Alok Sharma: The Cop26 must not become “a bunch of empty promises” | Climate crisis

Tackling the climate crisis must be a whole-of-government effort, otherwise the COP26 climate summit will become “just a bunch of crazy promises,” said the minister who chaired the summit. UN.

Alok Sharma, who served as Cop26 chairman in November, made it clear that all his colleagues must take joint responsibility for the UK’s net zero agenda and that the international community sees UK efforts continuing. United as vital.

“As people see that the UK has shown great international leadership on climate matters, it is important that we maintain this focus throughout the UK government,” he told the Guardian in an interview. “When it comes to domestic politics, it is essential that every country, including the UK, focus on delivery.”

Without a focus on net zero on the part of the government, there was a risk that progress in Glasgow would be jeopardized, Sharma said.

“What people will judge us on, as they will judge other governments as well, is the delivery. [on climate goals]”Said Sharma.” The key issue is to show that countries are fulfilling [their Cop26] commitments and they don’t waver. This is what will give confidence to the parties [to the Paris agreement], climate vulnerable countries, civil society, but also globally, that we are making progress on promises – that it’s not just a bunch of meaningless promises, that there is a real commitment to keep them as well.

The UK continues to act as chairman of the ongoing diplomatic effort to fulfill the 2015 Paris Agreement until Egypt takes over next November. Sharma is likely to retain the role until then, although he is not attracted by rumors of proposals he would head a new cross-cutting government department to oversee net zero.

Sharma’s passionate net zero intervention comes at a critical time for the government’s commitment to the climate crisis. As Boris Johnson has been embroiled in a scandal over the Downing Street parties and the bashing allegations, rival camps have sought to distance themselves from Johnson’s green targets, in order to woo the right wing of the Conservative Party, making zero net effort a major flash point.

Questions and answers

What is net zero?

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Net zero is the commitment to reduce emissions by 100% so that the UK does not produce more carbon than it removes from the atmosphere. This will need to be achieved by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases created by activities such as industrial processes, power generation, transport and intensive agriculture, while removing emissions by capturing carbon or planting more trees.

It is considered the minimum necessary to stop dangerous climate degradation raising the global temperature by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, there is a debate about how to get there, how quickly and how the costs will be distributed. The current UK government wants to achieve net zero by 2050, which will necessarily mean replacing gas boilers, switching to electric cars, improving insulation and reducing high carbon consumption like thefts and meat consumption.

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When Lord Frost recently resigned he made it known that the net zero agenda was one of his main points of disagreement with Johnson, alongside Brexit politics. As the Guardian previously revealed, there is a disagreement between Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Johnson on the climate issue, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss ostensibly failed to mention November’s Cop26 – the most great diplomatic event organized on British soil – in it first foreign policy speech earlier this month.

But Sharma said the net zero strategy was key to the government’s future. “[The question] for every saving that’s how you do it [shift to a low-carbon footing], not just one or two sectors, but the whole economy. The problem now is that we push and realize this [net zero] strategy itself. This is what we will be judged on.

Sharma, who was business secretary before Johnson ordered her to take full-time control of Cop26 last year, has made clear the role of business, a hard core of Tories that has been infuriated by Brexit and d other political confusions. The CBI and other great business voices have spoken strongly in favor of net zero, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has reportedly undergone a “conversion” from a skeptical free market to a green interventionist.

“There has been a clear shift in approach from the corporate sector,” said Sharma. “They have shown that they understand that green growth is the future and that net zero is a great opportunity.”

Although he declined to explicitly criticize reported plans to cut Foreign Ministry staff by 20%, he made his concern clear. “Given that we have said that we see tackling climate change and biodiversity as a top international priority for the UK, it is important to support this by having the right presence in our Embassies and High Commissions across the world, ”he said.

Sharma also pointed out her personal loyalty to Johnson and her own lack of interest in any leadership race. “I don’t think even my mom suggested this as a credible possibility! I have always supported the Prime Minister.

Johnson was entirely behind the net zero effort, he added. “It’s a program that he followed for a long time. I worked with him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where I was one of his deputy ministers, and this whole question of biodiversity, of the climate, that was a program he was focusing on even then- the.

Sharma said reactions to the Cop26 results became even more positive in the weeks following its close. “The comments from our counterparts around the world are that they think we have something historic on the line,” he said.

Its next task is to ensure that the world’s biggest emitters – including the major G20 economies – return to the negotiating table next year with improved and detailed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. . The prospect of keeping the global temperature at 1.5 ° C – which scientists say is the safe limit – was still uncertain. He said: “We absolutely kept him alive, but the pulse is still weak. This is why next year and the following year will be mainly devoted to advancing the fulfillment of the commitments that have been made.

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