'Lot of work' before climate summit, host Britain admits

Britain's COP26 president Alok Sharma holds a news conference at the end of the pre-COP26 climate meeting in Milan, Italy, on 2 October, 2021

Nations have "a lot of work to do" in the weeks left before the COP26 climate summit, host Britain said Saturday as calls for greater ambition and more cash to fight warming grew.

The Glasgow summit, which opens on 31 October and which was delayed a year by the pandemic, is being billed by observers as crucial for the continued viability of the Paris climate deal.

The 2015 accord committed nations to limit global warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius through sweeping emissions cuts and to gun for a safer cap of 1.5C.

But in the six years since the landmark deal, greenhouse gas emissions have continued rising along with disasters such as drought, flooding and storms supercharged by rising temperatures.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, at the end of a preparatory meeting of ministers in Milan, said there was a "real sense of urgency" among nations to accelerate their emissions cutting plans.

"I do not underestimate the amount of work which is required," Sharma told reporters.

"There was a consensus we need to collectively do more... and a number of parties pointed out it's on all of us but particularly for the G20 nations," which produce 80 per cent of all manmade emissions.

"Everybody acknowledges that Glasgow is likely to be a critical point for setting ambition for the next decade," Sharma said.

There are several potential sticking points for COP26 delegates.

As well as finalising the Paris deal "rulebook" -- including rules governing carbon market and unified reporting timeframes -- countries need to redouble their efforts to slash carbon pollution.

The UN says that emissions need to fall more than 7 per cent annually by 2030 in order to keep 1.5C within reach.

However, an assessment last month showed that even the most up-to-date national emissions cutting plans -- known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs -- put Earth on course to warm a "catastrophic" 2.7C this century.

Some signatories to Paris, notably Russia and Saudi Arabia, have been openly reticent to endorse the 1.5C goal, preferring instead to emphasise the "well below" 2C target.

Without naming names, US climate envoy John Kerry on Saturday said that "'well below' means well below, contrary to some who are trying to assert that 2C was the target."

"The common sense meaning of that is that it's not 1.9 or 1.8, or 1.7C."

Money, money, money

Frans Timmermans, the European Union's deputy climate chief said he expected major emitters India and China to submit more ambitious climate plans in the run up to Glasgow.

"There can be no doubt in anybody's mind that we are fighting for the survival of humanity and that the climate crisis and the threat of ecocide are the biggest threats humanity faces," he said.

"The world is really coming to terms with the fact that we need to act and act now and I expect also India and China to make a substantial contribution to keep us within reach of 1.5C."

Also awaiting attendees in Glasgow is the issue of how the fight against climate change is paid for.

Nations already battered by climate disasters are demanding that rich emitters at COP26 finally make good on a decade-old promise to provide $ 100 billion each year for them to green their economies and adapt to rising temperatures.

Andreas Sieber, policy coordinator at the Climate Action Network, said that in order for Glasgow to get off on the right foot, a forthcoming climate finance plan "must show how developed countries will meet and exceed the promise of $100bn in climate finance".

He said rich emitters must also compensate vulnerable countries for "past shortfalls" in climate finance.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa described the Milan discussions among around 50 nations as "productive".

"The world needs a signal of strong ambition and courageous leadership from all to reach a success in Glasgow," she said on Twitter.