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Mark Carney, former head of the Bank of England, second from right, and other finance officials at a panel discussion on Wednesday in Glasgow.
Mark Carney, former head of the Bank of England, second from right, and other finance officials at a panel discussion on Wednesday in Glasgow. Credit... Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

GLASGOW — Some of the world’s biggest financial institutions on Wednesday vowed to mobilize trillions of dollars to help shift the global economy toward cleaner energy as negotiators at the United Nations climate summit struggled with the question of how to pay for the enormous costs of climate change.

A coalition of banks, investors and insurers that collectively control $130 trillion in assets said it would commit to reaching net-zero emissions across its portfolio by 2050. It was essentially a pledge to make climate change a central focus of major financial decisions for decades to come.

“We now have the essential plumbing in place to move climate change from the fringes to the forefront of finance so that every financial decision takes climate change into account,” said Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, who is leading the coalition, along with billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

That pledge was met with skepticism from environmentalists, though, who noted that the details were vague and that many banks still invest hundreds of billions each year in fossil fuels.

“Either they stop financing fossil expansion, or their net-zero commitments are greenwash,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior climate and energy campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group.

Money has long been a big sticking point in the global fight against climate change, and tensions over the issue have flared again at the Glasgow summit convened by the United Nations.

A decade ago, the world’s wealthiest countries pledged $100 billion per year in climate aid by 2020 to help poorer countries make the transition to cleaner energy and protect themselves against the growing dangers from heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires as the planet warms.

So far, those promises have not been met.

By one estimate, wealthy countries are still falling short by tens of billions of dollars per year. And critics have said that even the money that has been paid has been poorly targeted. A large fraction of aid to date has been handed out as loans, which developing countries often struggle to repay. And only a tiny sliver of financing has gone toward efforts to adapt to climate change.

“Our countries are the least liable for the damage to the world’s environment, but we pay the highest price,” said Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Barbuda and Antigua, which has struggled to rebuild after a Category 5 hurricane hit the country in 2017.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States would support a financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year to move developing countries away from coal-based energy and toward wind, solar and other low- and zero-carbon energy sources.

But she noted that the real cost of climate change would most likely run to the trillions of dollars.

“I agree we all must do more, and the United States is stepping up,” Ms. Yellen said. But, she added, “the gap between what governments have and what the world needs is large, and the private sector needs to play a bigger role.”

To that end, a group of philanthropic foundations and international development banks also announced a $10.5 billion fund to help emerging economies with growing energy needs make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

The group, known as the Global Energy Alliance, aims to draw in more donors in the coming weeks. At the moment, it has pulled in $1.5 billion from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ikea Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund, along with $9 billion from development banks such as the African Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

The alliance says it aims to raise $100 billion in public and private capital to expand access to clean sources of electricity for a billion people in developing countries.

The climate summit is scheduled to run through Nov. 12.

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A coal mine in Bogatynia, Poland. According to a document seen by The New York Times, Polish officials have agreed to a plan to phase out coal. 
A coal mine in Bogatynia, Poland. According to a document seen by The New York Times, Polish officials have agreed to a plan to phase out coal.  Credit... Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

A coalition of 18 countries, plus dozens of banks and other institutions, will pledge to phase out coal-fired power plants domestically and to end funding for international coal projects, according to the British government, which struck the deal at a global climate summit.

The burning of coal is the single greatest contributor to climate change, and ending support for it is a major issue at the United Nations climate change conference.

The new campaign, which is expected to be announced by British officials on Thursday in Glasgow, declares that the end of coal “is in sight” because of the new coalition. The full list of 18 countries was not available, but according to the British government it includes developed and developing countries like Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile and Morocco.

It was unclear whether the United States was part of the agreement. A spokeswoman for John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, did not respond to a request for comment.

The World Coal Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new announcement but earlier this week said efforts to eliminate coal ignored the fact that coal “remains a critical to energy supply in 80 countries and the livelihood of more than 790 million people who have no access to reliable and affordable power.”

The 190 countries and organizations that make up the new coalition will commit to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally. The time frame was not immediately clear.

They will also agree to make a “just transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities” and to rapidly scale up the deployment of clean energy like wind and solar power.

“Phasing out coal is essential to reach our climate targets,” Svenja Schulze, Germany’s minister of the environment, said in a statement. “In the near future we will have left behind all fossil fuels and live in a new and sustainable energy world based on renewable energy.”

Michael Bloomberg, who said this week that he would ramp up his American and European campaigns to phase out coal and move into 25 other countries, said in a statement that he believed tackling climate change “depends on ending coal-fired power.”

HSBC and Export Development Canada plan to join the group as well, according to the statement.

Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies met in Rome before the climate conference and agreed to eliminate financing for coal plants overseas. They stopped short, though, of pledging to end coal at home because of objections from China, India, Australia and Russia.

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A solar park in the Indian state of Karnataka.
A solar park in the Indian state of Karnataka. Credit... Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images

A group of philanthropic foundations and international development banks on Wednesday announced a $10.5 billion fund to help emerging economies with growing energy needs make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

The group, known as the Global Energy Alliance, aims to draw in more donors in the coming weeks. At the moment, it has pulled in $1.5 billion from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ikea Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund, along with $9 billion from international development banks such as the African Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

The announcement, on the sidelines of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, comes as the Biden administration is banking on trillions of dollars in private investment to move global energy systems away from coal, oil and gas.

Raj Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which helped set up the alliance, said that the new fund was necessary to jump-start investments in clean energy technologies that would not otherwise draw private investors that demand high rates of return.

“Accelerating climate transitions in developing countries will not happen if an immediate 20 percent return on every investment is necessary,” Mr. Shah said, adding that such an initiative would require public, philanthropic and private sectors coming together to “leverage innovative finance.”

The alliance says it aims to raise $100 billion in public and private capital to expand access to clean sources of electricity for a billion people in developing countries, create 150 million jobs and avoid the carbon emissions that would have been generated by power plants that run on coal.

The money will support initiatives such as the development of mini-electricity grids in parts of rural India, help Indonesia shut down some of its oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants, and develop a hydropower project in Sierra Leone.

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Delegates arriving at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this week.
Delegates arriving at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this week. Credit... Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Logistical complaints are mounting at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, where participants waiting in security lines for more than an hour were abruptly told on Wednesday afternoon that there was no room for them inside the venue.

At 12:15 p.m., conference organizers issued an alert notifying people that the 10,000-person capacity limit in the cavernous tented area where the summit is being held was close to being reached. Instead, they suggested, participants who could do so should watch the proceedings online.

It was the last straw for many attendees, especially environmentalists and delegates from developing countries who endured long journeys and logistical hurdles to get to Glasgow during the pandemic. The past few days, the conference limited the number of people allowed inside the venue from civil society groups. The online portals to watch the negotiations remotely have been faulty.

On Tuesday, conference organizers issued a letter of apology to participants for the long lines and video difficulties, saying that planning around Covid restrictions has been challenging. On Wednesday afternoon, Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the U.N. climate body, asked attendees to “bear with us” as organizers grappled with the complex arrangements — which include ensuring that all those entering the venue have tested negative for the coronavirus, and enforcing controls on the number of people in meeting rooms.

“This is a unique COP in quite extraordinary times,” added Alok Sharma, the British politician who is serving as host of the conference. He said organizers are “working to fix” logistical issues but did not offer details.

