COP26: Countries must ‘drive for the line’ to secure ambitious climate change deals, PM urges

Protesters took to the streets of Glasgow on Friday and Saturday. Credit: AP

World leaders and negotiators at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow must “pull together and drive for the line” to secure ambitious action on climate change, the prime minister has said..

As the first week of the crunch UN climate talks in Scotland comes to an end, Boris Johnson said countries must come back to the table for the second, final, week of negotiations ready to make bold compromises and ambitious commitments.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

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But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband warned the world was far off where it needed to be to keep 1.5C in reach, and urged Mr Johnson to engage directly with the talks and personally drive the negotiations forward.

The first week of the talks have seen much of the attention focus on the attendance by world leaders and announcements of countries signing up to pledges to end deforestation, end fossil fuel funding abroad, phase out coal and cut the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

But there have also been talks on a series of issues, with environment, climate, energy and other ministers arriving this week to get down to political negotiations as they enter the business end of the conference.

These include parts of the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive deal to tackle climate change agreed in the French capital in 2015, that still need finalising, on markets for trading carbon emissions, transparency over what countries are doing, and common timeframes for action.

Negotiations also continue on finance for poor countries to adapt to a changing climate and develop cleanly, and on addressing the loss and damage to people, land, livelihoods and infrastructure that will inevitably occur as a result of rising temperatures.

And negotiators are trying to hammer out a “cover decision” from Glasgow that will set out how countries will close the gap between the action to cut emissions they have pledged to take under the Paris Agreement and what is needed to avoid dangerous temperature rises of more than 1.5C.

Scores of countries, as well as UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, are pushing for accelerated action on emissions cuts this decade to keep the 1.5C goal alive.

There is a concerted drive for nations to revisit and boost their carbon-cutting efforts every year, though that is facing push back from others, who want to keep the targets as they were.

As the talks enter their second week, the UN and UK organisers face ongoing criticism about the logistics, accessibility and inclusivity of the conference, which tens of thousands of people have registered to attend.

Protesters taking part in the march in Glasgow on Saturday Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Delegates have faced daily lateral flow tests, but some have been forced to self-isolate after catching Covid-19, while there have been long queues and crowds to get into the venue, and social distancing requirements have reduced access to rooms where negotiations and other events have taken place.

On Friday and Saturday tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding climate action and a fair transition to a greener world, with campaigners taking up Greta Thunberg’s warning that the Cop26 summit is just “blah blah blah”.

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reported on Saturday on the largest protest to take place since COP26 began

On Saturday huge crowds took part in marches and rallies in Glasgow, London and hundreds of places across the UK and around the world, calling for greater climate action, after youth activists marched through the Scottish city where the talks are being held, on Friday.

Mr Johnson said: “There is one week left for Cop26 to deliver for the world, and we must all pull together and drive for the line.

“We have seen nations bring ambition and action to help limit rising temperatures, with new pledges to cut carbon and methane emissions, end deforestation, phase out coal and provide more finance to countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“But we cannot underestimate the task at hand to keep 1.5C alive.

“Countries must come back to the table this week ready to make the bold compromises and ambitious commitments needed,” he urged.

Boris Johnson is urging world leaders to make bold decisions on climate change in the coming days. Credit: PA

Mr Miliband said: “The truth after the first week of the Cop is that we remain a long way off where we need to be to realistically say we have taken the major steps required to keep 1.5 alive.”

But he said Mr Johnson was offering “empty exhortation and commentary”.

“We have a right to expect him to engage directly in these final days, personally driving these negotiations forward, pushing all the major emitters to do more, delivering the finance required for developing and vulnerable countries and ensuring we have a path out of Glasgow to keep 1.5 alive.

“He needs to step up with focus, clarity and urgency in the face of the massive task the world faces in the coming days.”

Alongside the negotiations, this week will see a focus on issues such as support for developing countries to adapt to climate change, cleaning up transport and tackling climate change in cities, regions and states.