UN climate conference president seeks to ‘consign coal power to history’

Cop26 president Alok Sharma stressed the importance of the world’s largest 20 economies eliminating coal power to combat climate change.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma called eliminating coal 'important and determinative'. PA
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The president of the UN climate conference, Cop26, stressed on Wednesday that he is looking for the world’s largest economies to “consign coal power to history” in the lead up to the summit in Glasgow this November.

“I’ve made it very clear that for me, consigning coal power to history has to be one of the things that we try to achieve on the road to Cop26,” conference head Alok Sharma said in an interview with the US-based Aspen Institute.

“It’s one of those issues that I think is going to be really important and determinative. And that’s why we need to make sure when the G20 leaders meet, that is a commitment that can be made.”

Mr Sharma was unable to convince the G20 — the group of the world’s 20 largest economics — to commit to phasing out coal during a ministerial-level meeting in Italy last month. The leaders of the G20 are scheduled to meet in Rome in October shortly before Cop26 convenes in Scotland.

“After that meeting, I was disappointed that we weren’t able to reach an agreement to phase out outdated coal, that we weren’t able to reach agreement in terms of international financing for local projects around the world,” said Mr Sharma.

However, he said that “there are reasons to be hopeful”, noting the communique emphasised the need to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and end international coal financing.

Cop26 aims to secure commitments from each country in a bid to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5°C above preindustrial levels in the hopes of warding off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Mr Sharma noted that global warming has already surpassed 1°C above preindustrial levels.

“I’m having a consistent message that I’m going to bring to governments around the world,” said Mr Sharma, laying out four main objectives that he aims to secure at Cop26 to keep temperatures below 1.5°C.

“First, they need to set out ambitious plans to cut the emissions in the near term by 2030 but then also to make commitments to go to net zero by the middle of the century,” said Mr Sharma. “Secondly, to adapt to climate change that is already happening around us.”

He also called on developed countries to live up to long-standing pledges of delivering $100 billion to help combat the effects of climate change and transition to renewable energy.

“We now have to show developing countries that we’re going to step up to that,” he said.

Lastly, Mr Sharma noted that Cop26 will seek to address “a range of issues that are still outstanding” regarding rules drafted under the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

He also praised US President Joe Biden for re-entering the accord following former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement.

“I’m really pleased that we now have an administration in the US that is putting climate change front and centre both in their domestic policy but international policy as well,” said Mr Sharma.

Updated: August 04, 2021, 9:59 PM