COP26 president presents opportunities from low-carbon goals

09 March 2020

The United Nations' climate talks this year can be a moment where the world comes together to ramp up momentum towards a climate-resilient, zero-carbon economy, COP26 President Designate Alok Sharma told UN Member States at the organisation's headquarters in New York on 6 March. Sharma, who is also the UK secretary of state for business, said it was time to "send out a message of ambition and hope, that decarbonisation is the future, with huge opportunities for those who are willing to act now" and that the transition to a zero-carbon economy must be "fair and inclusive".

COP26 President Alok Sharma (Image:

"Ahead of the Summit, the UK with our partner Italy, will work not just with nations, but also cities, regions, companies, the multilateral development banks, the development finance institutions and, very importantly, civil society in all its various forms," Sharma said, according to the published text of his speech.

On 5 March, Sharma hosted a roundtable with a range of organisations and activists, including representatives from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the UN Foundation and Earth Rising. "By uniting around specific issues, we can spur innovation, scale up solutions and bring down costs. And there are some areas which need particular action in 2020," he said. These are: adaptation and resilience; nature; energy transition; accelerating the move to zero-carbon road transport; and unleashing the finance which will make all of this possible.

"We all need to invest in the innovation which will help us accelerate the transition to clean energy. But we also need to help empower developing countries to leapfrog the polluting options of the past and embrace the clean energy of the future. In my previous role as international development secretary, I saw fantastic examples of companies already doing this."

On finance, he noted that the OECD estimates that nearly USD7 trillion a year up to 2030 will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement, as well as the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Much of this funding will also need to come from the private sector, he said, and as COP26 president he said he will continue efforts to mobilise finance for developing countries, including asking others to make ambitious future international climate finance commitments. The UK has doubled its contribution to GBP11.6 billion over the period from 2021 to 2025, he added.

Multilateral Development Banks are the largest vehicle for channelling climate finance to developing countries and will have a critical role to play, along with the development finance institutions, in the build up to COP26, he said. "But to move from billions to trillions, we will need all finance to align with the Paris Agreement. Making the spirit of Paris felt in London, New York, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Shanghai and every other financial centre," he said.

Sharma and the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, recently launched the COP26 Finance Action Plan. "As Governor Carney noted, private finance is now increasingly focused on the opportunities and risks in the transition to a decarbonised economy. Every major systemic bank, the world's largest insurers, its biggest pension funds and top asset managers are backing the Taskforce for Climate related Financial Disclosures," Sharma said, adding that achieving net zero will require a whole economy transition.

The UK has grown its economy by 75% since 1990 whilst cutting emissions by 43%. That shows, Sharma said, that "green growth is absolutely possible".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News