Boris Johnson on COP26: ‘The children who will judge us are children not yet born’

The Prime Minister gave an optimistic speech at the opening ceremony of COP26, recognising the challenges the world faces but claiming the battle can be won with togetherness and spirit

Big Zero Report 2023

The world watched as the opening ceremony of COP26 got underway.

The highly anticipated climate summit will see world leaders discuss how the planet can and must tackle the climate crisis during the next fortnight.

Royals, politicians, activists and celebrities were seen in attendance, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech to rally optimism and productivity during the course of the event.

He compared the situation faced by the world to a plot to a James Bond film in the midst of impending doom but explained “the tragedy is this is not a movie and the doomsday device is real”.

His speech reiterated the devastating impacts of climate inaction, listing cities that would no longer exist if the temperatures continue to rise during the coming decades. “The longer we fail to act, the worse it gets and the higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act.”

On the urgency of action, he said: “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now!

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.”

On the previous COP meetings in Copenhagen and Paris, the Prime Minister remarked: “All those promises will be nothing but blah, blah, blah – and the anger and impatience of the world will be uncontainable unless we make this COP26 in Glasgow the moment when we get real about climate change.”

With much discussion in recent weeks on the delay in climate finance to developing countries and claims from countries such as India that developed countries must do more to help smaller nations, he commented: “We in the developed world, must recognise the special responsibility we have to help everybody else to do it, because it was here in Glasgow 250 years ago, that James Watt came up with a machine that was powered by steam, that was produced by burning coal.

“Yes, my friends, we brought you to the very place where the doomsday machine began to tick.”

“We now have a duty find those funds, $100 billion a year, that was promised in Paris by 2020 but which we won’t deliver until 2023 – to help the rest of the world to move to green technology. But we cannot and will not succeed by government spending alone.

“We in this room could deploy hundreds of billions, no question – but the market has hundreds of trillions and the task now is to work together to help our friends to decarbonise.

“In the key countries, that need to make progress, we can jointly identify the projects that we can help to de-risk, so that the private sector money can come in.”

Boris Johnson reiterated the long-lasting impact the conference will have on future generations and the future of the planet: “We all talk about what we’re going to do in 2050 or 2060. I don’t think it will escape the notice of the crowds of young people, outside the billions that are watching around the world, half of the population of the world under 30, that the average age of this conclave of world leaders, I’m afraid to say, is over 60.

“The children who will judge us are children not yet born and their children. We are now coming centre stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity and we mustn’t fluff our lines or miss our cue, because 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 a bitterness and resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today and they will be right.”

He made clear that during the course of the conference, change must made and acted upon with haste and determination: “While COP26 will not be the end of climate change, it can and it must mark the beginning of the end.”

“Yes it’s going to be hard, but yes we can do it,” he concluded.

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