The power plays, the conflicts, the drama and the news about the weather: Diary notes as the world prepares for the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
"I have learned you are never too small to make a difference." – Greta Thunberg
New goals still not enough
With COP26 starting next week, 143 "parties" (mainly countries) have now published new goals for climate action. That's up from 86 in September. These goals are known as the NDCs, or "nationally determined contributions", which countries committed to after the Paris conference in 2015 and agreed to update before the Glasgow conference.
There's a glimmer of good news: UN Climate Change says the new NDCs will reduce emissions by about 9 per cent below the 2010 level by 2030.
But it's only a glimmer. All current NDCs, taken together, will increased emissions by about 16 per cent above the 2010 level by 2030.
We should be aiming for a 45 per cent reduction by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. If we settle for 2 degrees, we will still need a 25 per cent reduction by 2030.
The takeout is plain: many countries are doing something, but it's not enough; others are digging in and sabotaging the global response altogether. We're still heading in the wrong direction.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, has called on parties to "redouble their efforts".
"Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the GHG emissions in the atmosphere. This updated report unfortunately confirms … that we are nowhere near where science says we should be."
Parties can submit new NDCs at any time, including during the conference.
This Machine Fights Climate Change
The Scottish group Pedal on Parliament is organising a mass bike ride on November 6, with routes established throughout Glasgow and from other cities further afield, including Edinburgh.
November 6, which is halfway through the conference, has been established as a "Global Day of Action". The cyclists will join protesters from many other groups marching on the conference venue.
Is plastic is going to end up worse than coal? A new report from Bennington College and Beyond Plastics estimates the plastic industry in the US emits over 230 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of 116 coal-fired power plants.
And while fossil-fuel companies have closed 65 per cent of American coal-fired power plants, they're pouring resources into plastics. Nearly 30 new production plants are currently planned or being built.
Where does it all go? Over 70 per cent of Americans order takeaway meals up to three times a week, and most of them are served in single-use plastic bowls and/or bags, with single-use plastic cutlery on the side.
And in the US, plastics factories don't have to report their emissions, so it's not even clear how big the problem is.
How to spend $100 billion
There's a new plan for developed countries to provide the support they promised to developing countries to help fight climate change.
After the Paris conference, a "Roadmap" of US$100 billion a year by 2020 was agreed, but it wasn't followed. The best year was 2019, when $80 billion was committed.
The new plan, prepared under the leadership of Canada and Germany, projects that the $100 billion target will be met by 2023 and will continue at least through to 2025.
Analysis of what went wrong reveals the surprising news that it hasn't been the governments of developed countries holding things back. The public sector came very close to meeting its targets in that Roadmap: it spent US$62.9 billion in 2019, just $4 billion short of what was expected.
The problem is almost entirely the private sector. Private finance was supposed to contribute $33 billion in 2019, but produced only $14 billion.
Is big business even listening? The World Wildlife Fund has reported that companies listed on the FTSE 100 stockmarket index are on track collectively to deliver 3 degrees of global warming: double what the world is supposed to be aiming for.
The climate is the economy
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank in New Zealand has warned that climate change poses the biggest risk ever to economic health. And in America, a financial stability oversight group headed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has acknowledged – for the first time – that climate change is a serious economic threat.
"Climate-related impacts in the form of warming temperatures rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires, intensifying storms and other climate related events are already imposing significant costs upon the public and the economy," the US group says.
Its solution: to do more to analyse the risks.
Environmental groups are not impressed. "Financial regulators can and must act to rein in Wall Street's contributions to the climate crisis," said Ben Cushing from the Sierra Club.
Both the leading TV broadcasters in Britain, the BBC and ITV, have announced plans to reduce their carbon emissions.
The BBC says it will be a net zero emitter by 2030, with a strategy that includes switching to electric vehicles, reducing business travel and using hydrogen-powered generators.
ITV is aiming for a "100 per cent sustainable supply chain". Executives will have climate action targets built into their bonus payments and there will be green standards for programme-making, debt arrangements, transport and other activities.
Also, ITV will offer help to viewers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and there will be no more petrol or diesel cars as competition prizes.
Climate health is public health
British medical journal the Lancet has published its annual report on the links between health and climate change. "Code Red for a healthy future" is the pointed subtitle.
Issues covered in the report include food security, mental health, the spread of infectious diseases and extreme weather events. Extreme heat killed 345,000 people over 65 in 2019, it says, and malaria, dengue fever and other viral diseases are becoming more resilient and widespread.
The Lancet also warns about responding to the crisis too slowly. "At the current pace of reduction, it would take more than 150 years for the energy system to fully decarbonise."