World leaders meet for 'last best chance' COP26 climate talks in Glasgow

By Eliza Mackintosh, Angela Dewan, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 5:24 p.m. ET, November 1, 2021
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7:48 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

From electric buses to Scottish salmon, COP26 goes local and low carbon

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Glasgow

A sign about "cold water only" is in a bathroom at COP26 on November 1.
A sign about "cold water only" is in a bathroom at COP26 on November 1. (Ivana Kottasová/CNN)

The sheer size of the COP26 conference means the event requires a huge amount of resources. The organizers are trying to make it as sustainable as possible, and to source food on the menu locally.

Delegates are ferried around in electric buses and encouraged to walk or take public transport whenever possible. 

Coffee (and there’s a lot being consumed) is served in reusable cups and on the menu yesterday was locally-sourced Scottish barley broth soup, and salmon and beetroot salad.

Temporary traffic lights that have been installed across Glasgow to manage the traffic and ensure security are solar-powered and hydro-treated vegetable oil is being used in generators instead of diesel. 

And in keeping with the sustainability theme, taps in the bathrooms are cold water-only (which might be a questionable choice given the current coronavirus pandemic!). 

7:09 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

This week will test Biden's goal for the US to lead the world against the climate crisis

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly and Ella Nilsen

President Joe Biden's ambitions to lead the world in slowing the planet's warming will be tested on two continents this week as he travels to Scotland for the most important climate talks in years, while back home lawmakers come closer to making his visions a reality.

Already, Biden has been hampered somewhat by infighting among Democrats and entrenched fossil fuel interests, which have forced him to scale back some of the most audacious aspects of his climate agenda. Deep differences between world leaders also persist over money, national interests and responsibility.

The proposals currently pending in Congress, which Biden said Sunday he believes could pass this week, reflect historic investments in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

His challenge this week is convincing fellow leaders that the US will remain committed to the cause, and to cajole them to do more themselves.

Biden's failure to arrive in Glasgow with a legislative deal in hand has been downplayed by officials as having little effect on the views of the leaders at the summit itself, touting the bill as concrete evidence of the US climate commitment, with clear black-and-white details of the most significant climate action in American history.

Still, world leaders may be forgiven for appearing skeptical. After Barack Obama made combatting change a priority during his administration, Donald Trump reversed course, withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement and rolling back regulations on tailpipe emissions, power plants and more. And world leaders still remember the Kyoto Protocol, which the US refused to ratify.

Biden hopes for more durable climate commitments as part of the new spending plan but is still relying on the rule-making process for other items like cutting methane emissions.

Read the full story here:

CNN's Ella Nilsen contributed to this report.

6:56 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Can the world's biggest polluter achieve its lofty goals? CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief weighs in

From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh

CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief Steven Jiang speaks on November 1.
CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief Steven Jiang speaks on November 1. (CNN)

The fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping is not going to COP26 is probably not surprising, given he hasn't left the country since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. But what's disappointing to many is his government's recently published roadmap to achieve the ambitious climate pledges he made just a few years ago -- including reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

While the document detailed new measures on how the world's biggest polluter will decarbonize, the country is only modestly updating its pledge to reduce emissions.

CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief Steven Jiang breaks down China's new emissions pledge to the UN:

"They aim to have 25% of [their] energy mix coming from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and then increase this number to 80% by 2060. But when you look at a current picture on the ground -- you know, I'm coming from this very smoggy Beijing today -- it's one reminder that 60% of its energy consumption is still from coal, and much of the country's post Covid economic recovery is powered by the construction of dozens more new coal-fired power plants, and other projects are very much reliant on coal."
"Not to mention, we've been talking about this power crunch and that's why they had also recently ordered coal mines around the country to produce as much coal as possible, so very much trying to strike a balance between ensuring energy security and cutting carbon emissions. But all of this, of course, is why there are growing questions and skepticism about whether or not the world's biggest polluter can actually achieve its very lofty goals."
6:44 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

COP26 has a massive social distancing problem

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Glasgow

People queue as they arrive for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
People queue as they arrive for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Frank Jordans/AP)

The organisers of the COP26 conference have been trying to square a number of circles in the run-up to the meeting, to make sure everyone is safe and secure while also keeping in mind inclusivity and the environmental impact of the huge gathering. 

There are:

21,238 delegates
13,834 observers
3,823 journalists

And they're all mingling in confined spaces -- keeping social distancing and other Covid-19 precautions is a challenge.

Anyone entering the venue has to present a daily negative Covid-19 test result — although those tests are self-administered and results are self-reported, so the system largely relies on people’s honesty. Masks are compulsory throughout the venue and even the world leaders have been advised to wear them unless seated. 

The UN has always stressed that COP should be an inclusive forum where the world’s biggest emitters sit at the same table as the world’s smallest nations, many of which are feeling the worst impacts of climate change.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner into this approach. Some countries have struggled to send delegations to Glasgow because of coronavirus restrictions and social distancing inside the venue means that the number of seats at each negotiation table is strictly limited.

“In our process, we have packed rooms, some people even sitting on the floor and this is something that we cannot have here,” Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters on Sunday.

While Espinosa said the organizers are trying to find solutions on how to make negotiations accessible for as many delegations as possible, it is already clear this will be very tricky. 

The largest negotiations room at the COP26 venue in Glasgow has 144 seats, 72 around a table and 72 in the “second row.”

“That’s not enough, we have 193 parties,” Espinosa said, adding that announcement on how negotiations can be accessed should come later on Sunday.

