Britain to use G-7 meeting to press for climate finance

BERLIN (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that he will use the Group of Seven meeting in June to “bend the ear” of fellow leaders to provide more financial help for poor countries to cope with climate change.

Governments have six months before the annual U.N. climate meeting to resolve numerous thorny diplomatic issues, including making good on a $100-billion climate fund that was meant to go to developing nations each year from 2020.

The U.K. is hosting the G-7 summit next month in Cornwall, England, and the the U.N. Climate Change Conference is scheduled to be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

“If we do the hard miles now, I hope that in November we can meet in person in Glasgow to hammer out the final details of what must be an era-defining outcome for our planet and for future generations,” Johnson told a virtual climate event organized by the German government.

Next month’s G-7 gathering will be the first time the leaders of the world’s biggest economies meet in person since before the pandemic.

All G-7 countries have now set targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 at the latest, with Germany this week saying it will bring its goal forward five years to 2045. China, the world’s biggest emitter, is aiming for net-zero emissions by 2060.

Johnson said he hoped G-7 leaders would commit to “kick-start a green industrial revolution and build economies that can withstand whatever our changing climate throws at us.”

“I also hope to secure a substantial pile of cash with which to help all countries to do that,” he said, adding that reaching the $100 billion target set in Paris almost six years ago was “long overdue” and rich countries need to go further still.

This year, Britain cut its international aid budget from 0.7% of gross domestic product to 0.5% in what the government said was a temporary measure in response to the pandemic’s hit to the economy.

The British government hasn’t spelled out exactly where the ax will fall but says the U.K.’s target to provide 11.6 billion pounds ($16.1 billion) for international climate finance over the next five years still stands.

Johnson said it was important to help poor countries leapfrog the dirty technologies that fueled both industrialization and global warming and that he would “not hesitate to bend the ear of my fellow leaders on the need for them to do the same” by the Glasgow summit, known as COP26.

“If all that emerges from COP26 is more hot air, then we have absolutely no chance of keeping our planet cool,” the British leader said. “It must be a summit of agreement, of action, of deeds, not words.”

While recent pledges, including by the United States, have lowered the forecast for long-term warming, scientists say emissions need to be cut even faster to prevent a disastrous rise in global temperatures.

Countries that signed up to the 2015 Paris accord agreed to cap the rise at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for those who are hardest hit by climate change to get the financial support they need to cope with the impacts of climate change, including wilder weather, droughts and floods.

“Already people are dying in big numbers, Farms are failing. Millions face displacement,” Guterres said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted an event Thursday known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, said the pandemic had put even wealthy nations under financial pressure.

“The consequence must not be that we make cuts, for example, in our international budgets and our budgets as regards the support of multilateral organizations, as regards support for climate protection, as regards support for development,” she said.

Anti-poverty campaigners expressed disappointment that Europe’s biggest economy hasn’t yet committed to significantly increase its financial help to poor countries facing climate catastrophe.

“Both the U.S. and the U.K. have committed to double climate finance over the next years. Germany should have followed suit,” Jan Kowalzig, a senior policy adviser at the aid group Oxfam, said.

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Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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