Queen calls on world leaders to write themselves ‘into the history books’

The planet will face "doomsday" if world leaders do not pull off a "James-Bond" victory, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the official opening ceremony of the COP26 leaders summit.

Key points:More than 100 world leaders have gathered for the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, ScotlandUK PM Boris Johnson told delegates the world was at "one minute to midnight on the doomsday clock"Sir David Attenborough said he had witnessed a "horrible decline" of the environment in his lifetime

Mr Johnson opened his address to more than a hundred heads of state with a reference to the fictional spy and compared the struggle to stop global warming to a movie-like mission.

"But the tragedy is, that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real," Mr Johnson said.

"And the clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and turbines and furnaces and engines.

"It's one minute to midnight on the doomsday clock, and we need to act now."

As host of the UN’s global climate change conference, the UK is trying to secure one key goal: global net-zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Johnson's catchphrase for achieving this is: "coal, cars, cash and trees".

"We can phase out the use of cars with hydrocarbon internal combustion (petrol-fuelled) engines by 2035," he said.

"We can plant hundreds of millions of trees, a trillion.

"It's not technologically difficult, and [we can] halt and reverse deforestation by 2030."

Mr Johnson also put a definitive target for when he would like to see coal-fired power phased out — 2040 for developing countries and 2030 in developed countries.

Diplomats and negotiators are also working to secure $US100 billion ($132 billion) in annual climate funding to support poorer countries.

Before official proceedings started, some of the world's most high-profile leaders were seen mingling — the first time many had been at such a large gathering since the outbreak of the pandemic.

US President Joe Biden could be seen smiling at Saudi Arabian leaders, and Mr Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a brief, but warm embrace.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor were also seen working the room, a week after the government agreed to the net zero by 2050 target.

Scott Morrison talks and gestures with his hands and Boris Johnson looks at him.
Boris Johnson's stance on coal puts him at odds with Scott Morrison.(Alastair Grant/Pool via Reuters)

Still, Australia has arrived at the conference with a reputation of being a "climate laggard", with critics calling the country’s climate policy "suicidal".

The UK had been pressuring Australia to reconsider its position on coal, but Mr Morrison made no mention of coal in his key address to the conference.

 He warned that any switch to renewables must be cost-effective.

"This needs to work not just in the developed economies of the North Atlantic, but in the developing economies of the Indo Pacific as well.

"Cleaner technology solutions must outcompete existing technologies if they are to be successful everywhere, especially in developing economies.

Mr Morrison said Australia would exceed its 2030 target, an emissions reduction of between 26 and 28 per cent.

"By 2030, our nationally determined contribution here at COP26 notes that our emissions will fall by 35 per cent by 2030, far exceeding our Paris commitment," he said.

Meanwhile, during his speech India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his country would aim to reach net-zero by 2070, two decades behind the UN's global goal.

India is the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States and continues to rely on coal for the majority of its power generation.

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Who is doing more for climate change?

Johnson pushes for more ambitious emissions reduction targets

The UK has asked all industrialised countries to adopt more ambitious mid-century targets too — ideally halving their emissions by 2030.

Australia has not adopted this position — which UN scientists believe is critical if the world wants to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Any further warming would be catastrophic for the world, Mr Johnson said in his address.

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On our current trajectory, we will heat the world by 1.5C in less than a decade, the United Nation's climate change panel has found. And if we don't act now, cooling the world will be increasingly hard.

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"We know what the scientists tell us … 2 degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people's crops," he said.

"Three degrees and you can add more wildfires and cyclones twice as many five times as many droughts and 36 times as many heatwaves.

"Four degrees, we say goodbye to whole cities — Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai all lost beneath the waves — and the longer we fail to act, the worse it gets and the higher the price."

UN secretary-general António Guterres warned that since delegates agreed to the historic 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the world had experienced "the six hottest years on record".

"Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink," he said. "We face a stark choice: Either we stop it or it stops us."

The outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her time at the summit's podium to call for a new global carbon pricing scheme, which were echoed by Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his address.

Royal family call on leaders to adopt 'war-like' approach to climate change

Queen in an green dress on a screen watched by others.
The Queen urged world leaders to rise above the politics of the moment.(AP Photo: Alberto Pezzali/Pool)

Britain's royal family have called on leaders to adopt "war-like footing" and to write themselves "into the history books," by preventing catastrophic global warming.

Queen Elizabeth II was due to attend the COP 26 conference in person but was instead forced to deliver a video message after doctors advised her not to travel.

In her speech, she said she hoped all heads of state would "rise above the politics of the moment and achieve true statesmanship".

"It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit — written in history books yet to be printed — will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations," she said.

The 95-year-old commended the efforts of activists, particularly the very young who she said were pushing the world to do more.

"Time for words has now moved to the time for action … in the coming days, the world has the chance to join in the shared objective of creating a safer, stabler future," she said.

"Of course, the benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: we none of us will live forever.

"We are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children's children, and those who will follow in their footsteps."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attended the diplomatic event, where the video was played while the Prince of Wales delivered a speech at the opening of the leaders' summit.

"We have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing," he said, to truly tackle the rising temperatures and overcome biodiversity loss.

The Prince of Wales urged governments to work more closely with the private sector.

'Is this how our species is doomed to end?'

Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean made one of the key addresses at the opening ceremony, and used it to put political leaders on notice.  

"You all have the power to be better … you know what climate justice is doing to us, you don't need my pain or my tears to know that we are in a crisis," the 23-year-old said.  

"Remember in your meetings rooms and drafting documents, they are more than black and white objects. 

"Your words wield the weapons that could save us or sell us out.

"The real question is: Do you have the political will do the right thing, to use the right words and follow up with much-needed action?"

Read more on COP26:The key moments that led to Australia's 'laggard' climate change reputationWhy is this year's COP26 meeting getting so much attention?The government's emission reduction plan doesn't contain any new actions, or dollars

The world’s best-known naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, was among the guests at the opening ceremony and urged all leaders to take urgent action.

"Those who have contributed the least are feeling the impacts the most," Sir David said.

"Is this how our species is doomed to end?"

"In my lifetime I've witnessed a horrible decline. In your lifetime you should witness a wonderful recovery."

Mr Johnson reminded delegates at COP26 they were not of the same generation that would witness the impacts of climate change. 

"Half of the population of the world is under 30. The average age of this conclave of world leaders, I'm afraid to say, is over 60," he said.

Earlier in the day, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with some of the most high-profile youth activists, including Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate.

They urged all delegates to consider the future of younger generations, and issued a pointed reminder their failure would cost their children, and their children. 

Posted 1 Nov 20211 Nov 2021Mon 1 Nov 2021 at 2:25pm, updated 1 Nov 20211 Nov 2021Mon 1 Nov 2021 at 11:43pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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