He said humanity has an “awesome power to save ourselves” from a climate disaster and referred to Muppets character Kermit the Frog who sang “It’s not easy being green”. “He was wrong,” he said. “It is easy to be green.”
“The world is not some indestructible toy, some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart’s content,” he added. “Daily, weekly, we are doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up, we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable.”
The speech was the last Mr Johnson made during a visit to the United States, which has seen discussions held on trade, the pandemic and climate change.
It also comes ahead of the COP26 summit, which the Prime Minister said would be a “turning point for humanity”. The meeting, due to be held in Glasgow in November, has already faced challenges with Chinese president Xi Jinping yet to commit to attending.
The country produces 27 per cent of the world’s green house gases.
Mr Johnson’s eco focus is a far cry from his past climate-sceptic views.
He admitted on Monday that “if you were to excavate some of my articles from 20 years ago you might find comments I made, obiter dicta, about climate change that weren’t entirely supportive of the current struggle, but the facts change and people change their minds”.
It is clear the writing is on the wall for coal power
I welcome 🇨🇳 President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad - a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China
At #COP26, we must consign coal to history
— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) September 21, 2021
In his UN speech, Mr Johnson called on countries to cut their carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels and praised the end of China’s international financing of coal.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan “commended” the Prime Minister’s speech but said the Government now had to “walk the walk” when it came to action on climate change.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “What I am saying to the Prime Minister is that it’s 40 days until Glasgow, until COP26, we’ve now got to walk the walk in relation to addressing the twin challenges of air pollution and climate change.”