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BORIS JOHNSON has admitted that he “doesn’t really understand climate change,” the sacked head of the COP26 climate summit revealed today.
Claire O’Neill, who had been due to lead the United Nations climate-change conference in Glasgow later this year, launched a searing attack on the Prime Minister for failing to “show leadership and engagement” on the global emergency.
She told Radio 4’s Today programme today that Mr Johnson “could not be trusted to keep his promises” and that he had once admitted to her that he didn’t get climate change.
The Tory former minister also wrote a letter to the PM, obtained by the Financial Times, outlining her grievances after she was sacked by his key adviser Dominic Cummings.
Addressing Mr Johnson, she said: “When you asked me to be your COP president (and to combine it with remaining in your Cabinet as a minister, an offer I declined) you promised to ‘lead from the front’ and asked me what was needed – ‘money, people, just tell us!’
“Sadly, these promises and offers are not close to being met.”
On the PM’s personal failings, she told Radio 4: “My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises, whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or indeed to family members, is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money is in the bank.”
Her attack on Mr Johnson came ahead of his speech to the COP26 launch reception at London’s Science Museum.
During a rambling address, Mr Johnson urged other countries to follow Britain’s lead in setting deadlines to cut their emissions to net zero – which the government has pledged to do by 2050.
He said this can be achieved by using technology to capture carbon from the atmosphere.
However, climate activists, who protested outside the museum, criticised the PM’s emphasis on technology as the solution to climate change.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist and environmental biotechnology PhD student Rebecca Wicker, argued that the vast amount of global emissions cannot be cancelled out using technology.
“Think of it like heart disease,” she explained. “You can take medication to mitigate some of the symptoms, but it’s still going to kill you if you don’t cut back on the McDonald’s.
“Carbon capture is medication, but system change is the cure.”
The PM’s promises to deliver change and press for it stood in stark contrast to the allegations made against him by Ms O’Neill earlier in the day.
Climate activists have also lambasted the government for failing to devise a clear plan to achieve its emissions target, while XR warns that the 2050 deadline is far too late.
Outside the COP26 launch yesterday, activists waved banners reading: “This is change” and “Life or death.”
In a statement, the group said: “We are here to tell politicians that 2050 is too late, that COP26 has been set up to fail, as have all previous COPs.
“Listen to the science – we are currently heading for a 4˚C-plus world, which is rapidly showing that it will be hostile to humanity.”
COP26 is the 26th UN climate-change conference.
The world body’s last climate talks ended in chaos in December, with leaders failing to compromise on key issues.
As a result, the pressure is on this year to ensure that governments take serious action or face climate breakdown in the next decade.
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