Former Newbury MP Richard Benyon a key player at UN climate conference COP28 in the UAE
Former Newbury MP Richard Benyon was one of the key members of the UK’s delegation at the UN’s COP28 climate change conference.
The global conference took place in the UAE earlier this month and the landmark summit resulted in world nations agreeing to transition away from fossil fuels.
Lord Benyon – who was MP for Newbury from 2005 to 2019 – was appointed minister of state at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in November, and he has been involved in shaping climate policy in government for several years.
He said he was proud of the work the UK delegation completed at COP28, believing the country had a major impact on the negotiations.
He said: “The UK was absolutely at the heart of it.
“Our negotiators, our civil servants and a team of a number of different ministers were there at different parts.
“It was really impressive to see how the UK was driving forward a very ambitious agenda at this COP.”
Lord Benyon was pleasantly surprised with the watershed fossil fuel decision made at the conference, stating that two years ago this was “beyond belief” and that COP28 “will be seen as a turning point where the world did recognise that it had to change”.
He was also pleased to say that the UK had ambitions to produce 50 gigawatts of renewable energy from offshore wind in its move away from fossil fuels.
He hoped this would drive foreign investment in the country, as other nations would see the UK as a new pioneer in green technology.
Key topics Lord Benyon discussed with foreign ministers at the summit included green finance, which is how more developed countries mobilise funds to repair nature in less developed ones.
He made breakthroughs with the UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund, which is helping to protect threatened mangrove forests around the world, and he also held discussions with representatives from the Maldives to strengthen the UK’s relationship with the country concerning environmental conservation and management.
Lord Benyon did admit that often from the outside, international events such as COP28 are seen as “slightly absurd jamborees”, but he stressed their importance in strengthening the UK’s bilateral relationships with other nations.
He also defended the summit’s setting of the UAE, something that has been criticised due to the country’s status as a major oil producer.
He said: “The last COP and the one before that were all in petro-states. You need them in the room.
“You need the Emiratis and the oil-producing countries and the people who they are close to in the Middle East and other places to be part of this great international effort.
“This is the biggest challenge that mankind has ever faced and we can only do it if we are working together.
“I’m proud that Britain is at the forefront and has achieved more in reducing carbon emissions than any other developed country.
“But, it is absolutely pointless if Britain just does this along with a few others. This has to be a global effort.”
He also confirmed that all the UK ministers and civil servants who had travelled to the Middle East to take part in COP28 had had their carbon emissions offset by a government scheme.