The prime minster has said the UK wants to phase out hydrocarbons completely and as quickly as possible.
In one of his strongest comments about the end of oil and gas, Boris Johnson said this afternoon:
“What we want to do is move beyond hydrocarbons completely in the UK and do it as fast as possible.”
He was answering a question at a press conference about the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance. This is due to be launched tomorrow at COP26 by Denmark and Costa Rica, aimed at phasing out the use of hydrocarbons.
Mr Johnson did not answer whether he would join the group, but he said:
“We’ll look at what Denmark and Costa Rica are proposing. I would certainly encourage everyone to move beyond coal and move beyond hydrocarbons.”
There are plans in the UK for a new oil field at Cambo off Shetland, a new coalmine in Cumbria and multiple oil and gas projects onshore. The UK government is also defending a legal challenge at the Court of Appeal next week on carbon emissions from onshore oil production.
Despite this, Mr Johnson said the UK had set a “blistering pace” already on moving away from oil and gas. He referred to a ban on new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 and decarbonisation of electricity generation by 2035.
“The proof of what the UK can do about moving beyond hydrocarbons can be seen in what we’ve already achieved, he said.
COP26 is “not going to fix climate change”
Mr Johnson came to COP26 for the afternoon to talk to negotiators and civil society organisations.
Afterwards, he seemed to lower expectations about the outcome of the Glasgow talks:
“The COP26 summit here in Glasgow is not going to fix it in one go. We’re not going to arrest climate change, right here, right now. That is just impossible.”
But he said
“There is the possibility that we will come away from this with a genuine road map for a solution to anthropogenic climate change.”
The Glasgow talks had been designed to implement the pledges of the Paris Agreement into a workable contract on cutting carbon emissions and providing money to vulnerable nations.
With just 48 hours left of the scheduled talks, analysis has revealed that the emissions pledges on the table will not secure the COP26 aim of emissions cuts to limit temperature rise to 1.5C. There are also short-falls in climate finance.
Mr Johnson said:
“We have to bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to be if we are to cut emissions in half by 2030.
“We need to pull out all the stops, if we are going to do what we came here to do, and that’s keep 1.5 alive and keep Paris the success it needs to be.”
He would not reveal which countries were blocking agreement on the draft decision text, published this morning. But he said:
“It is very frustrating to see countries that have spent six years conspicuously patting each on the back signing that promissory note in Paris, quietly edging towards default now that vulnerable nations future generations are demanding payment here, now in Glasgow.”
He said there was no excuse because everyone knew what was at stake.
The President of Palau, in the Western Pacific, crossed nine time zones for five days to get to the climate talks. He said if the large economies didn’t do more they might as well bomb his islands. The Prime Minister of Barbados said a 2C increase in temperature would be a death sentence.
Mr Johnson warned what would happen if Glasgow failed:
“The backlash from people will be immense and it will be long-lasting. And frankly, we will deserve their criticism and opprobrium.”
“We know what needs to be done. We all agree what needs to be done. We just need the courage actually to get on and do it.”
He hinted that the talks may overrun beyond the finish time of 6pm on Friday. There was no reason not to go “into extra time”, he said, if it was needed, he said.
“Glasgow sets future for children and grandchildren”
At an earlier news conference, the COP26 president, Alok Sharma, said:
““What we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and our grandchildren. No world leader or country will want to fail them.”
His team published the first draft of the decision document for the Glasgow talks early this morning. For the first time, this included a reference to the phase out of coal and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
Asked if that would survive to the final document, he said:
“There were a range of views expressed by different groups. There were certain elements of the cover decision that were welcomed. There were other elements that various parties raised concerns about.”
A review of progress is underway this evening. A near-final text is expected overnight and views from the delegations will be discussed tomorrow. Mr Sharma said:
“The science and citizens across the world demand that we are unapologetically high ambition as a presidency and the cover decision texts are, in our opinion, high ambition and balanced.”
“Cross our fingers and hope for the best”
Campaign organisations and charities have been disappointed with the draft final text. Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace international, said
“The new draft final decision text published today is not a plan to solve the climate crisis, it’s an agreement that we’ll all cross our fingers and hope for the best. It’s a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year. That’s not good enough.”
Tracy Carty, head of Oxfam’s delegation, said the draft failed to include a clear commitment to increase the ambition of 2030 emissions reduction targets.
[it] “fails to respond to the climate emergency being faced by millions of people now, who are living with unprecedented extreme weather and being pushed further into poverty”.
Fridays for Future, Most Affected People and Areas, said the reference to fossil fuels must stay in the text.
Not including #FossilFuels in the text of the #Glasgow agreement would be an insult of criminal dimension!!😠#COP26#KeepItInTheGround (and in the text!)#EndFossilFuels#EndFossilFinance https://t.co/hEe4u66qag— Manya G. (@Manya_G) November 10, 2021
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