Big nations 'must stretch more on climate'

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The world's major economies must "stretch to do more" at next month's UN climate talks to show they are serious about wanting to tackle global warming, US climate envoy John Kerry says.

The COP26 conference in Glasgow aims to secure more ambitious climate action from the nearly 200 countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2C - and to 1.5C preferably - above pre-industrial levels.

"We now have about 55 per cent of global GDP (gross domestic product) committed to undertake tracks that will hold the temperature to 1.5 degrees," Kerry said during a pre-COP26 meeting in Milan.

"There are other countries now sharpening their pencils.

"Well below 2C means well below ... the common sense meaning of that is not 1.9, 1.8 or 1.7 (degrees)."

New energy and funding pledges from the United States and China have raised negotiators' hopes, but many G20 countries - including major polluters such as China and India - have yet to announce updates of their short-term climate action plans.

Youth climate activists including Sweden's Greta Thunberg, who was in Milan this week, have demanded politicians match words with action and stump up billions of dollars to move the world away from fossil fuels.

They have also called for a transparent climate finance system and more grants to help the people most exposed to the impact of climate change.

Wealthy nations that pledged a decade ago to mobilise $US100 billion ($A138 billion) a year to help vulnerable countries adapt and transition to cleaner energy are still short of their 2020 goal.

Kerry said he expected donors to fulfil the $US100b pledge, but added a post-2025 finance plan "with an emphasis not just on billions, but on trillions" would be required.

"(The) private sector is needed for this ... We'll be announcing one specific agenda item in conjunction with the World Economic Forum," he said, without giving further details.

EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans echoed Kerry's call for radical and swift action.

"We're fighting for the survival of humanity," he said.

Asked about coal mining, Timmermans said the industry would gradually disappear even without specific climate action because it would become economically unviable.

"I'd be highly surprised if there is still a significant coal mining industry after 2040," he said.

China and India, the world's top two coal producers, still rely on coal-fired power stations for a big share of their electricity supply.

"We're in a very constructive dialogue with India and China ... there is a wish by both countries to be part of the success," Timmermans said.

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