Cop26: Environment ministers meet in London for crunch talks

Countries struggling to find common ground on climate change action

People demonstrate on the sidelines of a G20 environment meeting in Naples in Italy. Ministers from 50 countries will meet in London to find common ground ahead of Cop26. AP
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Environment ministers from more than 50 countries are to meet in London on Sunday for crucial talks ahead of the UN Cop26 climate change summit in November.

The talks bring together representatives from major emitters – including the US and China – as well as smaller countries deemed most at risk from global warming.

The UAE is also among the countries with a seat at the table for the two-day meeting, which will be a combination of virtual and in-person attendance.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma said negotiators will attempt to agree a framework on key climate goals ahead of the November conference in Glasgow, in Scotland.

With less than 100 days to go to the summit, the UK government has come under increasing pressure to take more urgent action on climate change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Friday accused by protesters of being “missing in action” on the issue.

Leaders and diplomats, including US presidential climate envoy John Kerry, have repeatedly stressed that the Cop26 meeting may be the last chance to set international policies that would prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say the benchmark is key to staving off the worst effects of climate change.

The difficulties of finding common ground were highlighted this week when the G20 nations were unable to set their collective goals, as a group of major emitters resisted making commitments.

After marathon negotiations that ran through the night in Naples on Friday, the ministers couldn’t reach agreement on phasing out coal or how much to limit global warming.

The divisions among the G20 nations bode badly for the climate talks in Glasgow.

The US, Canada and Europe lobbied for including the goal of limiting warming to 1.5ºC. But other countries were unwilling to go beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement’s less ambitious target range of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.

Mr Sharma urged nations to have “frank conversations” so agreement could be reached before November.

Ministers are expected to discuss climate finance, adaption and resilience and a set of international rules to govern emissions reductions during Sunday's talks.

“We are facing perilous times for our planet and the only way we will safeguard its future is if countries are on the same path,” he said.

“As ministers responsible for tackling climate change, we hold the weight of the world on our shoulders, and the next two days will be nothing short of critical.

“With parties coming from differing standpoints and perspectives, the world will be watching to see whether we come together in Glasgow and do what is necessary to turn things around in this decisive decade,” Mr Sharma said.

On Friday, Glasgow told leaders that efforts to step up action on climate change will fail unless the world's poorest see the benefits of the policies.

Sue Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said net zero emissions must be achieved “for our people, not to them".

“It can't be about just telling our poorest residents what they have to give up ... [It] has to show how to take advantage of this changing world,” she said.

Updated: July 25, 2021, 1:47 PM

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