They also did not address criticisms over issuing accreditation for 39,509 people to access a venue whose the capacity is limited to 10,000.

One veteran of the annual summit — known as COP26 because it is the 26th “conference of the parties” to the U.N.’s climate body — called it the “poorest planed” to date. Alexandria Villaseñor, a youth activist from the United States, called the conference a “hellscape.”

“An exclusionary, racist, ableist, classist environment directly informs the decision making process that is placed in it!” Ms. Villaseñor wrote on Twitter.

Asad Rehman, director of a coalition of labor, youth, racial justice and other groups focused on climate change, derided the “shabbiest organizing” he’s seen in 15 years of attending U.N. climate conferences. He said that some negotiators told him they had to cancel bilateral meetings because they were unable to get inside in time.

“There’s mounting anger about this issue of accessibility and inclusion, and huge, huge frustration not just from developing countries but also negotiators,” Mr. Rehman said. “It’s probably the poorest planned COP I’ve ever seen.”

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Former Vice President Al Gore, speaking at the Climate Hub, a New York Times event series taking place alongside the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Wednesday.
Former Vice President Al Gore, speaking at the Climate Hub, a New York Times event series taking place alongside the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Wednesday. Credit... Craig Gibson For The New York Times

One of the challenges in holding companies and countries accountable for their roles in global warming is how greenhouse gas emission data has been self-reported, former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

“There’s an old cliché that I’m sure you’ve heard a million times: that you can only manage what you can measure,” Mr. Gore said, speaking at the Climate Hub, a Times event series running alongside the conference.

But, he said, advances in satellite and computer analysis have enabled information about emissions to be tracked independently and in real time, helping scientists assign responsibility for emissions to specific industries, companies and regions.

“That changes everything,” he said.

Mr. Gore’s Climate Trace coalition, which began last year, issued its first report on greenhouse gas emissions in September. It was the culmination of a study that analyzed data from more than 300 satellites.

“We now have the emissions, for the last five years, for every large source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet,” said Mr. Gore, whose film about climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won the 2007 Academy Award for best documentary. “By next year, we will have that down to such a granular level that we will be able to report monthly, weekly and in a few cases daily totals from every single significant machine source everywhere in the world.”

Mr. Gore said he wanted to focus on the potential for new technology to help make greenhouse gas emission reporting more transparent, more timely and more accurate. At past climate conferences, he said, the discussion was based on outdated data. There are 100 countries that don’t have any emissions data that is more recent than five or even 20 years old, he said.

Andrew Testa For the New York Times

As delegates inside the COP26 conference hall in Glasgow heard promises of new private-sector funding for climate change, protesters marched in the city on Wednesday in opposition to “greenwashing” — when companies claim to be protecting the environment while continuing to harm it.

Several hundred protesters, holding signs that read “Act now!” and “Stop Funding Fossil Fuels,” gathered outside a shopping mall to demand that companies take more substantial steps.

“For us, there’s very little hope,” said Akke Houtsma, 20, an administrative worker who had traveled from the Netherlands to attend protests outside the climate conference. “I feel the most anxiety not about my future, but for the people right now who are suffering.”

A focus of the climate conference on Wednesday has been on how to pay for a global shift to cleaner energy sources. Even as a group of the world’s biggest investors, banks and insurers vowed to commit their more than $130 trillion in assets to pursuing climate goals, protesters were doubtful that the promises would be fulfilled.

“The promises coming out are quite good, but they are still just promises,” said Marilyn Spurr, 74, a retired high school teacher from Devon, England, who is a member of Extinction Rebellion, a British-based activist group. “If they step up to the mark, good for them, but so far we haven’t seen a lot of it.”

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Protesters in Glasgow Condemn Corporate ‘Greenwashing’

As the COP26 climate summit shifted its focus to funding, protesters demanded greater accountability from corporations and called out “greenwashing.”

“What do we want?” “Climate justice.” “When do we want it?” “Now.” “Are we going to fight for it?” “I did the travel from Reunion Island because I think it’s important that the voice of the youth of Reunion Island has to be heard by the politicians because there is a big emergency on our islands for their impact by climate change. And today I’m here with XR to protest about that protest, about greenwashing. That is actually a big problem on the COP26. We want real actions.” “Who are you going to call?” “Greenwashbusters.” “Who are you going to call?” “Greenwashbusters.” “We’re a group of activists from Bristol, and we call ourselves the Greenwashbusters. We’re up here at COP26 because we know that there’s governments and companies that profess to be, you know, doing things to save the planet when actually they’re doing exactly the opposite, you know, funding deforestation and extraction of fossil fuels. And it’s the hypocrisy that we are here to call out.”

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As the COP26 climate summit shifted its focus to funding, protesters demanded greater accountability from corporations and called out “greenwashing.” Credit Credit... Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Activists said there needed to be stronger ways to hold companies to account for their promises, many of which never materialize. Of at least $1.1 trillion that private equity firms have invested in the energy sector since 2010, most went toward fossil fuels, according to data from Pitchbook, a company that tracks investment, and an analysis by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit that pushes for more disclosure about private equity deals.

Protests planned for Friday and Saturday in Glasgow are expected to draw tens of thousands. A youth-led strike organized by Fridays for Future, the international movement that has grown out of Greta Thunberg’s solo strike in 2018 in Sweden, will see thousands march from Kelvingrove Park to George’s Square.

Correction: Nov. 5, 2021

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of a woman who traveled from the Netherlands to attend the COP26 protests. She is Akke Houtsma, not Houtsoma.

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U.S. Backs Effort to Lower Carbon Output From Developing Countries

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the United States would contribute to an international financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year to help transition developing countries from coal based energy toward low- and zero-carbon energy sources.

Glasgow and COP26 is a pivotal moment at the start of this decisive decade of climate action. The climate crisis is already here. This is not a challenge for future generations, but one we must confront today. Rising to this challenge will require the wholesale transformation of our carbon intensive economies. I agree we must all do more. And the United States is stepping up. President Biden has already announced that we’re quadrupling our international climate finance for developing countries by 2024 to more than $11 billion. This morning, as part of our continued efforts, I’m pleased to join the U.K. in announcing that the United States also intends to fully support the climate investment funds capital markets mechanism.

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Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the United States would contribute to an international financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year to help transition developing countries from coal based energy toward low- and zero-carbon energy sources. Credit Credit... Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the United States would support a financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year to move developing countries away from coal-based energy and toward wind, solar and other low- and zero-carbon energy sources.

Speaking at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Ms. Yellen acknowledged that while wealthy countries have promised billions of dollars to tackle climate change, the real cost is in the trillions.

“I agree we all must do more, and the United States is stepping up,” Ms. Yellen said. But, she added, “the gap between what governments have and what the world needs is large, and the private sector needs to play a bigger role.”

Financing for climate change initiatives remains an enormous point of tension at the U.N. talks. Wealthy countries have not met a promise they made more than a decade ago to raise $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor countries — which have contributed the least to climate change but are suffering some of the worst consequences — make the transition to cleaner energy and build resilience to fiercer storms, droughts and rising seas.

The Biden administration has promised $11.4 billion annually by 2024, but that is subject to congressional approval. Ms. Yellen said on Wednesday that the private sector also needed to provide more financing.

