London — The UK government has invited countries to prepare announcements of stronger climate commitments ahead of a planned virtual international climate summit Dec. 12.
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The call from the UK government comes amid a one-year delay to the United Nations COP26 climate summit due to the coronavirus pandemic, which was rescheduled to November 2021.
"Even though COP26 has been postponed, we need to act now to fulfil our Paris Agreement commitments," the UK's business and energy secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma said in a statement Oct. 29.
The UK is calling for new, more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions – the climate targets and action plans that each country is expected to submit voluntarily under the Paris deal.
It also called for long-term strategies setting out each country's pathway to net-zero emissions; climate finance commitments to support the most vulnerable; and ambitious climate adaptation plans and underlying policies.
The UK has asked countries to submit pre-recorded statements to air at the summit, detailing their increased climate commitments.
"We must all maintain our focus on increasing ambition, and there will be no space for general statements," said Sharma.
"Announcements must show genuine progress from existing policies and Paris targets. We will give priority to the most transformational commitments put forward," he said.
The Paris goals require the world to halve global emissions over the next decade and to rapidly adapt to a warming climate, Sharma said.
"Current NDCs put us on track for 3 degrees warming. This is simply unacceptable. We must close the gap," he said.
Stronger emissions reduction targets from governments point to growth in low-carbon energy and technologies, such as renewable energy, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and clean transport fuels, while creating headwinds for high-carbon energy such as coal, lignite, oil and natural gas.
Several major economies have ramped up their climate commitments in recent weeks.
The European Commission on Sept. 17 proposed increasing the EU's 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to at least 55% below 1990 levels, from the existing 40% target – with the EU expecting to reach agreement on the goal before the end of 2020.
China's leader Xi Jinping pledged Sept. 22 that China will aim to reach climate neutrality by 2060 – meaning net-zero emissions – and underlined the country's existing target to halt the rise in its carbon emissions by 2030.
Japan announced Oct. 26 that it will cut its emissions to net-zero by 2050, with major implications for consumption of coal in the country – the world's third largest economy.
A host of smaller countries have also raised their climate ambition recently, including Jamaica, the Marshall Islands, Norway, Moldova and Chile, Sharma said in the statement.
"I am asking today, that you join them by coming forward with enhanced ambition in December," he said.
"It is clear that recovery from COVID-19 and climate ambition are not mutually exclusive. Member states can build back better by embedding their climate commitments into COVID-19 recovery packages, taking advantage of the plummeting cost of renewables, and the opportunities for our societies that green and resilient growth brings," Sharma said.