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Boris Johnson warns ‘one minute to midnight’ as COP26 kicks off

Boris Johnson warns ‘one minute to midnight’ as COP26 kicks off

2 min. 01.11.2021 From our online archive
National climate pledges are 'drops in a rapidly warming ocean', says UK prime minister
Boris Johnson at the G20 summit in Rome at the weekend
Boris Johnson at the G20 summit in Rome at the weekend
Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/dpa

Boris Johnson issued a rallying cry to world leaders at the start of the COP26 climate summit, urging countries to act immediately to avert a climate disaster. 

The UK prime minister, who said earlier the landmark Paris Agreement risks unravelling if nations don’t step up, called on leaders to improve on their promises after a G-20 summit in Rome produced a tepid agreement.

“Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change,” Johnson is due to say at the opening ceremony of the summit on Monday, according to text released by his office. “It’s one minute to midnight and we need to act now.”

Johnson has struggled to build momentum going into the two-week climate negotiations, playing down expectations and saying the talks will be tough. The aim of COP — the acronym for the conference of parties that’s now in its 26th round — is to curb emissions, keep within reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, reduce coal use, sort out rules for global carbon trading and raise billions in climate finance.

But the talks are getting off to a shaky start after a Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Rome only managed a consensus that fell well short of what some countries were pushing for. Disagreements remain over how ambitious nations should be in reducing their carbon emissions and particularly on the use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. 

Johnson said national pledges so far, “welcome as they are, are drops in a rapidly warming ocean when we consider the challenge we have all admitted is ahead of us,” Johnson said in Rome. 

“If we are going to prevent COP26 from being a failure then that must change. And I must be clear, that if Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails. The Paris Agreement will have crumpled at the first reckoning.” 

The scientific context is gloomy. The most recent United Nations estimate said the world is currently on a pathway to 2.7 degrees of warming, an increase that would have catastrophic consequences.

A key part of climate talks focuses on climate finance and developed nations are falling short. Rich countries have still not met an annual target of $100 billion (€86 billion), a failure that enrages poor countries and undermines negotiations. The UK government announced it would increase its climate finance commitment by £1 billion (€1.2 billion), taking its total commitment to £12.6 billion by 2025.

“We have to move from talk and debate and discussion to concerted, real-world action,” Johnson is due to say. “Not more hopes and targets and aspirations, valuable though they are, but clear commitments and concrete timetables for change.” 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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