World faces 'catastrophic' climate change as wildfires tear through Greece, minister warns

8 August 2021, 08:32 | Updated: 8 August 2021, 08:38

Alok Sharma has warned the world faces a catastrophic rise in temperature
Alok Sharma has warned the world faces a catastrophic rise in temperature. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The world is running out of time to stop "catastrophic" climate change as wildfires tear through southern Europe, the climate minister has warned.

Alok Sharma, who is responsible for making the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this year a success, said the world had to limit warming to 1.5C.

He said the talks have to be "the moment we get this right" in an interview with the Guardian ahead of the release of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – due to be the "starkest warning yet" about the environment's future.

He said: "I don't think we're out of time but I think we're getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time.

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"We will see (from the IPCC report) a very, very clear warning that unless we act now, we will unfortunately be out of time."

He added: "Every fraction of a degree rise makes a difference and that's why countries have to act now.

"We're seeing the impacts across the world - in the UK or the terrible flooding we've seen across Europe and China, or forest fires, the record temperatures that we've seen in North America," he said.

"Every day you will see a new high being recorded in one way or another across the world."

However, he refused to condemn plans for a new oilfield off Shetland which could see up to 170 million more barrels get extracted. Mr Sharma said future fossil fuel licences will still have to adhere to the target of going net zero by 2050.

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The Government has not ruled out new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea or a coal mine in Cumbria, despite the International Energy Agency warning there must be no new investments in oil and gas projects or coal power plants from 2021 if warming is to be limited to 1.5C.

Mr Sharma also defended flying across the world to speak to countries about the deal.

He said he needed to build "personal relationships" with ministers in other countries and he was "throwing the kitchen sink" at talks.