Glasgow Climate Pact 'sounds death knell for coal power', claims Boris Johnson

The Glasgow Climate Pact “has sounded the death knell for coal power” as part of a tipping point in global attitudes towards climate change, Boris Johnson has claimed.

In a Downing Street press conference on Sunday night, the Prime Minister said the goal of limiting global temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “is still alive”.

Warming is already at 1.1C but even with the new pledges agreed in Glasgow at Cop26, scientists estimate the world is on track for a rise of 2.4C this century.

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But Mr Johnson said vital progress had been made in Glasgow, with an historic global commitment to reduce coal usage and agreement on finalising key parts of the “Paris rulebook”, on areas such as establishing carbon markets and transparency over the action countries are taking, which have been outstanding since that climate treaty was agreed in 2015.

Alok Sharma and Boris Johnson have hailed the Glasgow Climate Pact. Picture: PAAlok Sharma and Boris Johnson have hailed the Glasgow Climate Pact. Picture: PA
Alok Sharma and Boris Johnson have hailed the Glasgow Climate Pact. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson told the press conference: “Before Paris, the world was on course for a devastating four degrees warming by the end of this century.

“After Paris, remember, we were heading for three degrees, at Glasgow we’ve turned that dial down to around two degrees increase, and of course that’s still far too high.

“But for all our disagreements, the world is undeniably heading in the right direction.

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“Even the most pessimistic commentator will tell you that 1.5 degrees, that goal of restricting the growth in temperatures to 1.5 degrees, is still alive.

“Now the work continues to make that ambition a reality.”

Mr Johnson added: “There’s still a long journey ahead of us, and very little time to complete it.

“But Cop26 has shown that we can do this. We can end our reliance on coal and fossil fuels.

“We can put the brakes on runaway climate change, and we can preserve our unique planet for generations to come.”

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There had been considerable anger at the end of the Cop26 summit on Saturday after China and India successfully forced a last-minute change to the Pact’s wording. It was decided to change the language from accelerating the “phase out” of unabated coal, to “phase down”, a move that prompted angry responses from European and vulnerable countries.

But Mr Johnson claimed the change did not “make that much of a difference”.

He said: “It’s an immense thing to get a commitment from 190 countries to phase down or phase out coal.

“Whether the language is phase down or phase out doesn’t seem to me as a speaker of English to make that much of a difference. The direction of travel is pretty much the same.

“And that’s never been said before”.

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The Prime Minister said he believed a “tipping point” on global attitudes to climate change and he was “much more optimistic” than he had been before the start of the summit.

“I genuinely think this thing is now propelled by a force that is bigger than corporations and is bigger than governments and that is people and consumer choice and what citizens want around the world.”

Professor Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, attended Cop26 and said the summit represented “probably got the best outcome we could have hoped for”.

He said: “If you consider where we are currently in terms of international political cooperation, I think Cop did get the best outcome we could have achieved.”

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Professor Forster said he had not expected the inclusion of coal in the final agreement and was also pleased that nations will reassess their emission cut plans next year. Previously, these were only changed ever five years.

He said the UK now had to begin delivering on its own climate change pledges.

“We have ambitious targets and we have to be shown to be delivering on those targets in a way that isn’t harming the economy at all but in fact doing the opposite - actually strengthening the economy and creating jobs.”

“We have talked the talk but this has to be the decade where we have to deliver.”

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'Weight of the world on shoulders' as deal almost collapsed, says Sharma

Cop26 President Alok Sharma said he was emotional when negotiations concluded because he felt “the weight of the world” on his shoulders.

Mr Sharma said: “I can tell you there was one really tense hour where I did feel the weight of the world on my shoulders… this deal was absolutely in jeopardy. We got it over the line.”

At the end of the summit, he apologised to delegates for the way the Glasgow Pact’s watered-down wording on fossil fuels was brought about at the 11th hour.

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“The reason I said sorry at the event was not because I thought that we didn’t have a historic achievement, it’s because at the end, people thought the process was opaque.”

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