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More countries will bring forward climate tackling plans, Cop26 President Alok Sharma says

·3-min read
Cop26 president Alok Sharma (Justin Tallis/PA) (PA Wire)
Cop26 president Alok Sharma (Justin Tallis/PA) (PA Wire)

Cop26 President Alok Sharma has said he thinks more countries will bring forward national action plans for tackling climate change ahead of the UN talks.

Countries are under pressure to increase their ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the world is currently far off track to meet globally-agreed targets to limit temperature rises and curb dangerous warming.

The Cop26 summit taking place in Glasgow in less than two weeks’ time is the effective deadline for countries to bring forward more ambitious national climate plans in a five-year process under the global Paris climate treaty.

But key polluters including China and India have yet to submit new plans for the next decade, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Quizzed by MPs on Parliament’s Transport and Science and Technology committees, Mr Sharma said all of the G7 group of leading industrialised nations now had ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030.

And there had been moves by G7 countries, along with South Korea and China to end international coal financing.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to curbing long term global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which the worst climate impacts will be felt.

The key criteria for Cop26 is keeping the 1.5C goal within reach, Mr Sharma said.

He said there had been progress since the Paris Agreement was negotiated in the French capital in 2015, when the world had been on a trajectory to 4C of warming, and it was now towards 2C.

“Progress has been made, but clearly there’s still more to do. We are still waiting for some of the largest emitters to come forward with their 2030 emission reduction plans.”

He said G20 countries, who make up 80% of global emissions, were critical.

Some, such as South Africa and Argentina, have already come forward with new plans, but the world is still waiting on NDCs from the likes of China and India.

The G20 countries had all committed to bringing forward new ambitious plans before Cop26.

“The ball is in their court, and that’s the big ask we have of all of them,” he said.

Asked how confident he was that the ball would be returned and Cop26 would be able to land a deal that limits warming to 1.5C, he said: “I think we will see more NDCs coming forward,” he said.

Mr Sharma said he had not had confirmation on whether Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend the world leaders summit part of Cop26, but officials indicated there would not be facilities for him to take part via videoconferencing.

He also defended the gathering of around 25,000 people, many of whom will be flying in from other countries, saying it was important to have a “physical Cop” for negotiations to take place.

“Particularly for developing countries and climate vulnerable countries being able to sit at the same table face-to-face with the big emitters is really very important.

“Ultimately, this is a negotiation amongst almost 200 countries.”

He said there had been lots of discussions over the past year or so, but “parties have not been willing to do negotiations in a virtual setting”.

“Obviously there are constraints with time zones and connectivity, so this is something that has to happen physically and that is what parties want to see.”

He also told the committees that Cop26 would be a carbon neutral event, with emissions offset.

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