COP26 chief urges transparency from governments to make good on climate pledges

By on 16/01/2022 | Updated on 04/02/2022
COP26 president Alok Sharma
COP26 president Alok Sharma. Photo UN Climate Change flickr page

The president of COP26 Alok Sharma has urged leaders to be open and transparent on the delivery of climate commitments made at last year’s summit in Glasgow.

Speaking before a select committee at the UK House of Lords this week, Sharma, who holds the post of president due to the UK presidency, said he was working with Egypt, which will host this year’s COP27 negotiations, to hold leaders to standards of accountability regarding their goals of cutting methane emissions, addressing deforestation, and driving the development of clean technologies.

“We now have to work together with our colleagues in Egypt to hold the COP27 presidency, to ensure that there is a delivery plan, so that all these commitments that have been made do actually come to fruition,” he said. “That is what we are working on during this year.”

Following COP26, Sharma said a slimmed down team within the Cabinet Office of around 140 to 150 people would be expected to work on the agenda this year in partnership with the Egyptian presidency.

A ‘global stocktake’ of climate commitments

Deputy lead negotiator of COP26, Alison Campbell, set out details of what she called the “pressure and transparency mechanisms” that would be used to ensure countries stick to their global temperature changes.

In addition to the COPs, Campbell said global leaders are expected to come together in 2023 for what she called a “global stocktake”, convened by the UN secretary general, to assess national-level progress towards achieving global temperatures of 1.5 degrees and the Paris temperature goals.

“For the first time, we’ll be able to see which countries have come forward with those long term targets, and how they’re aligning them with their 2030 targets,” Campbell said. “We’ll have a technical process underpinning that, and we’ll be able to also look at it at a political level.”

Sharma responded by adding that countries whose nationally determined contributions – in which governments set out their pledges to reduce emissions in five year increments – would need to show a clear plan for delivering on their goals, particularly through sectoral initiatives.

On countries whose ambitions fall short, he said: “There are a set of countries that, frankly, have submitted so far sub-standard NDCs, and we would want to see improvements from them. I think the approach that we take will be different depending on where a particular country is in terms of its current NDC.”

Asked whether he felt empowered to revise the 2030 emissions targets agreed to by leaders at COP26 by the end of the year, Sharma emphasised the importance of continuing to engage with “like-minded countries”. “It’s not just the UK pushing together with Egypt, but actually getting other partners as well, to encourage countries to do that,” he said.

Asked about the UK government’s own intentions towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Sharma said government would take a cross-department approach, highlighting the work of the Energy Transition Council with departments including the [Department for] Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department of Transport on carbon reduction commitments.

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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