World leaders are dialling up the heat on their rhetoric over global warming – with host of COP26, Boris Johnson, warning climate change was a “doomsday device” strapped to humanity.
And Queen Elizabeth II has told the United Nations climate change summit that “the time for words has now moved to the time for action”, as she urged world leaders to think of future generations when negotiating a deal to limit global warming.
“It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit – written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations,” the 95-year-old monarch said.
“That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has apologised for Donald Trump’s climate inaction and Australia’s Prime Minister has unveiled the “Australian way” he wants to limit warming.
“I shouldn’t apologise, but I do apologise for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit,” Mr Biden said.
He has frequently criticised the past administration’s approach to climate, but had not previously delivered a public apology to the world.
In his speech to colleagues at Glasgow, Mr Morrison formally committed to a target of net-zero by 2050.
Mr Morrison compared climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it would be scientists and entrepreneurs who would solve the problem.
“And it is up to us, as leaders of governments, to back them in,” Mr Morrison said, adding “technology will have the answers”.
Other leaders used more emotional language in each of their call to arms, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres telling colleagues that people are “digging our own graves.”
And Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, speaking for vulnerable island nations, added moral thunder, warning leaders not to “allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”
Mr Johnson – who is hosting the summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow – likened an ever-warming Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond: strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it.
He told leaders that the only difference now is that the “ticking doomsday device” is not fiction and “it’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now.”
The threat is climate change, triggered by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, and he pointed out that it all started in Glasgow with James Watt’s steam engine powered by coal.
Mr Johnson spoke at the opening of the world leaders’ summit portion of the UN climate conference, which is aimed at getting governments to commit to curbing carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius. Current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 2.7C by the year 2100.
The other goals for the meeting are for rich nations to give poor nations $US100 billion ($A133 billion) a year in climate aid and to reach an agreement to spend half of the money to adapt to worsening climate impacts.
Mr Johnson pointed out that the more than 130 world leaders who gathered had an average age of over 60, while the generations most harmed by climate change aren’t yet born.
The gloomy note he struck got only darker when Mr Guterres followed him.
“We are digging our own graves,” Mr Guterres said. “Our planet is changing before our eyes – from the ocean depths to mountaintops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events.”
Britain’s Prince Charles told the world leaders they need to “save our precious planet” and that “the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you.”
And 95-year-old David Attenborough, British naturalist and ‘people’s advocate’ at COP26, spoke passionately about what might happen if countries didn’t act quickly and decisively.
“The stability we all depend on is breaking,” he said.