LONDON: “If we don’t act now,
it’ll be too late.” That’s the warning from Sir David Attenborough ahead
of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
broadcaster says the richest nations have “a moral responsibility” to
help the world’s poorest.
would be “really catastrophic” if we ignored their problems, he told
me in a BBC News interview.
day that goes by in which we don’t do something about it is a day wasted,”
and I were speaking at Kew Gardens in London during filming for a new landmark
series, The Green Planet, to be aired on BBC1 next year.
conversation ranged from the latest climate science to the importance of COP26
to the pace of his working life.
climate science panel recently concluded that it is “unequivocal”
that human activity is driving up global temperatures.
David said that proved that he and others had not been making “a fuss
about nothing”, and that the risks of a hotter world are real.
climate scientists have been saying for 20 years, and that we have been
reporting upon, you and I both, is the case – we were not causing false alarms.
every day that goes by in which we don’t do something about it is a day wasted.
And things are being made worse”.
said the report had not convinced everyone and that they are acting as a brake
on efforts to tackle climate change.
are still people in North America, there are still people in Australia who say
‘no, no, no, no, of course it’s very unfortunate that there was that forest fire
that absolutely demolished, incinerated that village, but it’s a one-off’.
if it’s going to cost money in the short term, the temptation is to deny the
problem and pretend it’s not there.
every month that passes, it becomes more and more incontrovertible, the changes
to the planet that we are responsible for that are having these devastating
for an urgent response reflects the latest scientific assessment that to avoid
the worst impacts of rising temperatures, global carbon emissions need to be
halved no later than 2030.
why the coming years are described as “the decisive decade” and why
the COP26 talks are so crucial for getting the world on a safer path now.
stand, emissions are projected to continue rising rather than starting to fall,
and Sir David was sounding more exasperated than I’ve heard before.
we don’t act now, it will be too late,” he said. “We have to do it
to the question of responsibility, a highly contentious issue which will loom
large at the conference. Developing countries have for years accused the
richest nations, which were the first to start polluting the atmosphere, of
failing to shoulder their share of the burden.
argument is that they should be making the deepest cuts in carbon emissions and
providing help to those who need it most. A long-standing promise of $100bn a
year for low carbon development and to build stronger defences against more
violent weather has yet to be fulfilled – reaching that total will be a key
test of whether COP26 succeeds or fails.
David, this is one of the most worrying challenges, and he says it would be
“really catastrophic” if threats to the poorest nations were ignored.
parts of Africa are likely to be unliveable – people will simply have to move
away because of the advancing deserts and increasing heat, and where will they
go? Well, a lot of them will try to get into Europe.
we say, ‘Oh, it’s nothing to do with us’ and cross our arms?
caused it – our kind of industrialisation is one of the major factors in
producing this change in climate. So we have a moral responsibility.
if we didn’t cause it, we would have a moral responsibility to do something
about thousands of men, women and children who’ve lost everything, everything.
Can we just say goodbye and say this is no business of ours?”
I asked about his own hectic workload at the age of 95 – from filming
documentaries to addressing the G7 summit, the UN Security Council and the Duke
of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize.
global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate
change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for
their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our
don’t plan very far ahead – as you say, I’m 95. How long can you go on? It
isn’t within our gift to say those things or to know those things.
I know is that if I get up tomorrow and I feel that I’m able to do a decent
day’s work, then I shall jolly well do it and be grateful.
the day is going to come when I’m going to get out of bed and say, I don’t
think I can do that. When that’s going to be, who knows? I don’t.”
watched him filming for five hours straight, and remaining not only focused but
also good-humoured, I suggested that he still loved what he was doing.
the moment, I feel it would be a waste of an opportunity just to back out and
not do the things I think are very important to do in which I am well placed to
next major engagement in the Attenborough diary? Nothing less than speaking,
virtually or in-person, to what’s set to be the largest ever gathering of
global leaders on British soil: COP26, in a few days’ time.