The lights are flashing red on the climate dashboard, the president of COP26 said this morning at the opening of the climate talks in Glasgow.
But Alok Sharma, a former UK energy secretary, deflected earlier questions from journalists about the prospect of a new oil field off Shetland.
Speaking at the opening session of COP26 this morning, he referred to the target agreed at previous COP talks in Paris to keep temperature rise within 1.5C:
“We know that the window to keep within 1.5C within reach is closing”.
But asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether approval of the Cambo oil field would damage the UK’s credibility of climate change, he said even a net zero economy would need some oil and gas.
The COP26 president said the country would have to “wait and see” whether the oil field was approved. He said:
“That’s not my decision, that’s not my role”.
And he stressed:
“In terms of oil and gas, we’ve been very clear, we’ve said in terms of granting any future licences there will be a climate compatibility checkpoint.”
Yesterday Alok Sharma’s speech to a youth conference was interrupted by protests about Cambo.
In his opening speech, Alok Sharma said countries at the COP26 would “succeed or fail as one”.
“If we act now and we act together we can protect our precious planet. So, let’s come together in these two weeks and ensure that where Paris promised, Glasgow delivered.
“We know that this COP26 is our last best hope to keep 1.5 in reach.
“We need to hit the ground running. That work starts today.”
“Last chance saloon” and “moment of truth”
The importance of COP26 was stressed by world leaders in Rome at the G20 meeting of major economies.
Prince Charles said:
“Quite literally it is the last chance saloon. We must now translate fine words into still finer actions.”
The “future of humanity and nature herself is at stake”, he said.
“It is surely time to set aside our differences and grasp this unique opportunity to launch a substantial green recovery by putting the global economy on a confident sustainable trajectory and thus save our planet.”
Boris Johnson said COP26 would be “the world’s moment of truth. It could be “the beginning of the end of climate change.”
“The question everyone is asking is whether we seize this moment or let it slip away.”
“Get in line, or get out of the way”
Back in Glasgow at the COPO26 opening session, India Logan-Riley, an indigenous climate activist from Aoteroa (New Zealand), shared her experience of wildfires in her region.
She said she was as old as the COP climate talks and yet, in her lifetime, carbon emissions and sea levels had continued to rise. She accused the global north, colonial governments and corporations of “fudging the future”.
Indigenous peoples had stopped fossil fuel projects amounting to a quarter of annual emissions, she said.
“What we do works.
“We know what we are doing. If you are not willing to back us, you are complicit in the death and destruction.
“Get in line, or get out of the way”.
“Pivotal movement in history”
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, told the opening session:
“We stand at a pivotal point in history. Humanity faces several stark but clear choices. We either choose to achieve rapid and large-scale reductions of emissions to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C— or we accept that humanity faces a bleak future on this planet.
“Success at COP26 is entirely possible. Success is possible because we have the platform for action. The Paris Agreement is a covenant of hope with humanity.”
“We have run out of excuses”
Abdulla Shahid, president of the UN General Assembly, said: “We have run out of excuses. It is time to do the right thing.
“We have the sciences, we have the resources, we agree on the urgency. What then is holding us back? Only one variable remains. Us. We have to choose the hard but necessary actions we have to listen to the science and our global populations
“Let us get it done.”
Susan Aitkin, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said the city was proud to host what she called “a pivotal moment for the planet”.
“Like the rest of the world we’ll be watching – and judging. Our demands and expectations of you will be high.
“But we’ll also be cheering you on and wishing you all the heart and courage you need for the task ahead.”
DrillOrDrop’s reporting from COP26 has been made possible by individual donations from readers