Boris Johnson intervenes to put troubled COP26 summit back on track

British Prime Minister set to make domestic pledge to end the sale of new petrol cars by 2035

epa08190341 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech on 'Unleashing Britain's Potential' at the Old Royal Naval College in London, Britain, 03 February 2020.  The United Kingdom officially left the EU on 31 January 2020, beginning an eleven month transition period with negotiations over a future trade deal.  EPA/Jason Alden / POOL

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to salvage a troubled climate conference on Tuesday as he pledged to bring forward an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by five years to 2035.

Launching the United Nations COP26 conference, Mr Johnson urged the international community to work together to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible and laud his government’s commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

The conference is set to take place in Glasgow later this year.

“Hosting COP26 is an important opportunity for the UK and nations across the globe to step up in the fight against climate change,” he said, in a statement released by his office.

"As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions."

Speaking at the launch of COP 26 Mr Johnson said: "It’s only by repairing the damage to the natural world and restoring the balance between humanity and nature - which is now so grotesquely out of kilter - that we can address the problem of climate change."

His remarks came as he was attacked for his record on climate change by former government minister Claire O'Neill.

Ms O'Neill, who was sacked as COP26 president on Friday, criticised Mr Johnson for failing to show leadership on global warming.

"You promised to 'lead from the front' and asked me what was needed: 'money, people, just tell us!' Sadly these promises are not close to being met," she said in a letter to Mr Johnson that was published in the Financial Times.

"This isn't a pretty place to be and we owe the world a lot better," she said, as she derided Mr Johnson for failing to convene a committee on climate change that he had promised.

Ms O’Neill warned the world was running out of time “to win the battle” against climate change.

"The prime minister has made incredibly warm statements about this over the years. He has also admitted to me that he doesn't really understand it. He doesn't really get it, I think is what he said," she told the BBC.

“We have seen a huge lack of leadership and engagement.”

The government says it has a £1.5 billion (Dh7.2bn) strategy dedicated to making ownership of a fully electric car as easy as possible. It also said it is focused on delivering new green jobs in the UK.

Mr Johnson launched COP26 at an event in central London alongside Sir David Attenborough and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.