Catholic aid agency CAFOD has urged the UK to “put its own house in order” before hosting a major United Nations climate change conference.
The agency’s call came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially launched the UK’s preparations for the COP26 UN climate talks, as it prepares to host this year’s conference in Glasgow.
Mr Johnson acknowledged that the climate emergency is “taking its toll on the most vulnerable populations around the planet” at the launch event for the summit.
Mr Johnson spoke at the event, which took place at the Science Museum in London earlier this week, alongside broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Italy will co-host the conference with the UK in November 2020.
Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at CAFOD, said: “It is encouraging that the Prime Minister explicitly recognises 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.
“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.
“It also means we need to put in place long-term solutions to address climate, poverty and the loss of biodiversity together, recognising that they have shared roots in the crisis facing our common home.”
The Prime Minister’s speech at the launch event came after the government announced it was bringing forward plans to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2040 to 2035. The ban is intended to help the UK cut greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ in order to keep temperature rises below the dangerous threshold of 1.5 Celsius.
The government committed to end support for coal mining and coal-fired power plants overseas at a UK-Africa Investment Summit in January and has announced that it intends to end coal power in Britain in 2024, a year earlier than is currently planned.
However, the UK is still providing financial support to other fossil fuels overseas – including through aid money intended to help people pull themselves out of poverty.
COP26 will be the annual UN climate summit and take place in Glasgow from 9th to 19th November 2020.
Governments are expected to come to the conference with plans for how they will bring emissions down to the levels required by the Paris Agreement in order to avoid catastrophic temperature rises.
Mr Thorns said: “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. People up and down the country are giving a clear message that the government mustn’t let this opportunity to go to waste.”
Picture: Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the launch of the COP26 UN Climate Summit preparations at the Science Museum, London. (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA).