UK expected to host 2020 UN climate talks in deal with Italy

Joint proposal would send the pivotal talks to Britain, overcoming European uncertainty about Brexit

The UK has almost entirely phased out its coal power sector. Rochborough power station in the UK is demoslished in 2012 (Photo: Flickr/shirokazan/CC 2.0)

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The UK is now the overwhelming favourite to host next year’s UN climate talks, after striking an accord with rival Italy.

Under a joint proposal, the UK would host Cop26 and Italy would host a preparatory meeting known as the pre-Cop as well as a youth event.

Both the UK and Italy were tipped as the frontrunners to host the 2020 climate summit. Although there are no other serious challengers to the joint UK-Italy bid, an official decision is expected over the next few days as interim climate talks are taking place in Bonn, Germany.

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Turkey has also expressed an interest to host the conference but there is little sign it stands a chance of winning.

The move will be seen as a welcome diplomatic win at a time when the UK is going through political uncertainty over Brexit and a leadership contest to decide who will replace Theresa May as prime minister.

Earlier this year, London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote a letter to prime minister May urging the UK government to make “every effort” to win the presidency of the Cop. Khan said this would send a positive message that the UK remains “open to hosting events of global significance”.

A dozen business leaders and 162 members of parliament from across the political spectrum also expressed support for the UK’s candidacy.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of the contenders to be next prime minster, said the proposal was the result of “great joint diplomacy”.

The Italian environment minister Sergio Costa said the partnership between Italy and the UK sent “a strong signal of determined and informed cooperation on climate change”, which he said required a “change of paradigm”.

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Both countries’ bids had to overcome doubts over the impacts of their domestic political situation. The UK’s candidacy was said to be undermined by its intention to leave the EU, making European neighbours more likely to back the bid of a country inside the bloc.

Last week the UK became the first major economy to release a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Italy’s populist coalition includes the right wing Lega, which has emerged as a leading force in national politics. Its leader and Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini opposed the Paris Agreement and the party abstained when the parliament ratified it.

Next year’s climate conference is a critical meeting as countries are expected to update their contributions to the Paris Agreement by strengthening their climate targets.

Read more on: Climate Politics | COP26 | EU | UN climate talks | World