COP26: What is the Glasgow climate conference and why is it important?

The UK is hosting a summit that is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control.

The meeting in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.

What is COP26 and why is it happening?

The world is warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans.

Extreme weather events linked to climate change – including heatwaves, floods and forest fires – are intensifying. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments agree urgent collective action is needed.

World is getting warmer graphic

For this conference, 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030.

They all agreed in 2015 to make changes to keep global warming “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to try aim for 1.5C – so that we avoid a climate catastrophe.

This is what’s known as the Paris Agreement, and it means countries have to keep making bigger emissions cuts until reaching net zero in 2050.

What will be decided at COP26?

Most countries will set out their plans to reduce emissions before the summit starts – so, we should get a sense of whether we are on track beforehand.

But during the two weeks we can expect a flurry of new announcements.

Many are expected to be very technical – including rules still needed to implement the Paris Agreement, for example.

But some other announcements could include:

  • Making a faster switch to electric cars
  • Speeding up the phasing out of coal power
  • Cutting down fewer trees
  • Protecting more people from the impacts of climate change, such as funding coastal-defence systems.

Up to 25,000 people are expected in Glasgow, including world leaders, negotiators and journalists.

Tens of thousands of campaigners and businesses will also be there to hold events, network – and hold protests. Extinction Rebellion, for example, are calling for an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels.

At the end of the conference, some form of declaration is expected.

Every country will be required to sign up and it could include specific commitments.

Are there likely sticking points?

Expect a lot of talk about money and climate justice. Developing countries tend to pollute less per head of population and are not responsible for most of emissions in the past.

But they experience some of the worst effects of climate change.

Family in floodwater in Bangladesh

They need money to help reduce their emissions and to cope with climate change. It could mean more solar panels in countries that depend on energy from coal and flood defence systems.

There will also be a battle over compensation for developing countries affected by climate change.

Wealthy countries previously pledged $100bn (£720m) a year to help poorer nations by 2020. A UN assessment last year said the target was likely to be missed, so richer countries are being asked to commit more money.

Chart showing how much climate finance has been provided by developed countries in the last decade

China’s commitments at COP26 will also be very important. It is now the world’s biggest polluter and has investments in coal stations all over the world.

Many observers will be watching how quickly China – and other major fossil fuel producers – will be willing to reduce their reliance on them.

How will COP26 affect me?

Some commitments made in Glasgow could directly affect our daily lives.

For example, it could change whether you drive a petrol car, heat your home with a gas boiler, or take as many flights.

You will hear a lot of jargon

  • COP26: COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Established by the UN, COP1 took place in 1995 – this will be the 26th
  • Paris accord: The Paris Agreement united all the world’s nations – for the first time – in a single agreement on tackling global warming and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions
  • IPCC: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change examines the latest research into climate change
  • 1.5C: Keeping the rise in global average temperature below 1.5C – compared with pre-industrial times – will avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say

How will we know COP26 is a success?

As host nation, the UK will likely want all countries to back a strong statement that recommits to net zero emissions by 2050 – as well as big reductions by 2030.

It will also want specific pledges on ending coal, petrol cars and protecting nature.

Developing countries will want a significant financial package over the next five years, to help them adapt to rising temperatures.

Anything short of this is likely to be judged inadequate because there simply isn’t more time to keep the 1.5C goal alive.

However, some scientists believe world leaders have left it too late and no matter what is agreed at COP26, 1.5C will not be achieved.

Climate change: Tracking China’s steel addiction in one city

Wuzhou, in southern China, is a living example of the country’s dependence on its “build, build, build” mantra to boost development. It was one of many contributors to China’s record output of a staggering one billion tonnes of steel last year.

But increasingly, cities like this are having to grapple with China’s climate change goals and the big question: will it cut emissions quickly enough?

“No, it (the development) won’t stop.”

The grandpa, playing cards with two friends in his blue shirt, was adamant. I was standing next to him in a corner of a recently constructed but mostly empty shopping mall. “Ten years ago… this was just barren mountains and ridges. It’s developed so well.”

The 68-year-old insisted that the environment and water were all good. “Everything is nice, especially the people. Everyone is happy.”

As we talked, his grandson played with a few friends in the centre of the mall. With red Communist Party scarves tied around their necks, they were building walls with multi-coloured foam blocks. The “build” mantra is in their blood.

