COP26: PM returns to Glasgow as ambition gap crystallises

The prime minister is returning to the COP26 summit today to try to chivvy nations into action, as research shows current pledges are far off the 1.5°c warming target.

Photograph: Yuri Mikhailenko/Getty Images

Boris Johnson, who is travelling by train for his one-day visit to Glasgow after being criticised for his private jet travel last week, said he would be “meeting with ministers and negotiators to hear about where progress has been made and where the gaps must be bridged”.

The size of the gap was highlighted yesterday, when a sobering assessment by Climate Action Tracker suggested the world was on track for “at least” 2.4°C of warming by the end of the century even if current national pledges are fulfilled - compared to the more optimistic 1.8-1.9°C forecasts published earlier this week. 

A first draft of the COP26 ‘cover decision’ text, which outlines the major decisions reached at the summit, was published overnight. It urges countries to submit stronger carbon targets and plans in the next two years, but does not make concrete statements on finance, adaptation or loss and damage. 

However, for the first time, the text explicitly names fossil fuels as contributing to the emissions problem, and urges countries to accelerate coal phase-out and cut fossil fuel subsidies. Tomorrow will also see the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA). Led by Denmark and Costa Rica, this seeks a phase-out date for the exploration and production of oil and gas, and hopes to attract other countries to join. 

Johnson returns to Glasgow on ‘transport’ day. To coincide with this, the UK has confirmed that all new heavy goods vehicles in the country will be zero emission by 2040 - ten years after the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans ends. 

With just three days of the summit officially left, the UK presidency is keen to end as scheduled on Friday, partly due to the enormous logistical endeavour and cost of extending into Remembrance Sunday weekend. But seasoned COP observers say this is nearly impossible.