Alok Sharma: ‘COP26 must consign coal to history’

The COP26 President said the government is planning for an in-person summit but was keen to highlight the safety of delegates and the local community ‘will be paramount’

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Alok Sharma has announced COP26 must spell the end of global coal power generation and permanently consign the polluting fossil fuel to history.

In a speech today held outside Glasgow at the Whitelee wind farm, the COP26 President-Designate urged policymakers, businesses and individuals to “pick the planet” and help tackle the existential threat of climate change.

He said: “We have seen wildfires in the Pennines and floods in West Lothian, all as pollution chokes our children.

“And if we do not act now, the science tells us these effects will become more frequent and more brutal. That we will witness a scale of global catastrophe, the likes of which the world has not seen, and quite rightly, future generations will hold us responsible.

“So we must demonstrate the same urgency in tackling climate change, that we are showing in fighting the coronavirus.”

In his speech, he stressed COP26 is the “world’s best chance of building a cleaner, greener future” and limiting rising global temperatures to 1.5°C. Mr Sharma said the government is planning for an in-person summit but was keen to highlight the safety of delegates and the local community “will be paramount”.

He emphasised the need to entirely phase out coal power, with the government highlighting the UK’s success thus far – only 2% of the nation’s electricity is now sourced from coal, down from 40% in 2012.

The COP26 President reinforced his four main targets: to deliver net zero by 2050, to protect people and nature. to mobilise finance to tackle climate change and to increase collaboration.

Mr Sharma said: “If we are serious about 1.5°C, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history… we are working directly with governments, and through international organisations to end international coal financing. This is a personal priority. And to urge countries to abandon coal power, with the G7 leading the way.

“The days of coal providing the cheapest form of power are in the past. And in the past they must remain… The coal business is, as the UN Secretary General has said, going up in smoke. It’s old technology. So let’s make COP26 the moment we leave it in the past where it belongs, while supporting workers and communities to make the transition. Creating good green jobs to fill the gap.”