Civil Society activists protest inside COP26

The past week has seen numerous protests globally for action on climate as reports warn urgent change is needed. Image © UNclimatechange, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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COP26: the second week's headlines

Now COP26 is almost over, there's plenty to digest about what the summit has, and hasn't, achieved in the past week. 

While plenty of promises have been made, this week saw a harsh reality check that without action on those pledges, the world is set to warm by 2.4⁰C by 2100.

Catch-up on the pre-COP announcements and first week's headlines, and follow along with the final COP26 news as it breaks over on our live blog.

Alarm bells

A graph showing the different warming scenarios with different emission pathways

Scientists say that Glasgow has narrowed the emissions gap between the 1.5⁰C pathway and reality by 15-17%, but that more ambitious cuts will be needed to get to the climate target. Image © Climate Action Tracker

World on course for 2.4⁰C global warming

The world is paying 'lip service' to 1.5⁰C, a new analysis has warned, which predicts the world is heading towards 2.4⁰C of warming if countries don't improve their current pledges.

The Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis of the climate policies of the world, calculated that this level would be hit by 2100 if nations continue on their short-term paths.

In line with a study released by the University of Melbourne, the analysis found longer-term 'optimistic' targets nations have committed to will bring the rise down to 1.8⁰C, which is still above the 1.5⁰C goal that is critical to avoiding the worst of climate change.

Professor Niklas Höhne, the founder of NewClimate which was also involved in the analysis, said, 'Not a single country has the short term action planned to take them to net-zero. Assuming all countries take all the steps they have put on the table, we will emit roughly twice as much as we should in 2030 if we want to get to 1.5⁰C. 

'All countries have to go back and rethink what they can do. The only way to do that is to go into emergency mode and do something substantially different.'

He called on the nations of the world to update their targets annually, rather than every five years as the Paris Agreement currently stipulates.

A private jet on a runway with the door open

Activities such as using private jets and owning multiple homes contribute to the top 1%'s high carbon footprint. Image © Shutterstock / Dimitrije Ostojic

Rich hindering efforts to cut carbon

The world's richest people may drive efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C off course.

A joint study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy and the charity Oxfam found that the richest 1% are set to have emissions almost 30 times the amount each person should have by 2030, significantly above the 2.2 tonnes per person that the world should be moving towards.

The report describes the current disparity as 'untenable', warning that a failure by the rich to cut their emissions will either lead to global warming of over the 1.5°C target, or require deeper cuts by everyone else. 'There is no other alternative,' the authors add.

The greatest emissions cuts in the next decade are expected to come from the middle classes, who will reduce their emissions by around 10% but still be over the 2.2 tonne limit. Meanwhile, the poorest 50% of the world will increase their emissions by 17% and still be under the target.

A map showing the effects of a 4⁰C temperature rise on different areas of the world

The Met Office also modelled the impacts of a 4⁰C temperature rise, which are displayed in this map. Image © Met Office

A billion face lethal temperatures with 2⁰C of warming

The UK's Met Office has warned that over a billion people could face extreme heat stress if the climate warms by two degrees.

The national weather service has released a report warning of the impact of climate change, looking at the areas of the world which could regularly hit 32⁰C or higher. India and China, collectively home to almost a third of the world's population, are among the worst effected.

At these temperatures, outdoor workers and vulnerable people, as well as the young and old, will be at 'extreme risk' of damaging health effects. There are also risks of greater flooding, wildfires, droughts and crop failure under the high heats. 

Dr Andy Wiltshire, the head of Earth System and Mitigation Science at the Met Office, says, 'Any one of the climate impacts presents a scary vision of the future. But, of course, severe climate change will drive many impacts, and our maps show that some regions will be affected by multiple factors.

'Perhaps unsurprisingly, parts of the tropics are most affected with countries like Brazil and Ethiopia potentially facing impacts from four of the hazards. Rapid emission reductions are required if we are to avoid worst consequences of unmitigated climate change.'

Calls for change

Greta Thunberg on the stage in George Square

Climate activist Greta Thunberg began the Fridays for Future group, which organised this protest in Glasgow on November 5

Global marches for climate activism

Climate activists have been marching around the world to demand leaders begin transitioning to a greener and more equitable future.

