COP26: 'If Glasgow fails, whole thing fails', PM says world must act now to tackle climate change

As the G20 summit drew to a close ahead of the COP26 climate conference, world leaders stressed the need for more to be done to tackle global warming, reports ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy

If the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow "fails" to reach an agreement to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, then "the whole thing fails", Boris Johnson has warned.

Speaking in Rome after a meeting of the world's biggest economies, the prime minister said that failure in Scotland will mean the whole effort to curb emissions will have foundered.

Net zero greenhouse gas emissions means countries will try to reduce their output as much as possible, before absorbing from the atmosphere any which are produced.

On the eve of the gathering, the PM said the goal of the Paris agreement six years ago of keeping global warming down to 1.5C depended on developed nations contributing more.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

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At the end of the G20 summit, Mr Johnson said they had made some progress but that the outcome of the talks in Glasgow intended to deliver on those commitments remained “in the balance”.

He said: “If Glasgow fails, than the whole thing fails.

“The Paris agreement will have crumbled at the first reckoning.

“The world’s only viable mechanism for dealing with climate change will be holed beneath the waterline.

“Right now the Paris Agreement and the hope that came with it is just a piece of paper.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, joins G20 leaders during a visit to the Trevi fountain in Rome Credit: fifth right

Mr Johnson said leaders had “inched forward” in the Italian capital but it was “nip and tuck, touch and go” whether they would make further progress over the next two weeks in Scotland.

In particular he highlighted the failure of the final G20 communique to make any mention of phasing out domestic coal consumption.

“That is the really important question,” he said.

He added: “We have had a reasonable G20 but there is a huge amount to do.”

The result of the G20 was that leaders agreed on carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century” as focus now turns towards the United Nations climate talks.

Politicians in attendance in Italy also pledged to end public financing for coal-fired power generation abroad.

But the prime minister, who was due to fly to Glasgow for the climate conference following his briefing, said environmental promises made by leading nations were “starting to sound hollow” as he criticised the lack of action by G20 partners.

He told reporters he agreed with the suggestion that the target of all G20 nations having net zero carbon economies “by or around mid-century” was too vague, adding that he wanted those pledging to achieve it by 2060 to “bring those commitments earlier”.

Mr Johnson added: “Just 12 G20 members are committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier; barely half of us have submitted improved plans for how we will cut carbon emissions since the Paris summit in 2015.

“We’ve also failed to meet our commitments to provide 100 billion dollars a year to support developing countries to grow in a clean and sustainable way.”

Asked at the post-summit briefing whether enough had been pledged in Rome to prevent global warming above 1.5C, Mr Johnson replied: “I think 1.5 is very much in the balance.

“Currently, let’s be in no doubt, we are not going to hit it and we have to be honest with ourselves. So we’ve got to keep that hope alive.”

Labour shadow business and energy secretary Ed Miliband said there needed to be greater action at Glasgow from world leaders.

The former Opposition leader, in a statement published on Twitter, said: “The words from G20 leaders are a small step forward but we need a giant leap at Cop26.

“We need to halve global emissions by 2030, not rely on vague plans for three decades’ time.”