COP26: Boris Johnson praises 'truly historic' outcome of summit, calling the agreement 'game-changing'
Prime Minister celebrates COP26 agreement at Downing Street press conference but says 'my delight at this progress is tinged with disappointment'
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the “truly historic” outcome of the Cop26 summit, describing the agreement as “game-changing”.
But he added: “Of course, my delight at this progress is tinged with disappointment.
“Those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death, who can only stand by as their islands are submerged, their farm land turned to desert, their homes battered by storms, they demanded a high level of ambition from this summit.
“While many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody. Sadly that’s the nature of diplomacy.
“We can lobby, we can cajole, we can encourage, but we cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do.
“It’s ultimately their decision to make and they must stand by it.
“But for all that, we can be immensely proud of what has been achieved by Alok Sharma and his team.”
Mr Johnson said most of Western Europe and North America have been persuaded to pull the plug on financial support for all overseas fossil fuel projects by this time next year.
“And when you add all that together, it is beyond question, Glasgow has sounded the death knell for coal power.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and it’s just one of many to emerge from Cop26.
“90% of the world’s economy is now following our lead here in the UK by committing to net zero, ending their contribution to climate change altogether,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference, Mr Johnson said: “I know it’s tempting to be cynical and to dismiss these types of summits as talking shops.
“But we came to Cop with a call for real action on coal, cars, cash and trees, and real action is exactly what we got.”
The Prime Minister has said the watered-down language in the Glasgow Pact’s coal pledges did not “make that much of a difference”.
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “It’s an immense thing to get a commitment from 190 countries to phase down or phase out coal.
“Whether the language is phase down or phase out doesn’t seem to me as a speaker of English to make that much of a difference. The direction of travel is pretty much the same.
“And that’s never been said before”.
He said he “fully and humbly” accepted that the Cop26 summit had not delivered the “full solution” to climate change, but that it had achieved “just about as much as we could have hoped”.
The Prime Minister said a “tipping point” had been reached in people’s attitudes, saying that leaders have been “galvanised and propelled by their electorates”.
Mr Johnson told the press conference: “Before Paris, the world was on course for a devastating four degrees warming by the end of this century.
“After Paris, remember, we were heading for three degrees, at Glasgow we’ve turned that dial down to around two degrees increase, and of course that’s still far too high.
“But for all our disagreements, the world is undeniably heading in the right direction.
“Even the most pessimistic commentator will tell you that 1.5 degrees, that goal of restricting the growth in temperatures to 1.5 degrees, is still alive.
“Now the work continues to make that ambition a reality.”
Mr Johnson added: “There’s still a long journey ahead of us, and very little time to complete it.
“But Cop26 has shown that we can do this. We can end our reliance on coal and fossil fuels.
“We can put the brakes on runaway climate change, and we can preserve our unique planet for generations to come.”
Cop26 President Alok Sharma said he was emotional when negotiations concluded because he felt “the weight of the world” on his shoulders.
Speaking alongside the Prime Minister at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Sharma said: “I can tell you there was one really tense hour where I did feel the weight of the world on my shoulders… this deal was absolutely in jeopardy. We got it over the line.”
At the end of the summit, he apologised to delegates for the way the Glasgow Pact’s watered-down wording on fossil fuels was brought about at the 11th hour.
He told the press conference: “The reason I said sorry… at the event was not because I thought that we didn’t have a historic achievement, it’s because at the end, people thought the process was opaque.”
Climate change is still a “massive challenge for humanity”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Downing Street press conference.
He added: “The fatal mistake now coming out of Cop26, which has unquestionably been a success, the fatal mistake now would be to think that we in any way cracked this thing.
“Nothing could be more damaging in our attempts to defeat climate change than to suddenly bathe ourselves in a warm glow.”