Mark Carney, the former Bank of England governor, said that private funds to developing countries must “dramatically scale up.” This week, Mr. Carney led an initiative by financial groups to commit to using their $130 trillion in assets to help countries hit their targets of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The separate financing program that Ms. Yellen described is designed to issue bonds and use the proceeds to support clean energy and sustainable infrastructure in developing economies. The bonds will be issued by the Climate Investment Funds, a multilateral fund based at the World Bank that invests money contributed by countries including the United States, Britain and Japan.

Many environmental groups and organizations that represent developing countries are skeptical of private finance. That is in part because most of that money tends to go toward energy projects that can turn quicker profits, rather than the less lucrative but critical work of building sea walls, planting mangroves and other efforts to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

Jörn Kalinski, a senior adviser at Oxfam, said in a statement that without time frames and specific dollar targets for adaptation, “poorer nations will continue to lack the resources they need to protect lives, homes and businesses from weather disasters.”

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Sadiq Khan at Euston Station in London on Monday, where he joined a delegation of mayors heading to the Glasgow summit by train. 
Sadiq Khan at Euston Station in London on Monday, where he joined a delegation of mayors heading to the Glasgow summit by train.  Credit... David Cliff/Associated Press

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders have decamped from Glasgow to their respective capitals. But London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has stayed on at COP26 to press his case that big-city mayors are just as vital as world leaders, if not more so, in fighting climate change and its effects.

“Cities have got to be the innovators, the problem-solvers, the change-makers that are going to fix climate change,” he said Wednesday. National governments he said, “can’t do it by themselves — they’ve got to do it with us.”

On Monday, Mr. Khan led a delegation of 12 mayors from Los Angeles, Paris, Athens, Rio de Janeiro, and other cities to Glasgow, traveling on an electric train from London. The mayors said their goal was to lobby leaders for more ambitious commitments to emissions reductions, and for help in transforming cities.

Mr. Khan’s goal of making London a carbon-neutral city by 2030 is two decades ahead of the national target set by former Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor. As a mayor, he acknowledges he has the power to set policies that would cover only half the emissions reductions necessary to get London to that goal.

He called on the national government to step up with subsidies to retrofit old buildings, accelerate the shift to renewable energy and phase out fossil-fuel-burning cars and trucks. Mr. Khan, a member of the Labour Party, expressed mild frustration with the efforts of Mr. Johnson, a Conservative.

The mayor promoted London’s efforts to reduce emissions, most notably by instituting, and then expanding, an ultralow-emissions zone that imposes hefty charges on cars with high-emission engines in the city center. London has also moved aggressively to replace its buses and taxis with electric models.

Mr. Khan is the new chairman of C40 Cities, a coalition of mayors from more than 100 cities that together account for 700 million people. He listed a litany of climate-related disasters — floods in New York City and London, fires in Greece and Australia — and said, “Our citizens are demanding a response.”

Mr. Khan famously clashed with former President Donald J. Trump during a visit by the American leader to London in June 2019. “Your values and what you stand for are the complete opposite of London’s values,” Mr. Khan said in a video timed to the visit. Mr. Trump shot back on Twitter that Mr. Khan was a “stone cold loser” who should fix London’s soaring crime rate.

On Wednesday, Mr. Khan took relish in noting that it was the first anniversary of Mr. Trump’s defeat by President Biden. “Imagine, in a parallel universe, we were having this conference with a different president,” he said.

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The Collinsville coal mine seen from above, in Queensland, Australia.
The Collinsville coal mine seen from above, in Queensland, Australia. Credit... David Maurice Smith for The New York Times

Australia, a major producer of fossil fuels that has long been criticized for dragging its feet on climate change, has done little this week to change that perception.

At the Glasgow climate summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not join an international effort to curb global emissions of methane 30 percent by 2030, a commitment shared by more than 100 nations including the United States. Australia also declined to strengthen its 2030 target for reducing emissions or announce firm plans to transition away from its deep investment in fossil fuel production.

Mr. Morrison did sign on to an agreement to end deforestation by 2030, offered $500 million in new funding to help neighboring countries deal with the effects of climate change and last week committed to getting his country to net zero emissions by 2050. But critics argued that his government was not acting with enough urgency, or that it was making vague commitments.

Addressing the conference on Monday, Mr. Morrison said that Australia’s emissions would fall 35 percent by 2030, exceeding an earlier goal of 26 to 28 percent but still well below the targets set by other industrialized nations. And it is one of the last developed nations to make a zero-emissions commitment.

Mr. Morrison had agreed to attend the summit only after criticism from Queen Elizabeth II and a crowd-funded billboard in Times Square in New York that mocked his reluctance to address climate change, calling him “Coal-o-phile Dundee.”

Australia’s inertia points to a pressing challenge for the world: how to get places that profit from a dangerous product to transition before it is too late. With the threat of even more damaging storms and fires looming if temperatures continue to rise, fossil fuel users and producers both need to kick the habit.

A U.N. report released last month found that coal, oil and gas production will keep growing at least until 2040, reaching levels more than double what is needed to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.

Australia is a major contributor to the problem. Coal is still king, and natural gas is celebrated.

The Great Barrier Reef may be bleaching from the heat and acidity caused by climate change, and towns and families burned out by the Black Summer fires of 2019 and 2020 have yet to fully recover. Yet in the last month alone, three new coal mining projects have been approved.

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John Kerry, United States climate envoy, walks offstage at the Global Methane Pledge event at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday.
John Kerry, United States climate envoy, walks offstage at the Global Methane Pledge event at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday. Credit... Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The COP26 climate summit comes at a moment of crisis. Despite years of climate talks and treaties, carbon emissions have worsened and extreme weather events have become more frequent.

Many say this may be the last chance to avoid disaster. Will anything change this time?

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Last Chance to Avert Climate Disaster?

Hundreds of heads of state have gathered in Scotland for the COP26 summit, but skepticism abounds that yet more talks can spur action.

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Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Last Chance to Avert Climate Disaster?

Hundreds of heads of state have gathered in Scotland for the COP26 summit, but skepticism abounds that yet more talks can spur action.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

Today: Hundreds of heads of state have gathered in Scotland for what they say may be their last real chance to avoid a climate disaster. I spoke with my colleague, Somini Sengupta, about whether they’re right and if global climate talks like these ever really accomplish anything.

It’s Wednesday, November 3.

somini sengupta

Hi.

michael barbaro

Hey, Somini.

somini sengupta

I was rushing from one end of this giant conference center to this quiet corner where I’m at, and I got stuck in a scrum —

[music]

— with I think, John Kerry coming out. And then I got stuck in another scrum with, I think it was Prince Charles, but I’m not really sure.

michael barbaro

That’s a heck of a set of scrums.

somini sengupta

And me trying to squeeze in between, so.

michael barbaro

The adventures of climate reporting.

somini sengupta

Yeah.

michael barbaro

So Somini, I wonder if you could just describe exactly where you are and what you’re seeing all around you.

somini sengupta

So I’m in a giant conference center in Glasgow, officially called the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention. So it’s called COP26 for short. This is the 26th such session. There are plenary halls where the leaders are giving their speeches. There is a pavilion where every country can set up its own pavilion. And the one from Tuvalu, which is a Pacific island nation, I just walked past it this afternoon. And they have these life-sized polar bears in life jackets. It’s become quite a spot for selfies.

michael barbaro

I think we have to comment on the metaphorical intent of that.

somini sengupta

I believe the metaphorical intent is that the ice is melting. The polar bears need to be rescued.

michael barbaro

Right.

somini sengupta

There’s also a little penguin hanging from a noose above the polar bears.

michael barbaro

Ooh, a darker metaphor.

somini sengupta

Yeah, pretty grim. Rumors has spread that Australia, the Australian pavilion, is serving free coffee. So there is quite a long line there today. So that’s kind of what it looks like, yeah.

michael barbaro

Hmm. Well, as I think those dark scenes you just described hint at, we are at a moment when the climate is in crisis. And despite years and years and years of global talks, despite treaties like the Paris Agreement on climate change that come from those talks, carbon emissions have gotten worse, not better. And extreme climate events are becoming even more destructive, not less.

