The Latest: UK sets net-zero plan for its financial sector

AP International News

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso delivers his message during the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP)

The latest on U.N. climate summit COP26 in Glasgow:

GLASGOW, Scotland — The British government plans to make the U.K. “the world’s first net-zero aligned financial center” as companies and investors seek to profit from the drive to build a low-carbon economy.

U.K. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak will lay out the government’s plans during a speech Wednesday as top financial officials from around the world meet at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

As part of the initiative, U.K. financial institutions and publicly traded companies will be required to publish plans detailing how they will reduce their contribution to global warming as Britain seeks to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. A panel composed of industry and academic leaders, regulator and community organizations will develop standards for the plans to ensure companies make progress toward meaningful goals.

According to a statement, Sunak will say the U.K. is home to one of the world’s leading financial centers, and so “has a responsibility to lead the way” in financing efforts to fight global warming.

The comments come after Britain and other wealthy countries failed to meet their commitment to provide $100 billion a year to finance climate-related projects in the developing world by 2020.

Sunak will urge wealthy nations to boost their support for climate projects in the developing world, saying that the $100 billion target will be met by 2020, according to the advance statement.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — President Joe Biden praised fellow global leaders for their work at the UN climate summit, saying that they demonstrated “great example of the kind of ambition you need” to confront the scourge of global warming.

“I can’t think of any two days where more has been accomplished on climate than these two days,” Biden said at the start of his summit ending news conference.

Biden on Tuesday announced that the U.S. was launching a plan to reduce methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming. The announcement was part of a broader effort with the European Union and other nations to reduce overall methane emissions worldwide by 30% by 2030.

The president added that China, the world’s biggest greenhouse emitter,made a big mistake with Chinese President Xi Jinping not attending in person. He added the Chinese “lost the ability to influence people around the world, and all the people here at COP” with its absence at the summit.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The United Nations apologized Tuesday for leaving participants at this year’s global climate conference struggling to enter the venue — or log onto virtual meetings.

The U.N. climate office that’s in charge of organizing much of the meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, said the event was taking place “under exceptional and unprecedented logistical circumstances.” This included pandemic restrictions for the more than 30,000 people registered for the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 conference, resulting in limitations on the number of people allowed into rooms.

Civil society groups have accused the U.N. of failing to be inclusive on an issue of great importance to communities around the world.

The U.N. said the opening days had been “a learning process.”

“We are doing our utmost to continuously learn and adapt,” it said, but urged participants to prepare for continued queues and “in the case of inclement weather, please come prepared with appropriate gear.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence from the COP26 leaders’ summit in Glasgow “doesn’t mean the Chinese are not engaging” with the fight against climate change.

But Johnson said Tuesday that he wants the giant country to do more to slash carbon emissions. He said China had sent a “very high level” delegation to the U.N. climate conference talks in Glasgow even though Xi stayed home, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

China has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, 10 years later than many nations, and for carbon emissions to peak by 2030 or before.

“The question is, how much before? That’s what we’re discussing with China,” Johnson said.

The prime minister, whose country is hosting the conference in Scotland, said China had already made a “substantial” commitment. He praised Beijing’s decision to end financing for coal plants overseas, though not yet at home.

Johnson said at a news conference that “you’re starting to see the impact of that Chinese decision…in the whole Asia-Pacific region already.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Nearly three dozen countries and dozens of organizations launched an effort Tuesday to reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming and making food supplies and farming more resilient against mounting climate damage.

The United States and United Arab Emirates led the effort, announced at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Thirty-one nations and other non-government organizations have joined the initiative.

The initiative is called Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate. The U.S. Agriculture Department said in a statement the program had already drawn $4 billion for investment in climate-friendly improvements in food systems and agriculture over the next five years.

Agriculture is responsible for a significant amount of climate-damaging emissions globally, and farming and food networks are vulnerable to drought and a range of other worsening disasters as the Earth’s temperature rises.

The program is meant to coordinate the work of government regulators, researchers, scientists and others on the problems.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Leonardo DiCaprio has brought a touch of Hollywood star power to the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, drawing a big crowd of journalists and fans as he arrived for Day 3 of the conference.

The actor, who is a U.N. climate change representative, was pictured at the conference on Tuesday sporting a blue suit and a dark face mask. An entourage and a crowd of people hoping to get photos of DiCaprio on their mobile phones surrounded him.

DiCaprio, 46, visited Kew Science’s Carbon Garden Space, an exhibition in the main conference center aiming to highlight the role plants can play in providing solutions to climate change.

A spokesperson said the actor “seemed to enjoy seeing the wonderful display of plants and messages about nature-based solutions to climate change that the Kew’s display has on show.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The head of the U.N. nuclear agency touted atomic power as one key way to balance climate concerns and the world’s energy needs.

Many environmentalists have long been skeptical of nuclear energy, because of the potential for disastrous accidents and the lingering issue of what to do with the waste.

But the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that he is seeing fresh interest in nuclear among younger people who don’t have the same associations with it as “some in the old ecology movement.”

