The fight against runaway global heating is at a critical moment.
Youth campaigners, faith leaders, health professionals, academics and Conservative MPs have called for the UK to set out ambitious new climate plans.
A series of letters to the government is urging action ahead of a UK-UN climate summit on December 12 to mark the fifth anniversary of the international Paris Agreement on tackling global warming.
At the summit, countries are being encouraged to up their ambition, as plans set out so far by governments do not go far enough to cut emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The letters to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Business Secretary Alok Sharma come from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which represents health bodies in the UK; religious leaders including seven bishops, senior rabbis and imams; hundreds of scientists, professors and academics; and youth leaders from around the world.
They call for the UK’s nationally determined contribution – as countries’ climate plans are known under the Paris Agreement – to be announced as soon as possible to show international leadership.
The plans must show high levels of ambition, and be in line with curbing global temperature rises to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most dangerous climate change, organisations urge.
The letters follow one from more than 40 Conservative MPs and peers, calling on the Government to submit a “much more ambitious” plan that is in line with the UK’s commitment to cut its emissions to net-zero overall by 2050.
And a letter from the Elders, a group which includes six former presidents and prime ministers of countries around the world, calls for the UK to put forward a “bold and world-leading climate target for 2030 and encourage all other nations to make similar commitments”.
After Brexit, the UK, which was previously covered by the European Union’s plans under the Paris Agreement, must produce its own national determined contribution.
Ministers have said they will produce new plans ahead of the UN “Cop26” climate summit, which is now being held in Glasgow in November 2021 after being delayed from this year by the pandemic.
Countries were due to put forward more ambitious plans up to 2030 by the end of this year, as current contributions will not curb temperature rises to 1.5C or “well below” 2C, goals which were agreed in the Paris deal.
They have been invited to submit more ambitious plans at the virtual summit on December 12 this year.
The letter from the health alliance, which includes the Royal College of Medicine, Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association, urges: “Now is the time for bold action from the UK, to inspire and drive progress on climate change.
“The world’s health professionals recognise that climate change is a health crisis and that action cannot wait – indeed, that a truly healthy recovery from our current pandemic must include all due progress on climate action.
“As host to the 2021 climate negotiations, the UK must set the standard and soon, with a national climate commitment aligned with scientific guidance and the Paris Agreement, and, by doing so, call upon world leaders to commit to a future that is healthy and safe for humanity.”
Officials said the UK was currently reviewing its nationally determined contribution (NDC), and would be calling on countries to make ambitious announcements in advance of the December summit, including new and enhanced plans and net zero targets.
Shadow climate change minister Matthew Pennycook said: “The fight against runaway global heating is at a critical moment.
“With widespread support for bold climate action across civil society, the government must now seize the opportunity to bring forward a highly ambitious NDC this year; one that builds momentum for COP26, ensures the UK plays its part in delivering on the Paris Agreement, and keeps the hope of limiting warming to 1.5C alive.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.