As more than 190 countries and 25,000 delegates gather at the COP26 summit today, the conference’s President-designate, Alok Sharma, has urged world leaders to step up. “This is obviously a very big tough ask we’ve got here in Glasgow, … I want more out of every country”.

Appearing on Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday this morning, Sharma stressed that the time is now to deliver on climate change. The UK’s climate tsar pressed attendees to “unite around one issue which matters” for all of us: “protecting our precious planet”.

COP26 has been billed as our planet’s “moment of truth” by PM Johnson and the highly anticipated climate summit begins later today in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Johnson hopes that the summit will adopt plans to limit the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This 1.5 degree target was adopted at the 2015 COP summit in Paris, and at Glasgow all countries will be asked for their updated plans to hit this goal. On this, Sharma said: “My ask is of every country come forward with the detailed policies which will deliver on the commitments you made [in Paris]”. Sharma and Johnson have previously insisted that this conference is about keeping “1.5 alive”

But expectations are being managed ahead of the conference, notably by Johnson, who said on Monday it was “touch and go” whether the COP26 will secure the agreements needed to help tackle climate change. “It is going to be very, very tough this summit. I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need”, Johnson added. 

This comes as the absence of both China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Putin has put dampeners on conference hopes. Asked if he wants more out of China and Russia, Sharma said: “I want more out of every country”, adding that both China and Russia have announced net-zero targets for the middle of the century.

Sharma was also pressed on the recent budget announcement that domestic flight taxes will be cut. Denying that Chancellor Rishi Sunak had undercut his authority, the COP President-designate stressed that domestic aviation counted for less than 1% of the emissions in 2019 and that over the last 30 years the UK has cut emissions by over 40%.

Phillips spoke next to Tina Stege, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. Stege warned that her country would not survive long if the 1.5 target failed to be agreed; “failure really is not an option for my country”, she said. Stege also urged Sharma, as COP President, “to set us out with very high ambition” — adding, “we need to keep 1.5 on the table”.