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The Next Weeks Are Critical for Climate Diplomacy

Alok Sharma, who will lead U.N. climate talks in November, is pushing countries to make progress on finance and phasing out coal.

Protesters hold up signs during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2017, objecting to US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Photographer: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP

There’s a back-to-school feeling in the air as summer draws to a close in the northern hemisphere. Pressure is mounting on governments to secure a major global breakthrough on climate change ahead of COP26 — crucial United Nations talks starting in Glasgow, Scotland, in just over 60 days.

Alok Sharma, the COP president, has been flying around the world over the past year in a bid to ensure he can broker a deal at the summit. Now his focus is narrowing on a handful of countries.

Sharma says COP26 must “consign coal to history,” and he’s hoping that a major report from scientists that was published earlier this month will focus minds on the need to act now. The study – by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – showed humanity has raised global average temperatures by 1.1° Celsius since the end of the 19th century and has already dumped enough greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to heat the planet by 1.5°C. 

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Whether or not he can achieve success at Glasgow comes down to the world’s two biggest emitters: China and the U.S. China needs to announce more ambitious pollution cuts that includes promises to stop building more coal power plants. And the U.S. needs to finally deliver on its decade-old promise to help poor countries transition to green energy and adapt to climate change.