Attenborough, Boris and Biden: 5 of the biggest moments from the COP26 summit so far

Attenborough, Boris and Biden: 5 of the biggest moments from the COP26 summit so far

Written by Amy Beecham

COP26, a United Nations conference on climate change has begun in Glasgow this week, as world leaders meet to recommit to action towards slowing down global warming.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is currently underway in Glasgow, bringing together world leaders to accelerate action towards the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Following the G20 summit in Rome on Sunday 31 October, where leaders of the world’s 20 major economies reportedly struggled to bridge differences over how to combat global warming, the conference will now last until 12 November as around25,000 people, including senior officials, environment ministers and activists like Greta Thunberg attend the crucial conference.

Both China and Russia have failed to send physical representatives to the conference, which will be attended by US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Russian President Vladimir Putin will reportedly send a recorded video message, while Chinese leader Xi Jinping issued a written statement to the conference yesterday.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden on stage at COP26

What is the aim of COP26?

In the landmark Paris agreement, signed in 2015, nations committed to holding global temperature rises to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while “pursuing efforts” to limit heating to 1.5°C. Those goals are legally binding and enshrined in the treaty.

The goal of COP26 is to recommit to ‘net zero’ byrevising each country’s ‘ nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs)in line with a 1.5C target, the lower of the two Paris goals. As the Guardian reports, scientists estimate that emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030, compared with 2010 levels, and from there to net zero emissions by 2050 if the world is to have a good chance of remaining within the 1.5°C threshold.

In a statement about COP26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote: “Securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires countries to take urgent action at home and abroad to turn the tide on climate change. It is with ambition, courage and collaboration as we approach the crucial COP26 summit in the UK that we can seize this moment together, so we can recover cleaner, rebuild greener and restore our planet.”

What are the key takeaways from COP26? 

Over 100 countries pledge to end deforestation

Being hailed as the first big achievement of the conference, the government has said it has received commitments from leaders representing more than 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

As per the Independent, more than $19 billion in public and private funds have been pledged toward the plan, which is backed by countries including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.

Forests are considered important ecosystems and a crucial way of absorbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.

Boris Johnson: “World leaders must get real about climate change at COP26”

Kicking off the conference on 1 November, Boris Johnson warned in his opening speech that in a world where warming hits 4°C, whole cities – such as Miami, Alexandria and Shanghai – will be “lost beneath the waves”.

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow,” he told the audience at the COP26 summit.

“The anger and impatience of the world will be uncontainable unless we make COP26 the moment when we get real about climate change. And we can get real on coal, cars, cash and trees. We have the technology to deactivate that ticking doomsday device.”

However, However, critics including shadow business secretary and former Labour leader Ed Miliband questioned whether any deal reached at the summit would be sufficient enough action to truly tackle climate change.

“We’ve got to halve carbon emissions this decade… we’re a long way off where we need to be,” he said in an interview with CNBC, adding that the summit needed to “turn up the heat” on world leaders.“No G20 country is doing enough, everyone’s got to step up,” Miliband said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnston speaking at COP26 in Glasgow

David Attenborough: “Is this how our story is due to end?”

In an impassioned speech during the conference opening ceremony, naturalist and presenter David Attenborough detailed how the burning of fossil fuels and humanity’s destruction of nature are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace and scale.

“We are already in trouble. The civility we all depend on is breaking,” he warned.

“Is this how our story is due to end?” Attenborough asked. “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. If working apart we are force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean: “We are not drowning – we are fighting.”

23-year-old Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean addressed world leaders at the opening of COP26 in a first-person series about the realities of climate change, telling the audience: “We are not drowning – we are fighting.”

“The real question is whether you have the political will to do the right thing, to wield the right words and to follow it up with long overdue action. If you’re looking for inspiration on this, look no further for the climate leadership of young Pacific people,” Fruean told a crowd that included US President Joe Biden and David Attenborough on Monday.

“We are not just victims to this crisis. We have been resilient beacons of hope. Pacific youth have rallied behind the cry: ‘We are not drowning, we are fighting.’ This is our warrior cry to the world.”

“This is my message from Earth to COP,” Fruean said. “I hope you remember my words today and look closely at your words as you go throughout COP.”

Joe Biden: “COP26 must be the kick off of a decade of ambition”

President Joe Biden told delegates at the COP26 summit on Monday that there is only a “brief window left before us to raise our ambitions, and to raise to meet the task that’s rapidly narrowing.”

He said this would be the “decisive decade” in which to prove that the goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5°C could be met.

“That’s what COP26 is all about, Glasgow must be the kick off of a decade of ambition and innovation to preserve our shared future,” Biden said.

US President Joe Biden at COP26

However, the president was also widely criticised after videos of his reported 85-vehicle motorcade from the Rome G20 summit and a 20-vehicle motorcade as he arrived in Glasgow for COP26 were shared online.

“Nothing shouts ‘I care about carbon emissions’ louder,” one tweet read.

This story will continue to be updated as the COP26 conference continues.

Images: Getty

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