Cop26 chief heads to China on carbon neutrality mission

'China clearly sees the economic and environmental opportunities a green future presents' he said

Cars drive past during evening rush hour in Beijing. EPA
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The UK’s Cop26 chief, Alok Sharma, is flying to China, the world’s biggest polluter, to talk about Beijing enhancing its promises on reaching carbon neutrality.

Mr Sharma warned the world was facing “climate catastrophe” as he planned face-to-face meetings in China, which has committed to climate neutrality by 2060.

In Covid-secure bubbles, he will discuss “plans for submitting an enhanced 2030 emissions reduction target” for China against a background of ever-more-dire climate warnings and the looming Cop26 environmental summit in Scotland in November.

“China clearly sees the economic and environmental opportunities a green future presents and Chinese climate leadership is going to be vital if we are to safeguard our planet for future generations,” Mr Sharma said.

“I welcome China’s commitment to climate neutrality by 2060 and look forward to discussing China's policy proposals towards this goal, its plans for submitting an enhanced 2030 emissions reduction target, as well as how we work towards a successful multilateral outcome at Cop26.”

This year’s Northern Hemisphere summer has seen wildfires and temperature spikes in North America, Europe and the Arctic.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, compiled by more than 200 experts, was described as a “code red for humanity” by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

It warned tropical cyclones are getting stronger and wetter, while Arctic sea ice is dwindling in the summer and permafrost is thawing. All of these trends will get worse without urgent action.

Mr Sharma will travel to China for meetings between September 5-7 with senior representatives from the government and business.

“The recent IPCC report was clear that human activity is responsible for the climate change the world is experiencing, and unless we collectively take action in this decisive decade, we are heading for climate catastrophe,” Mr Sharma said.

“As the biggest emitter in the world, responsible for a quarter of all emissions, what China does on climate action absolutely matters.

The Cop26 summit of world leaders is billed as humanity's “last, best chance” to restrict global warming to 1.5°C and avert an environmental catastrophe.

The four main goals of Cop26 are:

1. Secure global net-zero by midcentury and keep limit of 1.5C temperature increase within reach.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.

3. Mobilise finance.

4. Collaborate to deliver.

In five scenarios put forward in the IPCC report, the target of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would be breached in the 2030s.

Already, temperatures have risen by about 1.1°C since the 1850-1900 period.

UN experts say that half a degree of extra warming — 2°C instead of 1.5°C — would have effects on the planet that are far more severe

Updated: September 04, 2021, 11:26 PM