Boris Johnson issued a dire warning on the planet’s future as he arrived at the G20 in Rome to rally support for COP26 yesterday – ahead of what could become a showdown with Emmanuel Macron over fisheries.
Ahead of the start of the climate conference on Monday, the Prime Minister enjoyed a spot of sightseeing in the Italian capital city, walking the iconic Spanish Steps with his pregnant wife Carrie last night followed by a solo tour around the Colosseum early this morning.
Mr Johnson warned world leaders ‘the future of civilisation is at stake’ and compared climate change to the fall of the Roman Empire as he arrived in Rome for the G20 summit.
In his apocalyptic vision of the future, which comes as he desperately tries to build momentum ahead of the COP26 summit next week, Mr Johnson claimed society could return to the dark ages with ‘terrifying’ speed.
The PM delivered an extraordinary warning that generations to come could slump into illiteracy – and even suggested cows could get smaller.
He argued that after the collapse of Rome, civilisation even lost the ability to draw properly – saying ‘our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’ could face food and water shortages.
It comes after a fisheries row erupted between Britain and France earlier this week, with the Government accusing the French of breaking international law.
France’s ambassador to London Catherine Colonna was hauled in by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to face questioning and ‘explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands’.
Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were said to be on a state of ‘high readiness’ in case of further fallout, but there was no immediate sign they would be required.
The Prime Minister visited the Colosseum this morning, after yesterday offering an apocalyptic vision of the future
Mr Johnson walks the Spanish Steps with his wife Carrie ahead of the G20 summit
Mrs Johnson is pictured arriving for the first day of the G20 summit, as spouses of the world leaders headed inside
As the sun rose over Italy this morning the Prime Minister was offered a tour of the Colosseum, where gladiators fought in ancient Rome
At one point, Mrs Johnson knelt down on the steps while her husband looked around. Mr Johnson yesterday argued that after the collapse of Rome, civilisation even lost the ability to draw properly – saying ‘our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’ could face food and water shortages
The Prime Minister yesterday gave an apocalyptic vision of the future and said society could return to the dark ages with ‘terrifying’ speed, as he desperately tried to build momentum ahead of the COP26 summit next week
French president Emmanuel Macron, in Rome to attend the G20 leaders’ summit, last night visited the Trevi Fountain with his wife Brigitte
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned G20 leaders Friday to show ‘more ambition and more action’ and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.
‘We are still on time to put things on track, and I think the G20 meeting is the opportunity to do that,’ Guterres said.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met leaders as they arrived in the futuristic convention centre known as the ‘Nuvola’ (cloud) in EUR, a southern Rome district built by Benito Mussolini to glorify his fascist regime.
US President Joe Biden flew in on Friday, hoping to turn a page from the tumultuous Trump years and show that American leadership on the world stage is restored.
Yet the Democrat faces a credibility test as his own signature climate policy – part of a sweeping economic package – is held up amid infighting within his party in Congress.
He met Friday with Pope Francis and then French counterpart Macron, where he admitted Washington had been ‘clumsy’ in handling of a submarine deal with Australia and Britain that left Paris out in the cold.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are absent from Rome, attending only by video link, but the others are taking advantage of the first in-person G20 for more than two years to hold a flurry of bilaterals.
Biden will meet Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Mr Johnson later Saturday for talks on Iran, after Tehran said it would resume discussions with world powers next month on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord.
Security is tight in Rome following violent protests earlier this month over the extension of Italy’s coronavirus pass to workplaces, and a Fridays for Future climate march is expected in the city later in the day.
Draghi has called for a ‘G20 commitment on the need to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees’ above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious target outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Mr and Mrs Johnson appeared in high spirits ahead of what is likely to be a stressful week for the Prime Minister
Mr Johnson – the host of the UN climate summit next week – said neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and ‘the most we can hope to do is slow the increase’
A large crowd of students holding homemade banners descended on the venue for the G20 summit in Rome on Saturday
One banner called for the ‘future’ during a demonstration in Rome against the precariousness of education in Italy
One climate activist was dragged away from police officers as they blocked traffic in front of the Italian Ministry of the Ecological Transition
Mr Johnson – the host of the UN climate summit next week – said neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and ‘the most we can hope to do is slow the increase’.
Complicating the task for the G20 will be disparities between top world powers.
China, the world’s biggest polluter and responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions, has been accused of sidestepping calls to stop building new coal-fired power plants.
A new plan submitted by Beijing to the UN ahead of COP26 fell short of environmentalists’ expectations, with a target date of 2060 to reach carbon neutrality.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has steadfastly demanded that his country be paid for protecting its share of the Amazon.
The world’s biggest rainforest is seen as a vital resource to combat climate change for its ability to absorb fossil fuel emissions.
Mr Johnson’s Roman Empire comments came amid fears that the Glasgow gathering could end up as a damp squib. China’s premier Xi has confirmed that he will not attend the event in person, although he will make a speech by video link.
Meanwhile, Putin is also shunning the summit along with Bolsanaro.
Speaking to reporters en route to the G20, Mr Johnson said: ‘Humanity as a whole, at half time is about 5-1 down.
‘We have got a long way to go but we can do it. We have the ability to equalise, to save the position, to come back but it will take a huge amount of effort.’
In a long description of the tragedy of the Roman Empire, Mr Johnson said ‘things can go backwards as well as forwards’.
‘Unless we get this right in tackling climate change we could see our civilisation, our world, also go backwards and we could consign future generations to a life that is far less agreeable than our own.’
The couple, who are expecting their second child together, walked the Spanish Steps ahead of the start of the G20 summit today
Mr Johnson yesterday delivered an extraordinary warning that generations to come could slump into illiteracy – and even suggested cows could get smaller
Mr and Mrs Johnson held hands as they walked down the Spanish Steps accompanied by an entourage
The comments came amid fears that the Glasgow gathering could end up as a damp squib
In a long description of the tragedy of the Roman Empire, Mr Johnson yesterday said ‘things can go backwards as well as forwards’
Boris made the comments as he arrived in the Eternal City for a G20 summit where he is desperately trying to ratchet up support for a breakthrough agreement to be made at COP26
The Prime Minister is said to have become much more environmentally conscious since he met his wife Carrie (pictured)
COP26 begins in Glasgow on Sunday and will look to build on agreements made at the Paris climate summit in 2015 where nations agreed to try to keep global heating to below 1.5C
The Prime Minister’s comments come at a time where some have claimed that the absence of China and Russia’s premiers will make COP26 a damp squid
He went on: ‘We could consign our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren to a life in which there are not only huge movements of populations and huge migrations, but also shortages of food, shortages of water, of conflict caused by climate change and there is absolutely no question that this is a reality that we must face.’
Mr Johnson said after Roman civilisation humanity became ‘far less literate’.
‘Look at evidence of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire if you doubt what I say, when Rome fell humanity became far less literate overall, people lost the ability to read and write, they lost the ability to draw properly, they lost the ability to build in the way the Romans did.’
He said: ‘Things can go backwards and they can go backwards at a really terrifying speed.’
COP26 begins on Sunday at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and will welcome 30,000 delegates, 10,000 police and as many as 200,000 protesters for the 13-day conference.