The UK is to host a critical global summit on the climate crisis at the end of 2020, at which the world’s 190 nations must commit to deep cuts in emissions.
It will be the most significant UN climate summit since the Paris deal was struck in 2015, when countries made pledges to curb emissions. But these pledges would only keep global heating to a 3C rise, which would bring devastating heatwaves and extreme weather.
The 2020 summit is seen as the deadline by which leaders must fully adopt the Paris deal and bring forward action plans to keep the global temperature rise to as close to 1.5C as possible. This requires halving global emissions by 2030 and ending emissions within a few decades of that.
The UK government was keen to host the summit, pointing to its record of climate action, such as the 2008 Climate Change Act that set legally binding carbon targets. Last week, the UK became the first major economy to commit to ending all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Italy was also bidding to host the summit but has now agreed to host a preparatory meeting, with the main summit coming to Britain. “Together, through our continued commitment to work across Europe and internationally, we will build a better world for our children,” said Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary.
The Italian environment minister, Sergio Costa, said: “This partnership sends a strong signal of determined and informed cooperation on climate change, which is a theme that will dominate our agenda and that of future generations.”
The final confirmation of the summit location will come at this year’s annual UN summit in December in Santiago, Chile.
UK business leaders welcomed the hosting of the summit. Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, said: “It will be the perfect platform to show how the UK is leading the way on cutting carbon emissions. With the adoption of the net zero target, the UK now has an unrivalled opportunity to be at the forefront of the global race to decarbonise economies and exporting this capability worldwide.”
Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green party of England and Wales, said major policy changes were needed in the UK. “The UK has a proud record as a pioneer with the 2008 Climate Change Act. But we won’t be able to still trade on that legacy in 2020,” he said.
“To be the hosts when you are still pursuing the failed policy of fracking, massively subsidising fossil fuels, planning on expanding aviation and traffic, and building substandard energy-inefficient homes, would be a massive embarrassment.”