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Boris Johnson has implored other nations not to let “climate action become another victim of coronavirus”.
The prime minister, in an address to a UN roundtable event on Thursday, urged global leaders to “seize the opportunity to build back better” from the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking via videolink from Downing Street, Mr Johnson announced the UK will co-host an event with the UN on 12 December to mark the five-year anniversary of the drafting of the Paris agreement on climate change.
This committed almost all countries around the world to work to limit further rises in global temperatures, although the agreement was later dealt a severe blow by US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw.
Speaking at the UN roundtable event on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “As the world continues to deal with coronavirus we must look ahead to how we will rebuild, and how we can seize the opportunity to build back better.
“The UK will lead by example, keeping the environment on the global agenda and serving as a launch pad for a global green industrial revolution.
“But no one country can turn the tide – it would be akin to bailing out a liner with a single bucket.
“We cannot let climate action become another victim of coronavirus.
“Let us be the leaders who secure the very health of the planet for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”
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Downing Street said the planned 12 December anniversary event will be an opportunity for world leaders to announce new and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
As part of the Paris agreement, all countries are due to submit new NDCs – which set out what each country will do to reduce national emissions – by the end of this year.
In November next year, the UK, in partnership with Italy, is due to host the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow.
The summit was postponed from this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the COP26 president, said: “The eyes of the world will be on COP26 when the UK hosts it in November next year.
“But tackling climate change cannot wait.
“That’s why we are setting the stage now with a call to all those who are ready to step forward this December and set out bold new NDCs for a clean and prosperous future.
“The responsibility to act lies with each of us and together we can drive forward action.”