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told The Associated Press that nuclear energy’s big advantage lies in the steady supply it provides compared to the fluctuations from wind or solar.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cautioned against getting “caught up in a mood of exaggerated enthusiasm,” but he hailed the progress made as world leaders gathered at the U.N. climate summit.

Johnson and scores of other leaders were preparing to head home from the COP26 conference Tuesday after two days of talks in Glasgow, Scotland. The summit will last another 10 days, as negotiators strain to turn the politicians’ climate pledges into reality.

Johnson said his message to negotiators is: “The eyes of the populations of the world are on you.”

Johnson said at a news conference that it was important to “guard against false hope,” but he added that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome of talks aimed at keeping the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

He cited India’s pledge to make a deep dent in carbon emissions by 2030 and a pledge by more than 100 world leaders to stop deforestation.

Johnson repeated his comparison of climate change to a ticking doomsday device, but said, “We’ve got a bomb disposal team on site, and they’re starting to snip the wires.”

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says this year’s U.N. climate conference will show “whether there really exists a political will” to do what it takes to mitigate climate change and to assist the “poorer and more vulnerable nations most affected by it.”

Francis sent his regrets for not attending the conference, saying in a message read by the Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Pietro Parolin: “I had hoped to be with you in person” in Glasgow, Scotland, “but that was not possible.”

He added in the message, “I accompany you, however, with my prayers as you take these important decisions.”

Francis has made caring for the planet’s environmental health a key plank of his papacy since it began in 2013. “Sadly, we must acknowledge how far we remain from achieving the goals set for tackling climate change,” he wrote in his message for the COP26 conference.

The pontiff urged the international community to use “honesty, responsibility and courage” in addressing global warming.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — China is at a “special development stage” that warrants its status as the world’s biggest current emitter of climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution, the nation’s senior climate negotiator said Tuesday.

Xie Zhenhua, a U.N. climate negotiator and special climate envoy for China, spoke to reporters Tuesday at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. China has been much talked about as a major polluter but has been little seen at the summit. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not joined the more than 100 other world leaders at the event, addressing observers and delegates in a written message on Monday instead.

Xie, who played a pivotal role in talks leading to the 2015 Paris climate accord, underscored China’s stance that the United States and other developed nations should be the ones doing more to cut climate-damaging emissions faster, not China.

“We have already been making our biggest possible effort to address climate change,” Xie said, saying China was unable to start reining in its reliance on coal-fired power plants any quicker than it was doing.

“So regarding the fact that China is the current largest emitter, it’s because China is at a special development stage,” Xie said.

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KAMPALA, Uganda — The managing director of the International Monetary Fund says Africa’s women must be empowered as part of broader efforts to build the continent’s resilience amid climate change.

Kristalina Georgieva spoke Tuesday before an Africa-focused summit at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“When women are empowered, communities are so much better,” she said.

She said pre-existing obstacles to adaptation must be removed, including by widening access to credit for farmers as well as investing in resilient infrastructure. Georgieva said the world has “to do more” to support Africa’s appeal for help to adapt to climate change.

African leaders are pressing their demand for the international community to do more to support the continent of 1.3 billion people, which contributes least to global emissions but is the most vulnerable to climate change.

The African Union seeks $12.5 billion to implement a $25 billion climate change adaptation program over five years. Half of that money is coming from the African Development Bank.

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KAMPALA, Uganda — The head of the African Union says the international community must support the continent’s efforts to adapt to climate change, including a program that requires $25 billion over five years.

Speaking Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo said the continent needs the world to raise $12.5 billion, with the balance coming from the African Development Bank.

In his remarks before a meeting of world leaders, Tshisekedi noted that the global effort on climate change “can’t be won unless it is won in Africa.” He said he hopes the money will be raised before the next climate conference.

“It is a starting point rather than a ceiling, and it will contribute to building trust and confidence,” he said.

The continent of 1.3 billion people contributes least to climate change but will suffer most from its effects, according to experts. African leaders and climate campaigners have long called for technology transfers and substantial cash donations to help the continent build resilience.

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GLASGOW — World leaders looked at a Formula 1 car made from recycled plastic and a microwave-sized device that can generate hydrogen fuel Tuesday as they looked to promote innovation to slow climate change at the U.N. summit in Glasgow.

Speaking at the summit, President Joe Biden said “our current technology alone won’t get us where we need to be.” He added “we need to invest in breakthroughs.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted his country’s “One Sun, One World, One Grid” initiative to develop an interconnected solar grid across time zones.

The session was attended by Prince William, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah and moderated by Sky Group CEO Dana Strong.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The United States and several European countries plan to provide funds and expertise to help South Africa ditch coal and roll out more renewable energy.

German officials said South Africa will receive about $8.5 billion in loans and grants over five years to manage the country’s transition away from coal-fired power plants, which are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

South Africa gets about 90% of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the partnership announced Tuesday. which is also backed by Britain, France and the European Union, “has the potential to become a blueprint for other regions.”

