Greta Thunberg denounced world leaders for failing to act on climate change in a foul-mouthed tirade to her fellow Cop26 protesters today.
Government representatives have gathered in Glasgow to discuss green issues this week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson using his opening address to compare the situation to James Bond trying to diffuse a ‘doomsday device’.
US President Joe Biden, Germany’s Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France are among those gathering at the event in an attempt to foster international cooperation on climate change.
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, today accused countries of ‘treating nature like a toilet’ as he warned of a looming ‘climate catastrophe’.
Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough asked attendees: ‘Is this how our story is due to end – a tale of the smartest species doomed by that all-too-human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?’
And Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the outcome of the climate summit would be ‘life or death for millions of people’, suggesting that failure to act could be worse than leaders who ignored warnings about the Nazis in the 1930s – a comment he later apologised for.
Speaking at a demonstration at Festival Park, Glasgow, on the first day of the Cop26 summit, Swedish 18-year-old activist Miss Thunberg said that heads of government were not doing enough to save the planet from disaster.
She said: ‘No more blah blah blah, no more whatever the f*** they are doing inside there.
‘Inside Cop, there are just politicians and people in power pretending to take our future seriously, pretending to take the present seriously. Change is not going to come from inside there, that is not leadership – this is leadership… We say no more blah blah blah, no more exploitation of people and the planet.’
Miss Thunberg arrived in Glasgow on Sunday by train and will take part in two large protests through the city later in the week. Her stark warning comes as:
Boris Johnson has warned Cop26 delegates that the longer it takes to tackle climate change, the higher the cost will be when a ‘catastrophe’ forces world leaders to act.
Addressing world leaders including US President Joe Biden, India’s Narendra Modi and German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Johnson said the world was in the same position as James Bond as he tries to deactivate a doomsday device in his films.
But he said: ‘The tragedy is this is not a movie and the doomsday device is real.’
Coining a phrase from activist Greta Thunberg, he warned that the promises to limit global temperature rises under the Paris Agreement would be ‘nothing but blah blah blah’ and the world’s anger would be uncontainable unless Cop26 was the moment they got real about climate change.
Miss Thunberg recently chastised Britain and other nations for ’empty words and promises’, accusing them of delivering too much ‘blah blah blah’ instead of offering any real action.
The PM used his speech at the opening of the summit as a rallying cry to try to build momentum as he welcomed foreign leaders to Glasgow after securing only lukewarm climate commitments at the G20 summit in Rome over the weekend.
However, hopes for the UN event have suffered fresh setbacks, after it emerged that China’s president Xi Jinping will not even give a ‘virtual’ speech, instead only submitting a written statement.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also announced he will not be coming, despite attending the G20. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both in charge of big polluters, have declined to attend.
Meanwhile, the organisation of the conference has come under fire after thousands of delegates were forced to wait hours to get through shambolic security systems this morning.
Mr Johnson pledged in his lunchtime speech to put another billion pounds into green finance – as long as the UK economy performs as expected in the coming years.
The PM repeated he wants global leaders to unveil steps on ‘coal, cars, cash and trees’ – the things he believes will make the most different in limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.
Mr Johnson had set the tone as the G20 wrapped up last night by reading the riot act to his fellow world leaders, saying their promises on tackling climate change are starting to ‘sound hollow’.
The PM said there are ‘no compelling excuses for our procrastination’ on reducing harmful emissions and action already taken amounts to ‘drops in a rapidly warming ocean’.
Mr Johnson welcomed world leaders to Scotland by telling them that the country’s most famous fictional son is James Bond.
The PM said the fictional hero ‘generally comes to the climax of his highly lucrative films strapped to a doomsday device, desperately trying to work out which coloured wire to pull to turn it off while a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it’.
Addressing the packed summit hall, he said: ‘And we are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today. Except that the tragedy is this is not a movie and the doomsday device is real.
‘And the clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and turbines and furnaces and engines with which we are pumping carbon into the air faster and faster, record outputs quilting the Earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2, raising the temperature of the pkanet with a speed and an abruptness that is entirely man made.
‘We know what the scientists tell us and we have learned not to ignore them. Two degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people as crops wither, locusts swarm.
‘Three degrees and you can add more wildfires and cyclones, twice as many, five times as many droughts and 36 times as many heat waves.
‘Four degrees and 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 he higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act because humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change. It is one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now.’
Mr Johnson said that the current crop of world leaders will be judged harshly by future generations if they fail to agree a deal to restrict global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.
He said: ‘If we fail they will not forgive us. They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn.
‘They will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today. And they will be right.’
Mr Johnson closed his speech by telling his counterparts that they have a ‘duty’ to work together to make COP26 the moment when they begin to finally ‘defuse the bomb’ of climate change.
