Day 1 COP26: World Leader’s Summit Part 1

Photo of the COP26 logo and United Nations Logo on a blue board
Eleanor Ames

November 1st marked the first day of COP26 – the most important climate conference to take place in recent history as it will decide the fate of the world and humanity. Day 1 of COP26 was the first day of the World Leader’s Summit. Here Eleanor offers a summary of the events that took place.

Johnson: “it’s one minute to midnight”

Boris Johnson told world leaders arriving at COP26 on Monday: “It’s one minute to midnight on the doomsday clock and we need to act now”.

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”. However, it later emerged that Johnson would be flying by private jet from Glasgow to London after the summit, rather than taking the train.

UN general secretary sceptical of climate optimism

without further commitments, countries would have to return to negotiate climate pledges every year

UN secretary general António Guterres expressed a warning to the summit: “Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion.”

He said that without further commitments, countries would have to return to negotiate climate pledges every year, rather than every five years as set out in the Paris agreement.

Guterres also stressed the importance of global finance to help developing countries tackle climate change, since a promise from wealthier nations to raise $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 has not been met.

despite China being the world’s largest polluter, his statement did not contain any significant new pledges

Biden apologises for Trump

In his address to the summit, US President Joe Biden apologised for former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. He told world leaders: “we will demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table but hopefully leading by the power of our example”.

China: Xi Jinping absent and no new pledges

China’s President Xi Jinping, who decided not to attend COP26 in person, said in a written statement that wealthier countries should “provide support to help developing countries do better” to tackle the climate emergency. Despite China being the world’s largest polluter, his statement did not contain any significant new pledges.

India: pledge for net zero by 2070

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a significant pledge to the summit: that the country would meet a target of net-zero emissions by 2070, despite the promise by many countries to reach net zero by 2050. Modi also said that by 2030, half of India’s energy would come from renewable sources.

a “death sentence” for island nations

Brazil’s “not the problem”, says absent Bolsonaro

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who did not attend the summit in person, said in a speech on Monday: “Brazil is a green powerhouse. When it comes to fighting climate change, we have always been part of the solution, not the problem”.

But activists at COP26 urged delegates to be sceptical of the Brazilian government’s “greenwashing” promises, pointing to the rampant deforestation that has taken place since Bolsonaro’s election.

Two degrees rise is a “death sentence” for Barbados

In a powerful speech, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley told COP26 that a two degree rise in temperature above pre-industrial levels would be a “death sentence” for island nations. She told world leaders that they must “try harder”.

David Attenborough addresses world leaders

Sir David Attenborough told delegates to be “motivated by hope rather than fear” in the face of the climate emergency, while stressing that we are “already in trouble”.

He urged nations to commit to limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the lower of two limits set out in the Paris Agreement.

He told the summit: “In my lifetime, I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.”

Politicians at the summit were just “pretending to take our future seriously”

Archbishop of Canterbury apologises for Nazi comparison

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he apologises “unequivocally” for comparing politicians who fail to act on the climate emergency to those who “ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany” during an interview at the conference.

He said: “It’s never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis and I’m sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words.”

Greta Thunberg: politicians at COP26 are leading us “nowhere”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg told protesters in Glasgow that politicians at the summit were just “pretending to take our future seriously”. She added: “This COP26 is so far just like the previous COPs and that has led us nowhere. They have led us nowhere.”

Eleanor Ames

Featured image courtesy of Stenbocki maja via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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