The number of officials working on the Cop26 climate change agenda will be cut by around a third – despite important work being carried out to secure the commitments made at the Glasgow summit, Alok Sharma said.
The Cop26 president said around 220 people had been working in the team within the Cabinet Office but that would be cut to around 140-150.
The UK’s presidency of Cop – the United Nations Conference of the Parties – continues until the next summit in Egypt in November, and Mr Sharma said he would be working to make sure the plans made at Glasgow last year come to fruition.
Progress was made at #COP26 to keep 1.5 alive 🌏
Countries raised ambition, committed to real action and accelerated progress to tackle #ClimateChange
But it’s not over. Together we must continue to deliver#TogetherForOurPlanet pic.twitter.com/onKpHZv4r6
— COP26 (@COP26) January 10, 2022
Mr Sharma told the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee that in “steady state” around 220 people had been working in the Cop unit within the Cabinet Office, supported by officials across Government departments and the diplomatic network.
Setting out the reduction in staffing, he told the peers: “Obviously what we don’t have to do this year is organise a big conference.
“And so our view is that we are looking at 140-150 people during this year – again, a good number of people – but I think that if we want to deliver and work with countries to deliver on all of these commitments we are going to need that level of commitment within the Cop unit itself.”
Mr Sharma said he would be travelling to Egypt this week to discuss the progress towards the Sharm El-Sheikh summit in November.
He said the Glasgow Climate Pact had kept alive the goal of limiting climate change to below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
But he acknowledged “despite all the commitments that were made, the pulse of 1.5 degrees is weak”.
He said: “And therefore, we now have to work together with our colleagues in Egypt who hold the Cop27 presidency to ensure that there is a delivery plan so that all these commitments that have been made do actually come to fruition.
“And that is what we are working on during this year.”
Mr Sharma’s role as Cop26 president will end when Egypt takes over responsibility and he faced questions about who will be responsible for the issue around the Cabinet table once that happens.
He said: “All of these issues are matters for the Prime Minister, but there is no doubt that, as a government, we are very committed to this whole agenda.”
Mr Sharma said the Cop26 summit had given him a clear indication of the Government’s “global Britain” strategy “which is pushing a domestic agenda, but also leading internationally”.
“And whatever, whatever format there is, I’m quite sure the Government will continue this leadership after we hand over the presidency to Egypt,” he added.