And so I think the question for many people is, what exactly is the point of a conference like this? Haven’t we learned that these global climate talks are not really an effective way to solve the climate problem? And I wonder if you can engage in that skepticism for a moment that these conferences can seem like a lot of pomp and circumstance and empty promises.

somini sengupta

There are some who would look at these climate summits and say, look, you come together every year. And you all make speeches, and you promise various things. They are all voluntary. They are not binding. And in the end, you’re not doing what the science demands, which is to pivot really quickly away from burning coal, oil and gas to limit the rise in global average temperatures. And so the frustration that you hear is, this is all a bunch of talk, and there’s not enough action.

michael barbaro

OK, and what’s the optimist’s case — the argument for seeing a conference like this as important, as meaningful and ultimately, impactful?

somini sengupta

Right, so another way of asking that is, why bother when things are so bad? Well, the argument you will often hear is precisely because things are bad, and they could be much worse, is why you need a summit like this. The future is not pre-written. It’s up to the big powerful countries that are gathered here to determine what kind of future is going to be most likely. The point of this summit is for the leaders of those big polluter countries, and for everyone else who is affected by climate change, to gather in one place, to nudge each other to do better, and to hold each other to account. The whole thing is built on this system of diplomatic peer pressure.

michael barbaro

OK, so with that in mind, these two arguments about this conference, what has actually happened at this conference so far? I know we’re just a few days into it, but they’ve been meaningful days.

somini sengupta

So the conference began Sunday. And in a way, the conference really began with this other meeting which happened in Rome. And that’s where the world’s 20 biggest economies, the G20 — which are also the 20 biggest polluters — were meeting. And they were trying to come to an agreement on what they’re willing to do to address climate change.

And they actually took some incremental steps. Probably key among them was that they agreed to, quote unquote, “pursue efforts” to keep a very key temperature threshold within reach. And that threshold is to limit the average global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius between pre-industrial times and the end of this century.

michael barbaro

And why does that pledge matter so much? Because that feels like a familiar pledge.

somini sengupta

Well, that is one of the goals of the Paris Agreement. It is increasingly an important North Star because after you get past 1.5 degrees, the likelihood of the really, really bad stuff goes up significantly. That’s the scientific consensus. And right now, by the way, we are on track to rise by about 3 degrees Celsius. So after this meeting in Rome, where they commit themselves to 1.5, they all fly from Italy to Glasgow.

archived recording

(SINGING) You can shove your climate crisis up your arse. You can shove your climate crisis up your arse.

somini sengupta

By the time they reach, there are protesters greeting them, essentially saying that they are doing a lot of talking and not a lot of doing. And Greta Thunberg, among others, are leading chants, saying —

archived recording

No more blah, blah, blah! No more blah, blah, blah!

somini sengupta

— enough of this blah, blah, blah.

michael barbaro

She’s making the skeptic’s case for this conference.

somini sengupta

Right, so then the summit begins with speeches.

archived recording (antónio guterres)

It’s time to say enough. Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet.

somini sengupta

The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, makes a powerful case.

archived recording (antónio guterres)

Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.

somini sengupta

He says we are digging our own grave by continuing to drill for oil and gas and coal.

archived recording (antónio guterres)

I urge you, choose ambition. Choose solidarity. Choose to safeguard our future and save humanity. And I thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

archived recording (boris johnson)

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to COP.

somini sengupta

Boris Johnson, the prime minister of Britain, which is the host country.

archived recording (boris johnson)

Welcome to Glasgow and to Scotland, whose most globally famous fictional son is almost certainly a man called James Bond, who generally comes to the climax of his highly lucrative film strapped to a doomsday device.

somini sengupta

Begins his speech with an analogy of James Bond and a clicking time bomb.

archived recording (boris johnson)

We are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today, except that the tragedy is this is not a movie. And the doomsday device is real.

somini sengupta

And then —

archived recording (joe biden)

Ladies and gentlemen.

somini sengupta

— Joe Biden appears on the podium.

archived recording (joe biden)

My Build Back Better framework will make historic investments in clean energy, the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made ever.

somini sengupta

And this is, of course, the reentry of the United States into the Paris Agreement after President Trump pulls the country out of the Paris Agreement.

archived recording (joe biden)

And we have to help much more than we have thus far. God bless you all, and may God save the planet. Thank you.

somini sengupta

We also hear from small and very, very vulnerable countries.

archived recording (mia mottley)

Your Royal Highness, excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

somini sengupta

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, says —

archived recording (mia mottley)

The pandemic has taught us that national solutions to global problems do not work.

somini sengupta

— this is the moment for leaders of big countries to lead.

archived recording (mia mottley)

Do some leaders in this world believe that they can survive and thrive on their own? Have they not learned from the pandemic? Can there be peace and prosperity if 1/3 of the world literally prospers and the other 2/3 of the world live under siege and face calamitous threats?

archived recording (frank bainimarama)

As I speak, your excellencies, our global canoe is headed for storms that will sink us while seawater bores aboard through massive gaps.

somini sengupta

You also hear from the leader of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama. He said the existence of countries like his — low-lying Pacific Island nations — are not negotiable.

michael barbaro

Hmm.

archived recording (frank bainimarama)

To all leaders here, the message of the Pacific is simple. Our canoe is sinking. Pick up your buckets and start bailing now before it’s too late. Thank you.

somini sengupta

And these are really reminders to everyone else in the hall about what’s at stake.

archived recording

Honorable guests, this brings us to the end of our national statements.

michael barbaro

And what are you thinking as you’re watching these speeches, especially from the smaller island countries?

somini sengupta

I mean, I’ve covered several international summits convened by the United Nations like this one. And it strikes me every time that this is where countries, big and small, rich and poor, powerful and almost never heard from, if you are in the U.S., they all get the same airtime. They all stand at the same podium. They negotiate with each other. It is the ultimate platform for global collective action, and in this case, on a really, really big and high-stakes global problem.

michael barbaro

So this would be another argument for the optimists’ version of why these conferences matter?

somini sengupta

As a realist, I can tell you that a summit like this is where the Davids and the Goliaths in the world among nations, they sit at the same table. They egg each other on. They pressure each other. It’s not a one-way street. It’s not the powerful pressing only small, vulnerable countries. It’s also the other way around. And it’s where the leader of really powerful, big, rich countries like Germany or the United States have to hear the leader of Fiji or the leader of Barbados tell them, this is your moment to lead.

michael barbaro

Or blame them for things that have gone terribly wrong.

somini sengupta

That, too.

