Sir David Attenborough’s powerful and moving plea to the delegates during the opening ceremony at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow was that bold and decisive action is needed in order to save our planet.

His words were followed by some major pledges from world leaders during week 1. However, action on these pledges once the furore of COP26 simmers down will be more telling than the proclamations themselves.

As we are about to embark on week 2 of COP26, let’s look back at what was achieved in week 1 and the key discussion topics for week 2.

Headlines from Week 1

Below is a brief summary of the week 1 headlines:-

  • Deforestation – The ‘Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use’ promises much, but again the devil will be in the delivery. Over 100 world leaders committed to preventing and reversing the loss of forests and land degradation by 2030. Significantly, over 30 of the world’s largest financial companies have also promised not to invest in any activities linked to deforestation.
  • India – India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, pledged to achieving net zero emissions by 2070. As the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the US and China and one of the last remaining major economies that had not made a net zero commitment, this was a significant moment at the conference.
  • Coal – At least 23 countries made new commitments to phase out coal power, including five of the world’s top 20 coal power-using countries. In the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’ there was also a commitment to scaling up clean energy and ensuring a just transition away from coal. Banks and financial institutions also agreed to end the funding of unabated coal, including major international lenders such as HSBC.
  • Methane – The ‘Global Methane Pledge’ was signed by over 100 countries following it previously having been announced in September by the EU and United States. The pledge was an agreement to collectively reduce methane levels by at least 30% globally by 2030. Notable countries that did not sign up include Australia, China, India and Russia.
  • Finance – The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the UK Government will create the world’s first net zero finance centre. Seeking to align public finance, regulatory and fiscal tools, and regulatory guidance under net zero is necessary to “rewire the entire global financial system”, according to the Chancellor. Additionally, around 450 financial institutions, representing a total of around 40% of the world’s assets combined, have signed up to the ‘Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero’, committing to achieve net zero by 2050.

The Week 2 Programme

The week will kick off with a discussion on adaptation to climate change and climate resilience. Focus on this area shows progress. Much of the political focus in the early years of climate change action landed on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. We’ve come a long way from Al Gore describing adaptation as “a kind of laziness” in his book from 1992, Earth in the Balance.

Tuesday will bring discussions around how women are disproportionately affected by climate change and how to progress the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in climate action. There will also be an event focussing on science and innovation, demonstrating that research and technology can deliver climate solutions.

Wednesday’s discussions will centre on transport sectors and pushing (or, ahem, driving) them towards net zero. No easy task with particular sectors (aviation, for example) very difficult to decarbonise.

As the last day of the programme, Thursday’s main event will be ‘Cities, Regions and Built Environment: Advancing action in the places we live, from communities, through to cities and regions’. This will involve discussions on urban living, planning and the built environment.

COP26 will conclude on Friday, but look out for further late commitments being announced right down to the wire.