Boris Johnson warns it's 'one minute to midnight' to prevent climate catastrophe


  • The U.K. is hosting U.N.-brokered climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland in what has been described as humanity's last and best chance to secure a livable future.
  • It is for this reason that the long-awaited summit is seen as one of the important diplomatic meetings in history.
  • "Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change," Johnson is expected to say on Monday. "It's one minute to midnight and we need to act now."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres prepare to receive attendees during day two of COP26 at SECC on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Christopher Furlong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday will warn world leaders at the COP26 climate summit that it is now "one minute to midnight" in the race to prevent global heating from surpassing a critical threshold.

The U.K. is hosting U.N.-brokered climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland in what has been described as humanity's last and best chance to secure a livable future. It is for this reason that the long-awaited summit is seen as one of the important diplomatic meetings in history.

"Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change," Johnson is expected to say at Monday's World Leaders Summit Opening Ceremony. "It's one minute to midnight and we need to act now."

The COP26 summit, which formally opened on Sunday and runs through to Nov. 12, comes six years after the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by nearly 200 countries to limit rising global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to "pursue efforts" to cap heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The latter threshold is a crucial global target because beyond this level, so-called tipping points become more likely. Tipping points refer to an irreversible change in the climate system, locking in further global heating.

To have any chance of capping global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the aspirational goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions in the next 8 years and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The U.N. has warned the world is currently on a "catastrophic pathway" to 2.7 degrees Celsius of heating by the end of the century.

The U.K. prime minister on Monday will also echo his call for world leaders to move from talk and debate "to concerted, real-world action on coal, cars, cash and trees."

Johnson is expected to say: "We need to get real about climate change and the world needs to know when that's going to happen."

The U.K. prime minister is scheduled to deliver these comments from around midday local time, with a flurry of world leaders set to deliver national statements shortly thereafter.

U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are among just some of those set to speak on Monday. Chinese President Xi Jinping will not take part in person at COP26, but a written statement is set to be published later in the day.

Diplomats and world leaders, including Johnson, have sought to downplay expectations of success in the run-up to the summit, although countries representing more than half of the world have insisted there can be "no more excuses for unfulfilled promises" in Glasgow.

Johnson, who has previously expressed skepticism about the climate crisis, told BBC TV on Sunday that he estimated the chances of a successful outcome at COP26 at roughly six out of 10.

The U.K. published its repeatedly delayed net-zero strategy last month. It was seen as a key test as the country prepared to preside over COP26, although critics have suggested it falls short on meeting the demands of the climate emergency.

A key weather report from the U.N. weather agency on Sunday further illustrated the scale of the climate crisis by confirming the past seven years are set to be the hottest on record, with the planet heading into "uncharted territory."

The U.N. has warned the stakes for COP26 "couldn't be higher."