[music] michael barbaro

But of course, the big question is, are those large, wealthy nations going to actually act? Are they going to make commitments and keep them in ways that benefit those small, vulnerable countries?

somini sengupta

Precisely.

[music] michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Somini, what kind of commitments and pledges are actually made at this conference?

somini sengupta

Right, so has this summit produced in the first three days a coherent global plan to exit fossil fuel extraction and use? No. But have there been significant steps announced in these last couple of days? Yes. First, the United States has led this effort to persuade something around 90 countries to sign on to a pledge — again, a voluntary pledge — to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. OK, and why does that matter? How big a deal is it?

somini sengupta

It matters because methane warms the atmosphere super fast. It’s produced in oil and gas operations and trash landfills and all kinds of things. Now, we’ll have to see how countries fulfill that pledge. They’re going to have to go back and change their rules and regulations, or maybe there are laws to actually reduce their methane emissions. And notably, there are a lot of key countries that are not on board with this so-called global methane pledge.

michael barbaro

Like?

somini sengupta

So Russia is not on board — a major oil and gas producer — nor is China, nor India, nor Australia.

michael barbaro

Those are some pretty big gaps in that agreement.

somini sengupta

Yes, so some pretty big gaps there.

michael barbaro

OK, what else?

somini sengupta

The other big global accord that we heard about today was a commitment to end deforestation by 2030. So about 100 countries signed onto this. It includes Brazil, which, of course, contains a big chunk of the Amazon, the lungs of the planet. It includes Russia, which has some really important big boreal forest. It includes China.

But this is all a bit of a deja vu because in 2014, world leaders promised to reduce deforestation by half by now. And they promised to eliminate deforestation entirely by 2030, which is exactly what the accord announced today says. In fact, since that pledge, deforestation actually accelerated. So let’s see if second time around, world leaders will actually keep their promise.

michael barbaro

So, in theory, we should be quite skeptical of this pledge, because this pledge was made in the past and not kept.

somini sengupta

In theory, we should be skeptical of all pledges, because all pledges are voluntary. And what matters is how they achieve those pledges.

michael barbaro

Got it. So, Somini, taken together, if kept, how would these two pledges on methane and on deforestation, how much progress would that represent when it comes to 1.5 degrees and keeping warming beneath that threshold?

somini sengupta

Both the methane pledge and the deforestation pledge are significant, but taken together, they are not going to be sufficient to reach the 1.5 threshold.

michael barbaro

OK, so those are multi-country agreements. What about individual countries? What kind of pledges and promises did they make, relating to 1.5 degrees?

somini sengupta

There were two significant individual country pledges. The first one came from the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. He said India would significantly ramp up renewable energy production and that by 2030, 50 percent of its energy mix would come from renewable energy. This was rather vague with very few specifics. And there was a lot of head-scratching, but still a significant commitment by a big emerging economy to ramp up renewable energy sources. He did not, however, say anything about the main source of electricity in India, which is burning coal. And he didn’t say anything about India’s coal use.

However, on Tuesday, from South Africa came a very important announcement about that. South Africa said that it would begin to plot its exit from coal. And it announced a sort of transition plan. The reason why this is important is that South Africa is the first big emerging economy to say, yep, we’re going to exit coal, and this is how we’re going to do it. And this commitment could send a very important signal to other emerging economies about how an exit from coal can actually happen.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. OK, well, what about China, the United States and Russia, three of the world’s largest and biggest polluters? Did they make any meaningful pledges here?

somini sengupta

The United States had already said early on this year, soon after President Biden took office, it announced its national climate plan or its climate goal. And in it, the United States said it would reduce by about 50 percent its emissions by 2030, compared to the emissions levels in 2005. That’s pretty ambitious. The big question, of course, is: How is this administration going to deliver that target, given that it faces some pretty significant opposition still in Congress on its kind of main climate legislation?

michael barbaro

Right. OK, what about China, and what about Russia?

somini sengupta

China, too, has already said that it would stop funding coal-fired power plants overseas, which is a big deal because China is the biggest funder of coal-fired power plants overseas. However, China has said nothing so far about when it plans to get out of coal at home. It consumes by far the largest share of coal anywhere in the world.

And China’s updated climate plan is not that different from its original climate plan, which is that China will continue to grow its greenhouse gas emissions until 2030. That’s China. Russia has announced a rather vague net zero target by 2060. But of course, Russia has no plans at all to rein in the extraction of oil and gas from its territory.

michael barbaro

So when we think of the biggest polluters, the countries that so many of these smaller countries like Barbados and Fiji are looking to for leadership — pleading to for leadership at this conference — how should we be thinking about the impressiveness or ambition of these commitments? They don’t seem that impressive or ambitious in their details.

somini sengupta

Well, in reality, they are nowhere close to the 1.5 degree target.

michael barbaro

Right, so does that mean that this peer pressure model, the purpose of these conferences, is failing? Is this the skeptic’s version of the conference coming to pass?

somini sengupta

Well, let’s truth squad this for a minute, right?

michael barbaro

Please.

somini sengupta

Let’s do a thought experiment and say, well, what if there was no Paris Agreement? And there was no diplomatic forum like this, where countries nudge each other to set better climate targets and report back and submit all this data that journalists like us can study and hold their feet to the fire. Let’s say there wasn’t any of that.

So the year before the Paris Agreement was agreed to in 2014, the global average temperature was on track to heat up by nearly 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, OK? Where are we now? Well, we are on track to heat up by about 3 degrees Celsius. If all countries meet the targets that they’ve set for themselves, that could go down to about 2.4, 2.5 degrees of warming.

michael barbaro

Right, still bad, but you’re saying not as bad as it could be.

somini sengupta

As my colleagues wrote last week, where we’re at is a better result. It’s still devastating.

michael barbaro

So what’s the lesson of that thought experiment?

somini sengupta

So two lessons. First, that emissions can be reduced, that temperature rise can be limited. And two, that perhaps this whole system, the way the Paris Accord is built around a system of diplomatic peer pressure around which the Paris Agreement is built, can deliver some results. And that is the whole point of why an international climate summit like this is taking place.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. So to return, Somini, to the question we started with, what is the value of a conference like this at this extremely dire stage in our climate history, it sounds like what you’re saying is that this self-evidently imperfect system is a system that does accomplish something. It’s clearly not working as well as everyone would like, but it’s better than the alternative, which is leaving every country to their own devices and hoping that they do the right thing for the climate on their own. Is that the thinking?

somini sengupta

Well, look, what I can tell you is that this is a fundamentally global problem that no leader on its own is in a position to address. So it needs, at its core, global collective action. A conference like this, a summit like this, is the first step in nudging countries, particularly big polluting countries, to do better. The second and most important step is to see if they will, to hold them accountable.

michael barbaro

Right, for which, no doubt, we need another conference.

somini sengupta

That’s right.

