ROME (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in Italy on Friday for a Group 20 meeting with a stern warning: modern civilization could soon lie in ruins like ancient Rome if world leaders do not take action to curb climate change.
Johnson has one big goal at the G-20 meeting: to persuade the leaders of the world’s largest economies to invest their money where their mouths are at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland, which begins on Sunday.
Johnson will use his liveliness and his – albeit devastating – charm to try to extract money and carbon reduction commitments from the G-20, which contains some of the biggest carbon emitters, including China, the United States, India and Russia.
Johnson told reporters on his plane to Rome that the ruins of the Eternal City are “a fantastic reminder, a memory of us today … that humanity, civilization, society can go back and forth and when things start to go wrong, they can go wrong with tremendous speed . “
Nevertheless, he expressed doubts that the COP26 climate summit would achieve its goal of gaining enough commitments to reduce carbon emissions to maintain the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
Johnson will call on G-20 leaders to act more quickly, saying the world’s richest countries, which have become rich through the use of fossil fuels that heat the Earth, must bear the burden of fighting climate change.
He said that “if we don’t tackle this in the face of climate change, we could see our world, our civilization, go back and leave future generations with a life that is much less enjoyable than ours,” through mass migration. , water scarcity and conflicts due to climate change.
The G-20, which accounts for 75% of world trade and 60% of its population, has often been accused of being too large and fragmented to be able to take strong collective action. Johnson’s global image with Brexit means his power to bend his arms may be limited.
The G-20 meets when the European Union and a former member of the United Kingdom quarrel over trade rules and during a simmering dispute between Britain and France over fishing rights in the English Channel. France is also upset over a nuclear submarine deal between the US, the UK and Australia that has led Australia to cancel a multi-billion dollar contract to buy French submarines.
These disputes are blurring Johnson’s hopes of a “G-20 rebound” to gain momentum for the 12-day COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. He hopes to leave Rome with a bundle of global promises of carbon reduction, a plan to limit coal consumption and the long-promised, never-delivered $ 100 billion a year in aid to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.
Major G-20 polluters, including Russia and Australia, have failed to improve on their carbon-off promises made after the Paris conference. Neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of the two largest carbon emitters, intend to personally attend the G-20 or COP26.
China released an updated version of its climate targets this week and promises to reach zero carbon emissions by 2060 and peak emissions by 2030.
Johnson said he “pushed” Xi to move the climax to 2025 when they talked on the phone on Friday.
“I wouldn’t say he committed to it,” Johnson admitted.
The world is currently far from the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which is the threshold between manageable and catastrophic climate change. Keeping “1.5 alive” is the central theme of the Glasgow meeting. To achieve this, the UK has perfected the mantra of “coal, cars, money and trees” – eliminating fossil fuels, switching to clean vehicles, spending money and stopping deforestation.
Johnson faces major obstacles to victory over the world. Many European leaders do not trust the British leader because of his role in the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 and the years of horrific divorce negotiations that followed. U.S. President Joe Biden was also cautious, as he saw echoes in Johnson’s crowd of pleasant banter about Donald Trump’s populism.
Johnson insists Brexit does not mean the UK’s withdrawal from the world, and he defended his vision of an outward-looking “global Britain” during this year’s presidency of a group of seven wealthy industrialized countries.
In addition to being named climate champion, it calls on the G-20 countries to commit to vaccinating the world against coronavirus by the end of 2022.
Johnson is a more credible green messenger than the leaders of some rich countries. The United Kingdom has pledged to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has published a detailed plan to achieve this goal. Unlike Australia, it is on track to eliminate coal from its energy mix in a matter of years. And unlike the United States, there is limited political opposition to stricter climate rules in the United Kingdom.
But the UK’s annual budget, released on Wednesday, made little mention of climate change, while lowering taxes on passengers on domestic flights and freezing taxes on motor fuel.
Pessimists may ask – if the G-20 cannot agree on how to fight climate change, what is the hope for the nearly 200 countries that will gather at COP26 in Glasgow?
However, Jared Finnegan, a public policy expert at University College London, sees progress in how the conservative British government wants to see itself as a green leader, and in how the global climate conversation has shifted.
“Also the fact that we’re talking about net zero by 2050 – that’s something that wasn’t on the table five years ago,” he said.