Alok Sharma, the British politician in charge of organizing crucial international climate negotiations later this year, said he would look for two important signals from the White House summit on climate change: how many countries promise to raise climate ambition by 2030, and how much money is put on the table to address climate change.
But Mr. Sharma, who is responsible for rallying countries to raise their climate ambitions, also sought to temper expectations. The White House event is one of several meetings of world leaders to be held before the international talks, formally known as the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP26, scheduled for Glasgow in November.
“I want to see we are making appreciable progress on the road to COP26,” Mr. Sharma, the president of the gathering, which is run by the United Nations, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “There will be other junctures.”
He declined to speak about any specific emission-reduction targets that the White House is expected to announce but said he was “encouraged” by his conversations with John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change. He said he was eager to hear China’s plans, noting that other countries in Asia, notably Japan and South Korea, had already announced that they expected to draw down emissions to net zero by 2050, a full 10 years before China.
“You’re seeing movement in the region. I hope that will encourage all big economies to follow suit,” he said. “China is the biggest emitter, and we want them to work together with us to tackle climate change.”
Mr. Sharma defended his decision to convene that conference in person. Some critics have objected to such a gathering when many people in poorer countries lack access to vaccines against the coronavirus. The conference, originally planned for November 2020, has already been postponed once, he said, adding that the nitty-gritty of negotiations is best done in person, not virtually.
“We need to get on,” he said. “We need to have this conference in November. That’s what we are planning for.”