Boris Johnson is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that he can strike a deal at COP26

COP26: Boris Johnson defends China's absence from summit

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The Prime Minister was clearly pleased last night over the progress made by world leaders after a string of deals to cut methane emissions, save forests and pledge billions on reducing greenhouse gases. He compared the international effort to curb global heating to a football match, saying: “We’ve pulled back a goal, or perhaps even two. “I think we’re going to be able to take this thing to extra time because there is no doubt that some progress has been made.”

He also insisted Britons had the “wisdom” to back the drive towards net zero carbon emissions.

Prince Charles stepped into the debate by echoing the thoughts of the Queen when he told the politicians that the world was fed up with talking – and needed action to save the planet.

Government officials insisted “significant momentum” was building up at the two-week gathering with “some real tangible commitments” being made by the 120 nations represented.

A major breakthrough came yesterday with more than 100 countries signing up to a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by the end of the decade.

Half of the world’s top 30 methane emitters – including the US, EU, Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Vietnam and Canada – backed the commitment. US President Joe Biden trumpeted the agreement as “game changing”.

Another advance came with more than 35 world leaders supporting the new Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda, which will see countries and businesses work together to accelerate the development of clean technology.

And Mr Johnson joined with South Africa, the US, France and Germany in agreeing a partnership to support South Africa in speeding up that country’s transition to sustainable energy sources.

The PM flew back to Westminster last night to leave his ministers and negotiators to work out a string of other environment issues over the summit’s remaining 10 days. The other world leaders did the same. And Mr Johnson urged on Twitter: “Let’s keep moving forward, keep 1.5 alive and make this the moment we irrefutably turn the tide against
climate change.”

Earlier he said: “I am cautiously optimistic. It’s all too easy to come to a summit like this and get caught up in a mood of exaggerated enthusiasm because of the very nature of diplomacy and the instinct to be polite. So as this first stage of COP26 draws to a close, we must take care to guard against false hope and not think in any way that the job is done – because it is not.”

Mr Johnson said the conference had agreed to end the “great chainsaw massacre” of deforestation around the globe with more than 85 percent of the world’s forests to be protected by 2030.

He also noted that 90 percent of world’s economies were working towards net zero in carbon emissions – with the Indian Government vowing to switch half the country’s power grid to renewable sources.

Mr Johnson said: “We’ve been asking for action on coals, cars, cash and trees. After a couple of days, we can certainly begin to tick three of those boxes.

“That’s all happened because we were able to come together in person and do this.

“It’s brilliant so many countries have embraced net zero but we’re going to keep working with all the leaders to get them there sooner – to accelerate their timetable.”

He went on to say: “The clock on the Doomsday device is still ticking but we’ve got a bomb disposal team on site. They’re starting to snip the wires – I hope some of the right ones. My message to them is very simple – the leaders of the world may have left or are leaving COP26 now, but the eyes of the world are on you, the eyes of the British Government and all the other governments…and we have got your numbers.”

Mr Johnson brushed aside diplomatic concerns about Emmanuel Macron quitting the summit early amid a rift with the UK over fishing permits. The French President left on Monday night – but the PM insisted that Mr Macron remained his “friend.”

Mr Johnson also delivered a passionate defence of his net zero push in the face of concerns among some Tory MPs and the public about the potential cost to households – and dismissed the idea of a referendum on it.

He said failure to curb climate change would be an “catastrophe” impoverishing millions.

He added: “If we don’t do this, if we don’t fix our climate, it will be an economic catastrophe, an environmental catastrophe.

“There is a great wisdom in the British people and they can see this is an issue that needs to be fixed. They may not listen to me but they listen to Sir David Attenborough and look at what’s happening around the world.

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

“People can see this is something that needs to be tackled. And we will tackle it by creating many hundreds of thousands of high wage, high skilled jobs in green technology.” Prince Charles also talked tough, saying he will fly abroad on official trips in future only if the plane uses sustainable fuel made from waste products.

He said: “Frankly we have all had enough talking so we need to put our words into practice.”

Discussing steps needed to safeguard the world’s forests and land, he said nations needed to “honour” the rights of indigenous people who were “experienced custodians” of their habitats. He later met Commonwealth leaders, urging them to make private finance deals to green their economies.

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