Boris Johnson tells world leaders 'frustrated' at climate inaction

AFP , Monday 20 Sep 2021

'Yet I confess I'm increasingly frustrated that the something to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough,' Johnson said, in remarks shared by his office

Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to reporters after meeting with Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, at United Nations headquarters, on September 20, 2021, during the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. AFP

Britain's Boris Johnson took leaders of wealthy nations to task Monday in a closed-door meeting he co-hosted with UN chief Antonio Guterres, saying he is "increasingly frustrated" at their failure to honor ambitious climate fund pledges.

Ahead of the Paris agreement, developed countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year from 2020 to support poorer nations to cut their carbon emissions, minimize the impact of climate change and adapt their economies to deal with its effects.

"Everyone nods and we all agree that 'something must be done,'" said Johnson, whose country will host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

"Yet I confess I'm increasingly frustrated that the something to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough," he added, in remarks shared by his office.

Last week the OECD confirmed that only $79.6 billion was mobilized in 2019.

Johnson and Guterres called the meeting to facilitate a frank dialogue between leaders of developed and developing nations, especially those at greatest risk from climate change.

But leaders of the world's top three polluters -- China, the United States and India -- did not attend the meeting, according to British officials.

The US was represented by climate envoy John Kerry, while his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua appeared virtually.

"We heard from some of the industrialized countries... the faint signs of progress," Johnson told reporters after the meeting.

"Let's see what the president of the United States has to say tomorrow," he added, hinting at a new announcement.

Transition From Coal 

Britain for its part trumpeted its $15 billion climate finance pledges over the next five years, and announced Monday that $750 million of that would be allocated to supporting developing countries to meet net zero targets and end the use of coal.

"We're the guys who created the problem -- the industrial revolution started more or less in our country," said Johnson on the use of coal.

"So of course I understand the feelings of injustice in the developing world.... But I say to them that's why we've got to get the funding to help you to make the progress that you need."

The meeting was part of UN climate week, and came days after Guterres warned the world was on a "catastrophic" path to 2.7 degrees Celsius heating, after the latest bombshell report by UN scientists.

The figure would shatter the temperature targets of the Paris climate agreement, which aimed for warming well below 2C and preferably capped at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Guterres told reporters he called the meeting with Johnson as "a wake-up call to instill a sense of urgency on the dire state of the climate process ahead of COP26."

He singled out Sweden and Denmark for praise, after the two countries announced they would allocate 50 percent or more of their climate financing for adaptation in the developing world, a key UN goal.

"The developed countries need to take the lead, but it is also essential for several emerging countries to go the extra mile, and to effectively contribute to emissions reduction," Guterres said, referring to the likes of China and India.

The Paris agreement calls for net zero emissions by 2050, with strong reductions by 2030, to meet the 1.5C goal.

With only 1.1C of warming so far, the world has seen a torrent of deadly weather disasters intensified by climate change in recent months, from asphalt-melting heat waves to flash floods and untameable wildfires.

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