The importance of climate action: Op-Ed by UK Ambassador to Armenia John Gallagher

John Gallagher

By John Gallagher, UK Ambassador to Armenia

At the start of November, the UK – together with our partner Italy – will host a global conference widely believed to be the world’s best opportunity to agree lasting commitments to manage the risk of catastrophic climate change. For nearly three decades, the UN has brought together almost every country for ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) global climate summits. The UK is proud to hold the current Presidency and to host the 26th of these summits – COP26 – in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

The need to address climate change has never been more urgent. The Paris Agreement in 2015 was a huge breakthrough, with every country agreeing to work together to limit global warming to below 2 degrees (aiming for 1.5 degrees) compared to pre-industrial levels, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to commit government funding to deliver on these aims. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’ – setting out how much they would reduce their emissions. Governments agreed to return with an updated plan every five years reflecting their highest possible ambition at that time. This year’s summit in Glasgow (delayed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic) is the key moment when countries will submit their plans for reducing emissions.

As significant as the Paris Agreement was, the window is closing for the world to achieve its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Progress is already being made. Around 70% of the world economy is now covered by net zero targets, up from less than 30% when the UK took on the Presidency of COP26. The next decade to 2030 will be crucial to setting a sustainable trajectory.

Domestically, the UK is committed to playing our part. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last year the UK’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, marking an accelerated shift to renewable sources of energy and putting the UK on course to eradicate our contribution to climate change by 2050.

Over the last 30 years the UK economy has grown by 78% while cutting emissions by 44%. This shows that green growth is realistic and achievable.

In 2012, 40% of the UK’s electricity came from coal. Last year that figure fell to 1.6%. This shows that genuine change is possible in a relatively short period of time. The UK was the first country to pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 – we will completely phase out coal power by 2024 and will end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

Climate action is not a choice between cleaning up the environment and growing our economies. Clean growth presents the most significant economic growth opportunity of the 21st century. Solar and wind are already cheaper than coal power in two thirds of the world, and are predicted to undercut coal and gas almost everywhere by 2030. A green and resilient recovery from Covid-19 will create employment in industries of the future, while addressing the urgent and linked challenges of public health, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

Armenia has its own important role to play in achieving these global targets. We welcome the Government of Armenia’s commitment to accelerate its initial target of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2050, bringing this forward to 2030. Armenia has recently updated its NDCs to include a pledge to achieve zero-carbon energy generation by 2050. The updated NDCs include ambitious commitments to increase the share of solar energy 17-fold to 15% and the share of zero emission sources in total energy generation to 54% by 2030. The government has also made a commitment to forestry as an important element of climate change adaptation, setting a renewed target to double forest cover from 11% to 22% by 2050.

The UK has been engaging closely with Armenia on climate ambition, including on setting ambitious NDC targets. We have facilitated enhanced cooperation between Armenian and UK Nuclear Regulatory Authorities. UK companies are also supporting clean energy initiatives with Yerevan municipality. During her visit to Armenia in February, Wendy Morton MP, UK Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, hosted a roundtable meeting of experts and government to discuss the implementation of Armenia’s Climate Ambition and to explore Clean Energy Finance. We will continue to expand our engagement over the coming years.

The UK is fully committed to securing the agreement of a comprehensive, ambitious, and balanced set of negotiated global outcomes at COP26. There remains much work to be done. Climate change will remain a shared global challenge. Every country in the world needs to take action to secure the future of our planet for generations to come. As a likeminded and ambitious COP26 partner, I look forward to continuing the close engagement between the UK and Armenia to make these ambitions a reality.

Read the article in Armenian.

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