From the devastating monsoon season in Bangladesh to wildfires in the United States that have forced more than half a million people from their home. While the world has been focused on dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, climate change has continued to rage on.
But while climate change affects us all, it does not do so equally. Those that have contributed the least, are suffering the most.
Developed countries like the United Kingdom have a responsibility to support others around the world to adapt to the realities of our changing climate.
As President of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, and former UK Government International Development Secretary, this is a personal priority for me.
While it is vital that we strive to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees, we must also remember that even if we could miraculously stop global emissions rising today, the world would still need to deal with significant and widespread climate disruption.
That is why at COP26 adaptation to climate impacts, and building long term resilience, will be a priority.
This will be one of the five areas the UK will focus on in the run up to the conference, alongside: protecting and restoring natural habitats; accelerating the transition to zero emission vehicles and clean energy; and increasing financial support to tackle climate change whilst ensuring financial decisions are aligned with the Paris Agreement.
We will use COP26 to scale up support so those most urgently affected by climate change can adapt and build resilience to our changing environment.
As part of this, I encourage all countries to come forward with ambitious adaptation plans and ensure climate adaptation is taken into account in all relevant policy making decisions.
The UK is already prioritising adaptation and resilience. At home we have worked to build resilience within our own flood strategies and defences. Abroad, we have doubled our international climate finance to £11.6 billion over the next 5 years.
And alongside our work on adaptation and resilience, at COP26 we will also take forward the multilateral negotiations to fulfill the landmark Paris Agreement – which committed all countries to work to limit further rises in global temperatures.
On December 12 we will co-host an event with the UN to mark the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement. Every country subject to the Paris Agreement, 196 nations in total, will be invited to the virtual event, which will call on leaders to demonstrate their commitment to climate action through finance and adaptation announcements.
The summit will also be an opportunity for world leaders to announce new and enhanced plans to reduce carbon emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reach net zero as soon as possible.
This is the only way we can safeguard our planet for future generations and avoid further irreparable damage to the places so many call home.
The UK will use the time ahead of COP26 to raise ambition for climate action. I will listen and ensure that the views of those communities impacted the most are heard loud and clear.
It was extremely encouraging to hear the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaking with great passion and commitment at the UN General Assembly recently. Her leadership of the Climate Vulnerable Forum is helping to amplify the calls from the most vulnerable countries for decisive and immediate action. This is a highly timely and welcome initiative.
However, no one country can turn the tide alone. We must all come together for the sake of both our people and our planet.
I am very pleased therefore that the UK is partnering with Bangladesh on climate action, and in the run up to COP26 we will jointly host a multi-stakeholder, virtual forum, to ensure as many voices are heard as possible. Each meeting of the forum will explore a different theme, share experiences and exchange views, and generate ideas for overcoming persistent barriers to progress. In this way, I hope the UK can learn from the experience of the most vulnerable, and we can in turn share our expertise to help others become more resilient.
Alok Sharma, the UK secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and President-elect of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November 2021