10 Downing Street
PM to tell UN: It's time for humanity to grow up and address climate change
In a major speech in New York, PM Boris Johnson will tell fellow world leaders there is a compelling case for transforming our economies to make them cleaner and greener.
- PM will use UN speech to rally global action on climate change ahead of COP26 Summit
- PM will make the case for a global recovery driven by investment in green technology
- UK will increase its spending on international climate finance, funding more green projects through our development finance institution
Climate change and economic growth are not mutually exclusive trade-offs but are instead each vital for the success of the other, the Prime Minister will tell the UN General Assembly today.
In a major speech in New York ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 Summit, Boris Johnson will tell fellow world leaders there is a compelling case for transforming our economies to make them cleaner and greener. This is a case driven not just by the threat of climate change, but by the need for a sustainable economic recovery from coronavirus.
He will argue that humanity is at a turning point, where we can no longer take the health of the planet for granted but instead need to take urgent action to halt climate change.
Addressing the UN, he is expected to say:
An inspection of the fossil record over the last 178 million years – since mammals first appeared – reveals that the average mammalian species exists for about a million years before it evolves into something else or vanishes into extinction.
Of our allotted lifespan of a million, humanity has been around for about 200,000. In other words, we are still collectively a youngster. In terms of the life of our species, we are about 16.
We have come to that fateful age when we know roughly how to drive and we know how to unlock the drinks cabinet and to engage in all sorts of activity that is not only potentially embarrassing but also terminal.
In the words of the Oxford philosopher Toby Ord “we are just old enough to get ourselves into serious trouble.
We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure and we combine this narcissism with a primitive assumption of our own immortality.
We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that is what someone else has always done. We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again.
My friends the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end. We are approaching that critical turning point – in less than two months – when we must show that we are capable of learning, and maturing, and finally taking responsibility for the destruction we are doing – not just to our planet but to ourselves.
It is time for humanity to grow up. It is time for us to listen to the warnings of the scientists – and look at covid, if you want an example of gloomy scientists being proved right – and to understand who we are and what we are doing.
The world – this precious blue sphere with its eggshell crust and wisp of an atmosphere – is not some indestructible toy, some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart’s content.
Daily, weekly, we are doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable – not just for us but for many other species.
And that is why the Glasgow COP26 summit is the turning point for humanity. We must limit the rise in temperatures – whose appalling effects were visible even this summer – to 1.5 degrees.
We must come together in a collective coming of age. We must show we have the maturity and wisdom to act. And we can.
The IMF projects that global warming of 4˚C would permanently lower global GDP by around 3.5%. Conversely, bold action on climate change could yield economic gains of $26 trillion, generate more than 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030, and avoid more than 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution. The global trade in green goods is already worth £150 billion and the market is forecast to grow to £3 trillion by 2050.
The UK has already demonstrated that there is no trade-off between growth and being green – in the last 30 years we have grown our GDP by 78% while cutting emissions by 44%.
Building on the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week of £550 million to support green, resilient growth around the world, CDC, the UK’s development finance institution, will increase the amount it gives to climate projects.
Today the Prime Minister will commit to ringfencing 30% of all CDC’s investments for climate finance over the next five years, with all new investments aligned to the terms of the Paris Agreement. This is a huge step up from five years ago when that number was just 5% and further boosts the UK’s contribution to the $100bn global climate finance target over and above our existing £11.6 billion commitment.
This is also in line with the ambition set out by the Prime Minister and other leaders at the G7 to deliver a step change in our approach to infrastructure financing, particularly in respect of clean and green growth.
This commitment comes ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 Summit in November, which will be a crucial opportunity for world leaders to take concrete action to prevent climate change and drive green growth, both in their own countries and around the world.
As Presidents of COP this year, the UK is stepping up its climate ambitions across Government. Today UK Export Finance has announced ambitious plans to decarbonise its portfolio and increase its support for green exports. By financing more climate-friendly projects, UKEF – which works to increase export opportunities around the world – will boost green growth in the UK and around the world.
Under its new Climate Change Strategy, UKEF aims to join CDC and the UK as a whole in achieving net zero by 2050.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister and UN Secretary General hosted a climate roundtable with world leaders, where they called on rich economies to step up to meet the goal to mobilise $100bn a year to help vulnerable countries develop cleanly.
The UK is asking countries to come forward with specific plans to cut their carbon emissions by 2030, setting them on course for net zero. The UK has already set a new target to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, among the highest in the world.
The Prime Minister will also use his UN General Assembly speech to ask countries to address the wider COP26 aims on ‘coal, cash, cars and trees’:
- On coal – we are asking countries to invest in clean energy and phase out coal by 2030 for the developed world and 2040 for developing countries. The UK has committed to end coal power by 2024.
- On cars – we are asking countries to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles and abandon polluting vehicles by 2035 at the latest. The UK has committed to end the sale of polluting cars by 2030.
- On cash – developed nations need to deliver on their commitment to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year for developing countries. The UK has committed to £11.6 billion in international climate finance over the next five years. Global frameworks also need to be set in place to get trillions in private finance flowing.
- On trees – we are calling for action to restore nature and habitat, and halt deforestation by 2030. The UK is committed to trebling tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament (May 2024).
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