World leaders issued a series of stark warnings and urged immediate, ambitious action, as they addressed the opening session of the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
The UK Prime Minister was the first world leader to address the summit, telling delegates that it would be the generations to come who world judge today’s leaders.
“We are now coming centre-stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity and we must not fluff our lines or miss our cue,” he said.
“Because if we fail, they will 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.”
The US President highlighted the urgency of the matter, calling for action now and without delay. “The science is clear. We only have a brief window left before us to raise our ambitions,” he said. “This is the decisive decade in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves.”
He called for “a decade of transformative action” to preserve the planet and boost the quality of life for people everywhere.
“We can do this, we just have to make a choice to do it. So, let’s get to work,” he said.
“Those of us who are responsible for much of the deforestation and all the problems we have so far have an overwhelming obligation [to] nations who, in fact, are not there and have not done it.
“We have to help much more than we have thus far.”
But he also highlighted the potential economic windfalls, arguing: “Within the growing catastrophe I believe there's an incredible opportunity — not just for the United States, but for all of us.”
He said there was an opportunity “to invest in ourselves and build an equitable, clean-energy future and in the process create millions of good paying jobs and opportunities around the world".
The Indian prime minister said his country will meet a target of net zero emissions by 2070 and pledged that India will reduce its projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes between now and 2030.
He also called for a global push to adopt sustainable lifestyles "instead of mindless and destructive consumption".
The outgoing German Chancellor said there must be a way to “measure our targets and goals” to “provide us with a yardstick,” adding that developed countries had a special responsibility to act.
“The world community hopes that we present ourselves in a better shape at the end of this conference than we found ourselves in the beginning,” she said.
The Canadian Prime Minister said that putting a price on pollution is key to pushing down global emissions.
“Just as globally we’ve agreed to a minimum corporate tax, we must work together to ensure it is no longer free to pollute anywhere in the world. That means establishing a shared minimum standard for pricing pollution.”
“We know pollution pricing is key to getting emissions down while getting innovation up and running.”
“Too many of us make commitments here — and then sign commercial contracts that do exactly the opposite,” said the French President.
The UN Secretary General blasted the world’s “addiction to fossil fuels,” which he said was “pushing humanity to the brink”.
He said humans are “digging our own graves” through climate change and by “brutalising biodiversity”.
Sir David Attenborough
The famed naturalist and broadcaster asked the audience: “Is this how our story is due to end — a tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”
He added: “Perhaps the fact that the people affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generations but young people alive today, perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story, to turn this tragedy into a triumph.”
The heir to the British throne said it was quite literally “the last-chance saloon".
“We must now translate fine words into still finer actions.”