None of the pledges on climate action made at Cop26 will matter unless countries deliver on them, Alok Sharma has warned.
Speaking at a Chatham House event in London on Monday, the Cop26 President said countries had come together, despite an otherwise fractured world, at UN climate talks in Glasgow last year to secure agreement on raising their climate ambition and phasing down coal.
But Mr Sharma, who continues in his role as president until he hands over to Egypt for the Cop27 talks in November this year, acknowledged that the Glasgow summit’s success was “fragile”.
He said he was focused on pushing for delivery on raising efforts to cut emissions, helping countries adapt to climate extremes, delivering on finance for poorer nations and pushing for further action in sectors such as coal.
Through the Glasgow Climate Pact signed in November, 197 countries agreed to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of next year in an attempt to limit global warming climbing above 1.5C.
Negotiators also agreed to the weaker commitment of “phasing down” the use of coal after China and India declined to agree to it being “phased out” completely.
Mr Sharma told the Chatham House audience that “collective self-interest” had driven agreement, with leaders recognising that the science of climate change was clear, that inaction or delayed action would create immense risks and costs and there was an economic dividend to tackling the crisis.
“Net zero is one of the clearest economic trends there has ever been,” he said, adding that “clean is competitive” and the global race to supply technologies and solutions for the net zero world was on.
“The train is pulling out of the station and countries and companies that want to remain competitive need to leap on now,” he urged.
He said the G20 group of leading nations, which are responsible for 80% of global emissions, were his personal priority as part of efforts to urge all countries to revisit and strengthen their plans to cut emissions by 2030.
And he said: “There is no doubt that the commitments we secured at Cop26 were historic.
“Yet at the moment they are just words on a page.
“And unless we honour the promises made, to turn the commitments in the Glasgow Climate Pact into action, they will wither on the vine.
“We will have mitigated no risks. Seized no opportunities.
“We will have fractured the trust built between nations.
“And 1.5C will slip from our grasp.
“So my absolute focus for the UK Presidency year is delivery.”
In a question and answer session after his speech, Mr Sharma disagreed with suggestions the talks in Glasgow had been a failure, pointing to how almost 200 countries had agreed to the pact despite conflicts around the world.
He said the conference had succeeded on delivering in areas that many people had not thought could be achieved, including getting all countries to agree to come back by the end of 2022 with enhanced emissions cuts.
The talks had also secured the last parts of the Paris Agreement rulebook, which governs how the comprehensive climate treaty agreed in 2015 will be implemented, and had achieved decisions on coal, he said.
But he said: “None of that will matter unless these commitments are turned into action.
In reference to comments he made in the aftermath of the talks that 1.5C was alive, but its pulse was weak, he added: “It was a fragile win.
“That heartbeat of 1.5C will only be strengthened if people continue, if countries continue to deliver.”