Boris Johnson is right. On climate change, it really is one minute to midnight. So it beggars belief that in the run up to this month’s UN climate change summit, COP26, the Prime Minister was practically sleepwalking. He even appeared to nod off during the keynote speeches on Monday, flanked by 95-year-old Sir David Attenborough whose laser-focused attention contrasted sharply with that of our PM.

The scale of the climate crisis is stark. Between 1906-2005, the average global temperature rose by 0.74ºC, with most of that warming occurring since 1970. By 2015, the average global temperature had warmed by over 1ºC since pre-industrial times. Sixteen of the 17 warmest years on record have been in 21st century and the warming isn’t the same everywhere; in the polar regions temperatures are rising up to three times the global average. Over the last 30 years we have reduced our carbon emissions by 44 per cent. But, there is so much more to do.

Reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, along with deforestation and intensive agriculture, are some of the key drivers of climate change. Our addiction to these is responsible for droughts in Madagascar, and ice sheets melting in Antarctica. Closer to home, parts of the North East costal region could disappear as sea levels rise, as could some of our low-lying areas along the River Tyne. 

Around the world we’re seeing more wildfires, extreme weather events, and food and water shortages. The UN Refugee Agency estimates such climate-related disasters could double the number of climate refugees to over 200 million each year by 2050.

More than 120 heads of state and representatives of nearly 200 countries have gathered to forge a plan aimed at holding global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. They must now agree a radical plan, with the wealthiest countries shouldering the balance of the economic burden as we move to a green transition, with green jobs and energy leading the way.

Even our own government’s announcements in the lead up to COP 26 will only tinker around the edges of the climate crisis. Johnson’s Net Zero strategy, squeezed by the Treasury in the Budget, only provides for piecemeal projects, such as the £450m boiler upgrade scheme that will support less than 5 per cent households, those able to invest their own cash, to make changes from gas to air source heat pumps. 

Homeowners are left to face the costs of insulation on their own, industries like steel and hydrogen are left hobbled in the global race without support and the government cannot confirm they will meet their climate target for 2035. So, Labour is demanding the Government keeps the 1.5C target alive and we have a five-point plan to get there.

First, Britain must lead by example. Climate action ​must start at home. ​By investing £28bn every year until 2030 to tackle the climate crisis, we can protect the planet and create secure jobs in the UK. Its also our duty to support the most vulnerable by permanently reversing the overseas aid cut, delivering and surpassing the $100 billion pledge to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to climate change.

We need to pressure the big polluters by calling for 1.5C-aligned targets from the big emitting countries, phasing out fossil fuels, and ensuring a just transition for workers. protecting nature by ending deforestation and ensuring all emissions reduction protects and promotes nature. We also need a robust Net-Zero and Nature Test to measure the impact of all government spending. Finally, we must require financial institutions and major companies to publish their carbon footprint and adopt credible 1.5C-aligned transition plans.

Locally, Labour councils are leading by example. Gateshead’s district energy scheme, the Hebburn minewater heating project and Newcastle’s plans to plant 20,000 more trees are just some of the ways we’re innovating.

We all need COP26 to succeed. But if we are to stop the world warming, we will need more than warm words. Glasgow must be the summit of climate delivery, not climate delay. All our futures depend on it.