finance

Alok Sharma says COP26 'keeps him awake at night'


COP26 president Alok Sharma has admitted that the UN climate summit in Glasgow is keeping him awake at night, warning that the high-level meetings represent “our last best chance of getting this right”.

He made the remarks during a session of the Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, telling MSPs that he wanted a “whole of the UK approach” to the event, which will see an estimated 200 world leaders descend on Glasgow at the start of November.

Sharma said: “What keeps me awake at night is quite a lot obviously, especially since we are less than two months to go – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that COP 26 is our last best chance of getting this right – this is a decisive decade.”

He also insisted that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would play “an important part” in the negotiations.

He also reiterated the importance of the event being held in person. “This has to be a physical event – I’ve heard from developing countries from around the world that they want to sit across the table with the developed nations and obviously look them in the eye.

“My concerns are that I want to see the biggest emitters coming forward with those emission reduction targets so we can say we kept the 1.5 degree goal alive.

“I do want to see the money come to the table; I want to see the big donor nations poning up the cash and there are obvious, complex issues from the Paris rulebook.”

He added: “A key element of this is getting the finance delivered and the mitigation targets coming forward – some developing countries will say that without finance it’s going to be pretty challenging.”


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The COP26 conference is hoping to reach a global agreement on the next steps to tackle the climate crisis.

As part of this, developed nations are expected to provide around $100bn to help developing nations reach net zero emissions targets from 2020-2025, with Sharma admitting they are still trying to put that funding package together.

During the session, he also outlined some of the plans for the event, explaining that the first two days will be a summit.

COP26 will be split into two zones, with the public only be permitted to enter the green zone, where business, charities and academics will be showcasing their work. Preparations are in place for “quite a number of Scottish led initiatives in the green zone”.

As for the blue zone, there will be a focus on the cities, regions and environment.

As for the Scottish Government’s input, Sharma said: “Prime Minister Johnson has said he wants all the First Ministers to play an important part, and there is work going on at an official level looking at this.

“I’ve said very clearly we want this to be a whole-of-the-UK approach, and I’m sure you’ll hear more shortly from the UK Government on this issue.

“In terms of the involvement of others in government in the devolved administrations, there has always been the precedence that, as part of the UK delegation, we have representation from ministers in the devolved administrations – that will absolutely happen again.”

The session also touched on the proposed Cambo oil field off the coast of Shetland, with MSPs asking questions about approving the scheme despite the UK’s climate pledge.

Lee McDonough, director general for net zero strategy and international for the UK Government, said: “The license for Cambo was granted in 2001, the developer has asked to move to the production stage of the process.

“It’s a thorough assessment that looks at the potential environmental impact with a public consultation and scrutiny by the Oil and Gas Authority is underway.

“No decision has been made – all future licenses granted will be compatible with the climate compatibility checkpoints which will come into effect later this year.”

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