How can Britain can persuade other countries to ditch fossil fuels when it won’t do so itself?
Boris Johnson’s apparent willingness to sign off a new oilfield, Cambo, in the North Sea makes a mockery of his claim to global climate leadership. The first phase of Cambo would produce up to 170m barrels of crude. That is the equivalent, say Friends of the Earth, of the annual emissions of 18 coal-fired power plants. This sends dark clouds scuttling over the UK’s presidency of Cop26, held in Glasgow in November this year. For the UN climate summit to be a success, Mr Johnson’s team, headed by Alok Sharma, must cajole recalcitrant countries into line. It is doubtful that Mr Sharma can persuade other nations of the merit of forsaking fossil fuels when Britain will not lead by example.
Last week, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered its starkest warning yet about the planetary emergency. To have a 50% chance of keeping global heating below 1.5C requires the world to get net emissions of carbon dioxide down to zero before 2050. In a foreword to the IPCC report, António Guterres, the UN secretary general, wrote that countries should “end all new fossil fuel exploration and production”. The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental group founded to protect access to hydrocarbons, has said much the same.