COP26: Justin Trudeau remembers village that burned to the ground

Town of Lytton and mountains burn in BC Wildfire 1

Flames ripped through the town of Lytton and the surrounding mountains in June 2021. (Getty Images)

Justin Trudeau used part of his climate change speech at COP26 to highlight a town that burned down in Canada following unprecedented wildfires. 

Earlier this year, wildfires stoked by record-breaking temperatures, tore across the North-west of the North American continent decimating everything their path – including the small town of Lytton in British Columbia.

The Canadian prime minister invoked the town as he urged world leaders at the gathering of world leaders in Glasgow to tackle the mammoth task of halting the destructive impact of global warming. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures while holding a meeting with US businessman Michael Bloomberg (not pictured) on day two of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1, 2021. - COP26, running from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow will be the biggest climate conference since the 2015 Paris summit and is seen as crucial in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming, as well as firming up other key commitments. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was suffering particularly badly as a result of climate change. (Getty Images)

“In Canada, there was a town called Lytton,” Trudeau told world leaders sombrely.  

“I say was – because on June 30th, it burned to the ground. 

“The day before the temperature had hit 49.6C, the hottest ever recorded in our country.”

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Wildfires, fuelled by the unprecedented heatwave, destroyed around 90% of the structures in Lytton and killed two people. 

And, more broadly, it is estimated the heatwave killed over 500 people in British Columbia alone – with its neighbour, the United States, recording over 200 deaths related to the blazes on the continent.

The fires were part of a weather event described by meteorologists as “a heat dome”

Devastation from wildfires in Lytton, British Columbia, on September 1, 2021. - On the front lines of global warming, evacuees from Lytton, a western Canadian village destroyed by wildfires in June, are detached and bitter about the upcoming September 20 snap elections. Lytton, located 250kms (155 miles) northeast of Vancouver, gained international attention for setting a new Canadian heat record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.3 Fahrenheit) before being ravaged days later by a fire that killed at least two residents. (Photo by COLE BURSTON / AFP) (Photo by COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Around 90% of the town Lytton in Canada’s British Columbia was destroyed. (Getty Images)

Oxford University’s Dr Friederike Otto said at the time that such heatwaves would be near impossible if it were not for climate change

“Without the additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, in the statistics that we have available with our models, and also the statistical models based on observations, such an event just does not occur,” she said.

“Or if an event like this occurs, it occurs once in a million times, which is the statistical equivalent of never.”

Trudeau told the world that Canada was suffering uniquely as a result of soaring temperatures.

The fire has already claimed 2 lives and destroyed 90% of the small town. More people remain unaccounted for.

Wildfires in Lytton killed two people. (Getty Images)

“Canada is warming on average twice as quickly as the rest of the world, and in our north three times quicker,” he said. 

“The science is clear: we must do more and faster.

“So that’s the pledge, and the call, I bring to this historic meeting.”

Canada ranks seventh in the world for carbon emissions, and its temperature has increased by 1.7C since 1948. 

LYTTON, BC - JULY 6 :  A fire helicopter carrying water is seen as firefighters still battle the fires in Lytton, British Columbia, July 6, 2021. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A helicopter carrying water to fight wildfires in Lytton. (Getty Images)

Among ideas suggested to tackle global warming, Trudeau said that putting a price on pollution is key to pushing down global emissions.

“Just as globally we’ve agreed to a minimum corporate tax, we must work together to ensure it is no longer free to pollute anywhere in the world,” he said. 

“That means establishing a shared minimum standard for pricing pollution.”

He added: “We know pollution pricing is key to getting emissions down while getting innovation up and running.”

Getting emissions down is a key goal of the climate summit, which has widely been dubbed the last opportunity to save the planet. 

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Boris Johnson told COP26 the “Doomsday Device is real” and is at one minute to midnight today, and likened the climate crisis to James Bond attempting to diffuse a bomb strapped to himself – but lamented that this was real life instead of a film. 

In 2015, world leaders pledged to hit net-zero by the middle of the century, as well as keeping global warming below 2C with a target of 1.5C in the Paris Agreement

However, with the leaders of China and Russia failing to attend in person, and the prime minister of India – one of the fastest growing economies in the world – today stating his country will hit net zero 20 years late by 2070, the success of the summit is already in question. 

Watch: Wildfire Burns in Lytton, British Columbia, Amid Historic Heat Wave

Read More: COP26: Justin Trudeau remembers village that burned to the ground

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