There will be another climate conference, and I will be covering it.

michael barbaro

Well, Somini, good luck.

somini sengupta

Thanks for having me.

michael barbaro

Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

[music]

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording 1

Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! Glenn!

archived recording 2

Wow. All righty, Virginia, we won this state!

michael barbaro

In the first major elections of the Biden presidency, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, has defeated his Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe.

archived recording (glenn youngkin)

Together, together, we will change the trajectory of this Commonwealth.

michael barbaro

It was a major setback for Democrats in a state that Biden won last year by 10 points. In the race for governor of New Jersey, the contest between Republican Jack Ciattarelli and his Democratic opponent, incumbent Phil Murphy, remained too close to call. Meanwhile, in Boston, Michelle Wu was elected mayor in a nonpartisan election, becoming the first woman and first person of color to lead that city. And finally —

archived recording (eric adams)

Tonight, New York has chosen one of you, one of our own. I am you. I am you.

michael barbaro

— in New York City, as expected, the Democratic candidate for mayor, Eric Adams, soundly defeated his Republican rival. Adams, a former New York City police officer, will become the city’s second Black mayor.

archived recording (eric adams)

After years of praying and hoping and struggling and working, we are headed to City Hall.

[APPLAUSE]

michael barbaro

Today’s episode was produced by Mooj Zadie, Clare Toeniskoetter, Michael Simon Johnson and Rob Szypko. It was edited by Lisa Chow, Patricia Willens and M.J. Davis Lin, and engineered by Chris Wood. Original music by Marion Lozano. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

[music]

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, is leading the the United Nations Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.
Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, is leading the the United Nations Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. Credit... Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press

A coalition of the world’s biggest investors, banks and insurers that collectively control $130 trillion in assets said on Wednesday that they were committing to use that capital to hit net zero emissions targets in their investments by 2050, in a push that would make limiting climate change a central focus of most major financial decisions for decades to come.

The group, called the United Nations Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, is made up of 450 banks, insurers and asset managers in 45 countries. It said the pledge amounted to a transformation of the global financial system and would help businesses, financial firms and entire industries undergo fundamental restructuring for a carbon-neutral future.

“We now have the essential plumbing in place to move climate change from the fringes to the forefront of finance so that every financial decision takes climate change into account,” Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, who is leading the alliance, said in a statement.

The agreements are largely voluntary. But they show a commitment by a broad range of financial institutions — banks, insurers, pension funds, asset managers, stock exchanges, credit rating agencies, and audit firms — to have emissions slashed in the companies in which they invest, and to have their lending aligned toward the target of restricting a global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The companies agreed to undergo a review every five years to measure how well they are hitting these targets. They also said they would report the emissions they finance ever year.

But critics said the pledges fell short because they don’t commit investors to stop placing money in fossil fuels.

“This announcement yet again ignores the biggest elephant in the room: fossil fuel companies,” Richard Brooks, the climate finance director of STAND.earth, an environmental group, said in a statement. “We cannot keep under 1.5 degrees if financial institutions don’t stop funding coal, oil and gas companies.”

“It sounds like a very impressive number,” said Sonia Hierzig, the head of financial sector research at ShareAction, a charity. “But not all of that will straight away go into green investment space.”

The $130 trillion is already invested in assets. To meet net-zero targets, financial firms will either need to cut emissions in the companies and projects they already invest in or divest and use the capital for new green investments.

“It’s still positive that at least there’s a recognition that we need to mobilize a large amount of money,” Ms. Hierzig said. But the charity has “a lot of question marks or concerns around some of the underlying initiatives,” for example, she added, the decision to allow asset owners to invest in coal plants that are already under construction.

The coalition was created in April and includes among its members the investment management company BlackRock, HSBC Holdings, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.

Critically, the initiative would create a new body to set standards for the climate-related goals and disclosures of investors and companies.

The alliance also said that nearly 40 central banks in countries generating two-thirds of the world’s emissions would introduce stress tests to gauge how financial firms are handling climate-related risks. Some, including the European Central Bank and Bank of England, plan to administer the stress tests to the banks they supervise early next year.

The alliance also pledged to scale more private capital flows to emerging and developing economies, which are among those facing the most brutal costs of climate change.

Correction: Nov. 3, 2021

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of an event where Mark Carney and others spoke on Tuesday. It was the Green Horizon Summit, not the Climate Horizon Summit. 

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Indigenous Brazilian women from the Amazon gathering outside the Indigenous Peoples Pavilion at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
Indigenous Brazilian women from the Amazon gathering outside the Indigenous Peoples Pavilion at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Credit... Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

The United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow is considered a crucial moment for efforts to address the threat of global warming.

Thousands of heads of state, diplomats and activists are meeting to set new targets for cutting emissions from burning coal, oil and gas that are heating the planet. The conference is held annually, but this year is critical because scientists say that nations must make an immediate, sharp pivot away from fossil fuels if they hope to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

What is the goal?

The goal is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of global warming — such as deadly heat waves, water shortages, crop failures and ecosystem collapse — grow immensely.

What does COP stand for?

The gathering’s name, COP, stands for Conference of the Parties, with “parties” referring in diplomatic parlance to the 197 nations that agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. That year, the United States and some other countries ratified the treaty to address “dangerous human interference with the climate system” and stabilize levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

This is the 26th time countries have gathered under the convention — hence COP26.

What happened at previous talks?

The first COP was in Berlin in 1995, after a critical mass of nations ratified the climate convention. It was a milestone and set the stage two years later for the Kyoto Protocol, which required wealthy, industrialized nations to curb emissions.

That accord had its problems. Among them, the United States under President George W. Bush rejected it, noting that it did not require China, India and other major emerging economies to reduce their greenhouse gases.

Fast-forward to 2015. After more than two decades of disputes over which nations bear the most responsibility for tackling climate change, leaders of nearly 200 countries signed the Paris climate agreement. That deal was considered groundbreaking. For the first time, rich and poor countries agreed to act, albeit at different paces, to tackle climate change.

The United States withdrew from the Paris accord under President Donald J. Trump but rejoined under President Biden.

Although leaders made big promises in Paris, countries have not made sufficient moves to stave off the worst effects of climate change. At the Glasgow conference, which runs through Nov. 12, leaders are under pressure to be more ambitious.

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Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia in 2017.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia in 2017. Credit... Leigh Vogel

President Biden has sharply criticized China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for being a no-show at the Glasgow climate talks. On Wednesday, Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister and a longtime China expert, called such comments “political atmospherics.”

More worrisome than Mr. Xi’s absence from the talks was his failure to tighten China’s goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, said Mr. Rudd, who had his own salty exchanges with Chinese officials at a round of climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009.

Mr. Rudd, who is now president of the Asia Society, noted in an interview that China’s climate commitments, submitted to the United Nations before the start of the talks, stuck to Mr. Xi’s earlier pledge that China would reach a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.

Mr. Xi has not been seen traveling outside China since the start of the pandemic. On Monday, he issued a written statement to the climate talks in which he reiterated China’s goals “to prioritize ecological conservation and pursue a green and low-carbon path to development.”

Despite Mr. Xi’s absence from the talks, China’s chief negotiator in Glasgow, Xie Zhenhua, is an experienced hand trusted by top leaders, Mr. Rudd said.

Even so, China’s lumbering policy process and its insecurities about energy supply mean that any changes will take time, Mr. Rudd said.

“They will announce further cuts when they’re good and ready to do so,” he said, “and they will not do so in any manner which is perceived to be in response to U.S. or anyone else’s pressure.”

Mr. Rudd made his comments after Mr. Biden and his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, chided Mr. Xi. On Tuesday, the president called Mr. Xi’s absence from the summit “a big mistake” that undermined his claims to being a leader on climate change.

