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The Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow is one of the biggest international summits since the coronavirus pandemic, and comes at a time of elevated concern over how humans are interacting with our planet.
From the pollution caused by fossil fuel emissions, heavy industry and domestic waste, to the rampant destruction of natural habitats, our direct impact on the planet is becoming harder to ignore. Extreme weather events around the world have hit home a new level of urgency for many, who increasingly feel the need to find solutions to the environmental crises we are facing.
The result is a huge focus on the 26th United Nations’ climate summit, hosted by the UK in Glasgow. With world leaders from 200 countries, along with 20,000 delegates, and tens of thousands more protesters, campaigners and pressure groups, the Scottish city has become a crucible for the world’s most fundamental concerns.
Alongside the key announcements being made by governments and organisations, there are innumerable notable goings-on which inform the debate over the climate and environment, and broader international relations, which may slip by unnoticed.
The Independent is keeping track of these moments to help provide a broader picture of the summit.
Queueing to get in
On the official opening morning of the conference, many attendees’ first experience of Cop26 was the queues. Hundreds of people waited hours to enter the SEC, the event’s main venue, trying to keep warm under Glasgow’s grey autumn skies. A biting wind also managed to take down a huge welcome banner, with many suggesting it was a bad omen for the crucial talks. There was frustration at the chaos given the lengthy build-up to the event, and at the risk of the spread of Covid as people were crammed together.
‘One minute to midnight’
In his opening remarks, Boris Johnson told attendees the world was at “one minute to midnight” as the climate crisis bears down upon us. Children not yet born “will not forgive” today’s world leaders if they fail to confront the climate emergency, he said.
Attenborough highlights key role of nature
In an impassioned speech during the opening ceremony of Cop26, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough told world leaders there was still time to “rewrite our story”.
Accompanied by a video that focused on the rising concentration of carbon that humans have pumped into the atmosphere, he said that those who have contributed least to the climate crisis are being hit the hardest, and that along with recapturing “billions of tonnes of carbon from the air,” we must see “nature as our ally” in reducing future impacts.
A message from the Queen
Despite intending to come to Glasgow, Queen Elizabeth II was recommended to stay home and rest after undergoing recent medical checks. But in a video message she told world leaders to “rise above the politics of the moment," for the sake of future generations.
In the video message she said many people hoped leaders at the summit “recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action”.
Joe Biden photographed by naked man
It’s the incidental details which can add a fuller flavour to a huge event such as Cop26, and one small but powerful moment for Joe Biden has been vicariously enjoyed by many, after it was reported that a “large, naked Scottish man” photographed the US president as his motorcade passed through a rural village.
Boris Johnson flies to London for dinner
Hours after delivering a speech on the necessity of bringing down climate-altering emissions, which he said were "quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2”, Mr Johnson boarded a plane to fly 400 miles back to London where he attended a dinner for Daily Telegraph journalists hosted by self-confessed climate sceptic Lord Moore.
Asked to justify the decision to fly back, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “The fuel we use for the flight is sustainable and the emissions are offset as well.
“It is important that the prime minister is able to move around the country and we have obviously faced significant time restraints.”
Campaign groups shut out of negotiations
On the second day of the conference, campaign groups said they had been shut out of the Cop26 talks on a scale never seen before – despite a pledge it would be “the most inclusive ever”.
Just four tickets were allocated to cover around 30 negotiating sessions, ActionAid said, in a huge shock to organisations who had received no warning before arriving in Glasgow.
Bill Gates calls for ‘Green industrial revolution’
The billionaire founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said on Tuesday the world needs a “green industrial revolution” to encourage development of technologies to halt the climate crisis.
Speaking at the conference in Glasgow, Mr Gates said his foundation will contribute $315m (£233m) to help smallholder farmers in the developing world.
Celebrities spotted in Glasgow
Yep, climate conferences are the place to be in the 21st century. Alongside the recognisable faces of world leaders, are other celebs such as environmental champion (plus actor) Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough, Masie Williams of Game of Thrones fame, and some of the less controversial members of the royal family (Charles, William and Kate). Matt Damon is appearing by Zoom. Watch out.
Greta Thunberg to go ‘net-zero on swear words’
After being filmed singing “you can shove your climate crisis up your arse” on Monday, the Swedish teenager joked on Tuesday: “I am pleased to announce that I’ve decided to go net-zero on swear words and bad language. In the event that I should say something inappropriate I pledge to compensate that by saying something nice.”
Put Africa at heart of climate fightback, Cop26 told
Without preserving Africa’s carbon-rich landscapes, global temperatures cannot be kept to 1.5C above the pre-industrial era, delegates at the Cop26 climate summit were told on Wednesday at an event co-staged by The Independent.
