Boris Johnson kickstarted the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow with an opening speech addressed to more than 120 world leaders. The prime minister urged the audience to “act now” on the climate emergency before it’s “too late.”

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”, Johnson said.

He proceeded to quote climate change activist Greta Thunberg with a jab she used against politicians and their empty promises, “All those promises will be nothing but blah, blah, blah – to coin a phrase,” Johnson said – in which one Twitter user accused him of “defusing” Thunberg’s words by “appropriating” them.

“The anger and the impatience of the world will be uncontainable unless we make this COP26 in Glasgow the moment when we get real about climate change,” he added.

It’s particularly notable given he reportedly did not invite her to speak at the event.

The 18-year-old mocked the words of world leaders ahead of the summit. “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said at the Youth4Climate conference in September.

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“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders,” Thunberg added. “Words that sound great but so far have not led to action.

“Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty promises.”

COP26 is one of the most important climate conferences since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The goals are to secure global net zero by 2050, keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise finance, and work together to deliver on climate promises.

Countries will need to come forward with plans that will involve phasing out coal, curtailing deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles, and encourage investment in renewables in order to deliver on 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with the 2050 net zero goal.

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