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Countries deadlocked on need to phase out coal-fired power at close of key climate meeting

Countries have finished key climate talks deadlocked on the issue of phasing out coal-fired power, UK minister Alok Sharma has said.

Amid a backdrop of extreme flooding, ministers from more than 50 countries met in London this week to discuss tougher measures to tackle the climate crisis ahead of Cop26 – a key global summit to be held in Glasgow in just under 100 days.

Mr Sharma, who is president-designate of Cop26, said that “progress was made” over the two-day summit, but warned that “vital issues” remain unsolved in the run up to the event.

“We have discussed the critical issues in the Cop26 negotiations. As we have done so, heavy rains and flash floods have swept London – a sobering reminder of the urgency of our task,” he told reporters at a press briefing held on Monday evening.

“We have moved closer together, but still on these vital issues we are not yet close enough. There is much more work to be done ahead of Cop26 and in Glasgow itself.”

Cop26 is widely seen as a vital last chance to get the world on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – the aspiration set by countries under the Paris Agreement.

London’s meeting comes days after environment ministers from G20 countries failed to agree on key climate commitments during talks held in Italy.

The meeting in Naples carried on through the night last Thursday as efforts to agree on tougher climate measures, such as phasing out coal power and removing subsidies for fossil fuels, were opposed by a small number of countries including Russia, China and India.

Mr Sharma described the lack of agreement on phasing out coal power – a step seen as vital to limiting temperature rise to 1.5C – as “very disappointing”.

“We weren’t able to get every country in the G20 to agree to language on unabated coal phase out, it’s as simple as that,” he told the press briefing.

He added that it was “incumbent on every country to give their all to this process” of taking tougher action on the climate crisis.

“There will be nowhere to hide at Cop,” he said. “Each of us will be in the spotlight.”

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, added that the face-to-face meeting of ministers had been “extremely productive” but that “challenges” remained.

“There is a lot of homework to do in the next 90-something days,” she told reporters.

The event was the first face-to-face meeting of its kind in more than 18 months.

The government said that the Cop26 team had worked closely with Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace to ensure “appropriate protocols” were met, including “daily testing and social distancing measures”.

The UK has repeatedly promised to hold the global climate summit, which typically involves 30,000 people, in person in November.

Cop26 was originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed as a result of the pandemic.

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