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
45 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:25 p.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Biden apologizes to world leaders for Trump's climate actions

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Joe Biden speaks at the COP26 summit Monday.
President Joe Biden speaks at the COP26 summit Monday. (Andy Buchanan/Pool/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden apologized to world leaders at the COP26 summit Monday for actions taken by the Trump administration in pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

“I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States — the last administration — pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the 8 ball,” Biden said at an event on action and solidarity in Glasgow.

“Our meeting here in Glasgow isn’t the end of the journey… we all know this,” Biden said at the event, adding it’s “really just a starting line.”

“We have the tools I think we have the know bow and we have the resources. I think we have to make some choices,” Biden added.

Biden is under pressure to demonstrate American commitment to climate change. World leaders have wondered how durable his promises can be when political changes can cause the country to drastically change course. 

12:22 p.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Where the work gets done at COP (Hint: it's not at the leaders' summit)

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova

Delegates attend the UN Climate Change Conference on Monday.
Delegates attend the UN Climate Change Conference on Monday. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

While the cameras are pointing at the world leaders delivering lofty statements from the stage, the nitty-gritty negotiations are going on away from the limelight.

The real work on climate agreements is done by the national delegations, which are usually composed of experts from each country’s government, non-governmental organizations and the civil society.

These are the people who sit through the long meetings debating each word of any agreement that’s to be struck. Some of them have been preparing for the Glasgow summit since the last COP in 2019. They’ve been laying the groundwork and making sure that as many countries as possible are on board long before the leaders descended on Glasgow.

Away from the main stage, through a long maze of corridors, are a number of meeting rooms where different groupings of states get together to agree a common position before bringing their opinion to the plenary. These include the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States, the G7 and others.

The pandemic has made the negotiations tricky, because the need for social distancing means the negotiation rooms have a much smaller capacity than they would normally.

11:44 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Germany's Angela Merkel urges better pricing on carbon dioxide emissions

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the COP26 summit Monday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the COP26 summit Monday. (Phil Noble/Pool/AP Photo)

In her last COP address as chancellor, Germany's Angela Merkel said government actions alone will not be sufficient in the fight against climate change and pleaded for better pricing on carbon dioxide emissions. 

“What we need is a comprehensive transformation of the way we live, work and do business. And that's why I want to make a clear plea here for the pricing of carbon emissions. Of CO2 emissions. With such pricing, which we already have in the European Union, which is being introduced in China, and which needs to be developed with many others around the world, we can further our industry, our economy, find the best and most efficient ways for technology to get to climate neutrality," she said on Monday in Glasgow, Scotland. 

“It is about changing our economy, working, and that is a comprehensive transformation, and then we will know how best to arrange CO2-free mobility, CO2-free industry and CO2-free processes of our life," she added.

Merkel urged leaders to be more ambitious.

“In the decade of action, in the decade we are living in now, to be more ambitious nationally, but to find instruments globally that not only use tax money, but are also economically reasonable, and for me that is CO2 pricing."

12:43 p.m. ET, November 1, 2021

The power dynamic of the world leaders in the lunch room

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova

Ivana Kottasova
Ivana Kottasova

Although they are all “world leaders” for the purpose of this conference, there’s a clear and universally acknowledged pecking order among the heads of states and governments.

At the leaders breakout area — which is sat between the two plenary rooms — many leaders of the smaller countries are mingling, greeting each other and catching up while having coffee and resting in armchairs adorned with little pillows.

The big guns, however, are not hanging about. US President Joe Biden has not made an appearance in the lunch room. French President Emanuel Macron breezed though with his large entourage, not stopping to speak to anyone. And Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez didn’t stop for a snack either.

The outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel spent a few moments in the breakout room, preparing for her speech and surrounded by her team, who were shielding her from the many people who wanted to meet her.

Meanwhile, three seats over, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was slightly more approachable, greeting members of other delegations, who were patiently waiting to speak to him. 

11:31 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Biden says the US wants to help developing countries accelerate clean energy transitions

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

President Joe Biden speaks at the COP26 summit Monday.
President Joe Biden speaks at the COP26 summit Monday. (Yves Herman/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The United States wants to help developing countries accelerate their clean energy transitions, President Joe Biden said in his address at the COP26 summit, adding, "we have an obligation to help."

