Boris Johnson to demand world leaders ‘get serious’ about climate change

21 April 2021, 23:45 | Updated: 21 April 2021, 23:50

Mr Johnson has already announced a "world-leading" target for the UK to cut emissions
Mr Johnson has already announced a "world-leading" target for the UK to cut emissions. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson will tell a summit of world leaders that they must "get serious" about stopping climate change this year.

The Prime Minister is expected to tell the virtual event, which aims to increase ambition on climate action ahead of Cop26 talks later this year, that "the 2020s will be remembered either as the decade in which world leaders united to turn the tide, or as a failure".

The event has been convened by US president Joe Biden, who is expected to pledge to at least halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels.

Mr Johnson has already announced a "world-leading" target for the UK to cut emissions by 78% on 1990 levels by 2035.

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The UK's new target builds on its plan to cut emissions by 68% on 1990 levels by 2030, the most ambitious among leading economies.

But campaigners have warned that policies and action are urgently needed to deliver on the pledges.

The PM is expected to say: "The UK has shown that it's possible to slash emissions while growing the economy, which makes the question of reaching net zero not so much technical as political.

"If we actually want to stop climate change, then this must be the year in which we get serious about doing so."

He will urge leaders to come to United Nations-led Cop26 talks in Glasgow in November - and Kunming in China in October for a summit on tackling declines in nature - armed with ambitious targets and the plans required to reach them.

He will add: "Let the history books show that it was this generation of leaders that possessed the will to preserve our planet for generations to come."

His call comes after the International Energy Agency warned global carbon emissions were set for their second biggest increase on record after a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The two-day US-led summit will also hear from leaders of major economies including China, Japan, Russia, Canada, India and Australia, who will be watched closely to see what ambition they will bring to the table.

Japan and Canada are among other countries expected to unveil new climate targets at the meeting, while the European Union has agreed a new climate law which includes a goal to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels.

Countries have been expected to come forward with more ambitious plans up to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDC) in the Paris deal, ahead of Cop26.

Existing plans are not enough to meet countries' commitments under the Paris deal to curb global temperature rises to "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels - or 1.5C if possible - and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

The summit will also hear from United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said history had to be made at the summit.

"True climate leadership requires laws and regulations to phase out fossil fuels, end deforestation, and restore nature. Our survival depends on real climate action," she said.