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Politicians lack will for climate action, says ex-chancellor

Suit, Clothing, Overcoat Thomson Reuters/PETER NICHOLLS
Speaking in the UAE just three days before the Cop28 summit begins in Dubai, Javid said the cost of living crisis had pushed climate action down the priority list for some legislators in developed countries
  • Leaders fear voter backlash
  • Sajid Javid issues warning
  • Net-zero transition to cost $13.5 trillion by 2050

Former UK chancellor Sajid Javid has suggested that Western politicians lack the will to follow through on climate commitments – because the costs of energy transition can be unpopular with voters.

Speaking in the UAE just three days before the Cop28 summit begins in Dubai, Javid said the cost of living crisis had pushed climate action down the priority list for some legislators in developed countries.

“The reality is, whether it’s financed by the private sector or governments, it’s the consumers who have to pay – and those prices, certainly to begin with overall, will be higher. Over time, the prices can come down but initially there’s a price to pay,” he told delegates at Abu Dhabi Finance Week on Monday.

In June 2019, the UK passed a law obliging it to hit net zero by 2050, becoming the first major economy to do so.

But Javid, who was appointed chancellor by Boris Johnson in July 2019 and served until February 2020, said actions would speak louder than words on emissions reduction.

“The problem with this is, MPs, legislators or officials from around the world who say they support the net zero transition, this generation is not necessarily the one that has to deliver it,” he said.

“They get the credit for agreeing on it but they don’t have the challenges of having to deliver it or make the hard decisions.”

The current UK government, led by Rishi Sunak, has since watered down some of its commitments on emissions.

Speaking on the same panel as Javid, Mohamed Alabbar, founder of Dubai’s Emaar Properties, said the democratic process was a source of “instability” in terms of taking climate action, since it leads to regular changes of governments. He conceded, however, that the private sector “was not doing enough” on its side.

According to a report issued by the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, the transition to a more sustainable and carbon-neutral future will require investment of $13.5 trillion by 2050, particularly in the production, energy and transport sectors.

Also speaking at Abu Dhabi Finance Week, Sir Christopher Hohn, founder of the Children’s Investment Fund Management, said the funds and the technology required for the energy transition were readily available.

“We spend more on wars than we need to fix it,” he said.

The lack of progress was down to “selfishness in society”, he added, and the next 10 years would be “our last chance” to address the crisis.

“We’re focusing on technological and financial analysis and regulation, but we have to start on why, and do we care about our fellow human beings, even if they’re poor and live in a poor country?

“If we don’t then we will continue to burn down the planet.”

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