UK urged to save Cop26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow

Ministers told to step up preparations for crucial talks

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Activist hold a demonstration marking the delayed COP26 UN climate negotiations  on November 13, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. The 26th United Nations Climate Change conference would have taken place this month, but was delayed for a year due to the covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

UK ministers are under pressure to rescue the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop26) in Glasgow this year amid concerns not enough energy is being poured into preparations for the crucial talks.

Environmental experts warned the government must step up preparations after a report claimed at the weekend Business Secretary Alok Sharma offered to quit his government post to focus on his second responsibility as Cop26 president.

The November talks are seen as critical for accelerating global action towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Participating countries are expected to hammer out new emission reduction targets to limit global warming to well below 2°C.

However, the talks come as a faster-spreading coronavirus variant runs amok in the UK, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order the UK into its third national lockdown. The event was supposed to be held last year but was put back to 2021 due to the pandemic.

Rebecca Willis, a researcher at Lancaster Environment Centre, urged the government to use its presidency of the summit to push for a green recovery from the pandemic.

“For government, it's about looking across the whole economy, understanding that climate policy is investment policy, infrastructure policy, tax policy … and that Covid recovery is also climate policy,” she tweeted.

She added that the summit suffered “big engagement challenges” among ordinary citizens.

“In terms of wider outreach, I worry that COP-speak galvanises climate wonks and no-one else,” she said.

Greenpeace demanded the government appoint a full-time president to oversee preparations for the summit.

"Given the critical importance of the Glasgow climate summit for the future of our world it's absolutely imperative that the president should be full-time and focused on getting an ambitious outcome," the organisation told the Guardian.

“With just 10 months to go and in a very difficult external environment, one challenging job rather than two must be the right decision. But this outcome still requires the president to be at the very heart of government. This is one job that can’t be outsourced to a Portakabin in the car park.”

The government said it was not planning to change its climate change envoy. A spokesman said: “Alok Sharma remains business secretary and Cop26 president, driving progress to tackle climate change in the UK and around the world ahead of the Cop26 summit later this year.”

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