COP26: Boris Johnson ‘cautiously optimistic’ at prospects for a deal at climate summit

Boris Johnson was speaking on the second day of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said world leaders must not “think in any way that the job is done” on tackling climate change.

Mr Johnson said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for a deal at crucial international talks at COP26 in Glasgow to curb global warming.

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On the second day of the summit, the Prime Minister welcomed a series of announcements by the assembled leaders on deforestation and emissions.

But he stressed there was still a long way to go if they were to get an agreement that would keep alive the prospect set out in the Paris Agreement of restricting world temperature rises to 1.5C.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • The Prime Minister said international negotiators have made progress
  • Still a “long to to go” in climate change fight
  • No referendum on net zero
  • China was a no show at the summit due to the pandemic
  • Battle to keep global warming lower than 1.5c is a “team game”

What did the Prime Minister say?

Recalling a football reference he made before the G20 meeting in Rome where it was 5-1 down in a match between humanity and climate change, Mr Johnson said that now “we’ve pulled back a goal, or perhaps even two, and I think we are going to be able to take this thing to extra-time, because there’s no doubt that some progress has been made”.

Mr Johnson said that international negotiators at the Glasgow conference have made progress.

“I think we can be confident about one thing in the days ahead – the couple of weeks we’ve got – the clock on the doomsday clock I was talking about is still ticking, but we’ve got a bomb disposal team on site, and they’re starting to snip the wires, I hope some of the right wires.”

He said “other (more developed) countries are going to have to do more” in terms of funding to tackle the climate crisis.

Mr Johnson was returning to London after end of the two-day leaders’ event which opened the summit, but he made it clear he would continue to be engaged.

In a message to the remaining teams who will get down to the task of detailed negotiations, he said: “The eyes of the world are on you – the eyes of the British Government and all the other governments that care about this – and we have got your numbers.”

No referendum on net zero

Boris Johnson has dismissed suggestions that the country could hold a referendum on net zero.

The Prime Minister said that although it was a “brilliant suggestion”, “I think this country has probably had enough referendums to be going on with for a while, that’s my general view on the matter”.

He went on to say leaders at Cop26 have begun to create “a sense of how actually you can deliver” on cutting CO2 targets, as set out at the Paris summit.

Mr Johnson said: “I was at Paris and I remember what it was like. We had this great sense that we had agreed this thing that we were going to try and cut CO2 together.

“But it was also a slightly floaty feeling because we didn’t know how on earth we were going to do it.

“There was no roadmap, there was no very clear sense of how you could do it.

“I think what you’re starting to see here at Cop26 in Glasgow is a sense of how actually you can deliver those cuts in CO2, but there is a long way to go.”

He added: “If there’s one thing that starts to give me confidence or optimism, it’s that we are starting to create – for the countries that find it most difficult to transition away from fossil fuels – we’re starting to create those coalitions of support to help them to move on.”

Chinese president not at COP26 due to pandemic

China’s President Xi did not come to the Cop26 summit because of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister said “that doesn’t mean the Chinese are not engaging” and that “we’re seeing some signs of progress”, but he added more needed to be done.

Mr Johnson said: “I think that we need China to make commitments, China has already made a substantial commitment in the sense that they’ve moved to net zero by the middle of the century, 2060 or before, as Xi Jinping says.”

He added: “China has fantastic power to make change in the way it runs its economy, they’ve committed to no new financing of overseas coal, that’s a big change already, you’re starting to see the impact of that Chinese decision to stop financing coal overseas in the whole Asia Pacific region already.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the battle to keep global warming lower than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is a “team game”.

“I think that it’s a team game. I think everybody’s working very hard together to keep 1.5 alive,” he said.

He said that developed countries should meet their promise to send 100 billion dollars (£74 billion) a year to less developed nations faster.

“I think that the 100 billion is still something that we’re pushing for earlier. We’re going to get it by 2023. But we need to see more.

“I thought that what Japan had to say was great. But this ain’t over. We need further action from countries around the world. And we’re certainly going to keep the pressure up.”

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