Tue 02 November 2021 View all news

World leaders summit (Day one of two)

Political leaders from around the world gathered for the opening of COP26 in Glasgow on Sunday 31st October, several travelling from the G20 Rome Summit. Speaking at the start of the COP on November 1st, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that it is now "one minute to midnight" in the struggle against climate change.

Heads of State in attendance at the opening of COP26 in addition to the UK Prime Minister were US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened with a blunt opening message: “The six years since the Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record.  Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink.

“Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion”

He said: “We face a stark choice. Either we stop it - or it stops us.”

The UN Secretary-General announced plans for a new initiative to try and establish greater international standardisation for net zero targets.

In a video message broadcast to delegates Queen Elizabeth said: "I, for one, hope that 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.

"It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit – written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations. That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action."

The naturalist David Attenborough said: “This story is one of inequality as well as instability. Today, those who have done the least to cause this problem are among those to be hardest hit. Ultimately, all of us will feel the impact, some of which is unavoidable.

“Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”

Key Pre-COP and Day One announcements

  • A Communiqué from G20 leaders meeting in Rome expressed promises, including reaffirming Paris Agreement goals & climate finance pledges, but there were few new actions promised apart from a commitment to end overseas funding of coal projects this year.
  • G20 leaders also committed to speeding up Paris Agreement processes - potentially to require updated pledges more frequently. 
  • The UK unveiled a £3bn climate aid package during the opening ceremony
  • India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi announced a 2070 net zero target, backed by accelerated targets for renewables (500GW by 2030, when it will make up half of India's energy supply).
  • More than 100 leaders, representing 85% of the World's forests signed a deal to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  • US President Biden announced plans for more funds for climate adaptation and hinting at further announcements to come.
  • The Brazilian government announced it is to strengthen its 2030 carbon target.
  • Vietnam announced a 2050 net zero target.
  • A major survey of CEOs showed over 70 per cent are now working on net zero strategies.
  • Bloomberg announced an initiative to accelerate coal phase-out.

Some news headlines from Day One:

  • Leaders promise to save world’s forests in eight years (The Times) (link)
  • Greta Thunberg tells Glasgow protest politicians are pretending (BBC News) (link)
  • Biden apologizes for U.S. withdrawal from Paris accord (Washington Post) (link)
  • US to announce plans for wide-ranging crackdown on methane pollution (Financial Times) (link)
  • Morrison tells Cop26 Australia will exceed 2030 target to fend off criticism (The Guardian) (link)
  • Boris Johnson signals opposition to proposed Cumbria colliery (Financial Times) (link)
  • Rail Companies unite to run 'climate train' to COP26 (Prorail) (link)



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