COP26: Alok Sharma must get China, Australia and Brazil to raise short-term climate targets

Chris Stark, chief executive of a committee set up to advise ministers on climate change, tells Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana world leaders need more ambitious targets for the short term

Alok Sharma must persuade countries like China, Australia and Brazil to raise their game within 12 months if there is any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees, the chief executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee has warned.

Chris Stark told ITV News that Mr Sharma must call out nations that came to Glasgow without raising short-term climate targets enough - adding Russia, Indonesia and Mexico to the list.

In an interview as the summit closed this weekend, he said the next 12 months – during which Britain retains the COP presidency - will be critical if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming.

He argued the Glasgow Climate Pact, which was agreed at COP26, was an “ambitious” deal but “even more ambition is needed”. 

Alok Sharma President of the Cop26 climate summit, raises his hands after his speech of the closing plenary Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

The chief executive of the committee, set up to advise ministers on climate change, called on Mr Sharma and his team to use the rest of the COP presidency to pile pressure on countries who had failed to do enough.

Mr Stark said: “We need a 40-45% reduction in emissions (by 2030). We are nowhere near that right now.

"Alok Sharma needs to use the next 12 months to build the case for more ambition in 2030 – and interestingly there is enough positive energy to think that could happen."

A number of countries have been criticised for failing to sufficiently improve their short-term climate targets- known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) - ahead of COP26.

Among G20 countries, China barely improved its ambition since 2015. Australia, Russia and Brazil stood still, while Mexico actually weakened its targets.

Mr Stark said it was hugely positive to see countries across the world raise their long-term ambitions on climate change, with dozens setting net zero targets in recent months.

But scientists have made clear that limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees required action this decade.

Mr Stark said, “1.5 degrees is just about in play and that is pretty remarkable”, and argued he didn’t think that would be possible before 197 countries met in Glasgow, but warned the gap is still huge.

“You can’t magic up commitments – 2030 commitments – that is what we need. There is a huge role for UK- we are calling on the COP unit to build that ambition.”

The key was to make sure “those that haven’t come armed with ambitious targets now, do so (by COP27 in Egypt) so we can point to a well-evidenced pathway to 1.5.”

Credit: PA

Mr Stark said he didn’t know if the world would stay below 1.5 degrees, calling it just about possible but hugely difficult.

He said if promises made in Glasgow are actually kept, that could limit heating to 2 degrees, but warned that would still be disastrous.

Under that scenario, he warned that “a billion people will face heat stress” where the body stops being able to stay cool.

“We need to aim to 1.5,” he said. “This deal is not enough – we need another COP and another after that – but Glasgow has raised the ambition level to something closer to where we need to be.”