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The Climate 202

World leaders to haggle over climate finance at COP26

The Climate 202

Good morning from Glasgow, Scotland, where the sun has finally come out from behind the clouds. ☀ Here's what to know from Day 3 of COP26, the United Nations climate summit underway here.

Biden was in the spotlight yesterday. Today, it's all about climate finance.

It's Finance Day

The theme of COP26 on Wednesday is finance, according to the official schedule. That means diplomats, advocates and other stakeholders will spend today debating the economics of climate action.

A coalition of private financial institutions announced early Wednesday morning that its members have collectively pledged $130 trillion to transitioning the global economy to clean energy.

  • The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero — which represents more than 450 banks, insurers, and other asset managers — is led by Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire financier.
  • “The private sector is ready to supply the financing to set us on a course to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at an event in Glasgow this morning.

Experts on climate policy also expect to see tensions today between developing nations and developed countries, a trend that has persisted throughout COP26 so far.

  • In 2009, at a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, developed countries agreed to provide $100 billion annually to help developing countries transition to greener economies and adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • But 12 years later, wealthy nations have failed to make good on that pledge. According to an analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, rich countries last year fell $20 billion short of what was promised.
  • President Biden announced plans in September to boost the U.S. annual contribution to the problem to $11.4 billion. But his plans require congressional approval.

Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the European think tank E3G, told The Climate 202 that he expects Congress to sign off on the increased funding in the next appropriations bill.

“The good news is that this year, the administration requested about $2.7 billion in the current budget cycle, and both the House and the Senate have passed appropriations bills larger than that,” said Meyer, who has attended nearly every U.N. climate summit since 1995. 

Biden slammed China and Russia on climate

In his closing remarks at COP26 on Tuesday evening, President Biden criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for not attending COP26 in person.

Biden said of Xi: “Come on. The single most important thing that's gotten the attention of the world is climate. Everywhere from Iceland to Australia. It just is a gigantic issue. And they've walked away. How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantle?”

Switching to Putin, Biden said the Russian leader has refused to set more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions, even as unprecedented wildfires destroy vast swaths of Russian forests.

Biden's domestic political issues were evident at COP26

Even as world leaders enthusiastically greeted Biden in Glasgow, the president was dogged by questions about a troubled $1.75 trillion social spending bill, The Post's Annie Linskey and Michael Birnbaum report.

“Walking the halls of the Glasgow convention center, Biden was at one point mobbed by hundreds of people — many of them journalists — who gathered around and peppered him with questions about Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has expressed skepticism about how the bill will be funded and who nixed a previous climate proposal in the bill,” my colleagues write.

Biden was also pressed on the Virginia governor's race, and he expressed confidence in former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe, just hours before Republican Glenn Youngkin prevailed in a referendum on the president's own leadership.

Kerry is feeling optimistic 

U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry projected optimism on Tuesday about the progress of negotiations at COP26 so far, pointing to pledges aimed at preventing deforestation and curbing methane emissions.

“We're a day-and-a-half into this, and I've seen more energy and more commitment and more urgency than I've ever seen. And I've been doing this since 1988,” Kerry told reporters after speaking on a panel about protecting the world's oceans.

COP26 notebook

I'm still here in Glasgow with more tidbits about COP26 for your reading pleasure. Thankfully, there was a much shorter line to enter the conference venue on Tuesday. It took me less than half an hour to get inside, where I found a striking art installation at a pavilion hosted by Tuvalu, an island nation midway between Hawaii and Australia.

The art installation depicted three polar bears wearing life vests and standing on an iceberg, while a penguin hung with a noose around its neck. The artist, Vincent Huang, told me his work was a "metaphor" for the people of Tuvalu, who have historically emitted very little carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but who are extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. 

“Like the penguin and the polar bear, they didn’t do anything wrong,” Huang told me. "I think this is an injustice."

On a lighter note, a White House radio pool report from NPR’s Scott Detrow included this delightful detail about Biden's journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow on Tuesday: “At one point when we were still on smaller country roads, a large, naked Scottish man stood in his front window taking a picture of the motorcade with his phone.”

COP26 has also provided the opportunity to meet key officials up close. I got less than a foot away from U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry, who appeared taller in person (he's 6-foot-4) and was double-masked. Kerry was also spotted at Six by Nico, an upscale restaurant in Glasgow with a six-course tasting menu, on Monday night, according to a tipster.

In other sightings, actor and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted talking to Kerry and attending a panel on methane emissions on Tuesday. I'll let you know if I catch Leo today and get to ask him whether the iceberg in "Titanic" was a metaphor for climate change.

Prince William's Earthshot prize finalists deliver powerful speeches at COP26

Vinisha Umanshankar, a 15-year-old from India who was the youngest finalist of Prince William's Earthshot Prize, issued a rallying cry to world leaders on Tuesday, urging them to “stop talking and start doing,” The Post's Karla Adam reports.

Umanshankar invented a solar-powered clothes iron that can replace more polluting irons used by millions of street vendors in India. She received a standing ovation from an audience that included Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Brazil is confronting its tattered environmental reputation

Brazil joined a global pledge to end deforestation on Tuesday, but many environmentalists are skeptical that the country will follow through under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly undercut the agencies charged with preventing deforestation, Terrence McCoy and Gabriela Sá Pessoa write for The Post.

On the Hill

House Democrats subpoenaed oil companies over climate disinformation

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform yesterday issued subpoenas for documents from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Dutch Royal Shell to build its case that oil companies engaged in a concerted effort to mislead the public about the scientific reality of climate change, The Post’s Dino Grandoni reports.

The committee also subpoenaed records from the American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, lobbying groups that have received funding from fossil fuel companies. 

Climate activists ended their hunger strike to target Manchin

Two weeks after they vowed to stop eating until Biden delivered on his climate agenda, five youth climate activists said Tuesday they would end their hunger strike so they could put pressure on Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), The Post's Sarah Kaplan reports.

In a statement, the activists said they planned to attend a rally targeting Manchin on Thursday. “We have decided to eat as fuel for the rage we feel," they said.

Agency alert

The U.S. is moving forward with oil and gas leasing plans

The Bureau of Land Management is planning to sell oil and gas leases on vast tracts of land in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and other states early next year, despite an Interior Department report suggesting that the sales could cause massive social costs tied to climate change, the Associated Press's Matthew Brown reports.

Environmentalists said the leasing plans undermined Biden's participation in COP26, where the president and other world leaders pledged to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can leak from oil and gas operations.

Environmental justice

Millions of deaths are linked to pollution from developed countries

About 2 million deaths each year are tied to fine-particle pollution generated by the consumption habits of the world's 20 largest economies, according to a study released Tuesday. Most of the deaths occurred in developing countries.

“Researchers estimated that one premature death resulted from the lifetime consumption of every 28 people living in a Group of 20 country,” The Post's Kasha Patel reports.  

Climate in the courts

Settlement talks fall flat between the Justice Dept. and Oregon youths

Oregon-based youth climate activists say their talks with the Department of Justice have reached an impasse and they want to take the case, Juliana v. United States, to trial, the Associated Press reports. The failure of the settlement talks comes six years after the activists first filed a lawsuit alleging that the government’s failure to curb climate change violated their constitutional rights.


Thanks for reading!