One focus of the initiative will be helping to create new jobs for tens of thousands of people in South Africa’s coal mining industry.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Countries responsible for almost half the world’s methane emissions are signing a pledge Tuesday to cut by at least 30% the amount of the potent greenhouse gas they release into the atmosphere over the next decade.

Clamping down on methane flaring and leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines is considered one of the easiest ways to cut emissions.

Cutting methane produced from agriculture — in particular by belching cows — is a trickier matter.

Dozens of countries, including the United States, European Union members and Britain, are signing up to the pledge. It is part of a series of methane-reduction efforts announced by the Biden administration Tuesday.

Helen Mountford, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute, said the agreement “sets a strong floor in terms of the ambition we need globally.”

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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says Russia relies on its vast forests and “their significant capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen” in achieving the goal of building a carbon-neutral economy by 2060.

Putin said Tuesday that “after all, our country accounts for around 20% of the world’s forestland.”

Experts have questioned Russia’s calculations on just how much carbon its forests absorb, particularly in light of the devastating forest fires the country has seen in recent years.

Putin made the comments in a video statement at the launch of a new initiative aimed at preventing deforestation, which was announced at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday. Putin isn’t attending COP26 in person, and no reason has been given for him not going.

The Russian leader said Moscow expects the new declaration on forests and land use backed by 100 countries to facilitate “closer partnerships” between countries in forest conservation and to help “to fulfill the objectives of reducing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere set out in the Paris Agreement.”

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KAMPALA, Uganda — The International Rescue Committee is urging world leaders attending the U.N. climate summit to urgently invest in climate resilience and famine prevention among the world’s most vulnerable countries.

In some African countries where the group operates, including Somalia, people face “the sharp end of the climate crisis,” including emergency conditions with current levels of global warming, it said.

“We’re extremely worried about the impact of continuing drought and conflict on vulnerable populations throughout the horn of Africa, where a large proportion of the population relies heavily on crops to eat and sell for their livelihoods, Kurt Tjossem, the group’s vice president for East Africa, said in a statement.

In Somalia, 3.5 million people face hunger after a failed harvest, with farmers who depend on livestock seeing their animals die from thirst daily, he said.

Although Africa contributes least to global warming, experts say the continent of 1.3 billion people will suffer most from its effects.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says about 1,000 cities and local governments have backed a campaign for a net zero future, promising to purse ambitious climate actions to limit the rise of global temperatures.

Garcetti, the outgoing chair of the C40 group of big city mayors, told a panel discussion at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow on Tuesday that the communities promised to pursue actions in line with meeting the goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists say time is running out to meet that goal and the wish to keep that goal alive has been a centerpiece of the conference.

The 1,049 communities signed up for one or more actions, such as divesting from fossil fuels, creating sustainable food systems and committing to reduce air pollution. The actions have the potential to reduce global emissions by at least 1.4 gigatons annually by 2030.

Garcetti said that “this needs to be the decade of exponential action.’’

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Environmentalists have launched their traditional “Fossil of the Day” awards at the U.N. climate conference, with Britain and Australia the first to receive the questionable honor.

Climate Action Network, an umbrella group of hundreds of non-governmental organizations, said many observers who had traveled long distances to attend the summit were prevented from reaching meetings because of lengthy lines. When they tried to log on from elsewhere, technical problems prevented them from connecting, CAN said.

It urged the host country to improve organization so civil society groups can participate in the talks.

Australia received the second “fossil” for recently approving three new coal projects even as it claimed to be stepping up its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, CAN said.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Ecuador’s president has announced that his country is expanding the marine reserve around the Galapagos Islands by almost half.

President Guillermo Lasso told the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow on Tuesday that the government has agreed with the fishery, tourism and conservation sectors to establish a new marine reserve in the Galapagos Islands of 60,000 square kilometers (more than 23,000 square miles).

Lasso said this would be added to an existing marine reserve of about 130,000 square kilometers (50,000 square miles).

Experts says oceans are particularly vulnerable to climate change and the Galapagos Islands are considered one of the world’s biodiversity jewels.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — More than 100 countries are pledging to end deforestation, which scientists say is a major driver of climate change.

Britain hailed the commitment as the first big achievement of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

But campaigners say they need to see the detail — such promises have been made, and broken, before.

The U.K. government said it has received commitments from leaders representing more than 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

More than $19 billion in public and private funds have been pledged toward the plan, which is backed by countries including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.

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BEIJING — China is the largest contributor to global warming and China’s people are already suffering the brunt of climate change.

Historic floods that destroyed farms this summer in the country’s agricultural heartland are a preview of the kind of extreme conditions the country is likely to face as the planet warms.

Chinese government reports also predict rising sea levels will threaten major coastal cities while melting glaciers imperil western China’s water supply. Those with the least resources to adapt are often on the frontlines of suffering in a common pattern around the world. As one farmer in Henan province said, “Ordinary people suffer most.”

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