Boris Johnson calls for action on climate change as he flies to the US
19th September 2021

‘We will be judged by history’: Boris Johnson calls for action on climate change as he flies to the US amid strained tensions with Joe Biden

  • Prime Minister is set to hold talks in New York today before White House summit
  • Johnson hopes to use White House summit to mend fences with President Biden
  • Priority is to persuade US to agree its share of a £70 bn fund to help developing countries go green which is seen as critical to the success of the Cop26 summit

Boris Johnson will today warn world leaders they will be judged by history if they fail to tackle climate change.

The Prime Minister will hold talks in New York with a series of leaders today before travelling to Washington tomorrow for his first White House summit with Joe Biden. He will also hold separate talks with US vice president Kamala Harris.

Sources said Mr Johnson will also use the talks to push for the resumption of transatlantic travel, including the lifting of the US ban on arrivals from the UK.

Mr Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were due to arrive in New York last night for the start of a four-day visit in which the PM hopes to get climate talks back on track ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Today he will meet maverick Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who he will urge to do more to prevent the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

He will also meet Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, and host a virtual meeting of world leaders on climate issues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today warn world leaders they will be judged by history if they fail to tackle climate change as he heads to the US for his first White House summit

Billionaire Jeff Bezos to face BoJo tax grilling 

Billionaire Jeff Bezos will today be urged to pay his ‘fair share’ of tax in the UK by Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister will tackle the Amazon founder during talks in New York on the fringes of the UN General Assembly summit.

The meeting was set up to discuss ways in which the online retail giant can reduce its impact on the environment.

But Downing Street confirmed the PM will raise the subject of Amazon’s tax bill directly with Mr Bezos, pictured, who is the world’s richest man.

The company’s tax payments in the UK have crept up in recent years but remain tiny in relation to the huge scale of its business.

This month the firm said it was ‘proud’ to have paid £492million in direct taxes last year on UK sales of £20.6billion – a rate of less than 2.5 per cent.

Asked whether Mr Johnson would ask about tax, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘You can expect the Prime Minister to raise this important issue. 

‘We have been an advocate for an international solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation of the economy… we will very much be looking to raise that.’

Mr Johnson hopes to use tomorrow’s White House summit to mend fences with President Biden, following a summer in which the special relationship became strained over the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But his immediate priority is to persuade the US to agree to its share of a $100 billion (£70 billion) fund for helping developing countries, which is seen as critical to the success of the Cop26 summit.

The PM said last night: ‘World leaders have a small window of time left to deliver on their climate commitments ahead of Cop26.

‘My message to those I meet this week will be clear: future generations will judge us based on what we achieve in the coming months.’

Mr Johnson said leaders had a duty to stump up the cash.

‘Richer nations have reaped the benefits of untrammelled pollution for generations, often at the expense of developing countries,’ he said.

‘As those countries now try to grow their economies in a clean, green and sustainable way, we have a duty to support them in doing so – with our technology, with our expertise and with the money we have promised.’

The PM said he would also push leaders to agree ‘concrete action on coal, climate, cars and trees’ in order to keep alive the hope of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

In an effort to lead by example, Mr Johnson last night agreed a £500 million package to accelerate the phase-out of coal in the UK.

Tomorrow’s White House summit threatens to be a tense affair. Mr Biden was scathing about Mr Johnson during his election campaign in 2019, describing him as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Donald Trump.

Boris Johnson will look to mend fences with US President Joe Biden during his visit to a White House. Pictured: Leaders of the G7 pose during a group photo at the G7 meeting in Cornwall

The two men appeared to strike up a decent working relationship during the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, but the PM is said to have felt ‘let down’ over the rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw the Taliban seize power. At the height of the crisis, he was unable to secure a call to Mr Biden.

US diplomatic sources said Mr Johnson had work to do after ‘whingeing in public’. One said the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan had been made by Mr Trump following negotiations with the Taliban which were not opposed by the UK.

However, British sources insisted that the relationship with the US remained strong, pointing to the formation of the new AUKUS security pact agreed between the UK, US and Australia last week.

Mr Johnson and Mr Biden are also expected to discuss Northern Ireland, where British sources fear the US President is siding with the EU over post-Brexit trade checks that are threatening to destabilise the province’s political balance.

Senior officials in the Biden administration have suggested that failure to resolve the problems in Northern Ireland could damage the prospects for a post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries.

The talks were well advanced under Mr Trump’s presidency but appear to have been placed on the back-burner in recent months. Mr Johnson will also meet Congressional leaders this week to discuss Brexit and trade.

Pictured: President Joe Biden, along with First Lady Jill Biden, takes a bike ride in Delaware

It came as Tory MP Alok Sharma, who is chairing the Cop26 conference, said Chinese president Xi Jinping could snub the summit, even though his country is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Mr Sharma said he was ‘very, very hopeful’ China would send a delegation to the UN event, but conceded Mr Xi had not yet confirmed whether he would attend himself.

China’s agreement is seen as crucial if the talks are to succeed in slowing global warming.

However, Beijing has been infuriated by the new AUKUS pact – widely viewed as a move to counter China’s increasing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. The foreign ministry in Beijing said it was ‘extremely irresponsible’ after the three allies announced plans to collaborate on developing a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian navy.

Mr Sharma, who flew out to New York with Mr Johnson, said he would not expect Mr Xi to say whether he was going to Glasgow until nearer the time.

Pressed over the issue on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, he said: ‘On the issue of whether Xi Jinping is going to come, that is not yet confirmed. Normally these things come a bit closer to summits. We want China there.’

Mr Sharma, who has been nicknamed ‘Air Miles Alok’ after flying to more than 30 countries to persuade world leaders to agree to ambitious climate targets, told Sky News: ‘There is no doubt that China is going to be part of the key to all of this.

‘They are the biggest emitter in the world. They have said to me they want the Cop26 to be a success. The ball is in their court.

‘We want them to come forward and make it a success, together with the rest of the world.’

Pressure on Joe to lift Brits’ travel ban

By Jason Groves, Political Editor, and David Churchill for the Daily Mail

The Prime Minister will press Joe Biden to lift the ban on travel from the UK during tomorrow’s White House talks.

Britain dropped restrictions on fully vaccinated US visitors in July as a ‘goodwill gesture’.

But, to the concern of ministers – and anger of the travel industry – the US has yet to reciprocate.

Mr Johnson and President Biden set up a dedicated working group in June to take the issue forward, following talks at the G7 summit in Cornwall. But progress on the issue is said to have stalled.

At present, travellers from the UK cannot visit the US without special permission from the United States government.

The ban meant tennis star Emma Raducanu’s family were unable to travel to New York this month to watch her victory in the US Open final.

It has also deprived the beleaguered aviation sector of one of its most important and lucrative markets. The US is continuing to ban travel from the UK on Covid grounds. 

Foreign secretary Liz Truss boards RAF Voyager ahead of the four-day trip to the United States

But Mr Johnson will argue that the effectiveness of the UK’s vaccination programme means there is no justification for maintaining restrictions on fully jabbed travellers.

British Airways chief Sean Doyle said: ‘The Prime Minister is doing something this week that remains out of reach for most Britons – visiting the US.’

‘We need the PM to urgently make the case for reopening the transatlantic corridor during his meeting with President Biden and move the Atlantic Charter they discussed at the G7 back in June to the top of the agenda.

For 18 long months friends and family have been separated and the UK economy has suffered.’

Mr Doyle insisted that the aviation industry ‘must be allowed to play its part in kick-starting the British economy, re-igniting business and tourism’.

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