Six years ago the Paris Agreement made an historic commitment to end the destruction and devastation caused by climate change. Together they agreed to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees with a view to keeping that increase at 1.5 degrees.

“But hundreds of summits, speeches, press conferences like this later, those words and promises are starting to sound, frankly, hollow,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the G20 leaders today (Sunday, 31 October) at their summit in Rome, ahead of the formal start of business in Glasgow tomorrow.

“If we are going to prevent COP26 from being a failure then that must change.

“And I must be clear, that if Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails,” he said, referencing the fact that only 12 G20 members have committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier.

“Barely half of us have submitted improved plans for how we will cut carbon emissions since the Paris Summit in 2015,” he said.

“The science is clear that we need to act now to halve emissions by 2030 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

“There are no compelling excuses for our procrastination,” he told the leaders in a speech.

“The countries most responsible for historic and present-day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister

He went on: “If we don’t act right know the Paris agreement will be looked at in the future not as the moment humanity opened its eyes to the problem, but the moment we flinched and turned away.

While there has been “some progress” in the last few days and weeks, with Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia all making net zero commitments – meaning that 80% of the global economy will wipe out its contribution to climate change by the middle of the century, up from 30% “thanks to the UK’s COP26 leadership,” added Mr Johnson.

Countries such as the United States have doubled their spending on climate aid. Every nation at this weekend’s summit will end the financial support for international unabated coal projects by the end of this year.

But these commitments are “drops in a rapidly warming ocean” when we “consider the challenge we have all admitted is ahead of us,” he said.

But he added: “The countries most responsible for historic and present-day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work.

“Right now the Paris Agreement, and the hope that came with it, is just a piece of paper. We need to fill that piece of paper to populate it with real progress.”

“Right now the Paris Agreement, and the hope that came with it, is just a piece of paper. We need to fill that piece of paper to populate it with real progress”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister

“And, we have also failed to meet our commitment to provide $100bn a year to support developing countries to grow in a clean and sustainable way.”

The UN says emissions will rise by 15% by 2030, and they need to halve by then, said Mr Johnson who added: “The Paris Agreement will have crumpled at the first reckoning. The world’s only mechanism, viable mechanism, for dealing with climate change will be holed beneath the water line.”

Mr Johnson claimed that the UK has “proved it can be done – we have lowered our greenhouse gas emissions by 44% in the last 30 years while increasing our GDP by 78%.”

In a statement of hope, rather than optimism, Mr Johnson concluded: “We have made some progress at this G20. We have had a reasonable summit, but there is a huge way still to go.

“We all know that we have the technology. What we need to do now is to raise the finance, but above all we need the political will, in Glasgow, to make those commitments.”

What is the G20?

Founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises, the G20 or ‘Group of Twenty’ is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU).

It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.

The G20 is composed of most of the world’s largest economies, including industrialised and developing nations.

The group collectively accounts for around 90% of gross world product (GWP), 75–80% of international trade, two-thirds of the world’s population, and roughly half the world’s land area.

The G20, in order of their annual gross domestic product (GDP – the market value of all final goods and services from a nation in a year) are: