A major round of upcoming climate talks, known as Cop26, offers the “last hope” for keeping global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the UK’s climate tsar will warn on Friday.
In a speech made six months before the Glasgow conference is due to wrap up in November, Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma is to tell leaders that “there are no second chances”.
“This is our last hope of keeping 1.5C alive. Our best chance of building a brighter future. A future of green jobs and cleaner air,” he is expected to say.
“I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny. That, in six months time, when we are packing up and going home, we will be able to say that at this critical juncture, each of us took responsibility. That we chose to act. And that we kept 1.5C.”
Under the Paris Agreement, countries have agreed to limit global heating rise to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, with the aspiration of holding temperatures at 1.5C.
A landmark report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 found that avoiding the additional half degree of warming could spare more than 10 million people from the impacts of sea level rise, greatly stem further increases to heat extremes and stop tropical coral reefs from disappearing completely.
However, today temperatures are already around 1.2C above pre-industrial levels – and current policies from countries would put the world on course for around 3C of warming by the end of the century.
In a speech in Glasgow on Friday morning, Mr Sharma will outline how the UK plans to rally more action on tackling the climate crisis in the months leading up to the conference.
A key part of this will be encouraging countries to “consign coal to history”, Mr Sharma is expected to say. Coal-fired power is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and the single-largest driver of global temperature rise.
“We are working directly with governments, and through international organisations, to end international coal financing,” he will say. “This is a personal priority.”
Other notable figures, including UN chief Antonio Guterres and International Energy Agency chief Dr Fatih Birol, have also called for an end to coal in recent months.