Today saw speeches given by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Secretary-General to the United Nations Antonio Guterres, British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, US President Joe Biden, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Following a rather chaotic start with hundreds of attendees suffering in lengthy queues outside the venue, the day kicked off with Johnson articulating the urgency with which humanity must act to combat climate change.
He said, “The children that will judge us are children not yet born.”
“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.”
Johnson then emphasised the need to discover alternative and innovative methods to produce energy such as carbon capture to be financed, he said, by the ‘trillions’ that could be provided by the private sector.
Guterres took to the stage, speaking about the $100bn climate finance target promised in 2015. Calling it ‘critical to restoring trust and credibility’, he said the funding must become a climate finance reality.
“Those suffering the most – namely, least developed countries and small island developing states – need urgent funding. More public climate finance, more overseas development aid, more grants and easier access to funding,” he said.
He also implied that the world is not doing anywhere near enough to keep to the 1.5C target and that, according to a recent UN report, current greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction commitments will result in an average 2.7C temperature rise this century.
“We need maximum ambition – from all countries on all fronts – to make Glasgow a success,” he added.
”Motivated by hope, not fear.” - Sir David Attenborough
Revered British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough began with a note of optimism, stating that leaders at COP26 be ‘motivated by hope, not fear’.
Criticising the rate at which the world has been burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the atmosphere, he championed the development of technologies that are able to capture carbon, hailing for ‘a new industrial revolution powered by sustainable innovation’.
He inferred that inequality between nations has seen the poorest nations affected the most, saying, “Those who have done the least to cause this problem are the hardest hit.”
Attenborough finished with a poignant reminder of the changes that he has seen first-hand.
“In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.”
US President Joe Biden proposed unity, saying that we can keep 1.5C within reach if we come together and do our part as nations.
Biden referred to the rocketing energy prices as a ‘call to action’ and that the climate crisis is ‘the challenge of our collective lifetimes’.
“The start of a decade of transformative action.” - Joe Biden.
“So, let this be the moment when we answer history’s call here in Glasgow. Let this be the start of a decade of transformative action,” he added.
Indian PM Narendra Modi committed to meet net zero targets by 2070, considerably later than the 2050 goal set out by the Paris Agreement.
Despite this, the pledge marks the first time that India – the world’s fourth biggest CO2 emitter – has made an official commitment to reducing emissions.
“When I came to Paris for the first time for the Climate Summit, I had no intention to add my own promise to other promises across the world, I had come with concern for humanity.”
“So for me, Paris event wasn’t a Summit but a sentiment, a commitment and India wasn’t making promises to the world,” he said.
Although not in attendance, Brazil’s controversial leader Jair Bolsonaro and China’s Xi Jinping both made statements.
Bolsonaro called Brazil a ‘green powerhouse’, a dubious statement given the president’s apparent disregard for conserving the Amazon rainforest.
“When it comes to fighting climate change, we have always been part of the solution, not the problem,” he said, before pledging to cut emissions to 43% from 50% by 2030.
In a written statement Jinping called for developed countries to set ‘realistic targets and visions’ as well as developing science and technology to ‘accelerate the green transition’, despite making no major climate pledges himself.