15 minute read
Alok Sharma’s speech at UNESCO, Paris on the need for world leaders to deliver at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.
Thank you to my dear friend, Laurent Fabius, for your kind introductory remarks.
I am so grateful to you for your advice, support and friendship.
My thanks also to UNESCO for hosting us today.
It is very good to be in Paris,
a city steeped in history, one chapter of which was written six years ago, when the Paris Agreement was born.
To Laurent for his expert diplomacy, and indeed all the architects of that historic Agreement, we owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Because the Paris Agreement was a landmark in the global efforts to tackle climate change.
Representing a binding agreement, bringing all nations into a common cause.
To adapt to the effects of climate change, and limit the rise in average global temperature to well below two degrees, pursuing efforts towards 1.5, compared to pre-industrial levels.
In Paris, leaders provided the world with consensus, with ambition and hope.
But it was the beginning of the road.
And in the on-going effort to tackle climate change and limit global warming, in 19 days from now the world will converge on the great city of Glasgow for the latest United Nations Climate Conference, COP26.
And at that vital summit, the world must honour the promises made here in Paris six years ago.
And that ultimately, rests with world leaders.
success, or failure, of COP26 is in their hands.
And so is the fate of the Paris Agreement.
Because since it was signed, the world has not done enough.
Emissions have continued to rise, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a code red for the climate.
Stating, that unless we act immediately, the 1.5-degree limit will slip out of reach.
Already, temperatures have risen at least 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Extreme weather is on the march around the world.
This summer we have seen devastating flooding in central Europe and China,
raging wildfires in North America,
record temperatures across the globe, and what some have called the world’s first climate-induced famine in Madagascar.
It has been a truly humbling experience for me to meet communities on the front line of climate change.
Earlier this year I visited the town of Jomsom in Nepal, nestled in the Hindu Kush mountain range.
The majesty of the Himalayas is breath-taking.
But you can also clearly see the alarming impact of a warming climate.
Glaciers melted into giant lakes which, when they burst their banks, have a devastating impact on those living in the foothills.
The people I met had been driven from their villages, by the twin impacts of flooding and drought.
Their dignity still preserved, even as their homes were not.
I was recently on the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean, which was struck by hurricane Irma in 2017.
Much of the damage is still unrestored.
All around you see derelict building after building, with the roofs still blown off, the walls crumbling.
Standing in the midst of that devastation it felt as if a hurricane had blown in just a few weeks ago.
And I talked to some of those still living on the island.
They spoke of the effective forced migration of large numbers of people, who had been unable to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
They noted, with fear, that the storms facing the region were becoming more frequent and more ferocious.
And they had a very clear message for the world, particularly the largest emitters, the G20 group of nations, to act now to reduce emissions.
I could relay many other heart breaking testimonies I have heard, from communities under siege from a changing climate.
Communities from East Africa, Southeast Asia, from South America to the Pacific.
But the point is that at 1.1 degrees warming the effects are already alarming.
And every fraction of a degree makes a difference.
At 1.5 degrees warming 700 million people would be at risk of extreme heat waves.
At 2 degrees it would be 2 billion.
At 1.5 degrees 70 per cent of the world’s coral reefs die.
At 2 degrees they are all gone.
If temperatures continue to rise we will step through a series of one-way doors,
And the end destination of which is climate catastrophe.
That is why countries on the front-line of climate change fought so hard,
for the 1.5-degree temperature limit to be enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
For them, 1.5 to stay alive is not a hollow slogan.
It is a matter of survival.
And it is why I have always been clear that, in Glasgow, the world must deliver an outcome which keeps 1.5 degrees in reach.
To achieve this, I have been asking countries to deliver on four key goals.
Emissions reductions, adaptation, finance, and working together, including to make the negotiations in Glasgow a success.
In all of these areas, working with partners around the world, we have made progress.
But on each of them, critically, we have further to go.
And leaders must deliver.
On emissions reductions, many climate vulnerable countries are leading the way.
From Bhutan and Suriname which have already achieved net zero, to the small island developing state of Barbados, which will be fossil fuel free by 2030.
I have been urging countries to follow this leadership and commit to net zero by the middle of the century.
And to set out ambitious plans to cut emissions by 2030, those 2030 Nationally Determined Contributions.
There has been progress.
When the UK took on the COP26 Presidency, less than 30 per cent of the global economy was covered by a net zero target.
That figure is now 75 per cent, and climbing.
In recent days Turkey and the UAE have both declared net zero targets.
The UAE’s an historic first in the Gulf.
And I hope that others in the region will follow, ahead of COP26.
More than 70 countries in total have come forward over the past two years with updated, and more ambitious, 2030 NDCs.
