'Hard diplomacy', Labour's Miliband says UK PM is miles off U.N. climate success

·2 min read
Britain's Labour Party Conference in Brighton

By Elizabeth Piper

BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must do the "hard yards of diplomacy" if he wants any kind of success at the COP26 climate change conference in November, Ed Miliband, opposition Labour's climate policy chief, said on Sunday.

With just over a month until the world's leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, some politicians and campaigners fear the United Nation's summit is about to throw away what is seen as a last chance to tackle the climate crisis before it is too late.

Those fears were heightened by a U.N. analysis of country pledges earlier this month that showed global emissions would be 16% higher in 2030 than in 2010 - far off the 45% reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed.

Miliband, an ex-Labour leader who led Britain's delegation to the 2009 U.N. summit in Copenhagen, said Johnson should step in to support COP26 President Alok Sharma in persuading the big emitting nations to go further and to win over developing nations by delivering on a pledge to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.

"It's not just a photo op when he gets to speak Latin and gets to resurrect a classical myth and tousle his hair, it's a bit harder than that," he told Reuters in an interview at the Labour Party's conference in Brighton, southern England.

His advice for Johnson, based on his experience in Copenhagen when the summit was "essentially collapsing", was to "get across the detail, do the hard yards of diplomacy".

Johnson's government has hailed U.S. President Joe Biden's promise to double financial aid to developing nations vulnerable to the worsening climate crisis and China's announcement it would not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.

But the COP26 team in London has yet to get major polluters, such as China and Russia, to submit new national emissions pledges, seen as crucial to limiting the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Drawing on his experience in Copenhagen, Miliband said it took Gordon Brown, then British prime minister, getting "his hands dirty" by stepping up the pressure on other leaders "to rescue (something) from the wreckage".

Britain's case to persuade others was not helped, he said, by Johnson's missteps, including cutting overseas aid and not yet fully honouring a pledge to vaccinate precisely those nations where he needs to foster trust, as well as "flirting" with a new coal project.

"I am afraid there is a sort of inconvenient truth ... that we are miles away from where we need to be for Glasgow, miles away," he said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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