Boris Johnson today admitted that the chance of COP26 being a success is just six out of 10 as he begged China to do more to stop climate change.
In a round of interviews at the G20 summit in Rome – where he is trying to gain momentum ahead of the gathering in Glasgow next week – the PM warned that the outcome is still in the balance.
He painted a dire picture of the consequences if world leaders do not act, with civilisation at risk of plunging back into the ‘Dark Ages’.
He said that when the Roman Empire collapsed it could ‘no longer control its borders, people came in from the east’ – and climate change could cause similar disaster with ‘contests for water, for food’.
The premier conceded that there will be ‘costs’ from moving to a Net Zero economy – which he has promised the UK will do by 2050 – but he said it would also create high-skilled, high-paid jobs.
‘If you increase the temperatures of the planet by 4 degrees or more as they are predicted to do remorselessly, you’ll have seen the graphs, then you produce these really very difficult geopolitical events,’ he said.
‘You produce shortages, you produce desertification, habitat loss, movements… contests for water, for food, huge movements of peoples.
‘Those are things that are going to be politically very very difficult to control. When the Roman Empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration.
‘The Empire could no longer control its borders, people came in from the east, all over the place, and we went into a Dark Ages, Europe went into a Dark Ages that lasted a very long time.
‘The point of that is to say it can happen again. People should not be so conceited as to imagine that history is a one-way ratchet.’
In a round of interviews at the G20 summit in Rome (pictured) – where he is trying to gain momentum ahead of the gathering in Glasgow next week – Boris Johnson warned that the outcome is still in the balance
Mr Johnson has conceded that he asked China’s president X Jinping (pictured) in a call yesterday to bring forward the date of ‘peak’ emissions to 2025 rather than 2030, but was stonewalled
Mr Johnson walks the Spanish Steps with his wife Carrie last night ahead of the G20 summit
Mr Johnson has conceded that he asked China’s president X Jinping in a call yesterday to bring forward the date of ‘peak’ emissions to 2025 rather than 2030, but was stonewalled.
‘The point I made to our Chinese friends is that look they’ve made progress on overseas financing of coal. That’s a good thing,’ he said today.
‘What China needs to do is find ways of making a more ambitious, nationally determined contribution.’
Told that China was not going to do that, Mr Johnson replied: `Let’s see where we can get to.
‘What I think the whole world needs to understand is you can reduce dependence on coal very fast.
‘I reminded President Xi that last time I was … the first time I went to Beijing as the mayor of London, our country, the UK was 40 per cent reliant on coal to generate power. Today it’s only 1 per cent. You can make progress very fast.’
Mr Johnson was remined that he said last month the chances of COP succeeding were only six out of 10, and was pushed on whether the prospects had improved.
‘I’d say they’re about the same. I think that everybody needs to focus,’ he said.
‘What the UK has been trying to do is take the abstract concepts of Net Zero that we talked about in Paris six years ago, and to turn them into hard, sharp deliverables in terms of reducing coal use, reducing the use of internal combustion engines, planting millions of trees and getting the cash that the world needs to finance green technology.’
When pressed that he should be more honest with the public on the costs of reaching Net Zero – estimated at a trillion pounds by 2050, although dealing with the effects of major climate would be bigger – Mr Johnson said: `Of course there are costs, but what you can do with green technology is produce hundreds of thousands of high wage, high skilled jobs.
‘I think that is the point people understand. When I say that going green is easier, look at what we have done.
‘The UK has cut climate emissions, cut CO2 by 44 per cent on 1990 levels, and yet our economy has grown by 78 per cent.’
The comments came amid fears that the Glasgow gathering could end up as a damp squib.
China’s premier Xi Jinping has confirmed that he will not attend the event in person, although he will make a speech by video link.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also shunning the summit along with Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro.
COP26 begins next week at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and will welcome 30,000 delegates, 10,000 police and as many as 200,000 protesters for the 13-day conference.
COP26 begins in Glasgow on Sunday and will look to build on agreements made at the Paris climate summit in 2015 where nations agreed to try to keep global heating to below 1.5C
The Prime Minister’s comments come at a time where some have claimed that the absence of China and Russia’s premiers will make COP26 a damp squid