‘UN climate summit last chance for action’ Alok Sharma
THE COP26 climate summit talks in Glasgow in November are the last chance for the world to get a grip on climate change, Alok Sharma, the British minister in charge of the conference, has said.
Sharma also defended his recent travels, after he was criticised for being exempt from Covid-19 self-isolation rules upon his return from red list countries – which he visited as part of his job.
“You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record,” the minister told the Observer newspaper last Sunday (8).
“I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time,” he added.
Sharma said he was throwing everything at achieving a global consensus ahead of the talks in Glasgow, referring to criticism about his frequent travels around the world during the pandemic.
“I have every week a large number of virtual meetings, but I can tell you that having in-person meetings with individual ministers is incredibly vital and actually impactful. It makes a vital difference, to build those personal relationships which are going to be incredibly important as we look to build consensus,” Sharma said.
A flagship UN science report on Monday (9) showed no one is safe from the accelerating effects of climate change and there is an urgent need to prepare and protect people as extreme weather and rising seas hit harder than predicted.
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written by 234 scientists, said global warming of about 1.1 degrees Celsius has brought many changes in different regions – from more severe droughts and storms to rising seas.
Those will all increase with further warming, but it is not too late to cut climate heating emissions to keep temperature rise to internationally agreed goals of “well below” 2C and ideally 1.5C – which would help stop or slow down some of the impacts, the report said.
Ahead of the report’s launch, Sharma said, “This [IPCC report] is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming and this is why COP26 has to be the moment we get this right. We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years – this is the moment.
“This is going to be a wake-up call for anyone who hasn’t yet understood why this next decade has to be absolutely decisive in terms of climate action. We will also get a pretty clear understanding that human activity is driving climate change at alarming rates…
Every fraction of a degree rise [in temperature] makes a difference and that’s why countries have to act now,” he told the newspaper.
The November summit in Scotland is widely seen as vital if climate change is to be brought under control, and leaders from 196 countries will meet to try and agree on action.
Meanwhile, the UK also faces challenges over its own fossil fuel projects, with campaigners questioning new oil drilling being planned. “Future [fossil fuel] licences are going to have to adhere to the fact we have committed to go to net zero by 2050 in legislation. There will be a climate check on any licences,” Sharma added.