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COP26 president Alok Sharma has played down the chances of reaching a climate deal in Glasgow, saying this year’s summit will be “tougher” than Paris.
Sharma said he was “driving towards” a deal on keeping global temperature rises within 1.5C, a key target enshrined within the global Paris accord in 2016.
The Cabinet minister said the government’s credibility would be based on whether it had kept “1.5 alive”, as opposed to reaching a firm commitment on the cap.
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Sharma said preventing global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would be a “tough ask”.
He said that while there had been “progress” over the last few years, including by getting more countries such as Australia and Saudi Arabia to sign up to net zero commitments, more needed to be done.
“There has been progress over the last few years but I would say that actually the task we have here is in many ways tougher than Paris,” he said.
“Paris was a brilliant achievement, a historic achievement, but as a framework agreement.
“What we’ve had to do since then is agree some of the detailed rules and some of the most difficult rules are still outstanding after six years, and that makes it really challenging.
“Of course, we know that the geopolitics is more difficult than it was at the time of Paris.”
The lead-up to Cop26 has already been marked by setbacks.
Expectations have been low since Russian President Vlaldmir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping both announced they would not attend the summit, lending a blow to the UK’s efforts to get the world to unite behind tackling climate change.
And on Saturday, Sharma was heckled by activists who called him a “hypocrite” for the government’s support of the Cambo oil field north west of the Shetland Islands.
Sharma sought to play down the impact of not having the two major economies at the gathering, arguing that both countries announced net zero targets for the middle of the century.
And he called on all world leaders to find agreement at COP26 and “leave the ghosts of the past behind you — it is Halloween today, after all”.
“Let’s focus on the future and unite around this one issue we know that matters for all of us, which is protecting our precious planet,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.