Boris Johnson asks world leaders to fill the pledge pot of Cop26

British PM says $100 billion a year needed for 'climate pot' from rich countries to fund renewables

It’s going to cost a lot to save the world. That’s the message that Boris Johnson is taking to the United Nations.

If the cornerstone of the 2015 Paris Agreement was agreeing on a temperature – keeping rises to within (an optimistic) 1.5°C – then Cop26 will be about cementing the price for that goal. The British leader warned a United Nations meeting in New York on Monday that the gap between what industrialised nations have promised and what they are delivering remains "vast".

He urged them to redouble their efforts to hit a key financing pledge to help developing nations, which he has conceded there is only a "six out of 10" chance of reaching before Britain hosts the Cop26 climate summit in November.

Noting that "everyone nods and we all agree that something must be done", Mr Johnson said time was running out for the Glasgow conference preparations.

"Yet I confess I'm increasingly frustrated that the 'something' to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough," he said.

"It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences."

Going green costs money. Building wind or solar farms comes with a heavy outlay. Hence the need for at least $100bn-a-year commitment from governments and much more from the private sector.

Rich countries missed the goal last year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which said there was only a 2 per cent increase from 2019 levels towards helping developing nations deal with climate.

Mr Johnson hopes of cajoling or arm-twisting other nations into paying up starts with the US, which recent research shows is paying only 4 per cent of its fair share.

President Joe Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, raised hopes that the target would be met, hinting that the president could pledge more money, as he arrived at the UN headquarters on Monday. Mr Kerry told Sky News the $100bn target was achievable before the opening sessions on October 31. "I think we're going to get it done by Cop and the US will do its part," he told Sky News.

Asked if Mr Biden would announce more funds this week, Mr Kerry said: "I'm not hoping ... I'm telling you to stay tuned into the president's speech and we'll see where we are."

Officials said the Mr Johnson would suggest to Mr Biden that a reasonable US contribution would be the proposed figure of $40bn.

If Mr Biden agrees to a firm figure, this could generate momentum for other major powers to contribute to the pot.

For momentum is vital in the weeks leading up to important summits. If Mr Johnson, along with Cop26 president Alok Sharma, can reel in the cash, then Glasgow could well prove a notable success.

But failure is still a possibility. The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has yet to confirm if he will be among the 100 leaders coming to Glasgow. China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter and is currently building 43 coal-fired power stations along with 18 blast furnaces, increasing its current emissions by 1.5 per cent. This is despite a pledge for its emissions to peak before 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060.

The climate is not being helped by the overheating relationship between Britain, the US and China but a deal in Glasgow could lower both the political and physical temperature.

The bickering of international politics comes at a time when the world’s youth are becoming increasingly jittery at the state the planet will be in when they start running governments in 20 or 30 years.

A recent international survey found that 56 per cent of 16 to 25 year olds believed that humanity was already doomed. To avoid ‘climate doomism’ taking hold to the point that the next generation simply give up, the older generation can perhaps help by digging deep into their pockets.

Mr Johnson is chairing a round table of world leaders on Monday to address major gaps on emissions targets and climate finance.

The closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the annual high-level week of the UN General Assembly will include leaders from a few dozen countries representing industrialised nations, emerging economies and vulnerable developing countries, said Selwin Hart, special adviser to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on climate action.

"The alarm bell needs to be rung," he said. "Countries are not on target, really, to bridge these gaps in mitigation, finance and adaptation."

The round-table discussion aims to ensure a successful outcome at Cop26, even as reports show major economies are far off track on their emission reduction goals and climate finance commitments.

Between 35 and 40 countries have said they will participate in the Cop26 pledging process so far.

Updated: September 20th 2021, 2:45 PM