'Boris Johnson needs to drop Kermit and Bond – show leadership at COP26'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the Build Back Better event during the Cop26 summit at the

Boris Johnson speaking at the Build Back Better event during the Cop26 summit - Credit: PA

The fate of millions across the world is currently being decided in Glasgow. 

As private jets descend on the city, Boris Johnson flies home and a train ticket from London to Glasgow is revealed to cost three times more than a short-haul flight, it doesn’t feel like the greatest start.

This year we have seen disastrous flooding in Australia, China, the US and Germany. Even here in Haringey, we saw the impact of the climate emergency first-hand this summer with flash floods devastating people’s homes and soaring temperatures. 

Is this the new normal? According to the UN, we face disastrous temperature rises of at least 2.7C if countries fail to strengthen and implement their climate pledges. Johnson needs to “prenez un grip” and show real leadership – no more references to Kermit the Frog or James Bond please – backed up by the cash that is needed for actual change.   

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West doesn't want anymore references to no more references to Kermit the Frog or James Bond during COP26 - Credit: Chris McAndrew

Labour would invest £28 billion a year in climate measures and, ahead of the Autumn Budget, I wrote to the chancellor to urge him to prioritise green investment. That should start with a huge programme, involving local authorities, to properly insulate millions of Britain’s cold and draughty homes to reduce emissions, create green jobs and drive down soaring heating bills. 

He didn’t listen. Subsidised, still-expensive heat pumps do nothing for poorly insulated homes – and 30,000 over a three-year period is a far cry from its target of 600,000. It’s unbelievable that instead of investing in public transport, the chancellor announced the slashing of short-haul air passenger duty. What a missed opportunity. 

The UK needs to lead by example; supporting the developing world, piling the pressure on big polluting nations and fossil fuel giants to step up and do more. In his opening speech at COP26, Johnson urged world leaders to take responsibility for their actions. He’s right, they should. He also needs to take responsibility for his government’s plans to approve the Cambo oil field, a coal mine in Cumbria, and the Horse Hill Oil Project in Surrey. Last week, the Tories voted to allow water firms to keep discharging raw sewage into our waters despite widespread public horror. 

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The eyes of the world are now on the UK. After watered-down climate commitments at the G20 in Rome, this is Johnson’s last chance to ensure COP26 delivers ambitious climate pledges, consigns coal to history and ensures a global plan to keep 1.5 alive. He must not waste it. 

Catherine West (Lab) is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.

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