World leaders must step up and deliver an "extraordinary Cop in extraordinary times" that puts the planet “on track to deliver on climate”, the conference’s president warned on Tuesday.
In a speech in Paris, France, Alok Sharma called for leaders to honour the 2015 Paris Agreement which committed countries to try to limit global temperature rises to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.
He said the latest round of UN climate talks, which starts in Glasgow, Scotland, in less than three weeks, must secure agreement to accelerate climate action this decade to keep the 1.5ºC goal alive.
"Cop26 is not a photo op or a talking shop. It must be the forum where we put the world on track to deliver on climate,” he said.
"And that is down to leaders. It is leaders who made a promise to the world in Paris six years ago. And it is leaders that must honour it.
"Responsibility rests with each and every country. And we must all play our part. Because on climate, the world will succeed or fail as one."
Mr Sharma said it was an "extraordinary Cop in extraordinary times" and urged countries to pull together to make it work "because we have no choice but to deliver".
"Every country must step up. And as Cop26 president I will ensure that every voice is heard," he said.
He said efforts have been made to make Cop26 the most inclusive yet, despite the challenges of holding it during a pandemic, with measures including provision of vaccines, daily testing and social distancing in the venue.
Mr Sharma’s comments come as the UK supported the creation of a UN special rapporteur for climate change as part of the UN Human Rights Council.
“We believe that a new special rapporteur will help elevate the work of this council on addressing the impact of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights,” said Simon Manley, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva.
“We welcome the mandate for a new special rapporteur and look forward to success in Glasgow in a few weeks’ time,” Mr Manley said.
Current action and pledges leave the world off track to miss the Paris goals and avoid more dangerous heat waves, floods, damage to natural systems, rising sea levels and spread of disease.
Cop26 is the deadline by which countries are expected to bring forward more ambitious plans, under a five-year cycle, to get the world on track to meet the Paris goals.
It is regarded as the most significant since the talks in the French capital.
For Cop26 to deliver the action needed, countries must have plans to significantly cut the greenhouse gases driving global warming by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Mr Sharma will say.
Concrete action is needed to deliver the plans, including agreements on reducing coal, increasing use of electric cars, protecting trees and cutting emissions of methane, a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas.