UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said environment pledges by the Group of 20 countries are “drops in a rapidly warming ocean” and warned that COP26 climate talks risk failing if urgent action isn’t taken.
Issuing a rallying cry to world leaders as he prepares to host them in Glasgow, Scotland, he said the landmark Paris Agreement on climate risks unraveling if nations don’t step up.
He called on leaders to improve on their promises after a fraught G-20 summit in Rome produced only a tepid accord.
“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.”
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.
The talks start under a cloud after the Group of 20 leaders’ summit 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 in Rome that 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.”
“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.” The scientific context is gloomy too. 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 the talks focuses on climate finance and developed nations are falling short. Rich countries have still not met an annual target of U$100 billion, a failure that enrages poor countries and undermines negotiations.
The U.K. government announced it would increase its climate-finance commitment by 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion), taking its total commitment to 12.6 billion pounds 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.”