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Cop26: Upbeat climate experts echo Boris Johnson and hail ‘momentum’ towards deal

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Upbeat climate experts are hailing “momentum” towards a deal to halt runaway climate change, after a series of carbon-cutting announcements at the Cop26 summit.

They are echoing Boris Johnson who said he is now “cautiously optimistic” that the global temperature rise can be limited to 1.5°C – just days after lashing out at world leaders for their lack of action.

The mood has shifted after India’s breakthrough pledge to take 1 billion tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere by 2030 and the agreement to halt deforestation across most of the globe.

Those moves were bolstered, on Tuesday, by almost 100 countries committing to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent – and a deal to hand $8.5bn to South Africa to help it ditch coal as a fuel source.

Before leaving Glasgow, Mr Johnson used a favourite football analogy to say the world is no longer 1-5 down in the fight against the climate emergency, but is making “progress”.

“We’ve pulled back a goal, or perhaps even two, and I think we are going to be able to take this thing to extra-time,” the prime minister told a press conference.

Significantly, Rachel Kyte, a former United Nations climate change special envoy, echoed that view, saying: “It’s very clear, by mid-afternoon of the second day, that there is momentum.

“If we can carry this forward for the next 10 days, it puts us in a better place than we thought we would be coming in.”

Mohamed Nasheed, the respected former Maldives president and a UN “Champion of Earth” was even more bullish, saying: “When you add up all the numbers, I believe that 1.5C is now reachable.”

Cop26 government officials are also encouraged by Vietnam’s pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, believing it will put pressure on China to move further and faster.

Despite the blow of Chinese premier Xi Jinping staying away, his envoy in Glasgow, Xie Zhenhua, was praised for being highly-committed and hard-working.

But all involved know they still face a herculean task to strike an agreement to achieve only a 1.5C rise, with 2.1C forecast even if all pre-Cop26 commitments are kept.

Just 7.5 per cent of predicted annual greenhouse gas emissions would be chopped off by 2030 – far from the 47 per cent reduction that is needed, the UN warned.

Although India’s shift to peaking emissions by 2030 might take out 1 billion gigatonnes of CO2, some 28 billion gigatonnes must be removed by the end of the decade.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, poured scorn on Mr Johnson’s comments, saying: “For all the prime minister’s fantasy football, we’re still a very long way behind.

“There has been some progress, but the next 10 days needs to move beyond the pre-packaged announcements. We need a real negotiation to secure the concrete plans for this decisive decade to keep 1.5C alive.”

Strikingly, at the press conference the prime minister also took on critics – including on the Tory benches – who argue the green transition is too costly and will be unpopular.

“If we don’t do this, if we don’t fix our climate, it will be an economic catastrophe as well as an environmental catastrophe,” he said.

“We can use this moment to trigger a greater growth, and greater prosperity, but do it in a green way. I do think people get that.”

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