The countdown to the COP26 climate conference has begun

October 27, 2021, 10:51 AM UTC

Hello from London.

It’s less than a week to go before the start of COP26, the UN climate conference that’s been called a “last chance” for humanity to truly tackle climate change. The event starts on Oct. 31 (not foreboding at all) in Glasgow.

Much will be made of whether the event is a success or a failure—indeed, with Xi Jinping and Putin both expected to skip it, some commentators are already predicting a flop. I think such a view is defeatist. Although it might be going a little far to describe their outlook as “outright optimism”, people who have spent their careers trying to push the needle forward on climate have told me in recent weeks that they’re hoping for a few concrete advances at the event.

Among them: targets not just for net-zero by 2050, but a focus on halved-emissions by 2030—a target that forces the CEOs and politicians in power to really map out what they will do right now. Second, a global carbon tax—one of the few policies that people with wildly differing politics tend to agree would totally change the game. Third, coal. It needs to be phased out. Four, a real plan for how developed countries will help developing countries invest in decarbonization, and manage the impacts of climate change that they bear less responsibility for.

What are you watching for? Get in touch and let me know—and, if you’ll be on the ground in Glasgow, shoot me an email. I’ll be there for much of the two weeks, and my London-based colleague Sophie Mellor will also be making an appearance in Scotland.

But the entire Fortune team will be helping cover the knock-on effects of the climate negotiations. Watch out in particular for coverage from Green Inc co-author Eamon Barrett in Hong Kong for the Asia-based angle, my colleague David Meyer in Berlin, and Christiaan Hetzner, our expert on the electric vehicle revolution, from Tesla to the giants of the German auto sector. To make sure you’re getting all the news as it comes in, I suggest hitting the “follow” button on “climate change” in your favorites—or signing up to follow one of the reporters above.

To get ready for the event, Fortune is also hosting a free webinar today—at noon ET—with our CEO Alan Murray and Rich Lesser, Global Chair of Boston Consulting Group. The conversation will be on what business and political leaders need to know. You can sign up here.

We’ve also got lots of stories below from the last week, on everything from the decarbonization of shipping, to what Saudi Arabia wants from COP26, to an interview with the IEA’s executive director on climate laggards and the energy crisis.

Many of these stories are behind our paywall. But if you’d like to subscribe, we have a special 50% off deal just for Green Inc subscribers: just use this link and the code GREENINC. Thanks for supporting our journalism!

Katherine Dunn


Carbon-free growth

The Financial Times has this interesting interview with Jeffrey Sachs, which includes his thoughts on whether growth is compatible with decarbonization. He is dismissive of degrowth—"We need to decarbonise energy, and we need more energy at the same time, but there’s no incompatibility in any way of having both of those"—but also calls GDP itself "not an especially strong target for humanity" when we're trying to understand how to reduce emissions and raise living standards. FT

China's carbon giants

Lest we forget for a second how important China is to decarbonization, Bloomberg has this infographic story, which begins by pointing out that many of China's largest companies—"few of which are household names"—pollute more than entire countries. One steelmaker produced more CO2 in 2020 than Pakistan. The country's largest oil company produced more emissions than Canada—itself a major oil and gas producer. Bloomberg

Revolt at McKinsey

The New York Times has a story about an open letter circulated among staff at McKinsey this spring decrying the company's work with major polluters, which was followed by several resignations. The company has its own net-zero goal, but partners pointed out that the company's carbon footprint was tiny compared to the companies it consults for—including major oil and gas producers like Exxon and Aramco. It's just one example of an internal debate within companies about what corporate relationships mesh with emissions goals. NYT


Why Biden’s best bet for his climate agenda may be dusting off a old plan from Mike Bloomberg by Max Ufberg

The world energy transition will have two power sources—’fear and greed’—says head of Big Energy climate group by Katherine Dunn

Saudi Arabia will be talking ‘green’ but making no sacrifices on oil at COP26 by Mohamed El Aassar

Every single Bitcoin transaction—even buying a latte—consumes over $100 in electricity, says a new report by Shawn Tully 

Lucid Motor’s Air EV finally hits the roads with a range that blows Tesla away by Christiaan Hetzner

Australia’s distinctly hands-off net-zero plan bets technology—not fossil fuel regulation—will offset emissions by Eamon Barrett

Tesla shares jump more than 12% on report that Hertz is ordering 100,000 Teslas to overhaul its rental business by Phil Wahba 

Inside Maersk’s odyssey to build the world’s greenest container ships by Katherine Dunn

To fix the planet’s broken food systems, we must count their hidden costs by Rajiv J. Shah

Net zero: IEA director calls out laggard countries and reluctant CEOs as COP26 nears by Katherine Dunn

Congress must act against climate change to keep America competitive by Liz O'Neill



If the world needed a reminder, the UN provided it: ahead of COP26, even the plans that major countries have already submitted to lower their emissions are coming up short. That means the world is still on track for a 2.7°C temperature rise—better than the predicted temperature rise going into Paris but still, well, bad. "We are still on track for climate catastrophe, even with the last announcements that were made," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.

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