COP26 President Says G-20 Summit Is ‘Make or Break’ for Climate
(Bloomberg) -- COP26 President Alok Sharma told Group of 20 leaders they must act to curb coal consumption at a summit in Rome this month to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
G-20 leaders must agree new measures to eliminate coal to avoid climate catastrophe, he said in Paris on Tuesday. Sharma wants the COP26 talks in Glasgow to consign the most polluting fossil fuel to history, but G-20 countries have so far resisted making a collective commitment.
“The response of the G-20 will quite simply be make or break, for keeping 1.5 within reach,” he said.
Sharma’s call for action comes as the widening energy crisis prompts Chinese policy makers to rethink the pace of the country’s green transition. China and India are among the G-20 countries that have failed to submit more ambitious climate pledges to the United Nations, although both had promised to do so before the Glasgow talks begin.
While China last month agreed to stop building coal-fired power plants in other nations, Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday that the country needs to prioritize economic development. Before establishing a timetable for peaking carbon emissions by the end of the decade, China needs to conduct an in-depth assessment of how it handled the recent power crunch, he said.
Those comments could be contentious as without additional commitments from China, COP26’s success could be put in jeopardy.
Sharma brushed off concerns that the energy crisis could derail progress at COP26, saying volatile prices show the importance of countries shifting to greener power.
The COP26 president said he was kept awake at night by rich countries’ failure to deliver on their promise to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries tackle climate change. He said they are now on the verge of closing a climate-finance shortfall and called on nations to step up with more money.
“This is a totemic figure, a matter of trust,” he said. “And trust is a hard won, and fragile commodity, in climate negotiations.”
COP26 will be the first major climate summit to take place since the start of the pandemic. Sharma said 120 world leaders are expected to attend and there will be daily Covid-19 testing. He also promised funding for any delegates who are forced to extend their stay in Scotland as a result of catching Covid-19 in the U.K. In a sign of how the restrictions may affect the summit, Sharma also said there will be limits on room numbers at the conference.
“It will be an extraordinary COP, in extraordinary times,” he said.
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