British Ambassador reveals purpose of COP26 and expectations from Azerbaijan-INTERVIEW

UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan James Sharp

© APA | UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan James Sharp

# 28 October 2021 13:10 (UTC +04:00)

UK will host United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) with Italy this year. The conference, which will start on October 31 in Glasgow, will last until November 12.

Countries will submit their fight plans against climate changes in the conference, at the same time will report on the works, they did in this direction since Paris Agreement in 2015.

As a host nation, the UK will likely want all countries to back a strong statement that recommits to net zero emissions by 2050 - as well as big reductions by 2030.

It will also want specific pledges on ending coal, petrol cars, and protecting nature.

Ambassador of UK, which will host the conference, to Azerbaijan James Sharp gave an interview to APA on the eve of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference

- What are the purpose of and expectations from COP26 that will be held in Glasgow?

- You have to go back to see the Paris Agreement in 2015 which the world committed itself to try to keep rise and temperature down below 2C degrees and preferably down 1.5C degree.

And at the Summit in Paris all the countries committed themselves to reduction in emissions and also committed themselves to try to get net zero emissions by the middle of the century. So, the question is now how we are doing and the answer frankly is not very well at all. So, the Glasgow summit which takes place in early November for about two weeks will give a chance to review what has happened since the Paris agreement and renew making more ambitious commitments going ahead.

The two main things we are looking to do in Glasgow. One of them is to get all of the countries in the world to be ambitious about reduction targets. What we say is that we, Britain and a lot of developed European countries have actually come up with strong targets on track to meet those. But the whole point now is we need to bring in the developing world much more closely into emission target reduction. If you look at the biggest emitters around the world now, as you see, the number one is China which is responsible for 28% of emissions, and India is number three.

We have to have a global solution, collective solution, collective action whereby all countries commit themselves to much tougher reduction targets. But in the short term they also commit themselves to a long term strategy which means we get the net zero emissions by the middle of the century. So, that is a big thing we want to do in Glasgow.

The second big thing is to find the finance to support that. Because we recognize that in the developed world we benefited from economic growth for a long time, we benefited from oil and gas and we are in a good place. The developing world, of course, the countries that I mentioned India and China and others want to continue developing. They want prosperity for their citizens.

They want to continue to grow as one understands that. The point of finance is to help developing countries both meet emission reduction targets but also to help the countries to adapt to climate change. Because climate change affects all countries in different ways. It will cause crop failures and rising sea levels. You see the reports on forest fires and floods. So, I think a lot of countries coming to Glasgow in November will look to where the finance is to support them either to meet our reduction targets or actually help them adapt to climate change. Thus, there is a range of things to address in Glasgow. Then there are some specific issues we also want to try to get agreed is reduction of coal. Because coal is dirty. Coal is responsible for 45% of carbon emissions. The UK just does not use coal for electricity generation but one or two percent. There was a huge change about 30 years ago.

And the second thing is the cars we want to look at. We, UK said we will not sell petrol and diesel cars after 2030 in Britain. It is a huge commitment just 9 years away from us. We will not buy petrol and diesel cars after 2030 in Britain, too.

Another issue is about trees. More trees cut down, more carbon released. So we want commitment by all countries to plant more trees, stop deforestation and stop cutting down trees and find a solution to that.

Because in tree cutting down agriculture is the big cause and it is also the cause of greenhouse gas emissions. There is a whole big range of issues to be sorted out in Glasgow. All in all, we are optimistic. We hope to see a lot of progress. We just need to keep pressure on all countries to come up with tougher reduction target, all to come up with cash to help other countries around the world.

- What are the expectations from Azerbaijan in COP26?

- Tougher targets what would be called nationally determined contributions which are reduction targets by 2030. Azerbaijan is at the moment 35% reduction on 1990 levels and we heard that it is tough to actually reduce carbon emissions more than the greenhouse gas emissions. We reduced emissions by 44% in 1990 but at the same time, our economy was growing 78%. So, it is possible to combine economic growth with reduction in emissions. We are wishing that Azerbaijan could come up with a much tougher reduction target. I would also like to see the government commit itself to be net zero by the middle of the century.

