COP26 will be UK’s biggest summit ever, says Alok Sharma


Business Secretary Alok Sharma at the launch of the private finance agenda for the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the Guildhall, London, on February 27. The conference will be hosted in Glasgow from November 9 to 19 this year, under the presidency of UK. (Photo: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images)
Business Secretary Alok Sharma at the launch of the private finance agenda for the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the Guildhall, London, on February 27. The conference will be hosted in Glasgow from November 9 to 19 this year, under the presidency of UK. (Photo: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images)

MARKING the launch of COP26 private finance agenda at Guildhall, London, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the summit intended to do what master mason John Croxton did while building the historical structure 600 years ago—to “leave a legacy which stands the test of time”.

Sharma, who was a surprise pick as president of the crucial UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November, said “COP26 will be the biggest summit the UK has ever organised”.

“In Glasgow, the world must ramp up momentum towards a zero-carbon economy,” he said, adding that “it will be the top international priority for the government” in this Year of Climate Action.

The message, he said, was clear: “decarbonisation is the future”, addressing an audience that included Sir Richard Attenborough, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde.

Said Sharma: “This is a pivotal year for the planet as we raise our ambition on emissions reductions and build an economy resilient to climate change. But this is not just about the work of individual governments. We are calling on action from everyone – businesses, civil society and each part of the global financial system…. COP26 is also a critical moment to enhance support for developing countries.”

All countries, he added, should commit to “significant further cuts to carbon emissions by 2030”.

Listing the vital steps towards a greener world, Sharma said the paramount part was “unleashing the finance which will power the shift to a zero-carbon economy”.

“From solar panels, to electric vehicles and tree planting, it is often finance that turns good intentions into action,” he said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that “we will need nearly 7 trillion dollars a year up to 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement, as well the development goals”, he noted.

“Much of this funding needs to come from the private sector,” he said.
He pointed to the launch of East Africa’s first ‘green bond’ on the Nairobi securities exchange, followed by its dual listing on the London Stock Exchange.

He said “the first Green Simba bond”, which the UK government helped to develop, was aimed at raising funds to build eco-friendly housing for 5,000 students in Nairobi.

The UK is now partnering with five countries in Africa to design a new facility to plan, deliver and support funding to a range of infrastructure projects that are “attractive to investors”, he added.

Sharma said the developed nations, including the UK, had committed to mobilising $ 100 billion a year by 2020, building on the $71bn fund in 2017.

The business secretary highlighted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had committed “doubling of the UK’s international climate finance commitment to £11.6 billion over the period 2021-25” at the UN General Assembly last year.

“But to move from billions to trillions, we will need all finance to look at aligning with the Paris Agreement,” he said.

He said there was a positive shift in private finance. The shift was based on a “simple fact” that the only a “decarbonised economy” can avoid the worst effects of climate change and sustain growth.

Sharma also welcomed firms moving beyond corporate social responsibility and funding green projects, while “focusing on impact and not just return”.

Drawing attention back to the Guildhall structure, Sharma said it had evolved from a “little cottage” into a “large and great house”.

“And, in many ways, that is what we need for COP26,” he said. “Our choices will make or break the zero-carbon economy.”