The world must go beyond the Paris Agreement in order to fend off environmental disaster, US climate envoy John Kerry said on Tuesday.
As preparations are stepped up for November’s Cop26 summit, Mr Kerry said the commitments made six years ago in Paris were not enough. He gave a warning that climate action could not wait until the pandemic subsides.
He spoke in London at the start of a week-long trip to Europe in which he will meet G20 environment ministers in Italy before he returns to Britain to continue preparations for Cop26.
The UK is gathering ambitious climate pledges before the summit, with countries and businesses planning to reduce their net emissions to zero by 2050.
But Mr Kerry called for faster emissions cuts in order to achieve the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
“The fundamental truth of the Paris Agreement is that even if every country fulfilled its initial promises – and many are falling short - the temperature of this planet will still rise by upwards of 2.5 to 3°C,” he said.
“We’re already seeing dramatic consequences with 1.2°C. To contemplate doubling that is to invite catastrophe.
“It makes 2021 a decisive year, and most of all it must make Cop26 in Glasgow this year a pivotal moment for the world to come together to meet and master the climate challenge.”
The latest climate talks come against the backdrop of catastrophic floods in Europe which highlighted the risk of extreme weather.
While Mr Kerry spoke at London’s Kew Gardens, EU leaders were meeting in Slovenia to discuss a green overhaul proposed by the European Commission last week.
Leaders were told that the floods showed the need for urgent action, but diplomats expect a long process before the EU plan is agreed by the bloc's 27 members.
The G20 talks will begin on Thursday after Italy’s Energy Minister Roberto Cingolani said diplomats were struggling to find common ground.
Wealthy nations “are finding it hard to accept 55 per cent decarbonisation by 2030”, which is the EU’s desired cut compared to 1990 levels, he said.
Mr Kerry appealed for co-operation between nation as he raised the threat of hunger, starvation and conflict caused by the climate crisis.
The envoy, who was appointed by US President Joe Biden to revive America’s efforts to combat climate change, said Washington was leading the way again after four years of climate scepticism under Donald Trump.
Critics say that wealthy countries must do more to cut emissions and help developing nations tackle the threat of climate change.
Developing countries last week set out demands for Cop26, including a call for the rich world to meet its promises of $100 billion in annual climate finance.
Mr Kerry said not every country could be expected to make the same contribution but all nations must “do enough”.
“No country and no continent alone can solve the climate crisis,” he said. “We can’t afford a world so divided in its response to the climate crisis when the evidence is so compelling for action.
“You don’t need to be a scientist to know that what we’re looking at is a world no parent would ever be content to leave behind as an inheritance for future generations.”