That prompted a rejoinder from China's foreign ministry, where a spokesman said on Wednesday that the U.S. criticism amounted to “empty words.”

“I would have thought laying off the political atmospherics would have been perhaps a better way through,” Mr. Rudd said of the comments from the Biden administration. “I can only assume that President Biden’s language on this reflects the prevailing macro political sentiment in Washington.”

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President Joe Biden speaking at a news conference at COP26 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden speaking at a news conference at COP26 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday. Credit... Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Biden’s major goal for his second foreign trip since taking office was to reassert America’s ability to lead the world on climate change before it is too late. But he also wanted to reassert Joe Biden.

From the moment he landed in Rome on Friday for a Group of 20 meeting, and then traveled to the climate summit in Glasgow, Mr. Biden exulted in the backslapping, personalized politics that he believes can translate into substantive deal making.

“It never ceases to amaze me when you’re looking at someone straight in the eye when you’re trying to get something done,” he said in a news conference in Rome. “They know me. I know them. We can get things done together.”

The president did take some wins back to Washington with him, including a new global minimum tax for companies, and climate agreements to reduce methane emissions and deforestation. But if those deals were significant, they were largely finalized before his trip.

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Biden Sets Aggressive Target for Reducing Methane Emissions

President Biden joined in a collective global pledge to curb methane emissions. Mr. Biden said that for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to limit release of the potent greenhouse gas from oil and gas rigs across the United States.

It’s one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half, half the warming we’re experiencing today, just methane exposure. So together, we’re committing to collectively reduce our methane by 30 percent by 2030, and I think we could probably go beyond that. This is going to make a huge difference, and not just when it comes to fighting climate change, as Ursula pointed out, the physical health of individuals and a whole range of other things. It’s going to improve health, reduce asthma, respiratory-related emergencies. It’s going to improve the food supply as well by cutting crop losses and related ground-level pollution. And it’s going to boost our economies. Today, I’m announcing the next steps to reduce U.S. methane emissions. We’re proposing two new rules, one through our Environmental Protection Agency that’s going to reduce methane losses from new and existing oil and gas pipelines, and one through the Department of Transportation to reduce wasteful and potentially dangerous leaks from natural gas pipelines. They have authority over that area. We’re also launching a new initiative to work with our farmers and our ranchers to produce climate-smart agricultural practices and reduce methane on farms, which is a significant source as well. And this is all part of our new methane strategy, which focuses on reducing the largest source of methane emissions while putting thousands, thousands of skilled workers on the job all across the United States. And I expect in your country as well.

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President Biden joined in a collective global pledge to curb methane emissions. Mr. Biden said that for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to limit release of the potent greenhouse gas from oil and gas rigs across the United States. Credit Credit... Jessica Lutz for The New York Times

Confronted with a lack of consensus among world leaders on how to move forward globally, and with his climate agenda hanging in the balance in Congress, Mr. Biden’s time in Glasgow laid bare the reality that his personal style has not helped him close the gulf between his ambition and what he has been able to achieve.

“All the charm in the world is not going to bring Brazil around on the rain forests, or Australia around on coal, or China or Russia around on much of anything,” said Richard Haass, a former senior State Department and national security official who is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Diplomacy will only get him so far.”

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Senator Joe Manchin talking to reporters while walking to cast a vote on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Senator Joe Manchin talking to reporters while walking to cast a vote on the Senate floor on Tuesday. Credit... Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

As world leaders gathered at the Glasgow climate summit secured a new agreement to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, Democrats in Washington struggled on Tuesday to salvage a major initiative to address climate change amid opposition from Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key Democratic holdout.

Mr. Manchin, a centrist from one of the top coal- and gas-producing states, has pushed to remove or weaken a provision in the party’s sweeping social and environmental policy bill that would impose a fee on emissions of methane, a pollutant that leaks from oil and gas wells. He has already effectively succeeded in stripping the bill of its most powerful climate change provision, a program that would have replaced coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind and solar power.

“Senator Manchin has expressed reservations” about the methane fee, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “We want to mitigate methane, but we’ll see.”

With House leaders pressing for a vote as soon as Thursday on the sweeping $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate measure, Democrats were rushing to resolve their remaining disputes on the bill and ensure that it would have the votes necessary to pass. Given the evenly divided Senate, the legislation needs the support of every Democrat, making Mr. Manchin’s objections potentially fatal to the package.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and it is responsible for more than a quarter of the warming the planet is currently experiencing.

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Thousands Attend Glasgow Climate Protests

A march drew young activists from around the world, with attendees demanding climate justice from leaders at the United Nations summit. Greta Thunberg, who inspired the international Fridays for Futures movement, joined the crowd.

“Power!” “Power!” “People!” “People!” “Power to the people!” [unintelligible] “Because the people have the power.” [Crowd noise] “If not now, then when? When?” “If not now, then when? When?” “If not now, then when? When?” [unintelligible] I’ve lived through three major cyclones. I’ve seen the floods go into our homes and I’ve scooped out the mud. And that’s just the lived reality of youth, of young people that live within climate-vulnerable communities. I don’t think that world leaders discussing there, is of any use, because they are only saying what they have been saying for decades, which is only false promises — targets that so-called ambitious but are actually full of loopholes.

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A march drew young activists from around the world, with attendees demanding climate justice from leaders at the United Nations summit. Greta Thunberg, who inspired the international Fridays for Futures movement, joined the crowd. Credit Credit... Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

Greta Thunberg, whose 2018 climate strike inspired the international Fridays for Futures movement, described the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow as “a failure” on Friday and said, “We cannot solve a crisis by the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”

Ms. Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish activist, made the remarks in an address to throngs of protesters who marched in the streets of Glasgow to demand action from delegates inside the United Nations climate summit. A crowd that organizers estimated at 25,000 people converged on a central square, waving banners and beating drums in a carnival-like atmosphere.

Announcements by governments and corporations in the first days of the conference — including pledges to end deforestation, phase out coal-fired power plants and mobilize trillions of dollars for green initiatives — have been dismissed by many activists as insufficient or riddled with loopholes.

But that dim view of COP26 drew a rebuke from a leading climate scientist, Michael E. Mann.

“Activists declaring it dead on arrival makes fossil fuel executives jump for joy,” Dr. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, wrote on Twitter. “They want to undermine and discredit the very notion of multilateral climate action.”

A 24-year-old Ugandan activist, Vanessa Nakate, also urged protesters to continue campaigning against climate change, offering a vision of a more just planet where “the power of the people finally won.”

“The world is green again,” she told the crowd. “Nature has been restored. The planet and creation is respected. Another world is necessary. Another world is possible.”

Friday’s event, organized by young climate activists, drew a diverse crowd of children who had missed school to take part, socialist campaigners and veteran environmentalists. People lined the streets to watch the spectacle, as children clutched hand-drawn signs reading, “Stop deforestation,” “Save the planet!” and “Act now.”

It was the largest protest to take place in Glasgow since the climate talks, known as COP26, began nearly a week ago. Inside the gathering, officials from more than 130 countries are trying to hammer out agreements to avert the most catastrophic consequences of global warming.

Even larger protests are expected on Saturday.

