Alok Sharma | Time is now to step up climate action

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Eskom's Kusile power station in Mpumalanga. Photo: Getty Images
Eskom's Kusile power station in Mpumalanga. Photo: Getty Images

Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, writes that he is encouraged by the number of countries around the world rallying behind the goal of reaching net emissions by 2050.


Next week, we mark one year to go until the COP26 international climate summit, which will be hosted in the UK.

This will be a pivotal moment for the world to come together and agree ambitious steps to prevent the catastrophic warming of our planet.

This is an issue of crucial significance, not just as we navigate the current global pandemic, but for the years and decades ahead.

Because while the world has been dealing with the Coronavirus, the dangers of global warming have continued to become more evident.

Just this year, we have seen unprecedented heatwaves in Siberia, flash floods across East Africa and vast areas of the western United States ravaged by wildfires.

READ | Adriaan Basson: Why a Trump defeat will be good for the planet and us

And as countries continue to manage the impact, they also face an important choice. Whether to invest in building back greener economies or locking in polluting emissions for decades to come.

As incoming president of COP26, I am encouraged by what I have seen so far of governments and businesses rallying behind the goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

Whether that’s President Xi Jinping announcing China will reach carbon neutrality before 2060, states like Michigan in the USA setting out plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, or more than 1 000 major companies stepping up and committing to net zero emissions by 2050.

Global emissions 

According to the Climate Action Tracker, there are now 126 countries, together responsible for over half of global emissions, with similar carbon or climate neutrality announcements.

Ambitious world leaders have made a really positive start, but now there is more to be done. Tackling and adapting to climate change, as we are all coming to realise, cannot wait.

On December 12, the UK will co-host a Climate Ambition Summit with the UN and France, and in partnership with Chile and Italy, to mark the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement.

READ | Barbara Creecy: Covid-19 is a dress rehearsal for climate change response

Every country subject to the Paris Agreement will be invited to the virtual event which will focus on action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate impacts, whether through adaptation or through climate finance.

So now, I am calling on all countries to bring their highest ambitions to the table, for what I hope will be a key moment for our planet.

The UK will use the time ahead of COP26 to raise ambition for climate action.

 - Alok Sharma is UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and President of COP

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