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‘Grow up’: UK’s Johnson says world must face climate change

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 22, 2021

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed to the U.S. Capitol in Washington by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.  (J. Scott Applewhite)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed to the U.S. Capitol in Washington by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite)
Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell world leaders at the United Nations that humanity has to “grow up” and tackle climate change, saying humans must stop trashing the planet like a teenager on a bender.

Johnson is due to host a major United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland in six weeks’ time. He is using a trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New York to press governments for tougher emissions-cutting targets and more money to help poor countries clean up their economies.

In a speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday, he’ll say it’s now or never if the world is to meet its goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

“I’ll be saying to the U.N. general assembly tonight: ‘This is it, folks,’” Johnson said Wednesday in Washington. “This is the moment when humanity comes to an inflection point, and we either take the steps necessary to avert a catastrophic increase in temperatures over the next hundred years, or we fail.”

In advance extracts of the speech released by the British government, Johnson compared humanity to an impetuous 16-year-old — “just old enough to get ourselves into serious trouble.”

“We have come to that fateful age when we know roughly how to drive and we know how to unlock the drinks cabinet and to engage in all sorts of activity that is not only potentially embarrassing but also terminal,” he planned to say.

“We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that is what someone else has always done,” the speech added. “We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again.

“My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end,” Johnson, said, adding: “We must come together in a collective coming of age.”

Hopes for a successful Glasgow summit have been boosted by announcements this week from the world’s two biggest economies and largest carbon polluters, the United States and China. Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country will no longer fund coal-fired power plants abroad, while U.S. President Joe Biden announced a plan to double financial aid for green growth to poorer nations to $11.4 billion by 2024.

Britain has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and Johnson has championed the expansion of renewable energy, saying the U.K. could become the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” But he is under fire from environmentalists for failing to scrap new North Sea oil drilling and a proposed new coal mine in northwest England.

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