| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

“One minute to midnight” says Johnson as climate conference opens

The failure of major industrial nations to agree on bold new pledges has made a U.N. meeting vital to averting the most severe effects of climate change even more daunting.

The G20 economies failed to commit to a 2050 target to halt net carbon emissions, a deadline widely cited as necessary to avoid the most extreme global warming. The COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, began a day after the G20 economies failed to commit to a 2050 target to halt net carbon emissions, a deadline widely cited as necessary to avoid the most extreme global warming.

Instead, their meetings in Rome only acknowledged “the critical need” of reducing net emissions “by or around mid-century,” provided no schedule for phasing out coal at home, and toned down promises to reduce methane emissions, which are many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Their pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “over the medium term” was similar to language used by the G20 at a 2009 summit in Pittsburgh.

“The clock on climate change has been ticking for a long time. On that Doomsday clock, it’s one minute to midnight, and we need to act now “Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, spoke at the inaugural ceremony.

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

As Johnson was speaking, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg retweeted an appeal for her millions of supporters to sign an open letter accusing leaders of betrayal.

“This is not a drill. It’s code red for the Earth,” it read. “Millions will suffer as our planet is devastated — a terrifying future that will be created, or avoided, by the decisions you make. You have the power to decide.”

Many of those leaders were due to take to the stage in Glasgow at the start of two weeks of negotiations that conference host Britain is billing as make-or-break.


The effort will not be made any simpler by disagreements among some of the world’s largest polluters about how to reduce coal, oil, and gas use while still assisting poorer countries in adapting to global warming.

At the G20, US President Joe Biden singled out China and Russia for not bringing suggestions to the table, despite neither sending a leader to Glasgow.

According to an official timetable, Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country is by far the largest producer of greenhouse emissions, ahead of the United States, was scheduled to deliver a written message to the conference on Monday.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, one of the world’s top three oil producers along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, dropped plans to participate in any talks live by video link, the Kremlin said.

According to Turkish network NTV, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced his decision to stay out as Britain failed to meet Ankara’s expectations on security arrangements and protocol.

Less senior delegates, many of whom were stranded on Sunday due to rail service difficulties between London and Glasgow, faced more mundane issues.

More than a thousand people had to wait in a line outside the venue for nearly an hour to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test and get entrance, while activists played an electronic musical remix of Thunberg’s previous statements.


Delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – a level scientists say would avoid its most destructive consequences.

To do that, it needs to secure more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions, lock in billions in climate-related financing for developing countries, and finish the rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries.

Existing pledges to cut emissions would allow the planet’s average surface temperature to rise 2.7C this century, which the United Nations says would supercharge the destruction that climate change is already causing by intensifying storms, exposing more people to deadly heat and floods, raising sea levels and destroying natural habitats.

Developed countries confirmed last week that they would be three years late in meeting a promise made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries by 2020.

“Africa is responsible for only 3% of global emissions, but Africans are suffering the most violent consequences of the climate crisis,” Ugandan activist Evelyn Acham told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

“They are not responsible for the crisis, but they are still paying the price of colonialism, which exploited Africa’s wealth for centuries,” she said. “We have to share responsibilities fairly.”

Two days of speeches by world leaders will be followed by technical negotiations. Any deal may not be struck until close to or even after the event’s Nov. 12 finish date.

  • Reuters