LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) – Climate summit COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November, is “our last hope” of preventing runaway temperature increase, the president of the event was to say in a major speech on Friday (May 14).
“I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny,” Minister in charge of preparations for the United Nations COP26 summit, Alok Sharma was set to say, according to extracts of his speech released to the media.
COP26 will bring together climate negotiators from 196 countries and the EU, along with businesses, experts and world leaders.
Sharma was to warn that the summit was “our last hope” of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 deg C, beyond which scientists believe uncontrollable climate change will occur.
It is also “our best chance of building a brighter future. A future of green jobs and cleaner air,” the Conservative lawmaker will say.
The British government has faced calls to make the landmark event virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has so far said it will hold it in person.
Sharma hinted the government will stick to its plan, saying in the pre-released remarks that “in six months time, when we (attendees) are packing up and going home, we will be able to say that at this critical juncture, each of us took responsibility.”
COP26 was originally scheduled for November 2020 but was pushed back due to the pandemic. There are fears that some countries will be unable to attend the talks in person due to ongoing outbreaks.
‘Pick the planet’
Delegates are faced with ever-more dire warnings from scientists about the scale of emissions cuts needed to keep within reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C – as laid out in the Paris agreement.
That deal, struck more than five years ago, committed nations to resubmit their emissions cutting plans – known as NDCs – every five years with enhanced green ambition.
Yet many of the largest emitters have so far failed to do so and countries have not even agreed on a unified rulebook governing how the Paris agreement works in practice.
The UN says that emissions must fall nearly eight per cent annually to keep 1.5 deg C in play – equivalent to the emissions saved during the pandemic every single year through 2030.
Sharma was to say that he had asked his daughters what message he should send to leaders taking part in the talks.
“Their response was simple: ‘please, tell them to pick the planet’,” he was to say.
Adapting natural habitats to cope with the impacts of climate change and “mobilising climate finance” will be among the priorities in November, he will add.
Global deal to stop financing coal
Friday’s speech will have a particular focus on the world’s reliance on coal. Britain wants to broker a global agreement to stop the cross-border financing of coal projects at the climate conference.
“If we are serious about 1.5 degrees, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history,” Sharma was to say.
“We are working directly with governments, and through international organisations, to end international coal financing. This is a personal priority,” he added.
Britain currently generates 2% of its electricity from coal, down from 40% in 2020, and it plans to completely phase out coal as a power source by 2024.
But environmental campaigners say British financial institutions play a major role in funding coal mines and coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the world.
Coal remains widely used for electricity and other industrial purposes in China, where President Xi Jinping has said he expects carbon emissions to continue rising until 2030.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to 78 per cent of their level in 1990 by 2035, and to cut net emissions to zero by 2050.
And last month the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, said it would seek to halve its emissions from their 2005 level by 2030.