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World leaders at Cop26 urged to ‘act now’ to tackle climate crisis

Phil Noble/PA Wire

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

World leaders are facing calls for urgent action to limit dangerous temperature rises as they gather for a summit at the start of a crunch UN climate conference.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will welcome leaders to Glasgow for the Cop26 talks, will tell them that humanity has “long since run down the clock on climate change” and must act now to tackle the crisis.

The Prince of Wales, who is addressing leaders at an opening ceremony for the talks alongside Mr Johnson, is expected to stress the urgency of action – calling for the world to be on a “war-like footing”.

Around 120 heads of state and government are set to attend the world leaders’ summit at the start of the Cop26 talks, where countries are under pressure to increase action in the next decade to tackle dangerous warming.

US president Joe Biden, European leaders and India’s Narendra Modi are among those attending the talks, although the heads of key major economies including China’s Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin will not be there.

The conference in Glasgow is seen as the moment when countries must deliver on pledges made in the accord agreed in Paris six years ago, to limit temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to curb warming to 1.5C – beyond which the worst impacts will be felt.

There is also pressure on developed countries to deliver a long-promised 100 billion US dollars a year in climate finance for poorer countries least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change, and address loss and damage caused by the impacts of global warming.

And there will be efforts to drive action by countries, regions, and businesses to curb emissions in sectors such as power with efforts to phase out coal, as well as finalise parts of the Paris climate accord agreed in 2015 to make it effective and operational.

Countries’ plans for cutting emissions in the next decade – key to limiting long term temperature rises – leave the world well off track to meet the climate goals and put the planet on course for a dangerous 2.7C of warming.

Glasgow is not expected to close that gap, so there is pressure to negotiate a road map for increasing ambition in the next 10 years to keep the 1.5C goal within reach.

At the opening ceremony of the world leaders’ summit on Monday, Mr Johnson will say: “Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change.

“It’s one minute to midnight and we need to act now.

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.”

He is also expected to say: “We have to move from talk and debate and discussion to concerted, real-world action on coal, cars, cash and trees.

“Not more hopes and targets and aspirations, valuable though they are, but clear commitments and concrete timetables for change.

“We need to get real about climate change and the world needs to know when that’s going to happen.”

Addressing the Cop26 opening ceremony, the Prince of Wales will warn: “We have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing”

And he will urge world leaders to systematically engage with business to solve the climate crisis, saying: “We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal.”

The opening ceremony will also hear from naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who is the Cop26 people’s advocate, and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

World leaders will then set out the national action they are taking to tackle the climate crisis, while there will also be announcements on areas such as curbing deforestation and cutting methane during the two-day leaders’ summit at the beginning of the two weeks of talks.

The start of Cop26 comes off the back of the G20 summit in Rome, where the leaders of the major economies – responsible for 80% of the world’s emissions – agreed to reach carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century”.

Politicians in attendance in Italy also pledged to end public financing for coal-fired power generation abroad, but did not commit to phasing out domestic coal consumption.

Following the G20 meeting, Mr Johnson warned that countries had made some progress but the outcome of the talks in Glasgow intended to deliver on the commitments in the Paris climate agreement remained “in the balance”.

“If Glasgow fails, than the whole thing fails. The Paris agreement will have crumpled at the first reckoning,” he warned.

Mr Johnson said that they had “inched forward” in the Italian capital but it was “nip and tuck, touch and go” whether they would make further progress over the next two weeks in Scotland.

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