Grow up and act now on climate change, Boris Johnson to tell the world

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The Prime Minister will complete his four-day trip to the US with a call for world leaders to go further on fighting global warming - AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
The Prime Minister will complete his four-day trip to the US with a call for world leaders to go further on fighting global warming - AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The world must “grow up” and act now on climate change, Boris Johnson will tell the UN on Wednesday as he got a boost from Joe Biden doubling his cash pledge for Cop26.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister will complete his four-day trip to the US with a candid call for world leaders to go further on fighting global warming.

It will complete a series of barbed interventions by Mr Johnson during his US visit, aware that time is running out before the Cop26 climate change conference in November, hosted in Glasgow.

“We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure and we combine this narcissism with a primitive assumption of our own immortality,” Mr Johnson will say in his UN speech on Wednesday night.

“We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that is what someone else has always done. 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. We are approaching that critical turning point – in less than two months – when we must show that we are capable of learning, and maturing, and finally taking responsibility for the destruction we are doing – not just to our planet but to ourselves.

“It is time for humanity to grow up. It is time for us to listen to the warnings of the scientists – and look at Covid, if you want an example of gloomy scientists being proved right – and to understand who we are and what we are doing.”

Biden climate pledge ‘a very good day for the world’

Mr Biden announced on Tuesday that the US will give $11.2 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries, in a major boost to one of Mr Johnson’s flagship Cop26 pledges.

The US President’s pledge doubles Washington’s previous commitment, a move that the UK government ministers and officials had been pushing for hard behind the scenes.

Mr Johnson had named finally getting developed nations to hit the $100 billion a year climate finance target adopted a decade ago as one of four key targets for Cop26.

The Telegraph revealed in the summer how UK officials feared if the US did not act soon on the pledge it was at risk of being missed.

On Tuesday night, Mr Johnson said: “I think today was a really good day for the world” after Mr Biden pledged to double the funds the US has committed to helping developing nations tackle climate change.”

The Prime Minister welcomed Mr Biden’s climate funding pledge as a “very good start” that takes them “a long way towards the goal”.

He also said: “There’s no question that this American action today has been a big lift and will really help us to get there.”

However, developed nations are still billions of pounds short on hitting the $100 billion a year target. Italy, France and scores of G20 nations are being pushed to increase their pledges.

Afghanistan withdrawal ‘could have been done differently’

Boris Johnson and Kamala Harris, the US Vice President, in Washington - Alex Wong/Getty Images
Boris Johnson and Kamala Harris, the US Vice President, in Washington - Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson hinted at frustration with how Mr Biden had handled the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The President’s insistence that US troops must be out of the country by September 11 saw the Taliban sweep to power, taking the capital Kabul quicker than expected.

“Could we have done it a bit differently? Maybe we could,” Mr Johnson said when pushed on the Afghan withdrawal in an interview with the US broadcaster NBC.

Mr Johnson and his cabinet ministers have previously made clear that they tried to keep soldiers on the ground longer with other allies but accepted they could not without the US.

However, the Prime Minister also thanked the US for its efforts on the evacuation from Kabul airport of citizens and Afghans who had helped Allied forces.

After meeting with Kamala Harris, the Vice President, Mr Johnson praised the co-operation between the US and UK military on the Afghanistan evacuation effort.

He said: “My country, the UK, owes a big debt to the US military for the incredible professionalism and sacrifice they showed at that airport. It was an amazing operation. It’s never going to be an easy thing to do to pull out of somewhere like Afghanistan after 20 years in a clean and straightforward way. But you can’t spend your whole time trying to run another country by proxy.”

Elsewhere in the NBC interview, Mr Johnson said he had not feared Donald Trump would use the military to cling on to power in the contentious weeks after his 2020 US election defeat.

Covid vaccines: ‘Different strokes for different folks’

The Strictly Come Dancing contestants for the current series - Ray Burmiston/BBC
The Strictly Come Dancing contestants for the current series - Ray Burmiston/BBC

The Prime Minister also issued a plea for the stars of the BBC’s popular dancing show Strictly Come Dancing to get Covid vaccines.

Mr Johnson was asked by GB News: “Strictly Come Dancing, some of the stars are not taking their jabs, they are refusing it. What’s your message to them?”

He responded: “Everyone should take their jabs. Everyone should take their jabs and I’m saying that not in a hectoring or bullying way, but just because I think it’s a great thing to do.”

Mr Johnson also declined to endorse Mr Biden’s strategy of mandating Covid vaccinations for scores of government workers, instead saying it was up to each nation to pick their path.

“It’s different strokes for different folks, okay? It’s up to different countries to decide how they want to approach this,” the Prime Minister told NBC News.

“This is a controversial area. People feel very strongly about not having the state mandate something. In my country, we’re at great levels of liberty. We’ve had to do it by sweet reason and persuasion. That’s working.”

‘Expect to be taxed fairly in the UK’

The Prime Minister discussed tax with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, in New York on Tuesday - Michael M. Santiago/Pool via REUTERS
The Prime Minister discussed tax with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, in New York on Tuesday - Michael M. Santiago/Pool via REUTERS

The Prime Minister told Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, to get his company Amazon to pay more tax in the UK, it emerged on Tuesday.

The pair held face-to-face talks on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday evening, with Mr Bezos’s wife also present.

Me Johnson later told ITV News: “What I did say to him was that we in the UK feel very strongly that the internet giants need to be making their fair share of contribution in tax.

“When you sell many many billions worth of goods in the UK, then you’ve got to expect to be taxed fairly in the UK.”

However, the Prime Minister also made clear Mr Bezos pushed back in private, telling Channel 5: “Tax isn’t something that he’s going to pay as an ex gratia act of kindness. It’s up to governments to come up with the right framework.”

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