The Informer

Over the next two weeks, we'll be bringing you a couple of special 'COP26' editions of our newsletter, The Informer.

Today is day three of COP26 and we've heard the opening speeches from Sir David Attenborough, Prince Charles and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who is hosting the conference. We've also heard from world leaders who have outlined their climate plans. The main COP26 headlines so far are:

  • The first major deal has been agreed amongst world leaders to end and restore deforestation by 2030
  • Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi commits to a net-zero target by 2070 - 20 years later than the global target.
  • The Queen recorded a video message, she said "this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.”

Please find your weekly COP26 news update below and you can follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily updates from the Glasgow conference.

  • World leaders warned of climate “timebomb” as COP26 begins

    The scale of the urgent challenge posed by climate change was highlighted by key global figures as the COP26 summit got underway. Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his opening speech to warn the world was now facing a “climate timebomb". He also said the world leaders gathered in Glasgow – whose average age is over 60 – would be held accountable by the younger generation if they fail to act. “They will judge us with a bitterness and resentment that eclipses that of any of the climate activists today. And they will be right,” he said. Prince Charles urged business leaders to take the lead and change the direction of the global economy to tackling climate change. “We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal,” he said. UN Secretary General António Guterres told the conference that "our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink". “Either we stop it or it stops us. And it's time to say, enough. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves." Although naturalist Sir David Attenborough said he had witnessed a “terrible decline” in the health of the planet in his lifetime, he also said there was hope for the future as people were "the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth" and there was an opportunity for “a wonderful recovery”. Over the next two weeks delegates will discuss what can be done to curb carbon emissions and to keep temperature limits to 1.5C. Although the majority of the world’s leaders are attending in person, notable absences include China’s President Xi Jinping who hasn’t left the country since the start of the pandemic. In a written statement he said his country would accelerate investment in the low-carbon energy transition, although commentators were disappointed no significant new pledges were made by the world’s biggest emitter of CO2. Read more

  • Last seven years ‘hottest on record’

    New figures show that the last seven years have been the hottest on record with sea levels also rising to new highs. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) annual climate report, launched to coincide with COP26, said 2021 is also likely to have been one of the hottest ever years. The report said annual sea level rise has increased from an average of 2.1mm a year between 1993-2000 to 4.4 mm a year between 2013-2021, mostly due to a speed up in the loss of ice from glaciers and ice sheets. Much of the world’s oceans also experienced at least one “strong” marine heatwave at some point in 2021. UK Chief Scientist Sir Patrick Vallance said the report “hammers home the message that climate change is real and present: the seas are rising, glaciers are melting, and floods and wildfires are more frequent. “Across the world, these changes are already affecting our transport, healthcare and food systems,” he said. Read more

  • G20 leaders aim to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees

    The leaders of the world’s major economies have said they are committed to a target of limiting global warming but didn’t go as far as many commentators hoped. At a meeting of the G20 in Rome just before COP26, the leaders also pledged action to reduce the use of coal by agreeing to end public financing for coal-fired power generation abroad although they set no target for phasing out coal domestically. "We remain committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels," the draft says. The statement also recognises "the key relevance" of achieving net zero by or around the middle of the century. The G20 countries, which include the US, China, India, Brazil and Germany, account for more than 60% of the world’s population and an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists criticised the G20 for not going further on Net Zero, and Greenpeace Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said: “If the G20 was a dress rehearsal for Cop26, then world leaders fluffed their lines.” Read more

  • Largest UK firms to reveal climate risks and opportunities

    The UK is to become the first G20 country to make it mandatory for its largest businesses to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities. In an announcement made by BEIS in the run-up to the opening of COP26, it said the new rules would come into force from April 2022. The rules will apply to 1,300 of the largest UK companies and financial institutions who will have to disclose climate-related financial information on a mandatory basis in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The TCFD is an industry-led group which helps investors understand their financial exposure to climate risk and works with companies to disclose this information in a clear and consistent way. BEIS said the move will increase the quantity and quality of climate-related reporting across the UK business community, and ensure businesses consider the risks and opportunities they face and encourage them to set out their emission reduction plans and sustainability credentials. Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “By mandating large businesses to disclose their climate risks and opportunities – the first G20 country to do so – we are showing global leadership by making our financial system the greenest in the world.” Read more

  • Public sceptical over impact of talks

    A significant number of people believe that COP26 will have “little or no impact” on efforts to tackle climate change, according to a new survey. The report by think-tank Global Future found that 31% of those surveyed were highly sceptical on the outcome of the talks. The survey also found most people (56%) believe that climate change will have a bigger impact on humanity than Coronavirus, a finding the report said was “hugely significant”. “People across the country were willing to make huge sacrifices when asked to lockdown, curtailing their freedoms and respecting huge government action,” it pointed out. “If people believe in climate change and expect it to have an even bigger impact, they may be prepared to accept a similar scale of changes in their own lives once again.” However, people are sceptical about the impact their personal lifestyle changes can make. The survey found they are more likely to blame industrialised nations, corporations and consumer culture for climate change than individuals. Read more