The SEC in Glasgow

COP26 is being held at the SEC in Glasgow. Image © Shutterstock / Richard Brew

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COP26: this week's headlines

With COP26 starting in just a few days time, there has been plenty of news ahead of the upcoming climate summit.

Here's a roundup of some of the important announcements that have been made over the past week.

An oil refinery in a desert

Oil contributes significant amounts of money to Saudi Arabia's economy. Image © Shutterstock / Leo Morgan

Saudi Arabia going carbon neutral by 2060 

One of the world's biggest oil producers has said it will become carbon neutral by 2060, following other nations in making the commitment. 

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, made the announcement at the Middle East Green Initiative Summit, alongside pledges to plant 450 million trees and protect over 20% of land in the country. 

While the pledge to meet net zero has been welcomed, the 2060 deadline puts Saudi Arabia a decade behind that recommended by the UN, but in line with China and Russia.  

There has also been criticism from organisations such as Greenpeace that the nation's state oil company intends to expand its oil production by one million barrels a year by 2027. 

A tropical beach on the Seychelles

In 2016, the Seychelles agreed to swap 5% of its national debt for investment in return for protecting 30% of its national waters. Image © Shutterstock / Zoltan.Benyei

Climate funding pledge behind schedule 

A plan for the world's richest countries to spend over £100 billion a year in climate funding by 2020 has been missed. 

Following a commitment made in 2009, the funding was to be used by less wealthy countries to combat and adapt to climate change. However, as of 2019 only £79.6 billion per year has been found, with the target now expected to be hit in 2023. 

Releasing the Climate Finance Delivery Plan, the UK Government described the missed target as 'disappointing', but added it had led to 'significantly increased efforts from a large number of developed countries' to reach the goal. 

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma MP says, 'Scaling up climate finance has been one of my top priorities as COP President. This plan recognises progress, based on strong new climate finance commitments.  

'There is still further to go, but this delivery plan, alongside the robust methodological report from the OECD, provides clarity, transparency and accountability. It is a step towards rebuilding trust and gives developing countries more assurance of predictable support. 

'We can and must do more to get finance flowing to developing nations. So in the lead up to COP26, it’s vital we see further pledges from developed countries and action on key priorities such as access to finance and funding for adaptation.' 

Queen Elizabeth II waving

Queen Elizabeth II will now address delegates by a recorded message. Image © Shutterstock / Shaun Jeffers

Queen will not attend COP26 on doctors' advice 

Her Majesty the Queen is no longer to address COP26 delegates at the Glasgow climate summit. 

Following advice from medics, a statement from Buckingham Palace said that the monarch had 'regretfully' decided not to attend the conference and will instead pre-record a message to be played at COP26. 

The news follows the Queen having stayed overnight in hospital earlier this month after cancelling a planned tour of Northern Ireland.  

While the British sovereign will not be attending the conference, other members of the British Royal Family are still set to attend COP26. This includes the Duke of Cambridge, who gave the first awards from his Earthshot environmental prize earlier this month. 

Action on climate change has reportedly been on the Queen's mind recently, after apparently being heard to have remarked during the opening of the Welsh Senedd that she is 'irritated' by those who 'talk but don't do' on combatting the issue. 

A file photo of activists in New York in 2017

Campaigners have called for the COP conference to serve only plant-based foods. Image © Shutterstock / a katz

COP26 'meating' criticised  

Plans to put meat on the menu at COP26 have been denounced by environmental campaigners.  

Organisations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called for the meeting to serve only plant-based foods to set an example for the people of the world. 

Writing on behalf of the campaign group, actor Alan Cumming said that animal-derived foods had 'no place on the menu' at the event and serving them would be 'irresponsible and unhelpful.' 

Eating less meat is one way that humanity can cut its impact on the planet. A study published in Nature Food earlier this year suggests that almost 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of meat, accounting for 21% overall.  

The UK Government has said that it is following UN guidelines by providing a range of dietary options, including meat, at international conferences and that 80% of the menu will be sourced locally in Scotland. 

An open cast coal mine in Australia

Nearly two thirds of Australia's electricity comes from fossil fuels. Image © Shutterstock / Taras Vyshnya

Australia not cutting fossil fuels on path to carbon neutrality 

Australia's plans to cut its greenhouse emissions have received criticism after the country's prime minister said there are no plans to limit its use of fossil fuels in the short term. 

'We want our heavy industries, like mining, to stay open, remain competitive and adapt, so they remain viable for as long as global demand allows,' Scott Morrison wrote in a column. 

Coal exports are Australia's second largest export, providing 65% of the nation's electricity and contributing billions to its economy. As a result, the country has been reticent to phase out coal mining. 

The decision to maintain use of fossil fuels was criticised by the members of the Australian Climate Council think tank, who called for more rapid emission cuts.  

Professor Will Steffen, a member of the group, says 'To achieve net zero and help avoid catastrophic climate change, the federal government must take rapid and concrete steps to cut emissions deeply this decade, starting with an end to all new coal or gas projects.  

'All gas and coal expansion must stop, and we need to move away from existing fossil fuel use as quickly as possible. Any climate commitment should be judged against this measure.' 

The Australian prime minister has instead pledged billions in investment in low-emission technologies such as carbon capture and storage to offset fossil fuel production. However, many of these technologies are yet to be rolled out at a large scale globally. 

A forest fire

Forest fires are predicted to become more common as the planet warms. Image © Shutterstock / Christian Roberts-Olsen

World emission cuts fall short of target, UN says 

The world is on course to warm by 2.7⁰C this century, a UN report has found, leaving nations open to devastating climate change. 

Current pledges by countries around the world will shave just 7.5% off predicted greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, rather than the 55% needed to hit the 1.5⁰C target. 

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, says, 'Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem. 

'To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly.' 

While this is a smaller increase than the almost 4°C rise that would have resulted from the commitments made at the 2015 Paris climate accords, the world needs to remove an additional 28 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from yearly emissions. 

Part of this can be achieved by meeting net zero targets by 2050, which would take off half a degree of warming. Steps to limit methane, which has four times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, will also help limit climate change

And finally...

Lego's Building Instructions for a Better World

The 10 instuctions were created following conversations with 6000 children. Image © LEGO

LEGO produces instruction manual to fix the climate 

The world's largest toy company has produced a set of instructions for leaders ahead of the COP26 summit. 

LEGO surveyed over 6000 children to develop 'Building Instructions for a Better World', a 10-point plan based on what the world's young people want to see to tackle climate change. The instructions include telling leaders to 'protect nature' and 'stop ignoring the problem', as well as to change their behaviour. 

Tim Brooks, Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group, says, 'Children are demanding that they and future generations are front of mind when it comes to creating policy, and that policy makers and businesses all make the shift to longer-term thinking and commitments to change. This is how we'll inspire and empower the children of today to become the builders of tomorrow.' 

An accompanying survey by the firm found that almost half of children think about the environment once a week, with global warming their number one concern. 51% also wanted to pursue a career that improves the environment, with three fifths believing it is not too late to avert damaging climate change if action is taken now.