British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today the international pact reached over the weekend on fighting climate change will be “game-changing,” but added that he was disappointed by efforts to water down the final text.
“My delight at this progress is tinged with disappointment,” said Johnson, whose government hosted the two-week COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland where the agreement was reached. “Those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death, who can only stand by as their islands are submerged, their farmlands turn to desert, their homes battered by storms — they demanded a high level of ambition for this summit.”
He added: “While many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody. Sadly that’s the nature of diplomacy.”
Johnson’s remarks at the end of the conference echoed a chorus of criticism over last-minute changes to the final text after the deal emerged Saturday night. The deal is the first to include a commitment on reducing coal, calling for a “phase down” of its use. But an initial version of the text had called for a “phase out” — before a last-ditch intervention by China and India.
Johnson nevertheless said the deal “sounded the death knell for coal.”
Alok Sharma, Britain’s COP26 president, had appeared close to tears Saturday when he unveiled the new text. At today’s press conference with Johnson, Sharma said his emotion was down to “relief” at getting a deal over the line.
Asked about the late change to the agreement, Sharma said “the fact [that] we got the coal language in” means governments can push further at future conferences.