Boris Johnson urges United Nations Assembly to 'be more Kermit' and back COP26

Thu 23 Sept 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Boris Johnson evoked Muppet character Kermit the Frog and Sophocles as he sought to get the nations of the world to back his climate change agenda ahead of the UK hosting COP26 conference in Glasgow next month.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly yesterday (Wednesday 22 September), the prime minister said: “When Kermit the frog sang It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green, I want you to know he was wrong.”

Johnson said that technology could help the world achieve its aims, and that future generations would know they were the “culprits” if they failed to act.

£100bn commitment

Johnson’s address in New York aimed to gather nations to the cause of committing to spending £100bn a year to help less developed countries grapple with climate change, reports the Times.

Quoting the Greek playwriter’s description of man as “awesome”, Johnson explained: “We are awesome in our power to change things and awesome in our power to save ourselves, and in the next 40 days we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be.”

The Telegraph reports that Johnson’s efforts to get countries to fully fund the commitments made in the Paris climate agreement in 2015 were buoyed by announcements from the US and China.

US and China step up

President Biden said the US will double the amount it pays to $11.4bn a year by 2024. The new US funding would put the $100bn target within reach.

China’s President Xi Jinping made an unexpected promise that China would not build new coal-fire projects abroad in future, reports the FT, a move that could have far reaching implications, although it does not address China’s domestic coal consumption.

The country is the world’s biggest emitter and will have to close 600 coal fired power stations in the next decade to meet its net zero target of 2060, according to the Guardian.

According to the UK government, developed countries have failed to reach the $100bn target – last week the OECD confirmed that only $79.6 billion was mobilised in 2019.

Support for developing countries

The money is to support developing countries cut their carbon emissions, minimise the impact of climate change and adapt their economies to deal with its impact.

The UK has committed £11.6 billion in international climate finance over the next five years, twice its previous five-year commitment. 

Johnson said: “Richer nations have reaped the benefits of untrammelled pollution for generations, often at the expense of developing countries.

"As those countries now try to grow their economies in a clean, green and sustainable way we have a duty to support them in doing so – with our technology, with our expertise and with the money we have promised.”

He told the UN that “our grandchildren will know that we are the culprits”, if countries failed to take urgent moves to prevent “desertification, drought, crop failure and mass movements of humanity on a scale not seen before”, reports the Telegraph.

Green innovation

Johnson said the innovative green start-ups could lead the way in tackling climate change, highlighting such diverse projects as feeding seaweed to cows to cut methane emissions and using AI and robotics to enhance food production.

The UK has focused on the potential of green technology as good for British exports, as well as good for the planet.

COP21, which is held in Glasgow on 1-12 November brings world leaders and tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens to Scotland for twelve days of talks, explains Metro.

Updating Paris climate pledge

The event is the first time since the Paris Agreement in 2015, to limit global warming to below 2 degrees, that nations have met to revisit and update their plan to tackle climate change.

The climate summit operates by consensus, with all 191 parties to the 2015 Paris climate accord having to reach agreement on how it is implemented.

All the countries are supposed to submit updated pledges ahead of COP26, but UN analysis last week found only 113 had done so.