And that includes every G7 nation, all of which have NDCs aligned with net zero by 2050, and some of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries.
And they want the same ambition, the same level of commitment, from the largest nations, the G20 countries which account for around 80 per cent of global emissions.
The response of the G20 will quite simply be make, or break, for keeping 1.5 within reach.
And at the G20 Climate and Energy Ministers meeting in July, every G20 country agreed to set out ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets before COP26.
The UK, France, Italy, Germany, the EU, Canada, the US, Argentina, Japan, South Korea and South Africa have done so.
Now the rest must deliver.
And all eyes will be on the G20 leaders meeting at the end of this month.
We know that we can only tackle climate change if every country plays its part.
So I say to those G20 leaders, they simply must step-up ahead of COP26.
NDCs and net zero commitments are critical to keeping 1.5 alive.
But the targets must translate into change across our economies and our societies.
So we are also urging countries to take the action needed to move to a cleaner world.
To consign coal power to history.
To accelerate the drive to clean electric vehicles.
To end deforestation.
And to reduce methane emissions.
All of which present historic opportunities to create jobs, create growth, and move to a healthier more secure world.
Now we recognise these can be complex transitions for countries.
Which comes as we face global gas supply challenges.
Yet volatile prices underscore the importance of countries accelerating their move to more clean, renewable power.
And we are seeing progress.
Take my personal priority, coal.
I was delighted to co-chair the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers meeting in July where we delivered a historic agreement that no G7 nation would finance any more coal projects internationally.
South Korea has made the same commitment.
And with China’s recent announcement, we are well on the way to choking the financing for new coal power, as we ramp up support for renewables.
But we still need the G20 to tackle domestic unabated coal use.
So, at the G20 meeting I urge leaders to kick coal into the past, where it belongs.
And I expect that at COP26 we will see further commitments on coal, cars, methane and on deforestation.
Keeping 1.5 alive has always been about driving action, and ambition, over this next vital decade.
Countries’ emission reduction commitments, and action in the areas I have outlined, are two vital parts of that.
But there is one more.
We have heard the call from countries at the Ministerial meetings in London and Milan, that we need an outcome from Glasgow that accelerates progress to 2030.
The Paris Agreement is working.
As its architects intended.
It is steadily increasing ambition.
Analysis suggests that the commitments made in Paris in 2015, would have capped the rise in temperature to below 4 degrees.
If the commitments made since then by countries are fully implemented, it could bend the temperature curve towards two degrees.
But to keep 1.5 within reach, we need to go further.
So the Glasgow negotiated outcome must launch a decade of ever-increasing ambition.
We need a system that accelerates progress recognising that, whilst all countries must act, those with the greatest responsibility must do more.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum, for example, has suggested that countries’ progress towards the Paris goals should be assessed at each COP until 2025.
Now ultimately, we will need to reach consensus on this issue.
And that is why I am grateful to Ministers Dan Jorgensen and Simon Stiell for the consultations that they are holding, on how the Glasgow outcome should keep 1.5 within reach.
To keep driving that ambition to 2030, we must also finalise the Paris Rulebook.
This must be resolved if we are to unleash the full power of the Paris Agreement.
But this is no easy task.
The outstanding issues have been discussed for years, without resolution.
I am grateful for the consultations conducted by Ministers Grace Fu and Sveinung Rotevatn on Article 6 and carbon markets, and by Ministers Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya and Simonetta Sommaruga on Common Time Frames.
In London and Milan, we saw progress, but we are still some way off consensus.
And I want to be frank, it will be a challenging task to get us over the line.
So, as I said to Ministers in Italy, we must all come to COP26 armed with the currency of compromise.
Because the world will not understand if, six years on, we still cannot reach agreement on these issues in Glasgow.
Alongside emissions reductions, adaptation has always been central to our COP26 Presidency.
Even if we reached net zero tomorrow, our climate will continue to change.
So it is vital that governments set out their plans to protect people and nature from its effects, and that we increase support and finance for adaptation.
I have come to understand, just how important this issue is for many climate vulnerable nations.
And so we must redress the balance, between finance for mitigation and finance for adaptation.
And we are seeing some progress.
Every G7 country has committed to boost finance for adaptation.
And a new Champions Group on Adaptation Finance is committed to a balance in public finance, between adaptation and mitigation.
And we encourage more countries to join this grouping.
The Adaptation Action Coalition the UK launched with partners in January, now has 38 members.
More countries have come forward with adaptation commitments, but even more are needed.
We have also seen encouraging progress in the debate on loss and damage, a renewed determination to find solutions.
