Held in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November, the UN Climate Change Conference  is setting the political, media and business agenda. Follow proceedings with our bi-weekly round-up.

The main event

Opening statements

A series of emotive and impassioned speeches kicked off proceedings on Monday, including from the UK Prime Minster, COP26 President and the UN Secretary General. These speeches received mixed reviews by commentators, as you can read in the ‘In the news’ section of our bulletin.

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a James Bond and doomsday device analogy, telling leaders the clock is ticking to “defuse the bomb” and fight back against climate change. External-link[UK Government]
  • COP26 President Alok Sharma called for urgent action and solidarity amongst leaders to ensure Glasgow delivers on the promise of Paris, and refenced the IPCC report in August as a “wake up call”. External-link [UK Government]
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres took to the podium with a stark message that “we are digging our own graves”, highlighting that the six years since the Paris Agreement have been the hottest on record, and told world leaders to stop “treating nature like a toilet.” External-link[UN]

National commitments

Several nations have begun to make national climate change commitments, with more expected to follow negotiations throughout the conference.

  • The UK have launched its ‘Clean Green Initiative’ – promising to double UK aid-funded green investments to help developing countries utilise green technology and grow their economies sustainably. External-link [UK Government]
  • The Prime Minister of India Narenda Modi promised that his nation would cut its emissions to Net Zero by 2070. This misses a key COP26 goal for countries to reach Net Zero by 2050. Modi defended the target by highlighting that India is responsible for 5% of global emissions but represents 17% of the world’s population.  External-link[Government of India]
  • The UK, US, India, EU, and China are among the 40+ nations that have backed the Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda, an international plan to deliver clean and affordable technology everywhere by 2030 External-link [UK Government]

Deforestation pledges

On Tuesday, 114 world leaders promised to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The pledge is backed by $12bn in public and $7.2bn in private funding.

  • The countries who have signed, including Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, the US and the UK, in total encompass 85% of the world’s forests. It was welcomed as a landmark deal, but some have remained sceptical, given a previous pledge made in New York in 2014 has failed to have any impact on slowing deforestation. External-link [UN]

 Global Methane Pledge

Close to 100 countries have signed up to a pledge to cut methane emissions, spear-headed by the US and EU.

  • When the deal was initially announced in September there were 9 signatories. This has now increased to over 80, but the list is still missing some key emitters such as China, Russia and India. The nations have agreed to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, when compared to levels in 2020. External-link [European Commission]

UK to be first Net Zero-aligned Financial Centre

On Finance Day, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the UK will be the world’s first Net Zero-aligned Financial Centre, meaning UK financial institutions will have a robust firm-level transition plan setting out how they will decarbonise.

  • $130 trillion – around 40% of the world’s financial assets – is now being aligned with the climate goals in the Paris Agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5C. These commitments come from over 450 firms globally from all parts of the financial industry. External-link [UK Government]

In the news

Logistical issues blight conference start

Many papers pointed out that COP26 got off to a tricky start, with bin strikes leaving Glasgow looking far from its best, and travel chaos making the hosts seem unprepared.

Accusations of hypocrisy

There was some displeasure at the sight of so many private jets arriving in Scotland, with calls for attendees to lead by example.

Opening statements from the UK

Boris Johnson opened COP26 with a warning that time was rapidly running out, and that wasting it would have catastrophic consequences. The Telegraph was unimpressed with some of the extremity of the language, saying that practical measures would be better than hyperbole.

National commitments

While a deal on deforestation represented progress, The Times argued that India and China’s refusal to ditch coal was undermining the efforts of the conference, and casting a shadow across the whole affair.

  • Reports that India will reach net zero emissions by 2070 External-link [The Guardian]
  • The Times view on India and China’s reliance on coal External-link [The Times]

Other voices

Non-governmental voices emphasise climate urgency

The urgency of the climate crisis was strongly emphasized by the broadest possible variety of non-governmental voices at the start of COP26, ranging from Greta Thunberg to Queen Elizabeth.

  • David Attenborough’s speech External-link [BBC News]
  • Queen addresses COP attendees External-link [BBC News]

Jeff Bezos makes $2 billion conservation pledge amid private jet criticism

The Amazon founder’s latest announcement adds to a $1 billion conservation-focused pledge he made in September, part of his $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, a philanthropic initiative launched in February last year.

  • Billionaire Jeff Bezos promises $2 billion towards nature conservation and restoration in COP26 speech External-link [Forbes]

Indigenous communities describe devastating climate impacts

Indigenous communities feeling the strongest impacts of the environmental emergency provided first-hand accounts of climate disaster, as governments finally begin to promise much-needed cash in response.

  • Indigenous climate activist from the Brazilian Amazon accused COP leaders of having “closed their eyes” to climate crisis External-link [BBC News]
  • UK, US, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands lead a £1.25bn funding pledge for indigenous communities External-link [The Guardian]

Protestors make voices heard during COP

Climate activists donned a range of off-beat outfits to make presence felt at COP climate summit, deploying several unusual tactics to draw attention to the cause.

  • Protestors dressed in modern-day suffragette costumes and squid game-inspired outfits External-link [ITV]
  • Extinction Rebellion block traffic in climate justice march through Glasgow heading to COP 26 [Express]

City leaders make ambitious COP commitments in lieu of national action

City leaders set out an ambitious set of climate goals during the first week of COP 26 to compensate for what some described as inaction on the part of national leaders.

  • 1,000 cities vow to cut emissions by half before the end of the decade External-link [Evening Standard]
  • City of London Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuinness message to COP External-link [City AM]

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