Action by G20 countries will be “make or break” for keeping the goal to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C within reach, Alok Sharma has said.
In a speech in Paris less than three weeks before the UN Cop26 climate talks take place in Glasgow, Mr Sharma, president of the summit, warned leaders of major economies such as China must step up with new climate plan.
He urged leaders from the major economies to honour the Paris Agreement in 2015, which commits countries to keeping temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit them to 1.5C – beyond which the most dangerous climate impacts will be felt.
Current action and pledges leave the world well off track to meeting the 1.5C goal and avoiding the most dangerous heat waves, floods, damage to natural systems, rising sea levels and diseases that higher temperatures will bring.
Mr Sharma said: “If temperatures continue to rise we will step through a series of one-way doors, the end destination of which is climate catastrophe.”
He said the world had already seen devastating flooding, raging wildfires and record temperatures.
At 1.5C of warming, 700 million people would be at risk of extreme heatwaves, while at 2C of warming it would be two billion, and while the lower temperature rise would destroy 70% of the world’s coral reefs, they would all die at 2C.
Cop26 is the deadline by which countries are expected to bring forward more ambitious plans, under a five-year cycle, to get the world on track to meet the Paris goals, and is being seen as the most significant climate meeting since the talks in the French capital.
More than 70 countries have come forward with new plans to cut emissions to 2030, including the UK and all of the G7 group of leading industrial nations, and some of the most vulnerable countries in the world.
Some of the G20 – who together account for 80% of global emissions – have put forward new plans for 2030 emissions cuts, but eyes are on major polluters, and what they will do with a meeting of the group of nations scheduled immediately before Cop26.
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They must put forward new plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – ahead of Cop26, as they have promised to do, Mr Sharma urged.
“The response of the G20 will quite simply be make, or break, for keeping 1.5 within reach,” Mr Sharma said.
“We know that we can only tackle climate change if every country plays its part. So I say to those G20 leaders, they simply must step up ahead of Cop26.”
Questioned on how confident he was that G20 countries would put forward new plans, at a press conference after the speech, he said every leader will want to ensure they and their country were part of the solution in Glasgow.
“The ball is in the court of all these nations, and I can ask, I can request, as I have done going round the world – but ultimately it is up to the leaders to deliver, and I think they do understand the responsibility they face.”
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In his speech, Mr Sharma warned concrete action is needed to deliver the plans, including agreements on shifting away from coal, boosting electric cars, protecting trees and cutting emissions of methane, a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas.
While the Paris Agreement is driving action, more is needed, so the Glasgow meeting must have an outcome of the negotiations that accelerates progress before 2030.
And countries must deliver on their promise – made at a UN summit more than a decade ago – to provide 100 billion US dollars (£73 billion) a year in finance to help developing nations cope with climate change and develop cleanly.
He said reaching the 100 billion dollar target was “within touching distance” and urged every donor nation to step forward before Cop26, as delivering the funding was vital to the success of the summit.
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There must also be new commitments on finance to support the countries most vulnerable to climate change and progress on helping communities adapt to the crisis, accounting for the loss and damage it can cause.
He warned that Cop26 was “not a photo op, nor a talking shop”, but must be the forum that puts the world on track to deliver on climate.
Mr Sharma said that at a recent Youth4Climate event, which heard from campaigners including Greta Thunberg, he heard “young people direct real anger at world leaders”.
“So now it is the time to redeem ourselves,” he urged.
“It is leaders who made a promise to the world in Paris six years ago. And it is leaders that must honour it,” he said.