HERE we go again. World leaders will gather by the Red Sea in the next 48 hours to make grand statements, some apocalyptic, about the climate threat to the planet and what needs to be done to save it but never has it been necessary for actions to speak louder than words.

The climate numbers are not good and show, collectively, we are losing the battle to prevent the world from sliding into an irreversible climate catastrophe.

Tomorrow, at least 120 heads of state and government will gather in Egypt’s plush Sharm-el-Sheikh resort for two days of intensive talks, setting out positions, which national negotiators will then take forward during the two weeks of COP27.

Memory recalls how a year ago Alok Sharma, the COP26 President, ended the gathering in Glasgow tearfully as, after weeks of difficult negotiations, India and China, at the last moment, watered down the international community’s commitment to phase out coal and instead agreed only to phase it down.

The aim of Glasgow was to keep the hope of limiting global warming to a 1.5C rise. But a recent UN Environment Programme report branded the last 12 months a “wasted year” after, despite their promises, most governments either haven’t produced new climate plans or have made only minor improvements. So far this year, only 24 out of 193 countries have updated their carbon-cutting schedules.

The report concluded if countries kept to their current plans the temperature rise would be not 1.5C but 2.4C and, if they didn’t, it would hit 2.8C.

“In other words,” warned Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, “we are heading for a global catastrophe.”

He told The Guardian the world was “doomed” unless national leaders gathered in Egypt were able to reach agreement.

“There is no way we can avoid a catastrophic situation, if the two [the developed and developing world] are not able to establish a historic pact,” adding the world was approaching “tipping points,” which would “make climate breakdown irreversible”.

Now, you might think the 1.1C temperature rise we’re already experiencing is bad enough, having led this year to wildfires in London suburbs as the mercury hit 40C for the first time, devastating floods in Pakistan, calculated to have cost its economy £26bn, and severe drought in China and across Europe. A UN report said glaciers across the globe, including the last ones in Africa, will be unavoidably lost to climate change by 2050.

Climate scientists have estimated a 3C temperature rise would mean flood damage would be almost four times the level than at a 1.5C rise, twice as many species would face extinction and food security risks would worsen considerably.

COP27 is expected to be dominated by not only the mission to cut CO2 emissions but also by how richer countries can help poorer ones cope with climate change.

To this end, wealthier nations first promised in 2009 to create an £88m a year fighting fund. It was supposed to be realised two years ago but the latest estimate is it will arrive next year. Don’t hold your breath.

Yesterday, John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, said richer countries really needed to “step up” to help poorer ones transition away from fossil fuels and adapt to climate impact.

He admitted the war in Ukraine had complicated matters. “There are people within the fossil fuel industry who are using it, frankly, as leverage to be able to say: ‘We need to be pumping a lot more. We’re moving much too fast.’ It’s just not true.”

He added most European countries had “applied the lesson of this war, which is: don’t allow a petro-dictator to hold you hostage to energy, don’t let them weaponise it against you”.

As time passes what the world needs, in the face of geopolitical pressures, is statesmanlike vision and determined leadership. As has been said previously, the first principle of leadership is “turning up”.

At COP27, US President Joe Biden will be there, so too France’s Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen. After Nicola Sturgeon said she would be there and Boris Johnson revealed he too would attend, pressure mounted on Rishi Sunak to follow suit.

After days of softer and softer rhetoric from Downing St, the PM, who originally said he was far too busy working on the Autumn Budget to go to Sharm-el-Sheikh, finally arrived at the right decision.

Ahead of his trip to Egypt today, Sunak warned fellow leaders not to “backslide” on their Glasgow commitments, urging them to move “further and faster” in transitioning away from damaging fossil fuels.

He insisted tackling global warming was “fundamental” to future prosperity and security and pledged to make the UK a “clean energy superpower”.

However, not expected to “step up” are: President Xi Jinping of China; Narendra Modi of India and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Another COP27 absentee will be climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, who has dismissed it as nothing more than a “greenwashing” forum.

Thus far, it seems the British public are not impressed by the UK Government’s actions. A poll showed nearly six in 10 people believe Whitehall isn’t doing enough to tackle global warming while more than a third think Britain is doing too little to help poorer countries cope with climate change.

Hotheads in Russia have spoken about the Ukraine war leading to World War III but, in a way, it’s already here in a form we didn’t anticipate, a war that the world is fighting against itself to stop us destroying the planet through radically changing the climate.

As COP27 begins today in Egypt, the world is again watching and praying our global leaders do “step up” to do the right thing and put the future of the planet before the future of their own vested interests.

Last year, Johnson told The Herald that Glasgow was a “moment of truth” for the world. Now, another such moment has arrived. There may not be many more to seize. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us.