Summit on knife edge

PM says COP26 deal ‘hangs in balance’ as Thunberg arrives

Boris Johnson in Italy

The Prime Minister in Italy for the G20 meeting

Boris Johnson says the chances of success at the COP26 summit hang in the balance but warned that future generations faced food shortages and mass migration unless there was action on climate change.

Mr Johnson will head to Glasgow on Sunday after attending a G20 meeting in Rome where he was reminded that he recently said the chances of the summit producing the necessary action were about six out of ten.

“I’d say they’re about the same,” he said. “I think that everybody needs to focus.

“What the UK has been trying to do is take the abstract concepts of net zero that we talked about in Paris six years ago, and to turn them into hard, sharp deliverables in terms of reducing coal use, reducing the use of internal combustion engines, planting millions of trees and getting the cash that the world needs to finance green technology.”

He warned that failure would produce habitat loss, contests for water, for food, huge movements of peoples. Those are things that are going to be politically very, very difficult to control.

“The question everyone is asking is whether we seize this moment or let it slip away. I hope world leaders will hear them and come to Glasgow ready to answer them with decisive action.

Mr Johnson said: “Cop26 will be the world’s moment of truth.

“Together, we can mark the beginning of the end of climate change – and end the uncertainty once and for all.”

About 120 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, will attend the 12-day summit at the Scottish Events Campus.

Mr Johnson will host an opening ceremony attended by dignitaries including the Prince of Wales and will give a speech on Monday.

His warnings to fellow leaders came as he faces criticism that he continues to use polluting private jets to travel to engagements.

Mr Johnson has taken more than 20 flights on private aircraft since becoming Prime Minister, pumping 52 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to an investigation by the Sunday Mirror.

The paper says Mr Johnson has spent at least £216,000 on private flights since becoming Prime Minister and follows research calling on politicians to “lead by example” by reducing their air travel, being pulled from the government’s website.

The research, commissioned by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “Perceived hypocrisy can do a lot to undermine efforts to build public engagement and support.”

Leo Murray, director of innovation at climate campaign group Possible, told the paper: “While the Prime Minister talks a good fight on climate change, what we actually see him doing is making journey after journey which could easily have been made by train or electric vehicle by private jet instead – in some cases causing over a hundred times the environmental damage of these alternatives.

“This kind of blatant hypocrisy doesn’t just undermine public confidence in the government’s commitment and ability to tackle the climate crisis, but even worse, it actively drains public appetite to behave as though this is a crisis ourselves because we can all see the PM behaving like it isn’t.”

On Saturday evening Greta Thunberg was mobbed by jubilant climate change activists as she arrived in Glasgow with a police escort.

The Swedish activist is the poster girl for campaigners who are expected to turn out in their thousands to demand world leaders put words into action and force behavioural change that will cut carbon emissions responsible for rising temperatures.

Greta Thunberg mobbed in Glasgow

Ms Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside a bank in London on Friday before taking the train from Euston to Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.

She is expected to take part in demonstrations but her participation in the summit itself remains uncertain.

On his Sunday morning TV show, Andrew Marr asks her if she has been invited to Cop26. She tells him: “I don’t know. It’s very unclear. Not officially. I think that many people might be scared that if they invite too many radical young people, then that might make them look bad.”

Scotland’s First Minister said the effects of climate change “are staring us in the face. What Al Gore once described as an inconvenient truth has become an inescapable reality – and there is no more time to lose.

“There is public demand to see bold and coordinated action on climate change. The question is whether that demand can be matched by political will. 

“Scotland may not be at the top table of these negotiations, but I and the Scottish Government will be doing absolutely everything we can to help make this conference a success.”

An estimated 25,000 people will attend the COP26 event and as many as 14,000 will be at the SECC at any one time. 

The £100 million policing operation at COP26 represents the biggest deployment of officers on record in the UK – larger than the London Olympics and the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.

Demonstrators are said to be ready to exploit gaps in Scottish law to cause havoc and test a ring of steel being placed around the summit by thousands of police from around the country.

They have noted that a recent High Court Injunction banning road blockades does not apply in Scotland – and that the authorities will be overwhelmed by the scale of the protests.

Climate change protestors in Glasgow

Scottish spokesman for Extinction Rebellion Myke Hall told the Daily Mail that ministers should be “very worried” about their plans to disrupt the event.

An average of 10,000 officers from Police Scotland and forces around Britain will be on duty every day for three weeks, with the UK Government picking up the bill.

MSPs were told earlier this year that police expect to make 300 arrests a day and arrangements are in hand to cope with a surge in court cases.

Transport Scotland has warned that “the impact on motorways and railways should not be underestimated” and is urging people not to make unnecessary journeys.

G20 leaders endorse tax agreement

Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies (G20) will endorse an OECD deal on setting a global minimum corporate tax of 15%.

The aim is to have the rules in force by 2023.

Earlier this month 136 countries reached a deal on a minimum tax on global corporations, including internet giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft to make it more difficult for them to avoid taxation by establishing offices in low-tax jurisdictions.

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