Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of the COP26 climate summit talks in Glasgow in November, on Sunday warned that the meeting hosted by Britain later this year is the world’s last chance to get a grip on climate change.
The Indian-origin Cabinet minister, who is the President-designate of the United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26 in Glasgow in November, said in an interview that the world would face a climate catastrophe unless urgent action is agreed this year.
He also defended his recent hectic travel agenda, which came under some media criticism for his ministerial exemption from COVID-19 self-isolation rules on return from red list countries.
“You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record,” he told the “Observer” newspaper.
“I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time,” he said.
On his own travel, the minister said he was simply throwing everything at achieving a global consensus ahead of the talks in Glasgow.
“I have every week a large number of virtual meetings, but I can tell you that having in-person meetings with individual ministers is incredibly vital and actually impactful. It makes a vital difference, to build those personal relationships which are going to be incredibly important as we look to build consensus,” said the minister, who has travelled to countries such as Bangladesh and Bolivia in recent weeks.
His interview comes ahead of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on climate science, out on Monday showing the true impact of extreme weather.
“This [IPCC report] is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming and this is why COP26 has to be the moment we get this right. We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years, this is the moment,” Mr Sharma warned.
“This is going to be a wake-up call for anyone who hasn’t yet understood why this next decade has to be absolutely decisive in terms of climate action. We will also get a pretty clear understanding that human activity is driving climate change at alarming rates—Every fraction of a degree rise [in temperature] makes a difference and that’s why countries have to act now,” he told the newspaper.
The November summit in Scotland is widely seen as vital if climate change is to be brought under control, and leaders from 196 countries will meet to try and agree on action. Meanwhile, the UK also faces challenges over its own fossil fuel projects, with campaigners questioning new oil drilling being planned.
“Future [fossil fuel] licences are going to have to adhere to the fact we have committed to go to net zero by 2050 in legislation. There will be a climate check on any licences,” Mr Sharma added.