Boris Johnson tells UNGA that Cop26 must be turning point for climate change

British PM urges world leaders to make bold pledges in run-up to gathering in Glasgow

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a dire warning to world leaders on climate change, saying Cop26 must be a “turning point for humanity” as global temperature rises were already inevitable.

Mr Johnson used his address to the United Nations General Assembly to drum up support for his climate commitments only 40 days from the global summit in Glasgow.

He urged nations to take responsibility for "the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves".

"It's time for humanity to grow up," he said.

Cop26, which will begin on October 31 and run for two weeks, will bring together world leaders, climate experts, business leaders and thousands of delegates from across the globe.

Mr Johnson cracked a joke in reference to the TV character Kermit the Frog singing It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green by insisting he was wrong because “we have the technology, we have the choice before us”.

"We are awesome in our power to change things and awesome in our power to save ourselves," the prime minister said.

"In the next 40 days we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be."

He compared humanity to an impetuous teenager “just old enough to get ourselves into serious trouble”.

"I hope that Cop26 will be a 16th birthday for humanity in which we choose to grow up, to recognise the scale of the challenge we face, to do what posterity demands we must," he said.

"I invite you in November to celebrate what I hope will be a coming of age and to blow out the candles of a world on fire.

“The world – this precious blue sphere with its eggshell crust and wisp of an atmosphere – is not some indestructible toy, some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart’s content.

“Daily, weekly, we are doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up, we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable – not just for us but for many other species.

“And that is why the Glasgow Cop26 summit is the turning point for humanity.”

Mr Johnson said the rise of temperatures around the world was already a reality and warned “substantial changes” were needed by the end of the decade to avoid further increases.

He said four crucial addresses – coal, cars, cash and trees.

He has previously called on his fellow world leaders to introduce rules which would mean only zero-emission vehicles can be sold from 2040, and urged every country to slash carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, compared to levels in 1990.

The Prime Minister also wants to see the loss of trees and biodiversity reversed by the end of the decade.

In his speech at UNGA in the early hours of Thursday, Mr Johnson praised China's President Xi Jinping for his vow to stop building new coal-fired energy plants abroad.

He went on to urge China, which produces 28 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, to go farther and ban the use of coal within its borders, reminding Beijing that Britain was proof that it could be done.

Until five years ago, Britain relied on coal to produce a quarter of its electricity but now that figure is only 2 per cent. Mr Johnson said it would be "gone altogether" by 2024.

The speech was the last stop on Mr Johnson’s visit to the United States, during which he has held discussions on trade and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as climate change.

Updated: September 23rd 2021, 10:25 AM
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