UK must push forward on climate action, says Alok Sharma

British government urged to deliver on its promises for emissions cuts in the next decade

Alok Sharma, President of Cop26. PA

The UK needs to push forward on delivering its climate goals in the same way it is asking other countries to do, Cop26 President Alok Sharma has said.

The UN climate summit in Glasgow agreed to a pact asking countries to hasten action and present more ambitious plans to cut emissions by 2030 to limit dangerous global warming.

After the summit, the independent advisory Climate Change Committee urged the government to focus on delivering its promises for emissions cuts in the next decade, for which it does not have all policies in place.

Speaking to MPs at a parliamentary hearing hosted by the Environmental Audit Committee, Mr Sharma said the CCC had recognised the UK’s 2030 plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, were aligned to global goals to prevent the worst effects of rising temperature.

And the committee had recognised the government’s net-zero strategy for cutting emissions to zero overall by 2050, set out before Cop26, was positive and an “international benchmark”, he said.

But Mr Sharma said: “Delivery is an issue, I think, for absolutely every single country.”

He said the agreement in Glasgow last month for all countries to transparently report on their emissions reductions would help the world to track progress on the issue.

“That’s the point with the mechanism that we’ve agreed," Mr Sharma said. "We can now track delivery.

"And in the same way that we ask others to push forward on delivery, obviously that’s something the UK continues to need to do as well.”

Mr Sharma was asked by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas about expected emissions cuts from specific policies in the net-zero strategy, which the government is refusing to publish despite a request under Environmental Information Regulations by the PA news agency.

He said he was happy to ask ministerial colleagues who had direct responsibility for the strategy and get back to the MPs.

Mr Sharma, who remains president of Cop26 until he hands over the reins to Egypt at the start of Cop27 in November next year, said the expectation from countries was that the UK delivers a “full-fat presidency year”, working on delivering the commitments made in Glasgow.

All countries are required to come back by the end of 2022 and see if their 2030 emissions reduction targets are in line with the goals to keep temperature rises to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels, as agreed to in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

There are also commitments to deliver on finance for developing countries to deal with climate change and work on ensuring countries and communities can adapt to inevitable changes, such as more extreme weather.

“There are a whole range of commitments that we have got from parties and we want to ensure that those commitments are being met,” Mr Sharma said.

Updated: December 7th 2021, 11:16 PM