LEICESTER, United Kingdom – England’s leading Catholic development charity says the UK must “put its own house in order” before hosting a major United Nations conference on climate change.
The 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, called COP26, will take place in Glasgow, Nov. 9-19.
On Feb. 4, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the preparations for the summit at a speech in London, pointing to the ecological challenges facing the planet.
“We have had a catastrophic period in which the global addiction to hydrocarbons has got totally out of control,” Johnson said. “We’ve poured so much CO2 into the atmosphere collectively that our entire planet is swaddled in a great tea cosy of the stuff.”
Noting that the temperature of the planet has gone up by one degree Celsius over the past century, the prime minister warned that unless world leaders take urgent action, it could soon get three degrees hotter.
“And in the hurricanes and the bushfires and the melting of the ice caps, and the acidification of the oceans, the evidence is now overwhelming, and it is taking its toll, this phenomenon of global warming is taking its toll on the most vulnerable populations around the planet, which is why the UK has now committed to £11.6 billion [$15 billion] in tackling global climate change and in financing climate initiatives around the world,” Johnson said.
The prime minister’s remarks were welcomed by CAFOD, the international development aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, but the agency said the UK must put his words into action.
“It is encouraging that the Prime Minister explicitly recognizes that the world’s poorest people are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and that the UK has a ‘responsibility to lead the way’ as one of the biggest historic polluters,” said Neil Thorns, CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy.
“If the government is going to succeed in persuading other countries to come to Glasgow with their own plans for halting the climate emergency, it needs to put its own house in order. That will include stopping government support for all fossil fuels overseas straight away and backing local, renewable energy which brings power to communities living without electricity,” he said.
“It also means we need to put in place long-term solutions to address climate, poverty and the loss of biodiversity together, recognizing that they have shared roots in the crisis facing our common home,” Thorns added.
In his speech, the prime minister called for the reversal of the “appalling loss of habitats and species” across the planet.
“It’s only by repairing the damage to the natural world and restoring the balance between humanity and nature – which is now so grotesquely out of kilter that we can address the problem of climate change and of course at the same time we have to deal with our CO2 emissions, and that is why the UK is calling for us to get to net zero as soon as possible, for every county to announce credible targets to get there, that’s what we want from Glasgow and that is why we are pledged here in the UK to deliver net zero by 2050 and we’re the first major economy to make that commitment, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Johnson said.
Last month, the prime minister announced at UK-Africa Investment Summit that Britain would no longer provide overseas aid for coal powered energy facilities. Johnson has also pledged to end coal power in the UK in less than five years.
However, Tomás Insua, the Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement warned that only “ambitious, actionable national frameworks can get us toward net zero emissions.”
He told Crux these frameworks must “show the true price of carbon pollution – and that price is steep.”
“Carbon pollution means spreading deserts, rising tides, more sickness, more conflict, more hunger, more migration,” he said, adding, “Catholics have an important role to play in encouraging their leaders to shape moral policies that protect life in the midst of unimaginable environmental devastation.”
Insua said the COP26 meeting in Glasgow will be “crucial,” since it marks the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, which pledged to stop the global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
The key goal for the Glasgow meeting is that governments will have plans for how they will bring emissions down to the levels required by the Paris Agreement.
“It’s past time for nations to step up for meaningful action on climate change. Fires rage, seas rise, storms swirl, and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters bear the brunt of the consequences,” he said.
“Ambitious commitments to reduce emissions that limit warming to 1.5 degrees are absolutely essential. Phasing out fossil fuels is the best way to get there, and to achieve that, we must halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Insua continued.
Thorns said the people of Britain “are giving a clear message” that the government shouldn’t let the opportunity provided by hosting the UN climate gathering go to waste.
“COP26 won’t put an end to the climate emergency on its own, but it is a proud moment for our country to push the world to bring emissions down,” he said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome
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