He said: ‘We may not feel much like James Bond, not all of us necessarily look like James Bond, but we have the opportunity and we have the duty to make this summit the moment when humanity finally began, and I stress began, to defuse that bomb and to make this the moment when we began irrefutably to turn the tide and to begin the fight back against climate change.’
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today met with Miss Thunberg at Cop26, following the Swedish environmental activist’s arrival in Scotland on Saturday.
On Monday morning, Ms Thunberg along with fellow campaigner Vanessa Nakate, from Uganda, met with the First Minister, who tweeted: ‘The voices of young people like @GretaThunberg and @vanessa-vash must be heard loudly and clearly at Cop26 – the next few days should not be comfortable for leaders, the responsibility to act must be felt.’
Ms Thunberg has previously been critical of the Scottish Government’s climate policy, saying that the country was ‘not a leader on climate change’, as the First Minister had previously stated.
Scotland has pledged to cut emissions by 75% by 2030 and be net zero by 2045, but the last three years of targets have been missed.
Nicola Sturgeon has said that world leaders gathering in Glasgow for the Cop26 climate summit should feel ‘bloody uncomfortable’ for not ‘doing enough’ to tackle global warming.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking as the crucial summit began, insisted: ‘Every climate promise must be kept. Frankly none of them are being kept right now.’
Speaking at an event hosted by the environmental organisation WWF, she told how she had just met Ms Thunberg and another young climate activist, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘Those voices often, including for me, are really uncomfortable at times, because they make us confront the hard realities of our own lack of delivery.
‘But my goodness they are so important to shake the gatherings that will take place here over the next few days out of the sense of complacency that surrounds them all too often.’
She continued: ‘If we only face up to the easy, relatively easy things we won’t get anywhere. This has to be a moment that leaders, all of us, whether we are round that negotiating table or not, are held to account for the reality of what we promise not for the rhetoric of it.’
With leaders of more than 100 countries gathering in Glasgow for the talks, Ms Sturgeon urged campaigners to ‘make life really uncomfortable for any government, any leader that is not doing enough’.
She added: ‘We have all got to be pushed much harder much faster. This summit should not feel comfortable for anybody in a position of leadership and responsibility, it should feel bloody uncomfortable because nobody yet is doing enough, that is the reality.’
Ahead of the summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that failure in Glasgow could mean that the Paris agreement from 2015 – in which leaders promised to work towards keeping global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees – would ‘crumple’.
Mr Johnson said: ‘If Glasgow fails, than the whole thing fails.
‘The Paris Agreement will have crumpled at the first reckoning.’
Leaders should put their egos aside, the First Minister said, and focus instead on working to reach an agreement.
‘I hope we can all put egos aside over the next few days to get the outcome that we need, that’s what I am committed to do – I’ve said that to the Prime Minister, to (Cop26 President) Alok Sharma,’ she said.
‘We’ve all got a big responsibility here and if ever there’s a time and a moment in history for everybody to put their political interest, their egos to one side and just focus.
‘It’s easy to exaggerate these things sometimes, but this is literally about the future of the planet, are we going to step up and save the planet or are we going to accept a pretty bleak outlook on this planet?’
But she stressed countries like Scotland – which does not have its own seat at the Cop26 negotiating table – still had a ‘massive role to play’ in tackling the climate crisis.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I am not going to betray any secrets here when I say I would prefer Scotland to be round the negotiating table here in our own right, pushing forward, but short of that we have got to make sure we are doing everything we can.’
She said Scotland was a ‘world leader’ in terms of climate action – but added that currently ‘the bar of world leadership is set far too low, so it doesn’t take enough to be a world leader’.
With Scotland having missed its emission reduction targets for the past three years, she said the country has ‘got to up our own ambition and delivery against that ambition’.
She also told how Scotland had a ‘big part to play’ in bringing together cities, regions and other devolved administrations, saying: ‘If we look at what is required in terms of emissions reductions to meet 1.5 degrees, about half of the total reduction required to achieve that requires action on the part of governments like the Scottish Government, sub-national governments.
‘So if we don’t play our part the world won’t get where it needs to be.’
But she added: ‘That doesn’t let the countries that will be around that negotiating table off the hook, they have to absolutely step up and do everything that is required of them as well.’
Channelling his hero Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘While Cop26 would not be the end of climate change, it can and it must mark the beginning of the end.’
Mr Johnson took to the stage to make his speech after the delegates watched a performance by Skye piper Brighde Chaimbeul, a video narrated by Brian Cox and a poem by Yrsa Daley-Ward composed for Cop26.
Around 120 heads of state and government are attending the world leaders’ summit at the start of the Cop26 talks, where countries are under pressure to increase action in the next decade to tackle dangerous warming.