Alok Sharma stepped off the plane from Brazil on Friday, the latest stop in a punishing travel schedule that has taken him to 30 countries in seven months, and into the eye of a media storm. “The height of hypocrisy,” screamed the Daily Mail’s headline, slamming the UK president-designate of the Cop26 UN climate talks, to be hosted in Glasgow in October and November. Sharma’s crime? No quarantines, having taken advantage of the rare exemptions offered to ministers, and 200,000 air miles in the pursuit of climate diplomacy. The attacks were “froth, cheap shots and trivialising”, in the words of Tom Burke, veteran government adviser and co-founder of the E3G green thinktank. “Alok Sharma is doing a reasonable job. He needs to see people face to face, it’s the only way to do successful climate diplomacy.” The hostile headlines were just the latest in a battle that has made the Cop26 team seem gaffe-prone and bumbling. Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s press spokesperson for the talks, raised eyebrows last week when she admitted she would stick to her diesel car, rather than go electric. She also appeared to suggest people could join the Green party to fight the climate crisis, and well-meaning advice to save resources by not rinsing dishes and freezing leftover bread drew more ridicule. The government leaders around the world whose actions and goodwill will determine whether Cop26 succeeds or fails will be looking much deeper. “They want to see if they can trust Boris Johnson,” says Burke. “They want to know if they can do a deal.” Underneath the surface, Cop26 is progressing both much better and much worse than recent antics would suggest. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, insisted on slashing overseas aid, a disastrous signal to developing countries desperate for the rich world to honour a pledge of $100bn a year to help them cut emissions and cope with the extreme weather. Boris Johnson has failed to make an impact, devoting more time at the G7 to rows over sausages than climate diplomacy, while hailing Margaret Thatcher for closing coalmines. And foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been almost silent. At home, the UK’s performance has dismayed green experts: the green homes grant was scrapped; the 2030 deadline for phasing out fossil-fuel cars has been attacked; the net zero strategy, heat and buildings strategy, and hydrogen strategy are all delayed; incentives for electric cars slashed; and ministers appear set on pressing ahead with licensing new oil and gas fields. Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the Observer: “We’re not idly sleepwalking into climate and ecological breakdown, we’re sprinting into it. We don’t need any more of the prime minister’s half-measures and empty rhetoric. The government must stop pouring support into climate-wrecking projects, by withdrawing $1bn for a gas megaproject in Mozambique and rejecting plans for a new oilfield off the coast of Shetland. Any less, and he’ll be the laughing stock at the UN climate talks.”
Guardian 7th Aug 2021 read more »
The world will soon face “catastrophe” from climate breakdown if urgent action is not taken, the British president of vital UN climate talks has warned. Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of the Cop26 talks to be held in Glasgow this November, told the Observer that the consequences of failure would be “catastrophic”: “I don’t think there’s any other word for it. You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.” But Sharma also insisted the UK could carry on with fossil-fuel projects, in the face of mounting criticism of plans to license new oil and gas fields. He defended the government’s record on plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which have been heavily criticised by the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change, and dismissed controversies over his travel schedule.
Guardian 7th Aug 2021 read more »
A CROWDFUNDER launched to help activists in danger of being excluded from the COP26 conference has passed the halfway mark of its target in just two weeks. More than £11,000 has been raised to help those on the frontlines of the climate crisis overcome Home Office barriers to enter the UK. The crowdfunder aims to raise £20,000 to support 200 activists from countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia with their visa applications to come to Glasgow in November. The COP26 Coalition, which is behind the initiative, said it was necessary because of the problems navigating the UK Home Office’s “unjust” immigration system to obtain a visit visa.
The National 8th Aug 2021 read more »