by Yasmin Ajirniar
Meet Alok Sharma. Once a chartered accountant for Deloitte and a banker, Alok Sharma began a career in the U.K. Parliament as a member of the Conservative Party. There he has served as in several governmental departments. In 2017, he worked as Minister of State for Housing and Planning before working as minister of State for Employment, Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, and Secretary of State of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
On January 8th, 2021, he left his last position when he was appointed President of COP26. His appointment follows the dismissal of Claire O’Neilll—former Minister for Energy and Clean Growth--who was initially given the role in January 2020. According to the Guardian, negative comments about the conference and poor performance triggered her dismissal. However, it is difficult to pinpoint the actual motivation since reporting on the change in leadership is limited.
Since assuming the role as COP26 President, he has had meetings in over 30 countries; most recently, he visited Bolivia and Brazil. Considering these countries have been red-listed by the U.K. government, some members of parliament have criticized his extensive travel. While President Sharma defends the importance of his international travel, others point to his evasion of quarantine.
As President, he issued a formal letter on July 15th, 2021 in anticipation of the July Ministerial and the annual UNFCCC conference. He outlines four goals for COP26:
With respect to the first goal, President Sharma outlines several discussion questions for the Ministerial. Scaling up adaptation, evaluating the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and addressing loss and damage all play a significant role in his agenda and the upcoming events. A key component of the Paris Agreement, the GGA requires its signatories to communicate and to work together towards a common goal: strength resilience, improve adaptive capacity, and reduce vulnerability. One of the questions President Sharma poses is “can we ensure an effective assessment of collective progress towards the GGA...”. It is also worth noting the emphasis on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and on inclusive climate action.