Azerbaijan is recognized as a hydrocarbon producer, oil and gas producer. I think there is special responsibility on hydrocarbon producers how they can actually reduce use of hydrocarbon. But at the same time, we recognize that Azerbaijan’s economy is based upon that. It will take some time to get away from oil and gas productions. But I think the good thing here is BP operating in Azerbaijan which is the main operator among the international companies. Because BP itself has committed net zero by 2050. So, BP itself will take steps here and has taken steps so far. For example, to reduce the emissions from the production of oil and gas. So what BP is doing here to help to meet the global targets. I think it will have a quite important contribution to Azerbaijan in reducing its emissions further. We see a lot here.

The government is committed to increasing renewable energy. We are working with them on that, organizing a lot of seminars to help agencies to understand the issues, and we are engaging with them for regulator reforms. We funded a study on offshore winds, for example. Because we think Azerbaijan has huge potential for offshore wind energy. The UK is the world leading producer of offshore wind energy. So, I think we have something to offer to Azerbaijan. We have been funding in terms of energy efficiency in buildings in Ganja and Barda which are the two cities damaged during the conflict.

There is a range of things that Azerbaijan can do with BP and with us. It is possible for Azerbaijan to come up with tougher targets. We are looking forward to meeting with the Azerbaijani delegation in Glasgow. We are looking forward to hearing their pledges.

- Is there any formula for contribution to the fund like big countries will allocate more?

- It is voluntary pledges. More developed, OECD countries which we expect, will contribute to the fund. I think China is in a curious situation. It still likes to see itself as a developing country. I think that the logic of that is there is a lot of catching up to do. Both China and India will say that even though their emissions are very high, the emission per capita is much lower in the West's. They still see themselves as deserving some concessions and compromise. So, I think that we would expect the OECD countries, the rich developed world countries, to provide this hundred billion dollars in a year. I do not think and am not aware that there is any formula for that. I think it is just really voluntary pledges. Glasgow is not the end of the road even if we do not reach what we think we need to, we will come back to.

- Post-COVID period we see the economies recover and in particular the developing countries are happy with that (I would say increase in oil and gas prices is kind of evidence). So, how can developing countries be persuaded on ambitious plans?

- That is a very big question, actually. To a certain extent, very high oil prices and high gas prices will persuade them that they need renewables. Because nowadays it is cheaper to build renewables.

It is gonna be an interesting question about how economies work over the longer term both in terms of supply and demand. Look at companies like BP's supply side, for example. There is a lot of pressure on companies like BP, Shell to stop producing oil and gas in the West, in Europe. The companies respond to this pressure by investing in decarbonize as much as possible.

So, we all see that happening on one hand. In terms of countries, in fact, oil and gas producers will want to keep producing as much as possible because that is what their wealth is based on. So, we don't entirely get that. That is why we have to have global agreement on reduction targets because only by doing that we can reduce the demand for hydrocarbons, frankly. We have to reduce the demand side through those commitments.

We still know that there will be demand for oil and gas. If you look at international energy agencies reports they assume oil and gas will keep going up in years and years. But that does not mean emissions will go up in years and years.

I think science will provide some other solutions even though we will continue to use oil and gas. I believe society can find answers, mankind is very clever to find solutions.

There will be increased pressure in the world. On the demand side you will find increased pressure from the population in different parts of the world, just stop using dirty fuels. That will happen. And we appreciate that other parts of the developing world may have such concerns where they want to get rich and want to have a better livelihood. They may say that "we can not, we still need to provide jobs for our people". And that is understandable.

But let's be honest, this issue affects everyone, every country. It affects Azerbaijan, as well. Every country has to agree on new targets and new agreements in Glasgow.