Cop26's Alok Sharma: world must break dependency on fossil fuels

Government minister urges nations to act on promises made, despite global challenges

Alok Sharma warns world leaders that failure to honour promises made at Cop26 would be an 'act of monstrous self-harm'. PA
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The UK's Alok Sharma warned world leaders it would be an “act of monstrous self-harm” if promises made at Cop26 are not honoured.

Returning to the Glasgow venue for the UN Cop26 summit to mark six months since delegates agreed upon new efforts to tackle climate change, the Cop26 president called for countries to accelerate action to tackle dangerous global warming.

He acknowledged in his speech that the world had changed since the summit, and climate change was no longer on the front pages as war returned to Europe, inflation spiked, energy prices climbed and people continued to deal with the pandemic.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine throws into “stark relief” the dangers of energy systems powered by foreign fossil fuels, he said.

“Yet the current crises should increase not diminish our determination to deliver on what the world agreed here in Glasgow, because they show with devastating clarity why it is imperative to do so, and to do so now,” he urged.

He warned that climate change was a “chronic danger” that the world had to deal with even as countries tackled the other crises in the present.

Mr Sharma said the “brutal and illegal invasion” of Ukraine would define this year and many years to come, and said: “The actions of the Putin regime have pushed up fossil fuel prices globally.

“That has thrown our situation into stark relief. We see clearly the dangers of energy systems powered by foreign fossil fuels.

“We see the benefits of low cost homegrown renewables, the price of which cannot be manipulated from afar.

“In short, we see that climate security is energy security and that we must break our dependency on fossil fuels.”

Even amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy and food security challenges and the continuing effects of the pandemic, the government minister said nations need to demonstrate that “though the world has changed, our resolve has not”.

The Met Office has warned the world has a 50-50 chance in the next five years of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C global warming limit which countries pledged to meet in the Paris Agreement in 2015 and confirmed in Glasgow.

Reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) science body have warned the window to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold beyond which the worst impacts will be felt, is rapidly closing.

A failure to honour the Cop26 commitments "would be an act of monstrous self-harm", Mr Sharma warned.

Mr Sharma said “the window of time we have to act is closing fast, that we must urgently adapt and reduce emissions, because current targets are not enough”.

Speaking at the halfway point between Cop26 and the next round of UN talks in Egypt in November, Mr Sharma said the international system for dealing with climate change was imperfect and unwieldy – but could work.

“It can deliver and it is the best chance we have of tackling climate change. But it is only as strong as the sum of its parts. So we need every nation to pick up the pace.

“We need every leader to show that their words were not hollow, that their commitments were made with integrity, and that they recognise though the immediate challenges we face are great, we will only inflame them if we falter,” he said.

Last week, Mr Sharma led a climate meeting in Denmark with Egypt’s foreign affairs minister which brought together more than 40 countries to assess action needed to deliver key Cop26 commitments.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 12:39 PM