The Biden administration is working with US Congress to quadruple the country's climate finance support to developing countries by 2024, including increasing support for adaptation efforts, he told the world leaders Monday.

Mobilizing finance is important in this "all-hands-on-deck effort," he added.

11:27 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Biden says the climate crisis is "the existential threat to human existence as we know it"

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

President Joe Biden speaks during the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Monday.
President Joe Biden speaks during the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Monday. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

US President Joe Biden said the climate crisis is the “the existential threat to human existence as we know it," and urged world leaders gathered for the COP26 climate summit to come together to reduce emissions and save the planet. 

“This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes. The existential threat to human existence as we know it. And every day we delay the cost of inaction increases,” Biden said at COP26. 

The President continued: “So let this be the moment that we answer history's call here in Glasgow.”

“Let this be the start of a decade of transformative action that preserves our planet and raises the quality of life for people everywhere. We can do this. We just have to make choice to do it. So let's get to work,” Biden said. 

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

Biden: This summit "must be the kickoff of a decade of ambition and innovation"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Journalists take notes as they listen to US President Joe Biden present his national statement as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1.
Journalists take notes as they listen to US President Joe Biden present his national statement as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1. Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

"Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decade of ambition and innovation to preserve our shared future," US President Joe Biden said in his address at the COP26 summit.

He acknowledged that climate change is ravaging the world, "destroying people's lives and livelihoods" and costing countries trillions of dollars.

"Record heat and drought, fueling more widespread wildfires, in some places crop failures and others," he said. "What used to be once-in-a-century storms are happening every few years. In the past few months, the United States has experienced all of this."

"We're standing at an inflection point in world history," he urged leaders. "We have the ability to invest in ourselves and build an equitable clean energy future, and in the process create millions of good-paying jobs and opportunities around the world."
11:24 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Biden says world leaders "meet with the eyes of history upon us" at COP26 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

President Joe Biden attends the opening session of the U.N. Climate Summit Monday.
President Joe Biden attends the opening session of the U.N. Climate Summit Monday. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Pool/AP Photo)

US President Joe Biden urged swift action to combat the climate crisis on the first day of the pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, telling fellow world leaders there remains only a “brief window” to take action to curb emissions. 

“To state the obvious, we meet with the eyes of history upon us and a profound question before us. It’s simple: Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer,” Biden said. 

The President continued: “This is the decade that will determine the answer. This decade.”

See President Biden’s opening remarks to COP26:

10:56 a.m. ET, November 1, 2021

Top US climate officials say more details are coming on the country's actions

From CNN's Ella Nilsen

National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House on April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.
National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House on April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

US President Biden’s two top climate officials, US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry and White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, highlighted US action at the start of COP26 on Monday. 

Speaking to reporters, Kerry said officials would be unveiling more details on the US and EU’s Global Methane Pledge, an international pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, as well as private financing commitments from major banks in the US. 

“Never before have we needed to put more measurement together and more transparency and more commitment than today,” Kerry said. "If you don't do enough between 2020 and 2030, you don't keep alive the prospect of net zero by 2050. That is what is guiding us here in Glasgow." 

Kerry said his team has “been busy making the private sector our partners in this endeavor,” and said the six largest American banks are promising to invest a minimum of nearly $4.2 trillion towards climate projects over the next decade.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry arrives for the One Planet Summit videoconference meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 4, 2021.
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry arrives for the One Planet Summit videoconference meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 4, 2021. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

McCarthy emphasized Biden’s legislative climate agenda, which is a critical piece of overall US climate action. Last week, Biden’s White House announced a $1.75 trillion economic and climate framework, which contains $555 billion in proposed investments for climate and clean energy. Still, that framework has not yet been passed into law, as US lawmakers hammer out last-minute negotiations.

“This is what commitment looks like; this is the largest investment to combat climate in our history by tenfold,” McCarthy said. “And it’s going to let us reduce emissions well over a gigaton. We are talking about a big chunk of change here.”  

McCarthy also mentioned a new long-term strategy report released by her and Kerry’s office today, which says the US needs to start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, using agricultural tools sequestering carbon in soil, forests and grasslands, as well as engineering carbon removal.