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Abandon coal now or face catastrophe, US envoy says

Mr Taylor reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to reach net zero “as soon as possible” and said reducing the cost of renewables and global co-operation were necessary to meet the challenge.

Alok Sharma, the UK official who as incoming COP26 president will be the formal host of UN climate talks in Glasgow in November, also focused on abandoning coal.

“We simply cannot afford another decade of deliberation. We need to make this the decade of delivery,” he said. Mr Sharma also called for countries to set dates to end the sale of internal combustion vehicles.

He was speaking only hours after Mr Kerry and President Biden announced a $US2 trillion spending program designed to rebuild American infrastructure, support economic recovery and turbo charge emissions reductions efforts. He said the package would be “transformational progress in our ability to tackle climate change”.

The package, which will have to pass both houses of Congress, includes $US80 billion for rail, $US85billion for public transport and $US174 billion to promote electric vehicles, as well as funds for the electrification of school buses and the construction of 500,000 new plug-in recharging stations within the next decade.

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Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at The Australia Institute and a former Australian diplomat and climate negotiator, said the summit made it clear that a powerful international bloc led by the US, UK and EU were targeting coal power, and that China and Australia were in their sights.

“Unless countries like Australia bring ambitious, short- term policies and near-term targets to the table, including at President Biden’s Climate Summit in April or the UK’s G7 meeting in June, they will be relegated to the margins,” he said.

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