Boris Johnson hopes for fairytale of New York to save the world

Boris Johnson is in New York this week for his first foreign trip since the Covid pandemic began.

The Prime Minister has quite the agenda, needing to boost his relationship with US president Joe Biden and also address the small matter of saving the world.

The leaders of big polluters China, India and the US seemingly did not get the memo over the climate emergency, skipping a meeting with Mr Johnson.

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China’s president Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Mr Biden all skipped the meeting, meaning the Prime Minister addressing the least responsible as he tries to drum up financial support for developing countries ahead of the COP26 climate talks in November.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media at the United Nations General Assembly after meeting with UN Secretary General, António Guterres in New York during his visit to the United States. Picture date: Monday September 20, 2021.

Leaders from Bangladesh and Colombia attending is nice, but it's like calling a meeting to address building a Death Star and sitting with storm troopers while Darth Vader goes to a beach house in Delaware instead.

Mr Johnson’s response was immediate, slapping down those who failed to show.

He warned not hitting £73 billion a year in support to developing nations to cut their carbon emissions and protect themselves against environmental change would be a colossal failure, and akin to saying their lives are not “worth the hassle”.

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The Prime Minister added: “Will they work with you, borrow from you, stand with you if you tell the world that you don’t care whether their land and their people slip below the waves?”

It was exactly the tone required from a leader too often slow to condemn other countries for fear of damaging relations, such as his struggle to condemn China for genocide.

Rather than outright condemn them, Mr Johnson pitched it as a world effort and in their own economic interests.

We are in the situation where an ability to trade may be more appealing than having a world to live on.

But the Prime Minister will have to go further. China and India failed to publish new plans to cut their emissions, and changing that is crucial ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

It is not enough to condemn this failure, Mr Johnson needs to bring them with him. Headlines back home will not encourage these states to change their mind.

His pitch must be stronger. Getting them in the room to hear it must come next.

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