6:26 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Biden will deliver "personal commitment" on climate in Monday speech

From CNN Politics' Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One after attending the G20 summit in Rome on November 1.
US President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One after attending the G20 summit in Rome on November 1. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Joe Biden will deliver a "personal commitment" to combating climate change during remarks at the Glasgow COP26 summit on Monday.

In a speech at the conference, Biden will "talk about what the United States is prepared to do to fulfill its obligation, including the investments we're making, the targets we intend to hit, both with respect to 2030 and 2050," his national security adviser told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden flew from Rome to Scotland.

Biden is expected to speak later on Monday morning. In his speech, Biden will "also talk about the progress that we have made this year and the momentum we have built, and then he will talk about the work that needs to be done," Jake Sullivan said.

He'll also convey his belief that it's a false choice between progress on climate and delivering economic results.

"The right kind of strategy can and will deliver both," Sullivan said, citing Biden's pending legislative agenda that contains $555 billion in climate provisions.

His speech will seek to cajole other nations in taking their own bold steps toward combating climate change.

"The speech will be a clarion call, it will be a very strong statement of his personal commitment, of our country's commitment, not just to do our part but to help lead the world in mobilizing and catalyzing the action necessary to achieve our goals," Sullivan said.

Seeking to address the somewhat dampened expectations for the Glasgow summit by foreign leaders and others, Sullivan insisted the mood remained optimistic. He said setting a high bar was necessary to accomplish results.

"Anytime you head into a summit where you're trying to hit very high ambition, there's a certain motivation around 'we've done some things, but we haven't done enough' as a kind of mindset. That's not a bad thing, because I do think we want the whole world to feel the pressure to step up and do more," he said.

He said Biden was eager to talk up his major spending bills with fellow world leaders, despite uncertainty on when they will pass Congress.

"What we have found over the course of this weekend is that world leaders are a sophisticated bunch. They well understand that legislative process takes time. Legislative texts needs finalizing, votes need to be cast, but there is a significant expectation that this can and will happen, and it can and will happen in the near term," Sullivan added.

6:10 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

US vs. China: Which one has the worse record on climate going into COP26?

From Helen Regan, Carlotta Dotto, Natalie Croker, Marco Chacon and Henrik Pettersson, CNN

China and the United States are the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, so any attempt to address the climate crisis will need to involve deep emissions cuts from these two powerhouse nations.

China's emissions are more than double those of the US, but historically, the US has emitted more than any other country in the world.

There are many factors to consider when judging a country's climate credentials, and as leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, the US' and China's plans will be in the spotlight.

Read here to see how the two stack up against each other:

6:10 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Chinese President Xi to address COP26 with pre-written statement

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood and Eliza Mackintosh

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a session of the G20 summit via video in Beijing on October 30.
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a session of the G20 summit via video in Beijing on October 30. (Li Xueren/Xinhua/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to release a pre-written statement addressing delegations at COP26 on Monday, according to a list of speakers released by the United Nations.

Xi is listed last after a number of heads of state and government due to speak on Monday, followed by a note that reads: "Written statement to be uploaded on the conference website." 

When asked about whether China's leader was planning to attend COP26, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday that the "information will be released in due time."

Xi is one of a small number of high-profile leaders not attending the summit. The Chinese president hasn't left the country since the onset of the pandemic.

More than 120 world leaders will begin speaking to the conference at 1:45 p.m. local (9:45 a.m. ET) on Monday after an opening session including speeches by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince Charles and celebrated naturalist David Attenborough. Kicking off the leaders' speeches after that are Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Perez-Castejón and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There is a strict three-minute limit on speeches.

6:11 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Global leaders start to arrive at COP26

From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, right, greet Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, right, greet Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Christopher Furlong/AFP/Getty Images)

World leaders are starting to arrive at the SEC centre in Glasgow, Scotland, where they are being greeted by Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The greetings have been a series of elbow bumps and social-distanced hand gestures.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio during arrivals at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio during arrivals at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrives for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrives for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Phil Noble/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Iceland's Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir during arrivals at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Iceland's Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir during arrivals at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Mongolia's President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh arrives at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
Mongolia's President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh arrives at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Phil Noble/Pool/Getty Images)

5:42 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

G20 leaders' summit ends weak on climate, paving way for tough COP26 talks

From Angela Dewan, CNN's International Climate Editor

The Group of 20's leaders' summit ended Sunday with an agreement on climate that commits its member nations to end coal financing by the end of the year and aims to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But the final communiqué lacked firm pledges and failed to put an end date on the actual use of coal. It didn't make any commitments to improve on issues like climate finance, paving the way for difficult negotiations at the COP26 summit.

Mohamed Adow, director of the climate energy think tank Power Shift Africa, said the message from the G20 was "weak."

"This weak statement from the G20 is what happens when developing countries who are bearing the full force of the climate crisis are shut out of the room. The world's biggest economies comprehensively failed to put climate change on the top of the agenda ahead of COP26 in Glasgow," Adow said.

In the final statement, the 20 biggest world economies said they "would accelerate our actions" to achieve net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. Leaders for the first time acknowledged officially that its members' emissions reductions plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), needed to be firmed up over this decade to put them on track for net zero by 2050.

They said they recognized that "G20 members can significantly contribute to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions" and committed "to take further action this decade" on enhancing "where necessary" their emissions-reductions pledges for the year 2030.

"We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C," the communiqué states.

"Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support, including finance and technology, sustainable and responsible consumption and production as critical enablers, in the context of sustainable development."

Read more about the agreement here: