Boris Johnson ‘has some explaining to do’ at COP26 as UK budget gives ‘wrong signal’, says key Paris accord diplomat


The diplomat credited with closing the 2015 Paris climate deal has told Sky News that Boris Johnson will have “some explaining to do” when he meets world leaders in Glasgow next week following a budget criticised for ignoring the urgency of the climate crisis.

“Sadly, it is the wrong signal and it’s the wrong time for that signal,” said Christiana Figueres, the former head of UN efforts to rebuild global consensus around climate change in the run-up to the historic Paris deal. “It is definitely not the flag that the UK wants to walk in with at COP26. So that was honestly very disappointing.”

Ms Figueres said Boris Johnson is going to have ‘some explaining to do’ in Glasgow

Rishi Sunak’s budget, which cut air passenger duty on internal flights – by far the most carbon intensive way of travelling within the UK, was seen by many environmentalists as the least “green” budget in decades.

That perception, according to Ms Figueres, could undermine the image of climate leadership the government is so keen to show in Glasgow.

“The way that it lands internationally is not good. And I do think that the prime minister is going to have to have some explaining to do at COP,” she said.


Ms Figures was speaking to Sky News ahead of giving the WWF “State of the Planet Address”, a regular assessment of the impact of humanity on the Earth’s systems.

“We need to ensure we’re keeping as much nature standing, that we’re investing in it and we’re enabling it to regenerate as well, for a healthy planet but also to help us tackle climate change,” said Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF UK. Ms Steele described the forthcoming Glasgow summit as one of the most important the UK has ever hosted.

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Despite the potentially negative signal from the Treasury, Ms Figueres said the UK had shown leadership ahead of the Glasgow summit. She also cautioned against “overreacting” to the absence of key leaders like China’s Xi Jinping.

Christiana Figueres has criticised the UK budget for ignoring the urgency of the climate crisis

China’s plan for cutting carbon is not ambitious enough to put the world on a pathway to a “safe” level of warming of 1.5C, but Ms Figueres, famed for her climate optimism, argues it’s far more ambitious than many had hoped even a few years ago and it is coming to Glasgow in the form of a formal commitment.

“That is a document that comes with the authorisation of the highest political levels in China. And that will be presented at a very high political level at COP26,” said Ms Figueres.

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Analysis in the last few days has shown the colossal gap between the emissions cuts promised by countries and the amount needed to achieve the Paris target of 1.5C of global temperature rise. But Ms Figueres says the world should not give in to thinking that the challenge of halving global emissions in the next decade is unrealistic.

“It’s not insurmountable. Science has been screaming from the rooftops and telling us that we are totally running out of time that we’re staring at the precipice. But science has also been very clear that if we halve emissions by 2030, then we can actually open up a door that takes us to 1.5C as maximum temperature rise. So technically, it is entirely possible, financially it is entirely possible.”

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