I find the ambitions of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) enormously exciting, which is why I organised a Lord’s debate on the UK Government signing up to them. It is an international agreement, formed at the United Nations by treaty between 121 states. Importantly, the alliance is being led by India, which makes it the first large-scale climate initiative to be led by a ‘developing’ country. Together the signatories seek to raise $1 trillion US dollars for investment in solar power, and by 2030 the treaty aims to provide affordable green energy to a billion people who do not currently have any electricity. These are lofty goals and they demonstrate an understanding that green investment gives the opportunity to significantly increase the living standards of the world’s poorest while protecting the ecological resources on which all our livelihoods depend. So far, all good.
The problem is that $1 trillion investment by 2030 is pennies when compared to the $2.4 trillion that the IPCC says must be invested in clean energy each and every year to avoid catastrophic climate change. More than 2% of world GDP must be invested in avoiding climate change if we are to keep within safe limits.
The government whips kindly gave me time to have this debate, but that didn’t stop me expressing my disappointment at the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum to the treaty, written by the Secretary of State for International Development. Those notes celebrate the UK’s involvement in the alliance but then nakedly expose the true lack of ambition behind our involvement. It is stressed that our membership:
“places no legal or policy requirements on the UK”,
“initial UK ISA collaboration will be through existing UK government funded programmes”.
That means the Government want to develop our bilateral relationship with India, with the Solar Alliance being a nice green gesture to move that along. It seems to me that the largest contribution that our Government will be making is creating new commercial opportunities and investment opportunities for UK business. My conclusion is that we are signing up to yet another impressive-sounding green initiative but then doing absolutely nothing of substance. I find this deeply disappointing and a continuation of this Government’s “promise big, deliver disaster” approach to green issues.
The recent IPCC report makes clear that limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees will expose 10 million fewer people to the impacts of rising sea levels, particularly in small island nations such as the British Overseas Territories. They are why we are involved in the alliance in the first place and we will be letting them and ourselves down, if we don’t act faster and sooner to stop climate breakdown getting worse.