COP26: Boris Johnson urges ministers to 'drive for the line' to secure ambitious deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a press conference during the COP26 summit
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a press conference during the COP26 summit

The Prime Minister said countries must be prepared to make bold compromises

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Boris Johnson has urged ministers and negotiators at COP26 to “pull together and drive for the line” to secure ambitious action on climate change.

As the first week of the crunch UN climate talks in Glasgow ends, the Prime Minister said countries must come back to the table for the second, final, week of negotiations ready to make bold compromises and ambitious commitments.

But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband warned the world was far off where it needed to be to keep 1.5C in reach, and urged Mr Johnson to engage directly with the talks and personally drive the negotiations forward.

The first week of the talks have seen much of the attention focus on the attendance by world leaders and announcements of countries signing up to pledges to end deforestation, end fossil fuel funding abroad, phase out coal and cut the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

But there have also been talks on a series of issues, with environment, climate, energy and other ministers arriving this week to get down to political negotiations as they enter the business end of the conference.

These include parts of the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive deal to tackle climate change agreed in the French capital in 2015, that still need finalising, on markets for trading carbon emissions, transparency over what countries are doing, and common timeframes for action.

Negotiations also continue on finance for poor countries to adapt to a changing climate and develop cleanly and on addressing the loss and damage to people, land, livelihoods and infrastructure that will inevitably occur as a result of rising temperatures.

And negotiators are trying to hammer out a “cover decision” from Glasgow that will set out how countries will close the gap between the action to cut emissions they have pledged to take under the Paris Agreement and what is needed to avoid dangerous temperature rises of more than 1.5C.

Scores of countries, as well as UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, are pushing for accelerated action on emissions cuts this decade to keep the 1.5C goal alive.

There is a concerted drive for nations to revisit and boost their carbon-cutting efforts every year, though that is facing push back from others, who want to keep.

As the talks enter their second week, the UN and UK organisers face ongoing criticism about the logistics, accessibility and inclusivity of the conference, which tens of thousands of people have registered to attend.

Delegates have faced daily lateral flow tests, but some have been forced to self-isolate after catching Covid-19, while there have been long queues and crowds to get into the venue, and social distancing requirements have reduced access to rooms where negotiations and other events have taken place.

On Friday and Saturday tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets demanding climate action and a fair transition to a greener world, with campaigners taking up Greta Thunberg’s warning that the COP26 summit is just “blah blah blah”.

On Saturday huge crowds took part in marches and rallies in Glasgow, London and hundreds of places across the UK and around the world, calling for greater climate action, after youth activists marched through the Scottish city where the talks are being held, on Friday.

Mr Johnson said: “There is one week left for COP26 to deliver for the world, and we must all pull together and drive for the line.

“We have seen nations bring ambition and action to help limit rising temperatures, with new pledges to cut carbon and methane emissions, end deforestation, phase out coal and provide more finance to countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“But we cannot underestimate the task at hand to keep 1.5C alive.

“Countries must come back to the table this week ready to make the bold compromises and ambitious commitments needed,” he urged.

Mr Miliband said: “The truth after the first week of the COP is that we remain a long way off where we need to be to realistically say we have taken the major steps required to keep 1.5 alive.”

But he said Mr Johnson was offering “empty exhortation and commentary”.

“We have a right to expect him to engage directly in these final days, personally driving these negotiations forward, pushing all the major emitters to do more, delivering the finance required for developing and vulnerable countries and ensuring we have a path out of Glasgow to keep 1.5 alive.

“He needs to step up with focus, clarity and urgency in the face of the massive task the world faces in the coming days.”

Alongside the negotiations, this week will see a focus on issues such as support for developing countries to adapt to climate change, cleaning up transport and tackling climate change in cities, regions and states.