Heavy rainfall and severe flooding witnessed in the UK in recent days emphasizes the urgent need to tackle climate change, Alok Sharma has said.
COP26 President Mr Sharma said the widespread and torrential rain “on our own doorstep” – due to continue throughout the week – should act as “a sober reminder” that action is needed ahead of the Glasgow summit in November.
It comes as the UK was battered by nearly a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours on Sunday.
Homes, roads and underground stations were flooded in the south of England and one hospital had to cancel surgery procedures due to the water affecting its power supply.
EU floods: German communities get stuck in
Mr Sharma expressed his disappointment at the lack of agreement reached during a two-day meeting with ministers from over 50 countries on the prospect of ditching coal as an energy source.
The UK wants nations at the COP26 summit to agree to limit global warming to 1.5C, but Mr Sharma said this would be “extremely difficult” to achieve without all the nations in the G20 agreeing to phase out coal.
“We weren’t able to get every country in the G20 to agree to language on unabated coal phase-out,” the COP26 president said speaking after the two-day meeting with ministers.
“For me, it is very disappointing and it was very disappointing for those countries who are supportive of this policy.”
He added: “In the UK, 40% of our electricity was coming from coal power back in 2012 – we are now at less than 2%; it is going to be phased out completely by 2024.
“We’ve managed to grow the biggest offshore wind sector in the world and that’s because we have put in place the right market mechanisms to allow the private sector to invest as well.
“It is certainly the case that unless we are going to get all countries signed up to unabated coal phase-out, then keeping 1.5C within reach will be extremely difficult.”
Debris left after the heavy rainfall in western Europe
Mr Sharma stressed to the other nations that “every day counts” in the lead-up to the climate summit, adding that it is “incumbent on every country to give their all” to the tackling the issue.
“Ultimately, there is not going to be anywhere to hide at COP26. Each of us will be in the spotlight and we will only deliver this by working together,” he added.
The UK is not the only nation to have been hit by heavy rainfall this week.
Belgium has been hit by floods for the second time in just over a week.
The provinces of Namur and Walloon Brabant, southeast of the capital city Brussels, were among the worst hit after thunderstorms and heavy rain reached the country on Saturday.
In Dinant, in the Walloon region, heavy rainfall washed away cars, leaving them strewn across the town.
More than 210 people died in floods in western Europe last week, with most of the casualties in Belgium and Germany.
The cost of recovery is expected to be billions of euros.
A man rides a bicycle through a flooded intersection in Zhengzhou in central Chinas Henan Province (Chinatopix via AP)
Meanwhile, in parts of central China, tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.
Officials have said the number of dead from record-breaking floods has risen to at least 33.
More than 73,000 residents had to move out of the city of Anyang, where over 23.6 inches (600mm) of rain has fallen since Monday, Chinese state media said – with a total of 170,000 forced to vacate their premises overall.
Like recent heatwaves in the US and Canada and extreme flooding seen in western Europe, the rainfall in China was almost certainly linked to global warming, scientists have said.