Upcoming talks ‘last chance’ to prevent climate disaster: UK

Climate summit COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November, is “our last hope” of preventing runaway temperature increase, the president of the event was to say in a major speech on Friday.

“I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny,” British MP Alok Sharma was set to say, according to extracts of his speech released to the media.

COP26 will bring together climate negotiators from 196 countries and the EU, along with businesses, experts and world leaders. 

Sharma was to warn that the summit was “our last hope” of keeping temperature rises below 1.5C, beyond which scientists believe uncontrollable climate change will occur.

It is also “our best chance of building a brighter future. A future of green jobs and cleaner air,” the Conservative lawmaker will say.

The British government has faced calls to make the landmark event virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has so far said it will hold it in person.

Sharma hinted the government will stick to its plan, saying in the pre-released remarks that “in six months time, when we (attendees) are packing up and going home, we will be able to say that at this critical juncture, each of us took responsibility.”

COP26 was originally scheduled for November 2020 but was pushed back due to the pandemic. 

There are fears that some countries will be unable to attend the talks in person due to ongoing outbreaks.

– ‘Pick the planet’ –

Delegates are faced with ever-more dire warnings from scientists about the scale of emissions cuts needed to keep within reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C — as laid out in the Paris agreement. 

That deal, struck more than five years ago, committed nations to resubmit their emissions cutting plans — known as NDCs — every five years with enhanced green ambition. 

Yet many of the largest emitters have so far failed to do so and countries have not even agreed on a unified rulebook governing how the Paris agreement works in practice. 

The UN says that emissions must fall nearly eight percent annually to keep 1.5C in play — equivalent to the emissions saved during the pandemic every single year through 2030. 

Sharma was to say that he had asked his daughters what message he should send to leaders taking part in the talks. 

“Their response was simple: ‘please, tell them to pick the planet’,” he was to say.

Adapting natural habitats to cope with the impacts of climate change and “mobilising climate finance” will be among the priorities in November, he will add.

Friday’s speech will have a particular focus on the world’s reliance on coal. 

“The days of coal providing the cheapest form of power are in the past,” Sharma was to say. 

“The coal business is, as the UN Secretary General has said, going up in smoke. It’s old technology. 

“So let’s make COP26 the moment we leave it in the past where it belongs, while supporting workers and communities to make the transition.”