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Demonstrators walking through Glasgow during the Fridays for Future march on Friday.
Demonstrators walking through Glasgow during the Fridays for Future march on Friday. Credit... Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

Throughout the COP26 conference, Ms. Thunberg has been quick to refocus attention away from her own stardom and toward activists from areas of the world that are the worst affected by climate change. On Monday, after she and Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist, met with Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish leader, Ms. Thunberg tweeted: “Media needs to stop erasing the voices of activists, especially the most affected people from the most affected areas.”

The crowd on Friday was led by a group of Indigenous activists and others from the developing world who called attention to the climate crises facing their communities. They marched behind two lines of police officers, including some on motorcycles who cleared a path through the crowded streets. Some protesters carried a banner that read, “Divest from Amazon destruction.”

The presence of environmental activists inside the conference, known as COP26, has been muted as pandemic restrictions — on top of difficulty getting vaccines, visas and affordable accommodations — have prevented many global activists from attending.

In particular, activists say, women and people from developing nations are being left out of the most crucial conversations.

Diaka Salena Koroma, a climate activist from Sierra Leone, was unable to attend COP26 despite having been invited to participate, after her visa was delayed. She began campaigning for climate justice after a 2017 mudslide set off by torrential rain killed hundreds in Freetown, her county’s capital.

“We are born in a system where our voices — our existence — doesn’t even matter,” she said.

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A meeting room at the main summit venue in Glasgow. 
A meeting room at the main summit venue in Glasgow.  Credit... Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

President Biden and other heads of state have wrapped up their big speeches at the international climate summit in Glasgow. Now, the tough negotiations begin, largely behind closed doors.

Over the remaining 10 days, as negotiators from nearly 200 countries discuss how to make further progress on climate change, one of the biggest sticking points remains money. On Wednesday, governments and private investors announced a series of initiatives aimed at helping poorer countries avert the dangers of rising temperatures.

A group of philanthropic foundations and international development banks announced a $10.5 billion fund to help emerging economies make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States would support a financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year for similar efforts through bond sales. And a coalition of the world’s biggest investors, banks and insurers that together control $130 trillion in assets said that they were committing to use that capital to hit net zero emissions targets in their investments by 2050.

While those dollar amounts are eye-watering, the challenge is how exactly to use that money to transition energy systems and companies’ supply chains to net-zero targets.

“We must be honest about what this means,” Ben Caldecott, the director of the sustainable finance group at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “It does not mean that $130 trillion is in a war chest promised for deployment into a solutions to climate change today.”

“We urgently need to focus on the quality and integrity of promises made by financial institutions, not simply their quantity,” he added.

An estimated $100 trillion to $150 trillion in investments would be required over the next three decades to reach net zero, so Wednesday’s announcements could in theory provide the necessary financing. Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said the $130 trillion should not be a surprise, but cautioned that the funds would be spent slowly if the public and private sectors don’t work together.

“The realities are deploying that capital are going to be far harder than investing in a normal bond, a public equity, a treasury bond,” Mr. Fink said on a panel in Glasgow. To invest that money in a “safe and responsible way,” he said, there needs to be a better system than the one that exists today.

Poorer countries have long demanded more aid from wealthier ones, whose emissions are principally responsible for temperature rises so far, both to accelerate the shift to cleaner sources of energy and to help them adapt to the dangers of climate change.

A decade ago, the world’s richest nations, including the United States and the European Union countries, pledged $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries by 2020. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, they are falling short by tens of billions per year.

Last month, rich countries outlined a plan to make good on their pledge by 2023. And on Tuesday Japan pledged an additional $10 billion in new financing to help countries in Asia slash their emissions of greenhouse gases. But developing countries have said that is not nearly enough.

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Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish government, at the opening of the New York Times Climate Hub on Wednesday in Glasgow.  
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish government, at the opening of the New York Times Climate Hub on Wednesday in Glasgow.   Credit... Pool photo by Jeff J Mitchell

GLASGOW — Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said Wednesday that the nation must accelerate its transition away from fossil fuels but that it was imperative to do so in a way that created jobs and new opportunities in renewable energy and carbon alternatives.

“The science is telling us we’re running out of time, and the planet is in serious trouble,” she said, speaking on the sidelines of COP26 in Glasgow. “Against that backdrop, we have an obligation to try to raise our ambition as much as we possibly can.”

But Ms. Sturgeon said the reality for Scotland now is that it depends on oil and gas not just for its energy needs but also because 100,000 people in the country have jobs dependent on fossil fuels.

Ms. Sturgeon, Scotland’s top elected official, said that having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s, she was acutely aware of how the loss of heavy industry like coal and steel in Britain caused unemployment to rise. Scotland, she said, has to manage the transition away from fossil fuels carefully.

“What we need to do better in Scotland, to be candid,” she said, “what we’ve not done well enough and we need to get better at, not least to support the just transition away from oil and gas, is to capture more of the economic benefit of renewable technology.”

Many of the wind projects in Scotland are foreign investments. “We welcome them,” Ms. Sturgeon said, “but we haven’t yet captured enough of that benefit in our own jobs and supply chain.”

Ms. Sturgeon, who was speaking at a Times event series running alongside the U.N. summit, said she viewed carbon capture and storage as an important way to deal with carbon emissions. But Scotland did not get backing from the British government to develop a carbon capture and storage facility in Aberdeenshire.

Ms. Sturgeon, who has clashed with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on major issues, including his handling of the pandemic and Brexit, argued that Scotland would be able to manage a transition away from fossil fuels better on its own, as an independent nation, than as part of Britain.

Reducing Scotland’s carbon emissions is a priority, she said.

Over the summer, in a move that shocked the oil and gas industry, Ms. Sturgeon urged Britain’s government to revisit licenses already granted for offshore oil fields still in the planning stages. She cited “the severity of the climate emergency we now face.”

Ms. Sturgeon said she was hopeful about the ability of leaders to make substantial progress at COP26.

“Potentially, people 100 years from now will look back on this summit, I hope, and describe Glasgow as the place which really took the correct fork in the road for our planet,” she said.

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Members of the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous group inspected a forest area invaded by illegal loggers in Rondônia State, Brazil.
Members of the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous group inspected a forest area invaded by illegal loggers in Rondônia State, Brazil. Credit... Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil, a global climate leader turned environmental offender under President Jair Bolsonaro, approached the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow ready to prove that it was changing course, with commitments to create green jobs, cut carbon emissions and curb deforestation.

But even as John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, said on Twitter that those steps added “crucial momentum” to addressing climate change, environmentalists said the plans lacked the scope and detail to make them credible. And Mr. Bolsonaro’s absence from the summit raised questions about his commitment to the reversal.

Days before the conference, Brazil’s government announced a policy to create green jobs while preserving the country’s vast forests. Then, on Monday, Brazil committed to cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and ending illegal deforestation by 2028.

Yet environmentalists and political opponents in Brazil were quick to poke holes in the announcements. The green growth plan lacked details to make it credible, they said, and the commitment on emissions is essentially unchanged from the one Brazil made in 2015.

Then there is Brazil’s track record. By law, the country was supposed to have already started slashing its emissions. Instead, Brazil is one of the few nations where emissions rose during the pandemic, an increase that was largely driven by a surge in deforestation.

From August 2020 to July 2021, Brazil’s portion of the Amazon lost 4,200 square miles of tree cover, according to the latest numbers published by the National Institute of Space Research.

Manuela Andreoni