Johnson of UK warns of ‘doomsday’ as world climate summit begins
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the world climate summit known as COP26 on Monday, saying the world is committed to an “doomsday device”.
Johnson compared the position of an ever-hotter Earth to that of fictional secret agent James Bond – strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to find a way to defuse it.
He told leaders that “we’re in pretty much the same position” – only now, the “end of the world device” is real, not fictitious. The threat is climate change triggered by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, and he pointed out that it all started in Glasgow with James Watt’s coal-fired steam engine.
It kicked off the part of the summit of world leaders of the Conference of the Parties (COP), as it is known, which meets annually and is the global decision-making body set up to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in the early 1990s, and subsequent climate agreements.
The conference aims to secure an agreement to cut carbon emissions quickly enough to keep global warming 1.5 Â° C below pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed by 1.1 Â° C. Current projections based on projected emissions reductions over the next decade predict that it will reach 2.7 Â° C by the year 2100.
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Johnson said at the summit – which has been delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – that humanity is over time on climate change and it is time to act. He pointed out that the more than 130 world leaders who gathered were on average over 60 years old, while the generations most affected by climate change have yet to be born.
Johnson called for an end to coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered cars as well as a huge influx of money from rich countries to poor people to help them transition to greener economies and adjust to the worsening of climate impacts.
“We are digging our own graves”
The British leader struck a dark note on the eve of the conference, after leaders of the Group of 20 major economies made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome this weekend.
And that mood only darkened when United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres followed him.
âWe are digging our own graves,â Guterres said. “Our planet is changing before our eyes – from ocean depths to mountain peaks, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events.”
Prince Charles told world leaders that they must “save our precious planet” and that “the eyes and the hopes of the world are on you”.
After Johnson, Guterres, Prince Charles and 95-year-old enthusiast David Attenborough, many more leaders will step onto the podium on Monday and Tuesday in crucial international climate talks in Scotland and talk about what their country will face. the threat. of global warming. From US President Joe Biden to Seychellois President Wavel John Charles Ramkalawan, they are expected to talk about how their country will do its best, challenge their colleagues to do more and generally increase rhetoric.
The biggest names, including Biden, Johnson, Indian Narendra Modi, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and Ibrahim Solih, president of the hard-hit Maldives, will take the stage on Monday.
And then the leaders will leave.
The idea is that they will make the grand political compromise, setting the broad lines of the deal, and then leaving other government officials to work out the nagging but crucial details. This is what contributed to the success of the historic Paris climate agreement in 2015, former UN climate secretary Christiana Figueres told The Associated Press.
“For heads of state, it’s actually a much better use of their strategic thinking,” Figueres said.
In Paris, the two signing targets – the 1.5 Â° C limit and net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – were created by this priority process, Figueres said. At the unsuccessful meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, leaders rushed to the end.
Who is not there
Thousands of people lined up in a cold wind in Glasgow on Monday to overcome a bottleneck at the entrance to the site. But what will be noticeable are a handful of major absences at the top.
Xi Jinping, president of China, the most carbon-polluting country, will not be in Glasgow. Figueres said his absence was not that bad as he would not be leaving the country during the pandemic and his climate envoy is a seasoned negotiator.
Biden, however, rebuked China and Russia for their unambitious efforts to cut emissions and blamed them for a disappointing G20 statement on climate change.
Perhaps more embarrassing for the UN summit is the absence of several small Pacific island countries that were unable to surrender due to COVID-19 restrictions and logistics. It’s a big deal because their voices relay the urgency, Figueres said.
In addition, leaders of several large emerging economies beyond China are also skipping the summit, including those from Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. That leaves India’s Modi the only present leader of the so-called BRICS countries, which account for over 40 percent of global emissions.
Kevin Conrad, a negotiator from Papua New Guinea who also chairs the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said he was monitoring large carbon-polluting countries. “I think it’s really important that the US and China show leadership as the two biggest emitters. If both can show that it can be done, I think they give hope. to the rest of the world, “he said.
No quick fixes, US warns
The amount of energy released by such warming would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and significantly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather conditions, experts say.
But ahead of the UN climate summit, G20 leaders at the end of their meeting offered vague climate commitments instead of firm action commitments, saying they would seek carbon neutrality. ” by or around the middle of the century “. Countries have also agreed to end public funding for overseas coal-fired power generation, but have not set any nationwide coal phase-out targets – a clear nod to China and India.
G20 countries account for more than three-quarters of global climate-damaging emissions and Italy, host of the G20 summit, and Britain, which hosts the Glasgow conference, were hoping for more ambitious targets from Rome.
India, the third largest emitter in the world, has yet to follow China, the United States and the European Union in setting a target to achieve “net zero” emissions. Negotiators hope Modi will announce such a target in Glasgow.
The Biden administration has worked to temper expectations that two weeks of climate talks will produce major breakthroughs on reducing climate-damaging emissions.
Rather than a quick fix, “Glasgow is the start of this decade’s run, if you will,” Biden climate envoy John Kerry told reporters on Sunday.