Boris Johnson to press world leaders for climate commitments at UNGA

Britain’s prime minister will hold a closed-door meeting to call for greater pledges to tackle climate change

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a closed-door meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week to pressure world leaders for climate commitments. AFP
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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to press his fellow world leaders to make climate commitments when he travels to New York for the United Nations 76th General Assembly next week.

He will use a closed meeting to stress the importance of making key pledges to reduce carbon emissions, with a particular effort to end the use of coal.

Mr Johnson will co-host the round-table discussion with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres just weeks before Britain is due to host Cop26 in Glasgow.

Britain's UN ambassador Barbara Woodward touched on the aims in a statement, saying the UK would press countries to "cut emissions, particularly phasing out coal, and revitalising and protecting nature".

"UNGA is the last big moment in the international calendar ahead of Cop26," she said. "Climate change will be the UK's top priority."

On Wednesday, a senior UN official said over the past two years world leaders had discussed ways to roll back damage to the planet at G7 and G20 meetings.

But the unnamed official said there had not been a forum for leading economies to speak to the hardest-hit countries.

Asked why the meeting was closed door, he said: "It's not intended in any fashion to be a meeting in the shadows," but a way to facilitate frank dialogue "rather than pre-prepared statements or reverting to established positions."

The meeting will include leaders from the G20, as well as developing and small island nations, and will be partly in-person, partly online.

Mr Guterres has laid out three climate priorities for the UN, first and foremost of which is to ask countries to bolster their pledges to reach net zero emissions by 2050 under the 2015 Paris agreement.

The body also wants developed nations to fulfil a promise to raise $100 billion for a climate action fund.

Third, it wants to see a "significant breakthrough" on financing for adaptation projects for hard-hit nations.

The UN argues that countries most affected by climate change have suffered rising sea levels, flooding and droughts and therefore need investment in projects designed to prevent damage and address changes.

Cop26, a major UN climate summit, will bring together thousands of delegates from around the globe to discuss ways of preventing further damage to the environment.

The event is aimed at ensuring the world meets its goal of holding century-end warming to 1.5ºC.

Mr Johnson’s trip to the United States to attend the New York summit is expected to include a visit to Washington for a private meeting with US President Joe Biden, Axios reports.

It comes after the British prime minister made a virtual appearance at the White House on Wednesday evening to announce a trilateral partnership between the US, UK and Australia.

Under the pact, known as Aukus, Britain and America will offer the Australians help to develop nuclear-powered submarines.

The defence deal is being widely seen as an attempt to counter the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Johnson insisted the defence deal is not aimed at countering Beijing, telling MPs today: “Aukus is not intended to be adversarial towards any other power.”

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:41 AM