LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Scotland’s Catholic international development agency has launched a petition asking the UK government to pledge to do more to tackle climate change ahead of a major UN climate conference.

The COP26 meeting will take place in Glasgow from Oct. 31 – Nov. 12.

On Monday, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) hosted a race between a person dressed as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a person wearing a clock costume to draw attention to the urgency of the climate crisis.

The Race Against Time took place along the River Clyde near the Scottish Event Campus Center which will host the COP26 conference.

A costumed Boris Johnson and SCIAF supporter Olivia McKibbin as a clock in Glasgow, Aug. 16, 2021. (Credit: Colin Hattersley Photography/Courtesy SCIAF.)

“We have launched a new petition calling on the Prime Minister to take bold action and stop runaway climate change,” said Dr. Geraldine Hill, SCIAF’s advocacy manager.

“Climate change is already having a devastating impact on the world’s poorest communities and as we’ve shown today, time is running away from us,” she said.

SCIAF’s 3 asks. 2 weeks. 1 planet. petition calls on Johnson to: 1) Pay to protect the poorest communities, making sure financial support is given to those impacted by climate change so they can adapt and recover; 2) act now to stop runaway climate change by making sure world leaders commit to keeping rises in global temperatures below the “disastrous” 1.5°C threshold established by UN climate experts; and 3) Listen to those on the frontline of the climate crisis and making sure that people worst affected by the crisis are at the heart of the climate talks.

“While much of the focus has been on reducing emissions, we also want to highlight the support that is needed to help the world’s poorest communities adapt and recover. They are on the frontline of the climate crisis,” Hill said.

“As we inch closer to COP26, there is no doubt on what we need to do. Show your support by signing our petition. Now more than ever we need to come together as a global community – the world’s poorest people are counting on us.”

COP26 was due to take place in 2020 but was postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It marks the first five-year update mandated by the 2015 Paris agreement, the first-ever legally binding global climate change treaty, adopted at the COP21 UN climate conference in the French capital.

Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report warning “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide” are needed to stem a climate crisis.

“Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years,” the IPCC said.

“This report is a reality check,” said the IPCC’s Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”

Olivia McKibbin, a SCIAF supporter who participated in Monday’s Race Against Time said there was no time to lose in tackling the environmental crisis.

“If our leaders don’t take urgent action on climate change then nothing else matters. The things that our governments deem important now will be worthless when we cannot breathe the air that’s around us,” she said.

Pope Francis published his landmark ecological encyclical Laudato Si’ in the build-up to the Paris meeting and is expected to make a short trip to the Glasgow during November’s climate conference.

During his time in Scotland, he will also meet with the Scottish bishops. However, officials say there will be no other public engagements.

“Our position on this is that there are no plans for a Mass whatsoever,” a spokesperson for the Catholic Church told the BBC.

“Our understanding is that the window will be extremely tight and there will be enough time to meet the global leaders, and once the official part is over, to meet the bishops, and that is it. A public Mass is not something the Church is expecting, because of time constraints.”

It will be the first visit by a pope to the UK since Pope Benedict XVI visited both Scotland and England in 2010.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome