Alok Sharma on climate change: why MP has urged every nation to ‘pick up the pace’ to honour COP26 commitments

The COP26 President said every world leader, six months on, needs to ‘show that their words were not hollow’

Delegates returned to the UN COP26 summit venue in Glasgow to mark six months since the event and agree upon new efforts to tackle climate change.

COP26 President Alok Sharma called for countries to step up the pace of action and said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine throws into “stark relief” the dangers of energy systems powered by foreign fossil fuels.

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Mr Sharma acknowledged climate change was no longer on the front pages as war returned to Europe but said it “should not diminish our determination to deliver on what the world agreed here in Glasgow.”

He warned climate change was a “chronic danger” and said the international system for dealing with global warming was imperfect and unwieldy – but it could work.

Here’s everything you need to know about what Alok Sharma said, six months on from COP26.

What was said about the use of fossil fuels?

Mr Sharma said the “actions of the Putin regime have pushed up fossil fuel prices globally” after the country’s “brutal and illegal invasion” of Ukraine this year.

He said: “That has thrown our situation into stark relief.

“We see clearly the dangers of energy systems powered by foreign fossil fuels.”

Mr Sharma added that the war in Ukraine has highlighted “the benefits of low cost homegrown renewables, the price of which cannot be manipulated from afar.”

He admitted countries were taking action to deal with immediate supply issues of fossil fuels, but also pointed to increases in renewable deployment.

He said the UK would be able to get 95% of its power from low carbon sources by 2030 and be fully decarbonised by 2035.

Mr Sharma added: “In short, we see that climate security is energy security and that we must break our dependency on fossil fuels.”

Speaking to journalists after the speech, Mr Sharma said he thought the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy was going to happen much faster in the wake of the war in Ukraine than had previously been envisaged.

However, he said it was understandable governments were looking to see how they could meet their immediate energy needs, as they had to ensure the lights stayed on and factories were operating.

“But what you’re also seeing is a very clear understanding set out by governments, some of whom are actually quite dependent on Russia for oil and gas, that actually the future is about ensuring that they have homegrown clean energy,” he said.

He added: “They have understood that at the end of the day, the way you ensure domestic energy supply is to have renewable energy, to have clean energy, and that way you’re also in a position where price is not going to be manipulated by somebody else.”

What did Alok Sharma call on other countries to do?

Mr Sharma called for more action to shift towards a clean future, warning food security, already under pressure because of famine and now the invasion of Ukraine, would worsen with climate change.

Mr Sharma demanded that every country must revisit their 2030 carbon-cutting plans and submit more ambitious ones in 2022 if needed to align with the global targets to curb warming under the Paris Agreement.

Speaking at the halfway point between COP26 and the next round of UN talks in Egypt in November, Mr Sharma said the international system for dealing with climate change was imperfect and unwieldy – but could work.

He said: “It can deliver and it is the best chance we have of tackling climate change.

“But it is only as strong as the sum of its parts. So we need every nation to pick up the pace.”

He added: “We need every leader to show that their words were not hollow, that their commitments were made with integrity, and that they recognise though the immediate challenges we face are great, we will only inflame them if we falter.”

A failure to honour the COP26 commitments “would be an act of monstrous self-harm”, Mr Sharma warned.

What was agreed during COP26?

The agreement secured in Glasgow called on countries to phase down coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

The deal was signed by nearly 200 countries and requested them to revisit and strengthen targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

It urged rich nations to scale up the finance they provide to help more vulnerable countries to develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts.

Agreements made around the Glasgow Pact also aimed to stop deforestation, accelerate the move to clean cars and provide finance for countries to make a shift away from fossil fuel power.

Experts have concluded that if all the pledges made in Glasgow are met, they could curb global temperature rises to below 2C - the higher limit countries promised to meet in the Paris Agreement.

COP26 was followed by the Met Office warning that the world has a 50-50 chance in the next five years of temporarily exceeding the 1.5C global warming limit.

Reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) science body have also warned the window to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is rapidly closing.