Cop26: Boris Johnson ‘cautiously optimistic’ about reaching 1.5C deal

UK PM claims there has been a turnaround since G20 summit as he urges China to make improved pledge

Boris Johnson has declared he is “cautiously optimistic” about a deal at Cop26 to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C as he urged China to commit to bringing emissions down by 2025.

The prime minister had previously said if the climate emergency were a football match the world would be 5-1 down but he said on Monday that the score was now more like 5-2 or 5-3.

He claimed there had been a turnaround since the G20 leaders’ summit at the weekend, arguing that a commitment from Brazil on halting deforestation, the Indian pledge on decarbonising power by 2030 and extra cash promised by Japan were good signs.

However, he said there was still a “very long way to go” before a deal to keep 1.5C alive was achieved. Experts have said that reductions of 28 gigatonnes of emissions by 2030 are necessary to meet that target but pledges so far do not add up to anywhere near that amount.

Johnson said talks with China, the world’s biggest emitter, were now focused on trying to persuade its negotiators to bring forward its pledge for its emissions to peak in 2030 by five years.

“You bet we need more progress from China … and everyone here at this gathering,” he told a press conference in Glasgow. “The question is how much before [2030]. That’s the issue. There’s a world of difference between peaking in 2030 … and peaking in 2025. That’s where we’re keeping the pressure up.”

Johnson said another area of pressure was asking developed countries to contribute more in climate finance for developing countries, saying they are going to “have to do more”. UK government sources have acknowledged this is the most difficult area of negotiation and where Cop is likely to fall short.

The prime minister said commitments from countries would be “100% useless if the promises are not followed up with action”. Asked about concern among voters about the cost of net zero, Johnson said people had to realise that failing to tackle the climate crisis would be an “economic catastrophe”.

“I happen to think that there’s a great wisdom in the British people and I think that they can see that this is an issue that needs to be fixed and they may not listen to me, but they certainly listen to Sir David Attenborough and they look at what’s actually happening around the world,” he said.

“They look at the fires, they look at the floods, and they look at the hurricanes, and the increased incidence of all three, much-increased incidence, and they think something’s happening here.”

“They’re not dumb and they can see that this is something that needs to be tackled,” he added, while ruling out a referendum on the push for net zero.

Johnson’s demeanour was more upbeat than at the G20 summit, when he warned of a serious risk of failure in Glasgow. His official spokesperson dismissed the idea that the prime minister had deliberately lowered expectations to later declare his negotiations with other world leaders in Glasgow a success.

Asked whether Johnson’s weekend gloom had been expectation management,
the spokesperson said: “The PM felt very much at the G20 that limited progress was made but was by no means the significant boost that was needed. What we’ve seen so far is some early signs that we are starting to make some progress. Again, we are not complacent. This is not a done deal by any means. There is a huge amount of work left to do.”

Johnson has still not made a decision on whether to come back at the end of Cop26, and could instead make a statement from Downing Street on what is agreed.



Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Like a clown’: what other countries thought of Boris Johnson at Cop26
PM could not resist wheeling out the usual jokes and antics at crucial summit, but the laughs never came

Luke Harding and Peter Walker

05, Nov, 2021 @1:46 PM

Article image
Cop26: Ed Miliband urges UK PM to ‘get off the sun lounger and start being a statesman’
Shadow business secretary hits out at Boris Johnson and says Britain is stalling on climate pledges

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

12, Oct, 2021 @9:30 PM

Article image
What happened at Cop26 today – day one at a glance
Summary of the main developments on kick-off day of the UN climate summit in Glasgow

Tom Levitt

01, Nov, 2021 @7:01 PM

Article image
Cop26 summit at serious risk of failure, says Boris Johnson
UK PM says climate crisis talks at G20 over weekend only ‘inched forward’

Peter Walker in Rome, Rowena Mason and Fiona Harvey in Glasgow

31, Oct, 2021 @7:50 PM

Article image
100 days to Cop26: protesters urge Boris Johnson to take climate talks seriously
With 100 days to go to crucial UN crisis summit in Glasgow, PM is accused of lack of leadership

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

23, Jul, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
The Guardian view on climate change diplomacy: is Boris Johnson up to it? | Editorial
Editorial: Next year the prime minister will have to secure global support for a climate deal while using Brexit to try to undercut the European Union’s environmental protections


16, Dec, 2019 @6:49 PM

Article image
Johnson apologises after minister who uses wheelchair denied entry to Cop26 venue
Israel’s Karine Elharrar could not attend summit on Monday due to lack of accessibility

Caroline Davies

02, Nov, 2021 @2:42 PM

Article image
‘If we don’t act now it will be too late’, warns Johnson ahead of Cop26
Prime minister says ‘too many countries doing too little’ amid last-minute talks before summit

Peter Walker Political correspondent in Rome

29, Oct, 2021 @9:30 PM

Article image
Cop26: Boris Johnson talks the talk but can he really deliver a climate deal?
This week’s talks in Glasgow will be a test of commitment. But there has been little hard diplomacy from Britain, the host nation, to ease the path to an agreement

Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent and Toby Helm, Observer Political Editor

31, Oct, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Cop26 in extra time as leaders warn of the deadly cost of failure
Talks expected to last into Saturday afternoon as delegates are told they must reach a deal or future generations will be forced into violent competition for resources

Fiona Harvey, Damian Carrington, Severin Carrell, Oliver Milman and Libby Brooks

12, Nov, 2021 @9:28 PM