Politics

Big polluters have ‘duty’ to help poor countries go carbon-neutral, says Johnson

Boris Johnson will attempt to shame the rich countries of the world into finally meeting a $100bn (£73bn) pledge made more than a decade ago to help developing nations deal with the climate emergency – telling them they have a “duty” to step up because their wealth is based on generations of “reaping the benefits of untrammelled pollution”.

In a meeting also attended by the world’s biggest carbon-emitter China, he will announce that the UK is putting half a billion pounds into assisting poorer countries to wean themselves off coal power and switch to cleaner energy sources.

He will put pressure on big business to cut its own emissions, in a meeting with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, when aides said he will confront the billionaire internet retailer over his company’s responsibility to address issues of climate change and biodiversity.

And he will raise global warming in a face-to-face meeting with climate emergency-denying Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose complicity with loggers using fire to clear vast tracts of Amazon rainforest has fuelled the crisis.

With fewer than 50 days to go to the COP26 climate change summit being hosted by the UK in Glasgow, the prime minister will tell a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York on Monday that developed countries have “collectively failed” to live up to promises first made in 2009 to support poorer nations in cutting their carbon emissions and adapting their economies for a warmer climate.

An OECD report last week confirmed that only $79.6bn (£58bn) in climate finance for the developing world was mobilised by richer countries in 2019 – 2 percentage points up from the previous year but still well short of the $100bn target which was due to be reached in 2020.

New pledges made by G7 leaders at Mr Johnson’s Cornwall summit in June totalling $4bn a year for adaptation and nature will not be enough to take the rich world over the line.

At the end of the UN General Assembly this week the UK will publish the detail of countries’ climate finance commitments to date, and Mr Johnson has asked Germany and Canada to draw up a $100bn Delivery Plan ahead of COP26, to spell out how the climate finance promise will be met through to 2025.

Co-chairing Monday’s meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Mr Johnson will announce that the UK will direct £550m – from a pot of £11.6bn already committed to International climate finance over the next five years – towards supporting developing countries to adopt the policies and technologies needed to end reliance on coal.

The failure to accelerate the removal of coal from the world’s energy ecosystem is one of the key obstacles standing in the way of the COP26 goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Despite pledges to bring its emissions to a peak before 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060, China this year announced plans to build 43 new coal-fired power plants and 18 new blast furnaces – equivalent to adding about 1.5 per cent to its greenhouse gas production.

On the first day of a three-day trip to the US which also takes in talks with Joe Biden at the White House, Mr Johnson will tell Monday’s meeting: “In coming together to agree the $100bn pledge, the world’s richest countries made an historic commitment to the world’s poorest – we now owe it to them to deliver on that.

“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.”

Some £350m of the UK funding announced today will go to the Climate Investment Fund to pilot and scale climate solutions in developing countries, including support for a programme to accelerate closures of coal-fired power stations, repurpose sites for clean energy generation and create green jobs.

The cash represents Britain’s contribution to a target agreed at the G7 to provide an extra $2bn to the fund’s new energy programmes.

A further £200m will go to UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transition), Britain’s flagship climate technical assistance programme, operating since 2018 to deliver net-zero expertise in 16 countries with high or rapidly-growing emissions.

Following meetings in New York on Monday, Mr Johnson travels to Washington for talks with Mr Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris, which are certain to feature the ignomious withdrawal from Afghanistan and the UK”s involvement with the US and Australia in a new Indo-Pacifice defence partnership.

On Wednesday, he returns to New York for meetings with senior Congress members including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and ranking Republicans Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.

He delivers his own address to the general assembly on Wednesday evening before returning to the UK.

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