'Running out of time': Alok Sharma calls on rich countries to improve climate plans ahead of COP26

COP26 President Alok Sharma has warned that world leaders will either succeed as one or fail together as they tackle climate change, reports ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana

The world is “running out of time” to tackle climate change, according to COP26 president Alok Sharma, who warned that even limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will leave 700 million people experiencing “extreme heat” and destroy 70% of the world’s coral reefs.

Two degrees would leave the world with no coral reefs and leave two billion facing extreme heat, he added.

Speaking on the first day of the major climate summit in Glasgow, Sharma called on some of the biggest economies like China and rich countries like Australia to put forward more ambitious climate plans during the 12-day conference.

He admitted he was disappointed with China's latest plan, as he said countries still have time to "step up", and publish new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) this week.

“I would like to see every country show more ambition”.

Is the COP26 President "terrified" of the world warming by 1.5C, and the disastrous consequences that would bring?

The summit president also said:

  • That prominent members of the Royal family like the Queen, Prince Charles and William could be key to persuading countries to do more, saying: “I think their voices are really important in terms of getting people to raise their game, when members of the Royal family speak… people do listen.”

  • He warned that some countries like low lying islands in the Pacific were literally going to disappear if nations fail to come together in Glasgow.

  • Admitted he had changed his lifestyle, including giving up meat a few months ago, after his vegetarian daughter urged him to do so to try to help the environment.

Sharma has argued that COP26 is a chance to keep the hope of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees “alive” but updated country plans to reduce emissions put forward by over 100 countries will only take four gigatons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere by 2030.

To be on track for 1.5 degrees 28 gigatons are needed.

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“I keep reminding colleagues around the world [that] to keep that 1.5 degrees within reach, we need to halve emissions between now and 2030,” said Sharma.

“So, if there is a gap in terms of where we are in terms of commitments and where we need to be in terms of our ambition, then we are going to have to address that at this COP."

And yet out of the G20, Australia has failed to improve its country plan, while Brazil and Mexico have submitted less ambitious proposals to their previous plans. China, meanwhile, the biggest emitter in the world, has failed to increase its targets in any significant manner.

“I hope that [China] would be more ambitious,” he added, “I’ve been pushing for ambition from every single country that I have spoken to. This is an opportunity for China and other of the biggest nations to show leadership.

"We're at Halloween... this is an opportunity to leave the ghouls, the ghosts in the past and look to the future"

“We're at Halloween and what I would say to every country is that this is an opportunity to leave the ghouls that ghosts have in the past and look to the future.”

Sharma said there was good news to point to, arguing that the world was heading to six degrees before the 2015 Paris agreement – and that now – with net 0 ambitions the world could get to 2 degrees.

“When we took on this role of the presidency, less than 30% of the world economy was covered by a net zero target. We're now at 80%,” he said. “Almost all the G20 nations, the biggest economies in the world now have a net zero target for the middle of the century.

"So, we've made progress, but absolutely there's much more to do.”

In full: COP26 President Alok Sharma sits down with ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana