Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in the early hours of Thursday, Boris Johnson told world leaders that Earth is not “some indestructible toy” and that the upcoming Glasgow COP26 summit is “the turning point for humanity”.
The address, in which the PM conceded a rise in temperatures was inevitable but said we can hope to “restrain that growth”, was the last stop on his visit to the United States which has seen discussions held on trade, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
Mr Johnson said coronavirus had proved it was time to "listen to the warnings of scientists", and claimed that humanity was "doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up, we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable, not just for us, but for many other species".In his speech the PM referenced the summer's many natural disasters, such as the flooding in western Europe and China which left hundreds dead, and fatal forest fires in Europe and the west coast of the US which have caused billions of pounds of damage and destroyed many homes.
The prime minister said: "Daily, weekly, we are doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up, we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable, not just for us, but for many other species.
"And that is why the Glasgow COP26 summit is the turning point for humanity. We must limit the rise in temperatures, whose appalling effects were visible even this summer, to 1.5C.
"We we must come together in a collective coming of age. We must show that we have the maturity and wisdom to act."
Mr Johnson also said that the Muppet character Kermit the Frog was "wrong" when he sang "It's Not Easy Bein' Green."
He said: "We have the technology, we have the choice before us."
He also claimed that while investment from world governments must increase, "government cash alone is not going to be enough", adding that governments and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should "leverage in the private sector".
"Because it is the trillions of dollars of private sector cash that will enable developing nations, and the whole world, all of us, to make the changes necessary," he said.
The prime minister is due to host a major United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in six weeks’ time.
He said: "We are awesome in our power to change things and awesome in our power to save ourselves.
"In the next 40 days we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be.
"I hope that COP26 will be a 16th birthday for humanity in which we choose to grow up, to recognise the scale of the challenge we face, to do what posterity demands we must."
Addressing the assembly, he said he was not “one of those environmentalists who takes a moral pleasure in excoriating humanity for its excess” or viewing the green movement as “a pretext for a wholesale assault on capitalism”.
“My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end,” he said.
“We are approaching that critical turning point, in less than two months, when we must show that we are capable of learning, and maturing, and finally taking responsibility for the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves.”
He called on countries to cut their carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, praised the end of China’s international financing of coal, and congratulated Pakistan’s pledge to plant 10 billion trees.