Ministers dampen expectations before COP26 climate summit: George Eustice says it will be ‘difficult to get progress’ as Xi Jinping says he WILL take part but only by video link and dashes hopes of breakthrough by restating old climate goals
- The UN COP26 climate change summit gets underway in Glasgow on Sunday
- World leaders will meet in city to hammer out plan to reduce harmful emissions
- Environment Secretary George Eustice said it will be ‘difficult to get progress’
- China dashed hopes of major breakthrough after it restated its old climate goals
- President Xi Jinping will not attend summit in person but will speak via video link
George Eustice today warned it will be ‘difficult to get progress’ at the crunch COP26 climate change summit amid growing fears the gathering of world leaders will fail to deliver a major breakthrough.
The Environment Secretary said he is ‘nervous’ about whether the summit will ‘get things over the line’ when it starts in Glasgow on Sunday.
His comments came as China confirmed President Xi Jinping will not be attending the meeting in person but will address his counterparts via video link.
However, China has dashed hopes of significant progress being made at the summit after it recommitted to its old climate goals and failed to set out any additional ones.
China is the biggest emitter of CO2 in the world and its formal submission ahead of COP26 restated its goal of achieving ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2060 despite other nations urging Beijing to go further.
China confirmed President Xi Jinping will not be attending the meeting in in person but will address his counterparts via video link
Downing Street prepared for the summit, due to get underway in Glasgow on Sunday, by lighting up a green arch over the famous Number 10 door
The main aim of the summit, which will run from October 31 to November 12, is to persuade countries to agree to take action to restrict global warming to nothing more than 1.5 degrees.
Boris Johnson previously hailed COP26 as a major moment, saying in September that ‘this is the most important period I think now in the history of the planet – because COP simply must succeed’.
However, expectations appear to have now been dampened, with the Prime Minister saying earlier this week that it will be ‘touch and go’ on whether progress will be made.
Mr Eustice told Sky News that it is always difficult to agree big changes at large-scale events attended by many nations.
He said: ‘These events, because they are big, multi-lateral events with many countries, it is often difficult to get progress.
‘We have been working incredibly hard though on our agenda which is getting more countries to commit to net zero by the middle of the century, getting commitments on decarbonising transport, particularly electrification of cars.
‘And in my case working quite hard on a package around forests, mobilising finance and getting agreement on reducing and halting the net loss of forests around the world.
‘So I am optimistic about these agendas. But always, obviously, when we are in the final days in the build up to it you do get nervous about whether you will get things over the line, certain agreements over the line.
‘There is more to be done at the actual summit itself. I am optimistic but it is, as the Prime Minister said, touch and go.
Mr Johnson said on Monday that he was ‘worried’ the COP26 summit could end in failure.
The Prime Minister said a deal between world leaders on reducing harmful emissions ‘can be done’ but it is going to be ‘very, very tough’.
Mr Johnson said he is concerned the UN summit could ‘go wrong’ and it will be ‘touch and go’ whether an agreement can be hammered out.
The UK has set out a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and is urging other countries to follow suit.
The PM’s comments came after reports last week that Alok Sharma, the COP26 President, was angry with Mr Johnson for talking up the summit as a make or break moment for the planet.
It was claimed that Mr Sharma was ‘raging’ at the PM for building up expectations amid Cabinet fears it could be a ‘damp squib’.
Some ministers believed the Government’s messaging ahead of the summit has been too bullish and was ‘completely out of control’. Allies of Mr Sharma denied that he was angry with the PM.