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Boris Johnson: If Glasgow Fails, The Paris Agreement Will Have "Crumpled At The First Reckoning"

Boris Johnson gave a press conference in Rome at the end of this weekend's G20 conference ahead of the COP26 summit (Alamy)

5 min read

Boris Johnson has sounded a note of extreme urgency to the world ahead of the COP26 summit, telling a press conference: "If Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails."

As the conference began in chaotic fashion owing to train problems forcing many delegates to take short-haul flights, Johnson sounded a note of severe alarm.

He told journalists: "Unlike many other global challenges the solution to climate change is clear. It lies in consigning dirty fossil fuels to history and ditching gas guzzling modes of transport and recognising the role nature plays in preserving life on this planet."

Johnson said that part of the solution was "consigning coal to history". He said: "We need to make more progress on domestic coal, the Indonesians have brought forward their targets.

"The countries that really depend on coal, the countries on the path of development, they're going to need specific [help], the investment that triggers the private sector to come in and help them in their new green technologies."

However, it was reported on Sunday that the G20 had watered down its commitment on domestic coal consumption. Asked if the lack of progress on coal made the 1.5 C climate target impossible, he said: "Currently we're not going to hit it, so you've got to keep that hope alive."

Johnson went on to say the world's leaders were failing: "Just twelve G20 members have committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier.

"Barely half of us have submitted improved plans for how we will cut carbon emissions since the Paris summit in 2015.

"We've also failed to meet our commitments to provide $100bn a year to support developing countries to grow in a clean and sustainable way."

The Prime Minister added: "The UN says emissions will rise by 15% by 2030 and they need to halve by then. The countries most responsible for historic and present day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work.

"If we are to prevent COP26 from becoming a failure then that must change."

And he rounded off by adding his most alarmist note so far: "I must be clear - If Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails. The Paris Agreement will have crumpled at the first reckoning.

"The world's only viable mechanism for dealing with climate change will be holed beneath the waterline."

The Prime Minister was speaking after the row over fishing with France had overshadowed the Group of 20 summit of leaders in Rome. 

Earlier in the day, the president of COP26 Alok Sharma has warned there was no guarantee the climate conference will lead to limiting global warming to 1.5C.

Speaking on the first day of the two-week summit in Glasgow, he said it would be "very, very tough” to get world leaders to agree to enough action to slow the planet’s temperature from rising too fast.

"This is a chance for all these countries to show leadership, this is the point where they have to stand up and be counted," he told Sky News this morning. "I want more out of every country.

"But I think the point is we have made progress and then we're going to have to take stock on where there is a gap between where the commitments are and where we need to be."

Sharma said “we need to come out of Glasgow saying with credibility that we have kept 1.5C alive”, adding: "We are heading towards two degrees but need to ensure we are heading lower than that.”

His words come after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday "Team World" was "5-1" down at half-time in the battle to save the planet, as his government sought to play down the prospects of a successful COP.

"There has been progress over the last few years but I would say that actually the task we have here is in many ways tougher than Paris”, Sharma said.

"Paris was a brilliant achievement, a historic achievement, but as a framework agreement.

"What we've had to do since then is agree some of the detailed rules and some of the most difficult rules are still outstanding after six years, and that makes it really challenging.

"Of course, we know that the geopolitics is more difficult than it was at the time of Paris.”

It has been suggested without the leaders of China and Russia agreeing to attend the summit in Scotland there is no chance of getting the agreements to “keep 1.5 alive”.

But Sharma attempted to play down their significance: ”If you look at what both President Xi and President Putin have announced, they have both announced net zero targets for the middle of the century.

"Of course, the world leaders' summit is really important - we've got over 120 world leaders coming from all over the globe - but of course what we are also going to have is two weeks of detailed negotiations and those teams are here, I've met with some of the representatives from Russia, from China, over the last few days.

"That is what is going to be really important, to get over the line these key negotiating issues.

"It is a chance, quite frankly, for all these countries to show leadership - this is the point where they have to stand up and be counted."

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