This week, we welcome the world to the United Kingdom for the COP26 Summit. Our goal, the driving aim for the thousands of leaders, negotiators and activists meeting in Glasgow over the next two weeks, is to get us on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Though it may not feel like it when the delegates arrive in Scotland in November, the world is already heating up. The ill winds of climate change are blowing through the smallest islands and the biggest megacities, causing wildfires to burn, crops to fail and seas to rise. Developing countries and small island states are bearing the brunt of the crisis, with whole communities forced to flee rising floodwaters or encroaching drought. The Caribbean had a record-breaking 30 tropical storms in 2020, including six major hurricanes.
Last month, addressing a climate roundtable at the UN General Assembly in New York, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley called the hurricanes that rage with increasing regularity and ferocity over her island the “heart attacks of the climate crisis”.
She asked us to “mind the gap” and address the shortfall in international climate finance, so that countries who have done least to cause climate change do not suffer the greatest effects. I listened in New York, and as hosts of COP26 I am determined that we will deliver in Glasgow.
We have ensured, as a first step, that the countries on the frontline of climate change are in the room with the biggest emitters to negotiate face-to-face, with appropriate social distancing of course. The UK has provided COVID-19 vaccines for delegates from over 70 countries who otherwise would not have been able to get them and offered to cover the cost of any quarantine, meaning everyone can access a safe and secure summit.
This is also the moment for the wealthiest nations to step up. The G20 group of the world’s biggest economies will meet in Rome this weekend, and many of those same leaders will travel on to Glasgow for COP. I have personally lobbied almost all of them over the last few months, from Brasilia to Riyadh, Moscow to Tokyo, to increase their ambition and come to the table with credible new commitments.
That means committing to reach Net Zero emissions by the middle of the century and taking bold action on coal, cars, cash and trees over the crucial next decade to 2030.
On cash, we know that developing countries are looking at us to make good on the commitment of delivering $100 billion in international climate finance every year to 2025. A delivery plan commissioned by the UK COP Presidency and delivered by Canada and Germany this week showed that we know how we will get there, but disappointingly we are unlikely to meet the target next year without significant new commitments in the coming weeks.
The UK Government has ringfenced £11.6 billion in aid spending for climate finance from 2020-2025, and will continue to urge other governments to do more. Those funds are being used to transformative effect, saving lives by shoring up defences to tropical storms, supporting farmers to flourish in droughts and protecting forests and marine life.
Climate finance is critical to help countries adapt to and mitigate the very real threats from climate change today. But public and private finance also needs to back the global transition to clean energy and sustainable, climate-resilient infrastructure, ensuring green technology drives economic growth in developing countries.
I will admit – like many other economies, the great cotton mills and steelworks of the UK’s industrial revolution were not, back then, powered by the mammoth wind turbines which now grace our oceans.
But we are now a nation reformed. The cars that roll off the production lines in Britain’s industrial heartlands are increasingly electric, and we have pledged to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Clean green renewable energy powers more than 40% of our electricity, supported by massive investment in wind, solar and hydrogen power.
This new Green Industrial Revolution is supporting some of the most ambitious emissions reductions targets anywhere in the world, while helping to secure more than half a million jobs over the next decade. This is the future of the global economy, which is why the UK Government – from our Export Finance agency to our aid programmes – is backing major sustainable projects around the world, including roads and bridges that can withstand extreme weather, wind farms and solar power.
We know that history will not judge us kindly if COP26 does not deliver a better future for everyone. When we meet in Glasgow next week, the UK will do everything in our power to ensure that this Summit is the moment we come together for our planet.
Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
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