Cop26: A crowded blue zone, ‘big mistake’ no-shows and more net-zero pledges

Planet Business: Stay only as long as necessary

Image of the week: Blueish planet

Just in case anybody forgot which planet they were trying to save from catastrophe, the Cop26 "blue zone" at Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus has an illuminated Earth dangling over proceedings for the duration. The UN-managed blue zone – as distinct from the UK-managed "green zone" at the Glasgow Science Centre – is where delegates from 197 negotiating parties can be found hanging out alongside a dizzying array of speechmakers, panellists and accredited organisations.

Alas, just like the planet itself, the joint has been a touch overcrowded for pandemic-era comfort. Organisers have more than once this week issued warnings about “a high level of attendance” and asked the lanyard-equipped to “only visit the blue zone for as long as necessary” in compliance with Covid-19 safety measures. Meanwhile, climate activists on the outside urged those inside to “end climate betrayal” – sooner rather than later, ideally.

In numbers: Fair cop


Concentration of carbon in our atmosphere in parts per million – before the industrial revolution, it stood at about 288. This rise is the "clearest way to chart" the climate emergency, broadcaster David Attenborough told the summit.


$130 trillion

Financial firepower behind the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a coalition of climate-aware private capital interests. Perhaps it can overcome what UN secretary-general António Guterres called a “deficit of credibility” on corporate net-zero pledges.


The carbon dioxide equivalent number for the Scottish beef burger on offer at Cop26, where items on the menu have carbon footprints specified like calorie counts lest anyone dare to order anything other than the organic kale pasta.

Getting to know: Mia Mottley

Mia Mottley made such an impression during the opening ceremony of Cop26 that Boris Johnson could still remember her name 24 hours later. The prime minister of Barbados and leader of the Barbados Labour Party knows a thing or two about both climate change and giving powerful addresses. Having recently given a seemingly off-the-cuff speech at New York's UN General Assembly in which she quoted Bob Marley – asking "who will get up and stand up" – Mottley's speech to the Glasgow summit spelled out the injustice of the existential crisis posed to island and coastal communities by climate change.

“Can there be peace and prosperity if a third of the world lives in prosperity and two-thirds live under seas and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing?” she asked. Mottley and Prince Charles were also pictured in gales of laughter, their bonhomie undimmed by her republican election campaign stance and subsequent decision to remove of Charles’s mother as Barbados’s head of state.

The list: Sending their regrets

The world's elite seemed to be having a grand old time in the opening days of Glasgow's Cop26, with Bill Gates, Justin Trudeau, Leonardo DiCaprio and everybody's favourite nearly-man Al Gore among those exchanging elbow-bumps. But who wasn't there?

1. Xi Jinping. The president of China, the world's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, sent a written statement but was a no-show – a "big mistake", according to US president Joe Biden.

2. Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish president was at the G20 summit in Rome last weekend but cancelled the Scottish leg of his trip at the last minute.

3. Queen Elizabeth. The British monarch pulled out because she's 95 and doctors told her to rest. Multiple members of her family who are not 95 were there, however.

4. Vladimir Putin. The Russian president declined his invitation and instead sent a pre-recorded message about the importance of protecting the world's forests – a kind of memo to self given 20 per cent of them are in Russia.

5. Jair Bolsonaro. The Brazilian president also did not fancy Glasgow at this time of year. Well, that Amazon rainforest won't deforest itself.