The UK looks set to host major international climate talks in 2020 – after reaching a deal with Italy over rival bids to hold the UN meeting.
Under the proposal, the Foreign Office said the UK will host the “Cop26” meeting, which is due to be in Europe next November, while Italy will host a “pre-Cop” event in the run up to the talks.
The meeting is the most important round of talks since the global Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was secured in two weeks of negotiations in the French capital in 2015.
Next year’s talks mark the full adoption of the Paris Agreement and the date by which countries are expected to come forward with stronger emissions cuts to meet the goals of the deal.
Plans submitted so far by countries are putting the world on a pathway towards more than 3C of warming, though the Paris Agreement commits them to curb temperatures to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Scientists warn that larger temperature rises will spell more damaging impacts including extinction of species, more extremes such as heatwaves and drought and sea level rises.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Today through great joint diplomacy we have agreed a bid for a UK Cop26 presidency in partnership with our friends in Italy.
“Together, through our continued commitment to work across Europe and internationally, we will build a better world for our children.”
Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection, Sergio Costa, said: “This partnership between Italy and the UK sends a strong signal of determined and informed cooperation on climate change, which is a theme that requires a change of paradigm and which will dominate our agenda and that of future generations.”
The proposal will be voted on by western European nations and several other countries including Australia and Canada, with the final sign-off by the UN at this year’s annual conference in Santiago, Chile.
The UK and Italy had both been vying to host the talks, as is Turkey, but the deal now means it is expected the conference will be in the UK.
It comes after the UK sought to show leadership on the issue of climate change by announcing plans to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
For the fortnight of talks, delegations from more than 190 countries will descend on the UK – along with campaigners, scientists, business leaders and the media.
British businesses welcomed the news the UK looked set to host the talks.
ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson said: “Hosting Cop26 will be the perfect platform to show how the UK is leading the way on cutting carbon emissions.
“With the adoption of the Committee on Climate Change’s net zero target, the UK now has an unrivalled opportunity to be at the forefront of the global race to decarbonise economies by capitalising on being the first mover on decarbonising the energy sector, investing in technology and innovation to clean up other sectors such as transport and exporting this capability worldwide.”
Christian Aid’s international climate lead, Mohamed Adow, said the UK was the right choice for the most important UN climate meeting since the Paris Agreement was signed.
He said: “It has the diplomatic capacity and historical alliances to secure an outcome that reflects the climate emergency we are in.”
And he added: “Cop26 provides a unique platform for it to make a huge difference to those countries that are on the front lines of climate breakdown.
“Developing countries will be expecting not only significant emissions reductions to ensure we limit global heating to 1.5C, they will also need to be provided with the technological and financial support to help them adapt to a severely altered climate.”