There were numerous marches in Glasgow itself, as well as in many global cities as people took to the streets to demand change. The marches in the COP26 host city were attended by notable climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg, who addressed protesters afterwards.

Ugandan Vanessa Nakate said that Africa is being disproportionately affected by climate change, despite being responsible for a very small amount of climate emissions historically.

She said, 'People are dying, children are dropping out of school, farms are dying. We are in a crisis, we are in a disaster every day.'

She called on climate activists to keep up their campaign, saying, 'We cannot give up now, we cannot stop holding leaders to account. No action is too small to make a difference, no voice is too small.'

Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg labelled COP26 'a failure', saying, 'The COP has turned into a PR event to give fancy speakers. The leaders of the northern countries are taking no action, they are maintaining the status quo. This is no longer a climate conference, but a greenwash.'

UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks at COP26

The Secretary General called for the immediate end of fossil fuel subsidies.  Image © UNclimatechange, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

UN Chief demands immediate carbon cutting action

The UN Secretary General has said the world 'cannot settle for the lowest common denominator' in tackling climate change.

António Guterres said that efforts to tackle climate change must begin in earnest immediately, saying, 'Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuel industry receives trillions in subsidies or when countries are still building coal plants or when carbon is still without a price or markets. 

'Every country, city, company and financial institution must irrevocably, credibly and verifiably reduce their emissions and decarbonise their portfolios starting now.'

He added that governments 'need to pick up the pace' on providing mitigation, adaptation and finance equitably around the world to resist the effects of climate change.

The Secretary General continued, 'The announcements here in Glasgow are encouraging but they are far from enough. The emissions gap remains a devastating threat and the finance gap represents a glaring injustice for the developing world. 

'We need even more ambition in future revised Nationally Determined Contributions and we need pledges to be implemented with commitments to become concrete. 

'We need to bridge the deep and real credibility gap.'


Leaders sitting on stage during a press conference at COP26

The draft agreement has been criticised by scientists and campaigners.  Image © UNclimatechange, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Draft COP26 agreements published

The aim of COP26 is to produce a summary document agreeing next steps that all countries have signed up to in the race to combat climate change.

Two drafts have been published over the past week, which include proposals that countries will return next year to revise their emission-cutting targets, as well as to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

However, the call for countries to accelerate 'the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels,' has been criticised as too weak a commitment.

Museum scientist Professor Andy Purvis said, 'The COP26 draft has been weakened and now calls for phasing out “inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” As a reminder to COP26, pouring the world’s tax dollars into driving disastrous climate change is obviously inefficient.'

Meanwhile, Greenpeace described the first draft of the document as 'exceptionally weak,' adding, 'Campaigners are gravely concerned because ordinarily, the first draft of a COP text is relatively ambitious, and becomes weaker over the second week as countries work in caveats for themselves. For the first draft to be so weak does not bode well.'

John Kerry speaks at COP26

The joint announcement by the two nations was unexpected.  Image © COP26, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

Surprise climate co-operation between USA and China

The conference was shaken up by a surprise announcement on November 10 that the world's two biggest emitters, China and the USA, will work together to tackle climate change. 

The relationship between the two nations has been difficult lately, with US President Joe Biden having criticised China's leader Xi Jingping for not attending the conference in person last week.

However, some of these differences appear to have been put aside as the countries said they will co-operate to achieve 1.5⁰C of global warming, including by the reduction of greenhouse emissions this decade. The countries also intend to work together to develop carbon capture technology, reduce deforestation and promote green energy.

While the announcement has been welcomed, campaigners have called for its promises to become concrete action.

Oil derricks against a sunset

While the initiative has been welcomed, the major oil producers are not members. Image © Shutterstock / Thaiview

Nations aim to phase out fossil fuels

A group aimed at phasing out the production of fossil fuels has officially launched at COP26.

The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, led by Denmark and Costa Rica and set up earlier this year, announced new members including France, Sweden and Ireland, as well as associate members such as New Zealand.

However, the group does not number any of the world's top five oil producers – the USA, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and China – among its members. The highest producing country of the group is Denmark, which was the 44th biggest producer of oil in 2020.

However, the group does have the states of California and Quebec, which are parts of both the USA and Canada respectively.

The UK, Europe's second biggest producer of oil after Norway and COP26 host, had announced earlier this week that it would not be joining the group at this time.