It is not “politically correct bunny-hugging” to take action on climate change, Boris Johnson has said.
Addressing world leaders at an online summit organised by US president Joe Biden, Mr Johnson said beating the climate emergency was about “growth and jobs”.
He made his international pitch ahead of the G7 summit, which will be hosted by the UK in Cornwall in June, and a major UN climate summit to be held in Glasgow in the autumn.
The prime minister said there would “obviously” be a political challenge to keeping global warming to within 1.5C.
And he said: “I'm not saying any of this is going to be easy.”
But in a pitch to developing nations who feel it is unfair that they take an economic hit by restraining their carbon emissions, Mr Johnson said it was possible for countries to have their cake and eat it.
His comments are designed to prepare the ground for major commitments by huge countries like India and China at Cop-26.
“It's vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive politically correct, green act of bunny-hugging, or however you want to put it... This is about growth and jobs, and I think the [US] president was absolutely right to stress that,” he said.
“I want to leave you with the thought that we can do better from this pandemic, by building back greener.
“And don't forget that the UK has been able to cut our own CO2 emissions by about 42 per cent on 1990 levels, and we've seen our economy grow by 73 per cent. You can do both at once. ‘Cake: have, eat’ is my message to you.”
Mr Johnson also pledged that developed nations would have to stump up more cash for climate transition in developing countries, “exceeding the $100bn commitment that they already made in 2009”.
He also listed the ways in which the UK had already taken steps to limit its emissions, apparently in a bid to encourage other nations to do more.
Speaking at the same meeting, Alok Sharma warned that more needed to be done to limit global warming to 1.5C.
The UK’s Cop26 president said: “With today's announcements from the US, from Canada, from Japan, every G7 country now has an NDC [nationally determined contribution] that puts them on a path to net zero by 2050.
“This is a significant step towards keeping 1.5 degrees within reach, from a group of countries who have a responsibility to lead.”
But Mr Shama added that the “key question” was whether enough had been done internationally to met the Paris Agreement, stating: “The answer to that question is still ‘no, not yet.’”
Mr Sharma said that in the run-up to Cop26 in Glasgow this autumn, world leaders “must be serious about supporting developing countries”.
“We all know that the next decade will be make or break for planet Earth. And the warning lights are flashing bright red,” he said.