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Boris Johnson Opens COP26 With Warning Leaders Must "Get Real About Climate Change"

5 min read

Boris Johnson has opened the landmark COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, with a warning that every nation in the world needed to "get real about climate change".

Addressing an audience of thousands of international delegates, the Prime Minister cautioned that “humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change” and that “if we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”.

“We have to move from talk and debate and discussion to concerted, real-world action on coal, cars, cash and trees,” Johnson said. 

“Not more hopes and targets and aspirations, valuable though they are, but clear commitments and concrete timetables for change. 

“We need to get real about climate change and the world needs to know when that’s going to happen.”

"We know what scientists tell us and we have learnt not to ignore them," Johnson added. 

COP26, hosted this year by the UK government, officially opened on Sunday, as the Prime Minister touched down in Glasgow late in the evening following a pre-summit G20 meeting in Rome.

More than 120 countries have sent their leaders to Scotland, including US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Johnson spent much of this morning welcoming the heads of states to Glasgow.

Later today, he will convene a round table between the world’s largest economies and the states most at risk from climate change, to hear what is at stake for them if action is not taken.

The British government is leading the charge on getting nations to stick to a commitment to contain the rise of global temperatures at 1.5C by stressing the need to half emissions by the end of this decade.

This morning Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described the UK's chances of success as "touch and go". 

COP26 is due to close Friday 12 November, although at the 2015 COP summit in Paris, talks ran over into the final weekend and there is an expectation that this could happen again.

Today and tomorrow, when all the world leaders are in town, that are expected to have the biggest impact. 

From Wednesday onwards, nations' delegates will lead on negotiations. 

During his opening address, Johnson highlighted that COP26 must mark "the beginning of the end of climate change". 

"Two degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people as crops wither, locusts swarm.

"Three degrees and you can add more wildfires and cyclones – twice as many. Five times as many droughts and 36 times as many heat waves.

"Four degrees and we say goodbye to whole cities – Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai – all lost beneath the waves."

The Prime Minister paid partiuclar focus to the moral imperative world leaders have to act on behalf of young and future generations.

"The children who will judge us are children not yet born, and their children.

"We are now coming centre stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity and we mustn't fluff our lines or miss our queue.

"If we fail they wil not forgive us. They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn. They will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today.

"And they will be right - COP26 cannot and will not be the end of the story on climate change."

Also addressing the summit's opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that either humanity can stop climate or change or else climate change will stop humanity. 

“We’re digging our own graves, the world is changing," Guterres implored. 

“Targets might look like we’re on track but it’s an illusion, we’re still heading for disaster.

"Failure is a death sentence.”

Prince Charles used his speech at the opening ceremony to call on world leaders to "reduce emissions urgently and take action to tackle the carbon already in the atmosphere". 

"We have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing," the prince said. 

"I know you all carry a heavy burden on your shoulders. You do not need me to tell you that the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you to act with all dispatch and decisively.

"Time has quite literally run out."

Internationally renowned wildlife documentary maker, Sir David Attenborough, delivered COP26 delegates an emotive and powerful plea to act, particularly for vulnerable countries most at risk from climate change.

Accompanied by video and image reels of the planet and its natural marvels, Attenborough said: "This story is one inequality as well as instability. Today those who have done the least to cause this problem are being hit the hardest.

"Ultimately, all of us will feel the impacts, some which are no unavoidable." 

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