Sharma slams India and China over COP26 deal as Tories warned 1.5C goal in ‘intensive care’

Sharma slams India and China over COP26 deal as Tories warned 1.5C goal in ‘intensive care’

COP26 President Alok Sharma has warned India and China they will have to “justify” themselves to vulnerable nations after a vital climate agreement was watered down.

The top Tory said the COP26 agreement signed by nearly 200 countries was a “fragile win” but admitted disappointment at failing to strike a more ambitious pact.

He was warned by Labour that the critical goal of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C was “in intensive care” – and countries had just 12 months to show the target could be saved.

Mr Sharma was visibly emotional when crunch talks concluded on Saturday, with a new “Glasgow Pact” to force countries to do more to battle climate change.

But the deal was criticised by campaigners for watering down wording on use of coal, which was shifted from “phase out” to “phase down” use of the world’s dirtiest fuel.

Protesters at the COP26 summit in Glasgow
Getty Images)

Mr Sharma said it was a historic first to include reference to coal in the text but admitted there was “disappointment” that the text had been changed amid opposition from India and China.

“Of course I would have liked to ensure we maintain the ‘phase out’ rather than changing the wording to ‘phase down’, but on the way to phasing out, you’ve got to phase down,” he told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday.

“But, ultimately, of course, what we need to ensure is that we continue to work on this deal, on these commitments, and on the issue of coal, China and India are going to have to justify to some of the most climate vulnerable countries what happened.

“You heard some of that disappointment on the floor. What I would say to you is that overall this is a historic agreement, we can be really proud of it but, of course, this is just the start – we now need to deliver on the commitments.”

He said he had become emotional after only getting six hours sleep over 72 hours – and investing two years of work into getting an agreement.

And he insisted that the goal of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C was still “within reach”.

But Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband warned that “keeping 1.5 degrees alive is frankly in intensive care”.

He said: “The task of the world is to halve global emissions over the coming decade, that’s by 2030, that’s what the scientists tell us is necessary to keep 1.5 degrees alive and the truth about Glasgow, despite some progress, is that the world is only probably about 20% or 25% of the way to that goal.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband

“So, there is a chasm now between where we need to be in halving global emissions and all major countries have to step up and play their part in that, and where we are.”

Mr Miliband also slammed the Tories for their manifesto-busting cut to foreign aid spending, which he said had undermined Mr Sharma’s efforts.

“I have nothing but praise for Alok Sharma … and the job he did as Cop president, but I’m afraid the rest of the Government didn’t help him and undermined him with decisions like cutting overseas aid because we were then saying to other countries ‘please step up on climate finance’, when we were stepping back on aid to poorer countries,” he said.

Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner criticised Boris Johnson, who she said “could have done more to be there and to make sure that in that room at those vital opportunities that were able to sway that opinion”.

She told the BBC Andrew Marr Show: “We have made some progress and we have to acknowledge that, but we also have to acknowledge that we failed in getting that target of 1.5 and we must keep that pressure on because it will be catastrophic for areas of the world and for our planet, so we’ve got more to do, but we have made some progress.

“We saw minister (Alok) Sharma there, doing his utmost, but Boris Johnson has undermined some of our efforts by the use of fossil fuels, the investment in that, the cutting of overseas aid.

“There’s much more that we can do as a country to set an example globally, to make sure we reach that target.”

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