Petersberg Climate Dialogue: Alok Sharma rallies for global net-zero transition policies

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and COP26 President, Alok Sharma, spoke at the 11th Petersberg Climate Dialogue to call on nations to "set clear targets and policies" that are aligned to a rapid net-zero transition and will stimulate green economic growth.

Petersberg Climate Dialogue: Alok Sharma rallies for global net-zero transition policies

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue takes place over two days. Photo: BMU/Christoph Wehrer 2020.

While all nations are rightly focused on combatting the immediate coronavirus crisis, the COP26 President Alok Sharma has also reiterated that policymakers can’t “lose sight of the huge challenges of climate change”.

Sharma was speaking the High-Level Stakeholder Session for the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which the UK, as incoming COP26 presidency, is co-hosting with Germany. It is the 11th iteration of the event and the first to be held as a video conference due to restrictions imposed as part of the global coronavirus response.

“While we rightly focus on fighting the immediate crisis of the Coronavirus, we must not lose sight of the huge challenges of climate change,” Sharma said.

“We all know that climate risks are growing year by year. And the steps we take now to rebuild our economies can have a profound impact on our societies’ future sustainability, resilience and, ultimately, wellbeing of humans, but of course, nature as well.”

Much of the focus at the conference will be on the EU’s Green New Deal. The EU has already claimed that green finance will be ‘key focus’ of its post-coronavirus recovery phase and a transition fund worth €100bn has been set up alongside a series of new sector policies to ensure all industries are able to decarbonise without causing socio-economic disruptions.

And while responses to Covid-19 are high on the political agenda, the Climate Dialogue is a reminder that world nations are still committed to combatting the long-term threat of climate change. Sharma and the UK Government’s task is to convince others to join them on the net-zero transition.

Focus areas

Specifically, Sharma outlined that net-zero energy and net-zero transport would be two key of the “key campaigns” the UK would focus on in the build-up to COP26, which still doesn’t have a set date after being delayed until 2021.

Globally, the cost of solar has fallen by almost 90% while the cost of wind has halved since 2010. For two-thirds of the global economy, renewables are now cheaper than coal.

In the UK, just 2% of the nation’s electricity generation came from coal in 2019, compared to around 40% eight years ago.

Transport is further behind on the decarbonisation transition, but electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to account for more than half of global car sales by 2040 and will significantly penetrate the global bus, van, truck and passenger car markets faster than previously envisioned.

Despite these positive steps, Sharma called for all nations to up efforts to decarbonise these sectors.

“Now, I do believe that actually the more countries that set clear targets and policies in line with this rapid transition that I’ve talked about, the faster investment will shift towards new technologies, and the faster their costs will come down. We’ve seen that in renewables and we want to see that when it comes to vehicles as well,” Sharma said.

“Faster transitions in power and transport will absolutely have far-reaching consequences and we all understand that. Cheap and clean power, and the scaling up of batteries and fuel cells in road transport, will absolutely open new pathways to decarbonisation in industry, buildings, aviation and shipping. And we are only just beginning to experience the benefits of a clean economy, and we need to move much more quickly towards it.”

Matt Mace

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