PM: G20 holds the key to stop civilisation going backwards like Roman Empire

30 October 2021, 11:14 | Updated: 30 October 2021, 14:03

Boris Johnson has warned humanity could go backwards like the Roman Empire did
Boris Johnson has warned humanity could go backwards like the Roman Empire did. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has claimed Saturday’s G20 summit "holds the key" to climate action after he warned humanity could collapse like the Roman Empire.

Speaking before the gathering, which itself takes place before the crucial Cop26 talks in Glasgow, the prime minister said civilisation could go "backwards" and condemn future generations to lives worse than we do today.

He will spend the G20 focusing on the issue despite other pressing matters, like the ongoing spat with France over fishing, with the PM expected to meet French president Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Johnson tweeted ahead of the summit in Italy: "As the countries with the greatest contributions to global warming, the G20 holds the key to unlocking global action on climate change.

"This weekend at #G20Italy I’ll be calling for ambitious steps on coal, cars, cash and trees that will build the net zero economy of the future."

Read more: 'If we don't act now, it'll be too late': PM pushes leaders on climate before G20

Read more: Boris Johnson vows to take action as fishing row with Macron escalates

Boris arrives late for G20 photo

His comments followed a much starker warning about the consequences of inaction.

Mr Johnson visited the colosseum in Rome and compared humanity's position now to the fallen empire that expanded from the Eternal City, as he arrived for the G20 summit with the world's biggest economies.

Among the no-shows are Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping, who sent delegations but also said they will not attend the Cop26 summit either.

That comes as a blow to hopes of securing a meaningful agreement on climate action given both are considered among the worst polluters.

And, as he was pictured visiting the ancient Roman landmark where gladiators would face off, he sent a warning to his fellow world leaders.

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"When things start to go wrong, they can go wrong at extraordinary speed," he said.

"You saw that with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and I'm afraid to say it's true today, that unless we get this right in tackling climate change we could see our civilisation, our world, also go backwards.

"We could consign future generations to a life far less agreeable than our own. We could consign our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, to a life where there are not only huge movements of populations, huge migrations, but also shortages of food, shortages of water, conflict, caused by climate change.

"There is absolutely no question this is a reality we must face up to."

The Government hopes the Cop26 talks will lead to an agreement to limit harmful activities that affect the climate.

The goal is to get to net zero by 2050 and keep rises in temperatures to 1.5C.