On 4 February, Boris Johnson officially launched the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will be hosted by the UK in November. Scientists will meet in Glasgow for the “the most important gathering” to deal with climate breakdown since the 2015 Paris agreement. But for all his bluster and promise to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, Johnson reportedly “doesn’t really get” the implications of the climate crisis. Added to this, one of his former advisers suggested he really can’t be trusted to deliver either.
“We owe the world a lot better”
COP26 comes as “governments are due to review their promises to cut carbon emissions” in the face of the growing climate crisis. But Johnson fired former minister Claire O’Neill who’d been co-ordinating COP26. So now she’s spoken out.
According to the Financial Times, in a scathing letter O’Neill told Johnson:
You promised to ‘lead from the front’ and asked me what was needed: ‘money, people, just tell us!’ Sadly these promises are not close to being met.
This isn’t a pretty place to be and we owe the world a lot better.
O’Neill attacked Johnson further saying that “the cabinet sub-committee on climate” he “promised to chair” didn’t ever meet.
According to O’Neill, Johnson’s “promised leadership” failed to materialise causing “internal Whitehall battles” over accountability and responsibility for COP26. She also pointed to “a yawning gap” between:
what the world expects from us and where we are. It’s a systemic failure of global vision and leadership.
— Madeleine Cuff (@MadeleineCuff) February 4, 2020
However, as Johnson officially launched COP26, O’Neill went even further.
“He doesn’t really get it”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, she said:
we have less than 7,000 hours until the start of COP. This is the year where the whole world is looking to this vital process… [but] we’re miles off track, globally, from where we need to be… And having bought the COP to the UK… we’ve seen a huge lack of leadership and engagement.
She also made a startling announcement, saying Johnson “admitted” that he “doesn’t really understand” why climate action is so crucial. When pushed further, she insisted, “he doesn’t really get it”.
"He doesn't really get it"
Claire O'Neill, sacked president of the #COP26 Glasgow climate conference, says @BorisJohnson admitted to her he doesn't really get climate change… & there's been a "huge lack of leadership" over the conference#r4today | https://t.co/UC5JIClIy9 pic.twitter.com/u40UwDXoHU
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 4, 2020
According to O’Neill, there’s still no “firm location” organised for COP26, and there’s currently a “standoff” with the Scottish government. Apparently, Johnson also “heartily and saltily rebutted” any suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon should help organise COP26.
In response, Sturgeon pointed to the far bigger issue of the current climate crisis:
To be clear – @scotgov wants #COP26 to be a success & will play our full part in making it so. It’s not about Boris Johnson or me – it is about tackling the climate crisis. My commitment is that political differences will not stop me and my government working to make it a success
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 4, 2020
Chillingly, O’Neill also mentioned “Number 10 dark ops” leading to a “defamatory” briefing about her work so far.
Then she made another absolutely damning statement:
my advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises – whether it is voters, world leaders… – is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it, and make sure the money’s in the bank.
“No questions, no answers”
Several journalists attending Johnson’s launch noted that he refused to answer any questions:
Boris Johnson “doesn’t really get” climate change says sacked #COP26 chair Claire O’Neill then Downing Street informs TV news channels a publicity obsessed PM doesn’t want today’s Green big speech covered live. Hmmm…
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) February 4, 2020
By any standards this morning’s climate event was rather strange. No questions, no answers on key points, no mention publicly of the sacking of Claire O’Neill. Many experts here left bemused and not a little worried about #COP26
— David Shukman (@davidshukmanbbc) February 4, 2020
PM not answering awkward climate questions pic.twitter.com/FsrkoxhJYj
— David Shukman (@davidshukmanbbc) February 4, 2020
So there we have it. In the face of the current climate emergency and one of the most important global meetings to address crucial issues, Johnson’s leadership is chaotic and dishonest, and he doesn’t even get why it’s so important. Truly terrifying.
Featured image via ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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