The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), originally scheduled to be held in Britain in November, has been postponed a year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

COP26 was supposed to have been an important conference for pushing forward the Paris Agreement, an international framework for dealing with global warming, which marks its implementation this year. 

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, time is of the essence in strengthening measures against global warming.

Alok Sharma, the British secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, who also serves as minister for COP26, submitted a message to The Asahi Shimbun about what the international community should work toward.


We are at a turning point for our planet. As we recover from COVID-19, governments across the world are putting in place packages to revive their economies.

The decisions we make now will determine whether the planet builds back greener and more resilient for future generations to come.

As hosts of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, taking place in November 2021, we want to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions, by urging all countries to invest in a green recovery which addresses the urgent and linked challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and public health.

Since March, the British government has taken further concrete action toward building a sustainable future. And through our COP presidency, in addition to the primary task of taking forward the multilateral negotiations, we will focus on taking action in five key areas: clean transport, energy transitions, nature-based solutions, adaptation and resilience, and finance.

We must clean up the air we breathe by promoting cleaner transport. Global emissions from road transport are rising faster than in any other sector, as cars and vans account for 7 percent of global vehicle sales. The most optimistic estimates forecast electric vehicles to make up over half of global new car sales by 2040.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, virtually all new car sales need to be zero emission by that date. Britain’s aim is to at least double the pace of this global transition: so that all new cars and vans are zero emission by 2040 or earlier. Britain and some other countries are already committed to this goal.

The British government is also spending 2 billion pounds (about 280 billion yen or $2.7 billion) to create a new era for cycling and walking, ordering over 4,000 new zero emission buses, and investing 500 million pounds (about 70 billion yen) in new infrastructure for electric vehicles.

With some of the biggest automakers in the world located here, we’d like to invite Japan to join us in implementing this rapid transition to zero emission vehicles.

The transition to a clean energy future needs accelerating. Just this month, British Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a 3 billion pounds (about 420 billion yen) commitment to improve the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals across Britain and to create 140,000 green jobs.

The scheme for homes includes a voucher program for lower-income households so the benefits of having a greener home is not exclusive. Recently Britain experienced our longest period without coal since the Industrial Revolution--almost 90 days with just a small amount of coal generation interrupting that period.

As recently as 2012, coal was 40 percent of our energy mix. Energy transitions can happen quickly provided we invest in clean energy alternatives and put in place strong enabling policy.

Rapid clean energy and clean transport transitions are needed in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement

All the five areas we are taking action on ahead of COP26 are obviously important for the health of our planet, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that a green recovery makes economic sense too. The International Energy Agency has found that $1 trillion (about 107 trillion yen) of investment in renewable energy sources over the next three years could create 9 million green jobs.

And we know that wind or solar is now the cheapest source of new electricity generation for more than two-thirds of the world’s population. And by 2030 they will undercut existing coal and gas production almost everywhere.

Britain has demonstrated that green growth is possible--since 1990 we have grown our economy by 75 percent, while cutting emissions by 43 percent.

We must continue to build on this positive progress, and we will do so using the Paris Agreement and U.N. Sustainable Development goals as guiding frameworks for a green recovery.

We call on other countries to join us, and we will work with our international partners to ensure these five key areas are embedded in sustainable and inclusive recovery packages across the world’s largest nations. We want to ensure that the benefits of green recovery are accessible to the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Together, we can use the opportunity to build back better and greener to unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement, set the planet on an accelerated trajectory toward meeting our climate change commitments, and contribute to our economic recovery.

We look forward to working with Japan to enable rapid global transition to a cleaner world.

We must use the time ahead of COP26 to unite behind a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy for both our people and planet. We do not have time to waste.