Larger economies are not doing “their fair share” in tackling climate change, and there are “no convincing excuses for our postponement,” Boris Johnson has said.
As the G20 summit in Rome ended, the Prime Minister struck a gloomy, slightly angry tone, describing progress as a “matter of will and leadership”.
Only 12 of the world’s 20 largest economies have committed to achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 or earlier, he said.
With COP26 The Glasgow climate conference, now officially under way, Mr Johnson said there was a risk that the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement would not be known in the future as “the moment humanity opened its eyes to the problem”, but ” the moment we gave way and turned around.
It was agreed in Paris that temperature rises above pre-industrial levels should be kept below 2C, and preferably no more than 1.5C.
There is a danger that COP26 will be a damp squib, the prime minister added, setting the chances of success at “about six out of 10 – it’s nip and tuck, it’s touch and go”.
He continued: “We could do it or we could fail in mid-November. If Glasgow fails, then it all fails – Paris will be curled up at the first calculation.”
At the moment, the Paris Agreement and “the hope that came with it are just a piece of paper,” he said, adding that citizens “want us to fix this”.
Referring to the G20 summit, the prime minister said it had been no more than “reasonable” and that there was still “a huge way to go”.
As for agreeing on measures to stop warming of more than 1.5 degrees, the prime minister said it was “very much in balance”.
He continued: “At the moment we are not going to hit it and we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to keep that hope alive. Science is aware that we have to act now to halve emissions before 2030 and keep 1.5 C within reach. “
Progress on domestic use of coal “can be made”, Mr Johnson said, but he warned that less developed countries “will need help” from the richer.
Earlier, the UN Secretary-General said he was leaving Rome with his “unfulfilled hopes” after G20 leaders failed to agree on a solid commitment to tackle climate change.
Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies agreed that it would require “meaningful and effective action and commitment on the part of all countries” to keep global warming down to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
They did not elaborate on what these actions might be, saying they recognized the relevance of halting net emissions “by or around the middle of the century” – by removing the 2050 date seen in earlier versions of the final statement to make the goal less specific.
The leaders agreed to stop the public financing of coal-fired electricity production abroad, but set no target for phasing out coal domestically.
The lack of agreement on the domestic issue relates directly to the biggest carbon polluters China and India – and represents the leaders’ lack of agreement on a key issue.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned on Friday that the world was rushing to climate disaster, said: “While I welcome the G20’s commitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled – but at least they are not buried.
“On to COP26 in Glasgow to keep the 1.5C target alive and to implement promises of funding and adaptation to humans and the planet.”
A spokeswoman for the advocacy group for sustainable development Global Citizen said the lack of a final timeline “is not good enough”.
“That the G20 was not in line with this basic fact is close to negligence on the part of both humans and the planet,” she said.
And she also expressed anger that leaders failed to provide any emergency assistance to help Madagascar, which is on the verge of declaring the first famine caused by climate change after four years without rain.
After concluding two days of negotiations in Rome, the group of 20 leaders had sought to find common ground and final commitments on how to reduce emissions while helping poorer countries deal with the consequences of climate change.
The 20 members, which include the United Kingdom, the United States, China, India, Brazil, Russia and the EU, represent more than three quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Also at the G20, the US and the EU agreed to crack down on “dirty steel” that produces carbon emissions by restricting steel made in China from gaining access to their markets.
US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met at the end of the summit, where they said the move resolved the trade dispute started by former President Donald Trump.
Mrs von der Leyen, who called the US President “dear Joe” several times, said all like-minded economies could join the deal.
G20 leaders also approved a global minimum tax of 15% on companies agreed by G20 finance ministers in July.
The tax aims to minimize the possibility for multinational companies to use tax havens to make massive profits while avoiding taxes in the countries in which they operate.
The leaders also set a goal of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in each country against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 and 70% by June 2022.
But Global Citizen told Sky News “there is no plan to get there” and questioned where the doses would come from as there is still little data on vaccine production and distribution.
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