‘Cop26 is not a photo op’: UK calls on leaders to honour climate promises at Glasgow summit

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The world’s most polluting countries must come forward with tougher plans for how they reduce their climate impact by 2030, a UK minister will say on Tuesday.

Alok Sharma, president-designate of the Cop26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow in just a few weeks, will also urge countries to protect trees, reduce coal and switch over to electric cars as part of “concrete” efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

It comes after a UN analysis found that countries are still far off course for meeting the world’s aspiration of keeping temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The review found that countries’ current climate commitments would see global greenhouse gas emissions increase by 16 per cent by 2030, when compared to 2010 levels.

For the world to be on track to meeting the 1.5C goal – crucial to stemming damage to coral reefs, coastal cities and glaciers – emissions would need to fall by 45 per cent by 2030.

Speaking from Paris, where the agreement was made by almost all countries in 2015, Mr Sharma is expected to say: “Cop26 is not a photo op or a talking shop.

“It must be the forum where we put the world on track to deliver on climate. And that is down to leaders. It is leaders who made a promise to the world in this great city six years ago. And it is leaders that must honour it.

“Responsibility rests with each and every country. And we must all play our part. Because on climate, the world will succeed, or fail as one.”

UK minister Alok Sharma is president-designate of the Cop26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow (AFP/Getty)
UK minister Alok Sharma is president-designate of the Cop26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow (AFP/Getty)

The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter is China, which is now responsible for around 27 per cent of annual emissions.

However, when emissions since the start of the industrial era are considered, the US is the largest culprit. Today it is the world’s second-biggest annual emitter.

In his address, Mr Sharma will outline what the UK sees to be the four priority areas for success at Cop26.

This includes getting countries to come forward with tougher climate plans for reducing emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 – and securing new agreements to meet these plans by reducing coal, boosting electric cars and protecting trees.

Another goal is to get rich countries to honour a long-made pledge to provide poorer nations with $100bn to help them tackle and adapt to rising emissions.

The final aim is “a negotiated outcome that paves the way for a decade of ever-increasing ambition”, the UK government says.

Mr Sharma is also expected to reissue assurances that Cop26 will be the “most inclusive” UN climate summit ever – amid fears that uneven vaccine access and high travel and accommodation costs could bar the most vulnerable countries from attending the summit.

“It will be an extraordinary Cop in extraordinary times,” he is expected to say at the Unesco World Heritage Centre in Paris.

“Each country must step up. And as Cop26 president I will ensure that every voice is heard. That the smallest nations are sitting face to face with the world’s great powers. As equal parties to the process.”

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