particularly for the Energy Transition and Mission Innovation 2.0 campaigns.

History shows that governments, business and civil society can all play a role in accelerating technology transitions.

The transition from horses to cars was sped forward by innovative manufacturers, road-building governments, and campaigns for safety that led to the creation of highway codes.

The transition to clean water supplies in cities was accelerated by doctors who raised the alarm over public health; engineers who developed pipelines; and governments that invested in new infrastructure.

In each case, when the forces for change became strong enough, a tipping point was passed.

A point where the transition took off, and never looked back.

When new technologies began to spread unaided by policy.

When businesses moved away from the old markets, and focused all of their efforts on competing for the new.

These are the conditions we must create again if we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change, which requires halving global emissions over the next decade.

COP26 must be a key moment when we work together towards this goal.

Already we are crossing a tipping point in the power sector.

Solar and wind are now cheaper than coal or gas power in two thirds of countries around the world.

And it is market forces that are increasingly driving this transition.

In the UK, the growth of renewables and a strong carbon price have cut coal’s share of electricity generation from 40% in 2012 to only 2% last year.

We recently went 67 days with no coal power at all. This is the fastest power sector decarbonisation in the world.

A recent report from the Carbon Trust shows strong government policy has been the driving force behind the fall in costs of offshore wind power in the UK.

In the last decade we have seen costs fall by more than two thirds. The latest contracts, for projects commissioning in 2025, are expected to supply offshore wind power at a cost 30% cheaper than that of gas.

If our electricity prices return to their pre-COVID levels, these contracts will no longer be subsidising offshore wind; they will be generating revenues for the public purse.

Despite this impressive progress, there are countries where new coal power plants are still being built, and coal-dependent communities that face real challenges in making a ‘just transition’.

The International Energy Agency has told us that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global transition to clean power needs to move four times faster than our current pace.

Today I can announce a new partnership to speed progress on the way to COP26.

The COP26 Energy Transition Council will bring together leaders of the global power sector, to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power.

I am grateful to Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency and Francesco La Camera of the International Renewable Energy Agency, both of whom are with us today, for agreeing to work together with us on this initiative.

We will be joined by leaders from multilateral development banks, and will work with representatives of governments, business and civil society.

I am especially pleased that Damilola Ogunbiyi, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy, will join COP President Alok Sharma as co-chair of the Council.

Together we will work to ensure that for every country considering new power generation, clean power is the most attractive option.

And we will strengthen our support – through development assistance, climate finance, and the sharing of expertise – to help the most coal-dependent communities to achieve a ‘just transition’.

While the power sector is in the forefront of the transition to clean growth, we must also address the three quarters of global emissions that come from other sectors, including transport, industry, buildings and agriculture.

In the coming decade, we must focus our efforts on crossing the tipping point for a rapid transition in each of these sectors.

There are two important ways we can cooperate.

First: innovation.

The International Energy Agency has shown that a third of the emissions reductions needed to meet our climate goals depend on technologies that are still at prototype or demonstration phase.
If we align our research and development efforts we can bring these technologies to market more quickly.

Since 2015, the 25 members of Mission Innovation have increased their investment in clean energy research and development by $4.9 billion annually.

In the next phase of this partnership, we must focus even more strongly on working with business to accelerate the development of solutions that are critical to achieve net zero, such as energy storage and clean hydrogen production.

We must make sure the whole world has access to affordable solutions.

Today I am delighted to announce a £50 million investment in a new Clean Energy Innovation Facility. This will help developing countries accelerate the commercialisation of clean energy technologies, supporting clean growth and a resilient recovery from COVID-19.

The second important way we can cooperate is by growing the global markets for clean technologies.

If we act together, we can increase economies of scale, and we can bring down costs for everyone.

Solar and wind power costs are falling by 28% and 15% respectively, with every doubling of their global deployment.

In the UK’s Presidency of COP26, we will bring countries together to grow the global markets for clean technologies and sustainable products in three of the sectors that contribute the most to global emissions.

I have already spoken about our energy transitions campaign, focused on the power sector. In transport, we will work to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles.

And in our nature campaign, we will aim to grow global markets for sustainable agriculture and commodities.

At the same time, we will be equally committed to progress on adaptation and resilience, and in the crucial area of finance.

As we enter a new decade, we must abandon the idea that reducing global emissions is a challenge of burden sharing.

The challenge, instead, is one of opportunity sharing: working together to accelerate the transition to zero emission technologies that give us cheaper energy, cleaner air, and more jobs and growth.

I ask you all to work with us to make COP26 a turning point.

We must show what progress is possible when we work together.

And we must work together, with determination, until the job is completed.

Thank you.


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