In a speech at the UN Cop27 climate conference on Monday, Boris Johnson will criticize the “corrosive skepticism” over net zero that impedes UK and global efforts to combat the climate catastrophe.
In a shot at members of his own Conservative party, the former UK prime minister will contrast the success and atmosphere of optimism at Cop26 in Glasgow last November with the failings of governments – notably the UK – to follow through on pledges subsequently.
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“Because the jump in oil and gas prices – and the resulting worldwide inflation, the increases in the cost of fertiliser and food – have had an effect everywhere, they have caused some skeptics to develop a corrosive scepticism about net zero,” he will warn.
Soon after the conclusion of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow last November, some rightwing members of the UK’s ruling Conservative party – including many who initially supported Johnson for prime minister in the 2019 general election, but helped oust him in July – attempted to use the climate emergency as a “culture war” issue.
They fought against the UK’s objective of attaining net zero emissions by 2050 and formed up a net zero scrutiny group of MPs to press for reducing or reneging on the legally binding commitment. Fueling their efforts was Vladimir Putin’s conflict in Ukraine, which brought already climbing gas prices to record heights.
Johnson, whose supporters have long hailed him as a green champion, will deliver the following speech at Cop27 on Monday: “We must end the defeatism that has crept in over the past year, we must end Putin’s energy blackmail, we must continue our campaign to end global dependence on hydrocarbons, and if we retain the spirit of creative and Promethean optimism we saw in Paris and Glasgow, we can keep [the] 1.5C [limit on global temperature rises] alive.”
Johnson is attending Cop27 as the guest of the Egyptian hosts. Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, will also attend the Cop27 meeting, having reversed his previous intention to skip the conference, which will be attended by 110 international leaders.
He will meet with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the Italian prime minister, Georgia Meloni, and the president of Kenya, William Ruto.
He is also likely to bring up Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British-Egyptian democracy activist and blogger who is on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison, with the Egyptian administration.
Sunak will commit the United Kingdom to tripling its funding for countries to adapt to the effects of extreme weather, from £500 million in 2019 to £1.5 billion in 2025. However, there will be no new funding for climate finance; the expenditures will be taken from the $11.6 billion budget already agreed upon before Cop26.
Sunak will declare, “The globe convened in Glasgow with a last opportunity to devise a strategy to restrict global temperatures to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels].” Today’s question is: Can we muster the collective will to fulfill these promises? I think we can. By honoring the commitments we made in Glasgow, we can transform our fight against climate change into a worldwide mission for the creation of new employment and sustainable economic development. And we can leave our children a healthier world and a brighter future. That’s a legacy we might be proud of.”
He is anticipated to announce progress on a UK project to save the world’s remaining forests and on the so-called “just transition” to renewable energy in places where many jobs are now reliant on fossil fuels.
Sir Keir Starmer, who is absent from Cop27, will also mark the beginning of the conference by proposing clusters of net-zero industry centered on steel, cement, ceramics, and chemicals in regions such as Humber and Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth, and south Wales.
Labour’s policies would result in at least £1bn more investment in greening business in the UK than under Conservative measures, Starmer will claim. The funds would be provided via a planned National Wealth Fund.
Labour accused the government of “dragging its feet on climate at every point,” putting British business behind in the battle for future technologies that are clean and efficient.