And at COP26 I hope that we will come together, as a global community, to help equip the most vulnerable, to protect themselves from climate change.
We want to make progress in negotiations on loss and damage and adaptation.
Now whether it is adaptation, or emissions reductions, we know that without finance, tackling climate change is well nigh impossible.
So developed countries must deliver on the 100 billion dollars a year promised to developing nations.
This is a totemic figure, a matter of trust.
And trust is a hard won, and fragile commodity, in climate negotiations.
So the 100 billion dollars continues to be an absolute priority of mine.
And I will be honest, thinking about this does keep me awake at night.
The report from the OECD last month set out that in 2019 international climate finance almost reached the 80 billion dollars mark, still over 20 billion shy of where we needed to be in 2020.
Yet recently, we have seen some progress.
Ministers Jochen Flashbarth and Jonathan Wilkinson, are working with me on a Delivery Plan for how, together, developed countries will deliver the 100 billion dollars a year.
We hope to publish the plan before COP26.
And under the UK Presidency, every G7 nation has committed to do more towards the 100 billion dollars.
The UK, Germany, Canada, Japan and the US have pledged new money.
And the European Commission, Sweden and Denmark also have been pledging additional funds, so we are now within touching distance of the $100billion.
Based on the conversations I have had, I am hopeful that more countries will make commitments.
And my message to leaders in every donor nation is clear.
Please step forward now, in these few days before COP26.
Because that promised 100 billion dollars is vital to the success of the summit.
We simply must deliver.
At COP26 we will also start deliberations on the post 2025 finance goal.
And, more broadly, we must address issues such as fiscal space.
So I hope we will hear progress on SDR channelling to developing and vulnerable countries at the IMF and World Bank Annual meetings this week.
This has been a focus of mine, and that is why I have championed this issue with the IMF.
The Paris Agreement set us on a path to transform all global financial flows to deliver a green and sustainable economy.
so, as well as delivering public finance, we need to unleash trillions of dollars of private finance to transition to a greener world.
I am pleased to see the success of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, led by Mark Carney and others.
This now represents over $90trillion in assets.
Its an enormous achievement.
The next step, is to ensure that some of this money is channelled into developing countries, to scale up green, resilient infrastructure.
And also we need development banks to play their part, to help mobilise private funds, driving down the cost of capital.
The task the world faces at COP26 is unprecedented.
Both in terms of what is at stake, and the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The ongoing menace of COVID-19 will make COP26 a COP like no other.
There will be daily testing, masks, social distancing, and limits on room numbers, by necessity.
This is to keep delegates and the local community safe.
It will be an extraordinary COP, in extraordinary times.
But collectively, we must pull together to make it work.
Forging unity from the unfamiliar.
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.
That the smallest nations are sitting face-to-face, with the world’s largest powers.
As equal parties to the process.
And that is why the UK is funding quarantine hotels for delegates.
That is why we offered vaccinations to all accredited delegates, who would not have been able to access them in their home nations.
And today I am pleased to announce new Self-Isolation Support Funds,created by the UNFCCC with the backing of civil society backers which will be available to accredited party delegates, eligible civil society and media from developing countries.
This will cover their costs if they do contract COVID during their stay in Glasgow, and have to self-isolate, thereby requiring a longer stay in Glasgow.
I am also determined that the voices of young people, of indigenous people, women and civil society will be heard.
As part of a truly inclusive summit.
So the UK COP26 Presidency is funding a pavilion for the Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change.
We are hosting a designated Gender Day.
And we are working with young people to host a Youth & Public Empowerment Day.
And I ask global leaders to take inspiration from these young people.
From the passion that I have witnessed from them around the world, and the ambition and commitment I saw on display at the recent Youth4Climate event in Milan.
I ask global leaders to listen to the message of the faith leaders and scientists I met at the Vatican last week, whose Appeal on climate exemplifies the co-operation we must embody.
And I ask global leaders to take their lead from those climate vulnerable countries taking action, in the most difficult circumstances.
There is no denying that the issues at any COP are complex.
Passions, understandably, run high.
But ultimately, success depends on us all.
And, I will do my utmost, as a neutral broker, to shepherd us towards agreement.
COP26 is not a photo op, nor a talking shop.
It must be the forum where we put the world on track to deliver on climate.
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.
We are almost at the end of the road.
And at the Youth4Climate event, I heard young people direct real anger at world leaders.
So now is the time, to redeem ourselves.
Because as my childhood hero, and our COP26 President’s Advocate, Sir David Attenborough has said:
“The moment of crisis has come… The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, depends on us.”
So let’s see world leaders come together for our planet,
in that 2015 spirit of hope, fraternity, and ambition.
Glasgow, must deliver.