Convened by Lord Lebedev, shareholder of The Independent, and Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, leading African politicians, including Gabon’s climate-change minister and Uganda’s and Rwanda’s ministers of environment, explained how protecting Africa’s unique ecosystems must be at the heart of the global climate fight.
Meat and fish on menu leaves bad taste
The organisers of Cop26 have been criticised for serving a menu with a sizeable focus on meat, dairy and fish, which are widely over-consumed, often produced in unsustainable and damaging ways, and can be a major contribution to climate breakdown.
“It’s the equivalent of serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference,” one critic said.
According to Greenpeace, animal farming is responsible for 60 per cent of the emissions from agriculture across the world.
Arrests as Extinction Rebellion protesters march through Glasgow
Five people were arrested on Wednesday during lively protests in Glasgow while the summit took place.
Police Scotland said two of the arrests were made after a number of officers were sprayed with paint during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration. Spray-paint cans were seized. Police also confiscated a giant inflatable Loch Ness Monster, saying it breached maritime law.
Modi’s climate pledges spark confusion in India
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has caused confusion back in India after announcing a suite of measures aimed at helping the world hit climate targets.
Conflicting statements from Mr Modi and the country’s Ministry of External Affairs have triggered widespread confusion around the promises, especially those related to energy consumption, since India fulfils 70 per cent of its requirements using coal, which the PM said the country could be looking at phasing out within years. Read our report for more.
Pikachus demand end of coal
On Thursday, activists dressed as the character Pikachu from the cultural phenomenon Pokemon, demanded that Japan end its support for coal after 190 countries signed up to a new pact to phase out use of the world’s most damaging fossil fuel. Japan was not one of the signatories, and neiither were China, India or Australia.
World economic system needs ‘transformation’
The climate crisis “is not a challenge that can be solved by a moment, or a declaration or a meeting – a Cop,” Paris agreement architect Rick Saines told The Independent.
“It requires consistent changing over time, of our whole economic system.”
However, he was optimistic for the future. Read the full interview here.
Carbon offsetting is ‘a new form of colonialism’
The leader of an Indigenous grassroots movement has denounced carbon offsetting, dubbing it “part of a system that privatizes the air that we breathe”.
“It allows polluters to buy and sell permits to pollute instead of cutting emissions at the source,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told The Independent at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow. “It lets governments and corporations pretend they are doing something about climate change, when they are not.
One in 15 Conservative MPs believe climate change is a ‘myth’
Not great news during Cop26, as exclusive polling for The Independent shows there are still doubts among those in power about the veracity of decades of globally agreed scientific findings.
A survey of more than 100 MPs from across parties found scepticism about global warming remains relatively strong among Tory politicians.
Five per cent of Conservatives surveyed said the scientific phenomenon of the climate crisis – currently mobilising world leaders at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow – is “a myth”.
Tuvalu minister gives Cop26 speech knee-deep in sea
As the second week of the conference got underway, Tuvalu foreign minister Simon Kofe made a splash by delivering a speech while standing knee-deep in sea water to emphasise the impact of climate change on the island nation.
Images of Mr Kofe standing in a suit at a lectern set up in the sea and his trousers rolled up, were shared widely on social media, further intensifying calls for world leaders to urgently address issues of climate change.
World ‘falling short’ on climate action, Barack Obama warns
Barack Obama brought some star power to the second week of the conference. The former US president entered the auditorium to rapturous applause as he prepared to address delegates, and warned the world is “collectively and individually... falling short” in tackling the climate crisis.
Boris Johnson heads back to summit to kick-start ‘inadequate’ negotiations
The prime minister was expected to return to Glasgow at the end of the week – but on Wednesday afternoon travelled by train to the summit in order to encourage “ambitious action” to halt the climate emergency. After giving a press conference where he was largely questioned by journalists on the conduct of his government amid numerous sleaze allegations, he boarded another train back to London.
Cambo oil field ‘threatens native ocean species’
The controversial Cambo oil field project, which is awaiting the go-ahead by the UK government, represents a risk to “hundreds” of marine species including rare deep-sea sponges, long-lived clams, and whales and dolphins in the area, experts have warned.
Against the backdrop of the second week of the Cop26 summit, campaigners and environmental groups said pipelines to export the oil drilled from the site off Shetland, would cut through around 22 miles of the “Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt”, a marine protected area
Irn Bru is a hit with AOC
US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given her opinion on the taste of Scottish fizzy drink Irn Bru.
In an Instagram video posted on Wednesday in which she tried the drink for the first time after being handed a can by Scottish PM Nicola Sturgeon, the US congresswoman said: “Oh my God, love it, love it.”
“This tastes just like the Latina soda Kola Champagne... Irn Bru. Count me in. I love it,” she added.