China-Taiwan tensions: Xi Jinping says ‘reunification’ must be fulfilled

China’s President Xi Jinping has said that “reunification” with Taiwan “must be fulfilled”, as heightened tensions over the island continue.

Mr Xi said unification should be achieved peacefully, but warned that the Chinese people had a “glorious tradition” of opposing separatism.

In response, Taiwan said its future lay in the hands of its people.

Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, while China views it as a breakaway province.

Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification.

Mr Xi’s intervention comes after China sent a record number of military jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone in recent days. Some analysts say the flights could be seen as a warning to Taiwan’s president ahead of the island’s national day on Sunday.

Taiwan’s defence minister has said that tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years.

  • EXPLAINER: What’s behind the China-Taiwan divide?

But Mr Xi’s remarks on Saturday were more conciliatory than his last major intervention on Taiwan in July, where he pledged to “smash” any attempts at formal Taiwanese independence.

Speaking at an event marking the 110th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911, he said unification in a “peaceful manner” was “most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots”.

But he added: “No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled,” he said.

Mr Xi has said he wants to see unification occur under a “one country, two systems” principle, similar to that employed in Hong Kong, which is part of China but has a degree of autonomy.

But Taiwan’s presidential office said that public opinion was very clear in rejecting one country, two systems. In a separate statement, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council called on China to abandon its “provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction”.

Shortly before Mr Xi spoke in Beijing, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang accused China of “flexing its muscles” and stoking tensions.

Presentational grey line

China and Taiwan: The basics

  • Why do China and Taiwan have poor relations? China and Taiwan were divided during a civil war in the 1940s, but Beijing insists the island will be reclaimed at some point, by force if necessary
  • How is Taiwan governed? The island has its own constitution, democratically elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces
  • Who recognises Taiwan? Only a few countries recognise Taiwan. Most recognise the Chinese government in Beijing instead. The US has no official ties with Taiwan but does have a law which requires it to provide the island with the means to defend itself
Presentational grey line

Despite the recent heightened tensions, relations between China and Taiwan have not deteriorated to levels last seen in 1996 when China tried to disrupt presidential elections with missile tests and the US dispatched aircraft carriers to the region to dissuade them.

And while a number of Western countries have expressed concern at China’s displays of military might, US President Joe Biden said Mr Xi had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”.

Mr Biden appeared to be referring to Washington’s longstanding “One China” policy under which it recognises China rather than Taiwan.

However, this agreement also allows Washington to maintain a “robust unofficial” relationship with Taiwan. The US sells arms to Taiwan as part of Washington’s Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must help Taiwan defend itself.

In an interview with the BBC this week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US will “stand up and speak out” over any actions that may “undermine peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait.

Hackers steal nearly $100m in Japan crypto heist

Leading Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Liquid has been hit by hackers, with almost $100m (£73m) estimated to have been stolen.

The company announced that some of its digital currency wallets have been “compromised.”

It is the second major theft of cryptocurrencies to take place in recent days.

Last week, digital token platform Poly Network was at the centre of a $600m heist.

“We are sorry to announce that #LiquidGlobal warm wallets were compromised, we are moving assets into the cold wallet,” the company said on Twitter.

So-called ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ digital wallets are usually based online and designed to allow users to access their cryptocurrencies more easily, while ‘cold’ wallets are offline and harder to access and therefore usually more secure.

Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic said its analysis showed that around $97m in cryptocurrencies had been taken, with Bitcoin and Ethereum tokens amongst the haul.

Liquid has said that it was tracing the movement of the stolen cryptocurrencies and working with other exchanges to freeze and recover the assets.

Founded in 2014, Liquid operates in over 100 countries and serves millions of customers around the world.

It is one of the world’s top 20 biggest cryptocurrency exchanges by daily trading volumes, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Last week, $600m was stolen from blockchain site Poly Network after a hacker exploited a vulnerability in its system.

“The amount of money you have hacked is one of the biggest in defi [decentralised finance] history,” Poly Network said.

Since then the hacker, who goes under the name of Mr White Hat, has returned around $427m of the assets.

Liquid is not the only Japanese cryptocurrency platform to be hit by a major heist.

In 2014, Tokyo-based exchange MtGox collapsed after almost half a billion dollars of bitcoin went missing, while Coincheck was hacked in a $530m heist in 2018.

Government borrowing shrinks in July

Government borrowing fell in July compared with a year earlier as the removal of most Covid restrictions in England gave the economy a boost.

