British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told global leaders to “grow up” and tackle climate change, as the world faces a now-or-never moment to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels.
Johnson is due to host COP26 – a crucial United Nations climate summit – in the Scottish city of Glasgow in six weeks’ time.
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He is using this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York to press governments on climate action – and the money to pay for it – as scientists warn that global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control.
“If we keep on the current track then the temperatures will go up by 2.7 degrees or more by the end of the century, never mind what that will do to the ice floes,” Johnson told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday night. “We will see desertification, drought, crop failure, and mass movements of humanity on a scale not seen before. Not because of some unforeseen natural event or disaster, but because of us, because of what we are doing now.”
In his speech, Johnson compared humanity to an impetuous 16-year-old – “just old enough to get ourselves into serious trouble”.
“We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make because that is what someone else has always done,” he added. “We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again.
“My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end,” Johnson, said, adding: “We must come together in a collective coming of age.”
Hopes for a successful Glasgow summit have been boosted by announcements this week from China and the United States, the world’s two biggest economies and largest carbon polluters.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told the UN on Tuesday that his country would no longer fund coal-fired power plants abroad, while his US counterpart Joe Biden announced a plan to double financial aid for green growth to poorer nations to $11.4bn by 2024.
Britain has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, and Johnson has championed the expansion of renewable energy. But he is under fire from environmentalists for failing to scrap new North Sea oil drilling and a proposed new coal mine in northwest England.
A UN report on Friday showed current pledges to cut carbon emissions put the world on a path towards 2.7C (4.9F) of warming since the pre-industrial era with global emissions would be 16 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 percent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous climate change.
Saying it was “easy to be green”, Johnson called on more countries to step up.
“We must go further and we must go far faster. We need all countries, every single one of you to step up.”