GLASGOW. – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow yesterday on a somber note, warning that the world is facing an ecological “end of the world”, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres bluntly said: “We are digging our own graves . ”
US President Joe Biden opted for a more hopeful tone, saying that behind the “growing catastrophe” of global warming lies an “incredible opportunity” and called on leaders to rise to the challenge.
Biden rejected criticism that transforming economies to reduce greenhouse gases and becoming dependent on fossil fuels will hurt jobs, arguing that “jobs are at stake”.
Electrifying transportation, building solar cell and wind turbine networks “creates good, paid union jobs for American workers,” while continuing down the same path is already causing economic damage, he said.
“We are at a turning point in world history,” said Biden, describing the spread of forest fires, droughts and other climate-related disasters.
French President Emmanuel Macron took the stage after Biden’s speech and called for a joint effort to curb climate change based on three values: ambition, solidarity and trust.
He urged the world’s “largest emitters” to step up their carbon pollution reduction plans during the two-week summit.
“The key for the next 15 days at this COP is that the largest emitters, whose national strategies do not match our target of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, increase their ambitions … this is the only way we can make our strategy credible again.” Macron told the leaders in Glasgow.
Macron and Biden were preceded by Briton Johnson, who opened the summit and said the world was tied to a “doomsday device”.
Johnson compared the Earth’s ever-warming position to that of the fictional secret agent James Bond – strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to figure out how to defuse it.
He told the leaders that “we are in roughly the same position” – only now the “ticking doomsday device” is not fiction. The threat is climate change, triggered by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, which Johnson said began in Glasgow with James Watt’s coal-powered steam engine.
Johnson told the summit that humanity is out of time on climate change and it is now time to take action. He pointed out that the more than 130 heads of state and government who gathered in Glasgow had an average age of over 60, while the generations hardest hit by climate change have not yet been born.
Johnson called for the end of coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered cars along with a huge cash transfer from rich countries to poor people to help them move to greener economies and adapt to worsening climate change.
And that mood only darkened when United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres followed suit.
“We dig our own graves,” said Guterres. “Our planet is changing before our eyes – from the depths of the sea to mountain peaks, from melting glaciers to inexorable extreme weather events.”
Britain’s Prince Charles told world leaders that they must “save our precious planet” and that “the world’s eyes and hopes are on you”. – AP / AFP