What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The world is striving to fully adopt clean energy. Will we succeed in time?

The consequences of extreme weather are evident and unmistakable. Scientists say human-caused climate change is making these events more frequent and severe. Miles O'Brien looks at a pivotal upcoming moment in addressing the climate crisis with Alok Sharma, president of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. It's part of our collaboration with "Covering Climate Now."

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The consequences of extreme weather are here and unmistakable. Scientists say human-caused climate change is making these events more frequent and severe.

    Miles O'Brien looks at a pivotal upcoming moment in addressing the climate crisis.

    It's part of our collaboration with Covering Climate Now, a consortium of media organizations reporting on climate change.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    There's a new cop on the climate beat, and he's pushing hard to hold the usual suspects accountable.

    Alok Sharma is president of 26th Conference of Parties, or COP 26. COPs are the summits where the real heavy lifting gets done to mount a global campaign to arrest the climate emergency. COP 26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, this November.

    Sharma calls it a last chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

    What do you consider your biggest challenge as president of COP 26?

  • Alok Sharma:

    I think the biggest challenge is ensuring that we are persuading countries to come forward with ambitious commitments.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    Nearly three-quarters of nations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have now pledged net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

  • Alok Sharma:

    Everyone needs to play their part. The overarching message that I would like to come out of COP 26 is that we have credibly done enough as a world to keep 1.5 within reach.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    One-point-five, as in degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the amount of warming above pre-industrial levels set as a desired goal in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which the Trump administration reneged on and the Biden administration rejoined.

  • Alok Sharma:

    I'm very pleased that we have an administration that is back on the front line in the fight against climate change.

    I think it was particularly telling that one of the first executive orders that President Biden signed was on rejoining the Paris agreement. I think this was a real message for the world the U.S. is back and the U.S. is going to work alongside other countries in tackling climate change.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    The climate has already warmed more than one degree Celsius in the industrial era, and the evident effects are multiplying, the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and the flooding in Germany just two of the most recent deadly events linked to a warming planet.

  • Alok Sharma:

    The last decade was the hottest on record. And that's why I think it's vital that the world comes together in November, so that we can reach agreement, we can reach consensus, and we can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 alive.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    Rich nations have promised to provide $500 billion over five years to the developing world to reduce emissions and help them adapt to the consequences of a fast-changing climate, which they shoulder disproportionately, for lack of resources to adapt.

    But, so far, the promise has been largely empty. Only a small fraction of the money has been sent.

  • Alok Sharma:

    As I say to all donor countries, if they're able to do more, they certainly should.

    But what the U.S. does is, of course, going to be vitally important. And I was very impressed with the summit that President Biden organized, where we saw further commitments from countries around the world.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    I'm curious if that's part of your strategy to persuade not just the executive branch, but the legislative branch of government?

  • Alok Sharma:

    I think you were seeing across the U.S. in states both Democrat, as well as Republican, a desire for climate action.

    When I am again in the U.S., I look forward to meeting a whole range of people and do my bit to try and persuade them of the need to tackle climate change head on.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    You know, it seems to me that the public opinion is ahead of politicians.

  • Alok Sharma:

    Well, I think, on the basis of the conversations that I have had, I think we have reached that inflection point, where there is a shared view.

    And I think climate has gone mainstream. There are countries that I visit where, in fact, the business community will sometimes be ahead of government policy. And my message to them is that, then, please tell your government that you are ready for change.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    In many cases, the change is happening, in spite of political apathy or antipathy.

    In 2012, 40 percent of the electricity in the U.K. was generated by burning coal. Today, it's less than 2 percent. Wind turbines, many of them offshore, now create a quarter of the electricity there, and that number is on the rise fast.

  • Alok Sharma:

    The world is moving in terms of a clean energy transition. All the G7 nations have stepped forward and said that, from this year, they will not finance any more coal in countries internationally as well.

  • Miles O’Brien:

    Sharma is convinced, at COP 26, they will consign coal to history's ashbin. He sees it as a key goal for this last-chance summit.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Miles O'Brien.

Listen to this Segment