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David Attenborough warns that humanity is “already in trouble” at COP26

“In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a terrible decline, in yours you could and should witness a wonderful recovery"

By Hollie Geraghty

Sir David Attenborough poses live
Sir David Attenborough (Picture: Press)

Sir David Attenborough has warned world leaders that humanity is “already in trouble”, but spoke of the potential for a “wonderful recovery” in a speech at the COP26 summit today.

Appearing during the opening ceremony of the climate conference in Glasgow, the British naturalist addressed a crowd which included Boris Johnson, Prince Charles and Joe Biden.

“We are already in trouble. The stability we depend on is breaking,” he said. “This story is one of inequality as well as instability. Today those who have done the least to cause this problem are being the hardest hit. Ultimately all of us will feel the impact, some of which [is] now unavailable.”

He added: “In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a terrible decline, in yours you could and should witness a wonderful recovery. That desperate hope is why the world is looking to you, and why you are here.”

The environmentalist also emphasised the historic importance of the conference taking place over the next 12 days.

He said: “It comes down to this. The people alive now and the generation to come, will look at this conference and consider one thing – did that number stop rising and start to drop as a result of commitments made here?

“There’s every reason to believe that the answer can be yes.”

US President Joe Biden gave a standing ovation following the speech.

Attenborough opened his speech by charting carbon emissions throughout human history which is now at its peak, urging leaders to act fast to reduce carbon levels.

“Is this how our story is due to end?” he added. “A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all-too-human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals.

“Perhaps the fact that the people most affected by climate change are no longer some imagined visions but young people alive today. Perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story, to turn this tragedy into triumph.”

​​”We will all share in the benefits,” he continued. ‘We’re going to have to learn together how to achieve this, ensuring none are left behind. We must use this opportunity to create a more equal world, and our motivation should not be fear but hope.”

This morning Boris Johnson shared a similar sentiment, warning that it is “one minute to midnight and we need to act now” to combat climate change.

Speaking about future generations who will be most affected by climate change, he said: “They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn.

“They will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today, and they will be right.

“COP26 will not, cannot, be the end of the story on climate change.

COP26 is a 12-day event running from October 31 to November 12.