COP26 President calls on G20 nations in particular to strengthen 2030 emissions targets this year

Alok Sharma has urged countries around the world to follow through on the climate pledges made at COP26 late last year, describing the Glasgow Climate Pact signed by almost 200 nations at the UN summit as a “fragile win”.

Writing in think tank IPPR’s Progressive Review journal published this morning, the COP26 President said climate change was “the greatest threat we face” but that last year’s summit in Glasgow “marked a turning point in the fight against it”.

As host of the crucial conference, the UK played a key role in securing an agreement that resulted in hundreds of countries around the world sign up to the Glasgow Climate Pact, a text which saw countries agree to accelerate efforts to phase-out unabated coal power and strengthen national decarbonisation plans in line with the 1.5C target in the Paris Agreement.

However, in the near-five months months since the gavel came down on COP26, few further climate commitments have been forthcoming from major nations. Meanwhile, surging global fossil fuel prices and Russia’s war in Ukraine have transformed the geopolitics surrounding climate action and energy, with European countries scrambling to reduce their dependency on Russian oil and gas.

Sharma argued climate action had been too slow since the Paris Agreement first came into being in 2015, as he called on countries to follow through on their COP26 promises with concerted action on climate change in 2022 and beyond.

“The key thing now is implementation,” he said. “Our COP26 achievements will come to nothing if we do not deliver on them. It is several months since Glasgow and we must build on and protect the integrity of the Glasgow Climate Pact by showing that, collectively, the world is serious about delivering on the commitments made. The world has turned a corner, and we must now deliver and show that promises made will be promises kept.”

Sharma warns in the article that inaction on climate change “poses significant risks to security and long-term prosperity”, but that climate action is “an ever-increasing priority of the global public at large, with millions calling for wide-ranging action”.

Looking forward, Sharma said his priorities for the remainder of his time as COP26 President in 2022 – which comes to an end in November at the COP27 Summit in Egypt – were to try and mobilise climate finance from richer nations for vulnerable countries, boost funding and planning for climate adaptation, and push for delivery of national climate commitments.

In particular, he is continuing to call on richer nations in the G20 – which account for 80 per cent of the world’s emissions – to come forward in 2022 with strengthened national climate goals for 2030, in line with delivering net zero by 2050.

“It is vital the G20 build on recent commitments in Rome and Glasgow to strengthen their 2030 emissions reduction targets where necessary in 2022, in line with mid-century net zero plans,” he said.

Sharma’s contribution comes alongside those from a host of leading climate figures in the IPPR journal, including influential backbench Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkins, who writes that if the UK is to deliver net zero, it must achieve the right balance between a liberalised energy market and state regulation.

“Above all else it is costs that threaten the decarbonisation effort,” writes Jenkins. “Markets properly managed create efficiency, which is the only way to make decarbonisation palatable to consumers and taxpayers.”

Editors of the journal at IPPR noted that the contributions from Sharma and Jenkins were a timely reminder that despite loud criticism of net zero from a pocket of Conservative MPs, there remains broad support for delivering the decarbonisation agenda across the political spectrum.

Luke Murphy, IPPR’s associate director for energy, climate, housing and infrastructure, said the journal contributions underscored the importance of addressing the climate crisis as a means of guarding against other geopolitical risks currently facing the world.

“Just five months on from COP26, we are in the grip of multiple crises with the cost of living crisis set to push millions into poverty, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine which is also inflicting wider humanitarian and security consequences,” said Murphy. “Addressing the climate crisis can help insulate us from these risks – lowering energy bills, making us more energy secure and delivering a cleaner and healthier society and thriving natural world. The actions we take collectively in 2022, and every year this decade and beyond, will be crucial in determining humanity’s fate.”

Want to find out more about how the net zero transition will impact your business? You can now sign up to attend the virtual Net Zero Finance Summit, which will take place live and interactive on Tuesday 29 March and will be available on demand for delegates after the event.

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