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What next after COP26? Gas crisis shadows the road from Glasgow to Sharm el-Sheikh

© Peter Summers/Getty Images

While UK climate negotiators were meeting with ministers around the world at the beginning of last week about enacting the green promises in the COP26 Glasgow pact, Britain’s leaders were defending domestic oil and gas developments and rejecting calls for a windfall tax.

The gas crisis and international energy price spikes have increased pressure on the UK COP team led by Alok Sharma, which must hammer out the green deals and rally support for this November’s COP27 UN climate summit in Sharm el-Skeikh with host nation Egypt.

Asked recently about high gas prices and the net zero agenda, Sharma said: “I do not believe the two are connected.” To ensure energy security and reduce greenhouse gases, countries must “continue to build out renewables,” he said.

At the same time, UK energy minister Greg Hands has defended new North Sea oil and gas field projects, while prime minister Boris Johnson rebuffed a windfall tax on bumper oil company profits. It would “clobber the oil and gas companies right now with a tax that would deter investment in gas just when this country needs gas as we transition to green fuel,” said Johnson.

The UK retains the COP presidency until November’s formal handover to Egypt, which has appointed foreign minister and career diplomat Sameh Shoukry as COP27 president.

But the work programme will be tough. The energy crisis was “squeezing the political space for countries to focus on their climate change policy,” said Alex Scott, from independent climate think-tank E3G.

Internationally, Sharma’s team must urge countries to raise their climate ambitions. As a UK cabinet minister, he has a tough task in getting colleagues to “walk the talk”, said Scott. “At the moment, we’re not seeing the domestic policy plans coming out of the government.”

What happens in 2022

The “Glasgow Climate Pact” at COP26 delivered broad agreements from 196 countries on four key areas: coal, carbon markets, cash for developing nations and national climate targets. There were also a number of s