Archbishop of Canterbury apologises after likening climate change deniers to ‘Nazis’

COP26: Kyriakos Mitsotakis on sharing energy with the UK

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Justin Welby made a rare public withdrawal after claiming world leaders will be “cursed” if they did not deal with climate change. He suggested climate change could be a “genocide on an infinitely greater scale” than that committed by Nazi Germany.

Speaking to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, he said: “People will speak of them in far stronger terms than we speak today of the politicians of the 30s, of the politicians who ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany.

“Because this will kill people all around the world for generations, and we have will have no means of averting it.”

Asked if he was saying a failure to act on climate change would be worse than allowing a genocide to happen, he replied: “It will allow a genocide on an infinitely greater scale.

“I’m not sure there’s grades of genocide, but there’s width of genocide.

“And this will be genocide indirectly, by negligence, recklessness, that will in the end come back to us or to our children and grandchildren.”

He later tweeted: “I unequivocally apologise for the words I used when trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us at COP26.

“It’s never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis, and I’m sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words.”

Mr Welby went on to tell the BBC that climate change was “the long term equivalent of a nuclear war”.

He continued: “The politicians who are here today, the heads of government, the heads of state, in two generations’ time they will be remembered for this fortnight, and probably this fortnight alone.

“They could have been brilliant in everything else they’ve done, and they will be cursed if they don’t get this right.

“They could have been rubbish at everything else they’ve done.

“But if they get this right, the children of today will rise up and bless them in 50 years.”

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said world leaders “understand how serious” climate change is.

They said: “It’s a matter for individuals how they choose to frame it.

“I think world leaders, those attending here, understand how serious the situation is.”

His apology comes as the COP26 conference began over the weekend.

COP26 – the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – is taking place in Glasgow over the coming two weeks, with delegates and world leaders putting heads together to bring climate change under control and manage human impacts on the planet.

Countries are using the conference to set out plans to reduce carbon emissions, and some of these will be very technical and specific, with citizens expected to chip in and do their bit, too.

Global emissions need to be cut in half by 2030 to stem the acceleration of wildfires, droughts, floods and storms that are already intensifying – something the world is increasingly witnessing the disastrous effects of.

If the world misses its goals, millions around the globe stand to suffer dramatic and untenable changes to the way they live.

The goal of COP26 is measured in degrees – temperatures must be limited to under 1.5 increase by 2030, and countries are expected to outline their aims while in Glasgow.

Selwin Hart, special adviser and assistant secretary general for climate action at the United Nations, said: “Glasgow must deliver very credible actions.

“We are very concerned about the ambition level of many of the commitments and pledges that countries have made.

“The 2030 targets, or NDCs, that have been submitted today frankly do not cut it.”

More to follow…

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