British PM Johnson disappointed at climate progress ahead of key UN talks

Securing international progress on reducing carbon emissions is politically important for Mr Boris Johnson.
Securing international progress on reducing carbon emissions is politically important for Mr Boris Johnson.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Britain said global efforts to tackle climate change are falling short and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a key United Nations summit next week to press for more action.

"It is disappointing that there hasn't been as much progress recently as there should have been," Mr Johnson's spokesman, Mr Max Blain, told reporters on Friday (Sept 17). "We have ourselves made progress towards the commitments we've made."

Securing international progress on reducing carbon emissions is politically important for Mr Johnson, given Britain hosts the next round of UN climate talks, known as COP26, in Glasgow in November.

The UN General Assembly in New York next week is among the final chances for him to build momentum as world leaders take stock of their commitments.

Mr Johnson is also addressing a virtual discussion on climate change hosted by United States President Joe Biden on Friday, where Mr Biden is hoping to push members of the Major Economies Forum - a mix of advanced and developing economies - to up their ambitions, according to a senior US official.

Britain has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared with 1990 levels, and to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Britain's emissions fell 13 per cent in 2020 versus 2019, largely due to the effects of coronavirus lockdown measures.

Mr Biden on Friday urged the world to bring its “highest” ambition to COP26,  warning that the planet faces a tightening deadline. 

“We have to bring to Glasgow our highest ambitions. Those who have not yet done so, time is running out,” Biden said in the White House at the start of a virtual summit with nine foreign leaders. 

Biden said the United States was taking concrete steps toward UN climate goals but noted that recent devastating flooding in the US northeast and wildfires in western states echoed extreme weather events from China to the Amazon. 

Last month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the Earth’s average global temperature will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels around 2030, a decade earlier than projected three years ago. 

Biden said this represents “a code red for humanity” and that “we have to act, all of us, we have to act now”.

Biden called the virtual forum – where there were notable absences of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Brazil and India – in preparation for the major UN summit taking place in Glasgow at the start of November. 

World leaders will also be attending a separate closed-doors climate conference on Monday on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly in New York. 

The Glasgow summit is focused on ensuring the world sticks to an agreed goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  But “without adequate commitments from every nation in this room, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 slips through our hands and that is a disaster,” Biden said. 

He noted the US commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 52 per cent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, along with several other hefty targets. 

One of these is a joint pledge with the European Union and other partners to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. 

“Our emphasis this year is going to be on building ambition on the road to Glasgow,” he said, but “Glasgow is not our final destination.”