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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

23rd July 2021 Vienna, Austria

100 Days to COP26

Today, COP26, the 26th UN-Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is only 100 days away. It is the last chance to keep accelerating climate change controllable. When it comes to the health of our planet, every day counts.

Our planet is heating up. Through humanity’s impact, we have polluted our home more than it can cope with. Average global temperatures have risen by 1.2°C compared to the pre-industrial average. That might not seem like much, but even that modest-sounding increase already causes wildfires in the UK, floods and heatwaves in Austria, and numerous other problems in the rest of the world, putting citizens and biodiversity as a whole in danger. Who remembers the last year that did not break any temperature records?

The UN-Climate Change Conference is the main forum for countries to discuss and take action on climate change. In the video below, COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma explains to “Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger, what COP is.

In short, COP stands for Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is an official meeting and main forum of almost 200 countries for inclusive multilateral global climate action. With the UK as Presidency, the 26th COP takes place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November. It is the world’s best last chance to get the climate crisis, humanity’s biggest challenge, under control.

As the Terminator said: “Come with me if you want to live”.

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma visited Vienna 30 June-1 July for the fifth annual Austrian World Summit (AWS), hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Austrian government.  The focus of this year’s AWS was “Healthy World, Healthy Planet”.  The summit – in hybrid format – brought together policy, CEOs, and activists, from Jane Goodall to Greta Thunberg. Alok Sharma set out the four goals for COP26 – ambition in Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, Finance and Collaboration – and described COP26 as the last chance to reduce global warming by 1.5c.

Continuous engagement ensures keeping climate on the agenda

We need to work together to keep 1.5 degrees within reach. We need to secure global net zero; urgently adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; and mobilise finance.

I and my Italian colleague Ambassador Sergio Barbanti wrote an open letter to Kronen Zeitung on the margins of the European Football Championship Finals. On the pitch Italy and England were friendly opponents and fought hard for the much desired trophy (on that note: congratulations to Italy!). On climate issues, Italy and the UK are working in partnership, with the Pre-COP in Milan and COP26 in Glasgow.

The UK has led the way by cutting carbon emissions by 44% since 1990, and committing to reduce those by 78% by 2035. The UK is doubling its international climate finance to help developing nations with £11.6bn over the five years to 2025/2026.

COP26 will provide an opportunity for the world to come together, for our planet. Securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires action from all of us, both at home and abroad. Let’s make a difference, in the next 100 days and beyond.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.