Breaking News Today

UK wants COP26 to kill coal

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

COP26 President Alok Sharma is ramping up pressure to dump the fuel, while juggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.K. — birthplace of the industrial revolution — wants to end the use of coal, the fuel that started it all.

In a speech at Whitelee wind farm in Scotland on Friday, Alok Sharma, the U.K. minister who will preside over the Glasgow COP26 U.N. climate talks, said the conference must “consign coal to history.” He also raised the issue of how the massive meeting could go ahead during the pandemic.

Sharma said it would be his “personal priority” ahead of the November conference to push governments around the world to cease burning coal for power and end international finance for coal projects.

The wind turbines spinning behind him were, he said, a “tangible demonstration of our green industrial revolution.”

“The days of coal providing the cheapest form of power are in the past, and in the past they must remain. Because the science is clear that to keep 1.5 degrees alive, coal must go,” said Sharma, referring to the lower end of a temperature range set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That effort could be given a boost next week when G7 climate and energy ministers meet. A government official told POLITICO the U.K. was weighing pressing the group of rich democracies to commit to ending coal finance and power ahead of the leaders’ summit in June.

Most have already done so, but it would pile pressure on Japan, which has not yet committed to a full phaseout and is the third-largest financier of coal around the world.

Sharma said he wanted the richest countries to send a signal to the medium and emerging economies of the G20. This year’s G7 guests, Australia, India and South Korea — all of which have heavily coal-based electricity systems and no coal phaseout plans — would be included in the push ahead of the June summit, the U.K. official said.

READ:  TikTok launches ‘Safety Advisory Council’ in Europe

Coal must go

In a speech six months out from Glasgow that aimed to set the terms of the conference, Sharma said COP26 must mark a permanent break from the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluting fuel “if we are serious” about holding the world’s warming at 1.5 degrees.

Listing goals that have been honed through personal meetings with 113 governments, Sharma said governments must also get methane emissions and deforestation under control and cease building gasoline and diesel cars by 2040.

Ultimately, he said, he wanted delegates to leave Glasgow and “be able to say that at this critical juncture, ‘Each of us took responsibility. That we chose to act. And that we kept 1.5 degrees alive.’”

What keeping 1.5 degrees within reach actually means is unclear. “I’m pretty sure COP26 organizers wouldn’t have an answer to that,” said Oliver Geden, a senior fellow from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Few expect the COP26 talks to deliver a set of commitments from countries that will collectively be in line with that goal. The latest analysis from Climate Action Tracker found that the world’s national emissions targets set a course for around 2.4 degrees of warming. Meanwhile, China, by far the world’s largest coal-burning nation, is far from a coal phaseout, only promising last month to peak its coal use by 2025.

“Phasing out coal power is the most important mitigation action that the world can take over the next decade,” said Jesse Burton, a senior associate at the E3G think tank.

But the gap to 1.5 degrees will only be closed by commitments that stretch far beyond Sharma’s personal mission to end coal power. Some G7 members — including the U.K., U.S. and EU — are going beyond the call to end coal finance to include all fossil fuels.

READ:  Negative views of China soared during pandemic, survey finds

“The realistic window for meeting the 1.5 degree target is very rapidly closing,” the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said in a note released Friday. Lila Warszawski, a researcher from the institute, said none of the remaining pathways “relies on a single silver bullet.”

Burton said: “Just ending coal use alone is not enough, but without ending coal use 1.5C is unachievable.”

Next week, the International Energy Agency will lay out “a detailed and cost-effective pathway for bringing global energy-related emissions to net zero in time to give the world a good chance” of meeting the target, the head of the agency Fatih Birol said on Thursday.

Campaigners were keen to point out that the U.K. government has not yet ruled out building a new coal mine in Britain. “If the government wants to be climate leaders it’s time they act like it,” said Kate Blagojevic, head of climate at Greenpeace UK.

COP questions

Hanging over the climate effort is the pandemic. The coronavirus has already delayed COP26 by a year and questions remain over the format and timing of November’s event.

Sharma said the U.K. was planning for a “physical summit.” A virtual meeting is broadly seen as unworkable given the thousands of delegates who attend U.N. climate talks and the complexity of the negotiations.

“We are exploring every possible COVID security measure. That includes testing, vaccines and other measures to keep COP26 COVID free,” said the COP26 president, adding that plans would be shared “in due course.”

In recent private meetings, Sharma has been adamant that the talks will go ahead as planned, including with side events, according to people who have spoken with him.

“Alok was very confident. He underlined it three times in a meeting of the Friends [of COP26]” supporting experts group, said a person who took part in the conversations.

READ:  No ‘4th 90’ — Why living well is not a goal when it comes to HIV

“They are still very bullish about in-person,” said E3G CEO and COP26 adviser Nick Mabey, adding that the government saw the recent in-person G7 foreign ministers meeting “as a good dry run.”

Much however, will depend on the virus and vaccines, and the logistics of pulling it off are proving a headache. Brianna Craft, a senior researcher from the International Institute for Environment and Development, said delegates from the world’s poorest countries “don’t have much, if any, access to the vaccine.”

A targeted vaccination program for delegates raises political concerns in countries where the broader citizenry have no immediate prospect of receiving a jab.

Sharma said issues of global equality were critical for COP26, and raising finance for developing countries was “a matter of trust.”

He challenged leaders of the world’s richest countries “to feel what it is like to see developed countries invest trillions overnight to address the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst $100 billion a year that we have promised to support developing countries remains uncertain.” The U.K. government slashed its own overseas aid budget during the pandemic.

Like many U.N. climate presidents before him, Sharma has transformed from a regular politician with an undistinguished history on climate change to become an evangelist for cutting emissions. He urged leaders to “not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny.”

“Whether we like it or not, whether through action or inaction, we are now choosing the future,” he said.

Esther Webber and Kalina Oroschakoff contributed reporting.

Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email pro@politico.eu to request a complimentary trial.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-cop26-end-coal-fuel-alok-sharma/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

Shares
Share This
Finance Advice 2021