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Science

UK Pushing Ahead with Plans for in Person COP26

LONDON — The U.K. official leading preparations for the COP26 climate conference reiterated Thursday the intention to hold the delayed summit in person despite the continuing problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Alok Sharma, the U.K.'s president-designate of COP26, said "every possible" measure was being explored, including around COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, to ensure the talks could be held safely.

In less than six months' time delegates from across the world are due to arrive in Glasgow for the United Nations' annual conference.

The summit was originally set for November 2020, but the pandemic forced it to be postponed for a year. A year on, there are still issues, and limits on international travel remain in place.

"For me it is vital that developing countries are able to sit at the same table, face-to-face with the larger countries, the big emitters," Sharma said. "The desire for (an in-person summit) is what I've been hearing loud and clear from governments and communities around the world."

Sharma said the world had not done "nearly enough" to act on the commitments of the Paris climate accord, which was first agreed at COP21 in 2016.

The treaty seeks to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.

The president-designate said COP26 was the "last hope" to keep that commitment.

"We have come to the moment of truth," Sharma said. "This is our last hope of keeping 1.5 degrees alive, our best chance of building a brighter future. future of green jobs and cleaner air.

"I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion, and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny."

Climate activists around the world have remained skeptical about governments' efforts to live up to the Paris agreement, reflected in continued protests and campaigns.

April saw some of the world's largest emitters set out their latest goals for reductions in their carbon output.

Sharma also said he hoped the conference would be the moment coal power is left "in the past where it belongs."

"The science is clear that to keep 1.5 degrees alive, coal must go," Sharma said, calling for Group of 7 countries to lead the way and support developing nations in transitions to cleaner energy.

Having previously refused to step in, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government in March intervened in plans to build a new coal mine in Cumbria, northwest England.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick ordered a public inquiry which is due to be held in September, less than two months before COP26, which will run Nov. 1-12.

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