Borrowing – the difference between spending and tax income – was £10.4bn, official figures show, which was £10.1bn lower than July last year.

However, the figure was the second-highest for July since records began.

Borrowing has been hitting record levels, with billions being spent on measures such as furlough payments.

The huge amount of borrowing over the past year has now pushed government debt up to more than £2.2 trillion, or about 98.8% of GDP – a rate not seen since the early 1960s.

  • Where does the government borrow billions from?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) now estimates that the government borrowed a total of £298bn in the financial year to March.

That amounted to 14.2% of GDP, the highest level since the end of World War Two.

The ONS said the cost of measures to support individuals and businesses during the pandemic meant that day-to-day spending by the government rose by £204.3bn to £942.7bn last year.

Net debt

Interest payments on central government debt were £3.4bn in July.

That was £1.1bn more than in July 2020, but far lower than the monthly record of £8.7bn in June 2021.

Risks remain

“Our recovery from the pandemic is well under way, boosted by the huge amount of support government has provided,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

“But the last 18 months have had a huge impact on our economy and public finances, and many risks remain.

“We’re committed to keeping the public finances on a sustainable footing, which is why at the Budget in March I set out the steps we are taking to keep debt under control in the years to come.”

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, pointed out that July’s borrowing figure was “once again comfortably lower” than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

“Total tax receipts of £70bn in July were above June’s £62.1bn and last July’s total of £60.6bn, another encouraging sign that the economic recovery is feeding through to the public coffers. And government spending dropped from £77.2bn in June to just £73.1bn in July,” she added.

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

The subscription site OnlyFans, known for its adult content, has announced it will block sexually explicit photos and videos from 1 October.

People will still be able to post nude content on the site.

But this will need to be consistent with OnlyFans’ policies.

The announcement comes after BBC News had approached the company for a response to leaked documents concerning accounts which posted illegal content.

OnlyFans said the change had come after pressure from banking partners.

The site has grown during the pandemic and says it has 130 million users.

“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of our platform, and continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans said in a statement.

The London-based social media site enables its creators to post nude videos and photos and charge subscribers for tips or a monthly fee.

Creators can post a range of content from cooking to fitness videos, but it is best known for pornography.

In return for hosting the material, OnlyFans takes a 20% share of all payments.

The documents – described as “compliance manuals” – show that although illegal content itself is removed, OnlyFans lets moderators give creators multiple warnings before closing accounts.

Moderation specialists and child protection experts say this shows OnlyFans has some “tolerance” for accounts posting illegal content.

In response to the BBC’s investigation, OnlyFans said the documents are not manuals or “official guidance”, it does not tolerate violations of its terms of service, and its systems and age verification go far beyond “all relevant global safety standards and regulations”.

The site, founded in 2016 by Essex businessman Tim Stokely, has come under fire in the past after a BBC News investigation found under-18s had used fake identification to set up accounts on the site. In June, BBC News found that under-18s sold explicit videos on the site, despite it being illegal for people to share indecent images of children.

After the BBC investigation, the children’s commissioner for England said OnlyFans needed to do more to stop underage users. In response to the investigation, OnlyFans said it had closed the accounts flagged and refunded all active subscriptions.

In July, the company’s first monthly transparency report said that it deactivated 15 OnlyFans accounts after finding indecent images of children on those accounts.

M&S says recovery plan boosting sales and profits

Shares in Marks & Spencer have jumped almost 12% after the retail giant issued a surprise profits upgrade thanks to better-than-expected sales.

The chain said while there had been an element of pent-up consumer demand in recent trading, there were signs that its latest turnaround plan was working.

Meanwhile, UK retail sales saw an unexpectedly sharp fall of 2.5% between June and July, official figures showed.

The fall was partly due to weaker food sales following the end of Euro 2020.

However, while the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales fell last month to the lowest level since shops reopened in April, they remained 5.8% ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

‘Good recovery’

M&S said its “encouraging performance” had confirmed that its Never The Same Again transformation programme – which has aimed to cut costs and has led to several store closures – was on track.

Revenues from its food business in the 19 weeks to 14 August were up 10.8% on last year and 9.6% higher than in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

It added that its clothing and home business had seen a “good recovery”, with revenue up 92.2% from last year and down just 2.6% on 2019.

  • UK economy rebounds as Covid restrictions ease
  • The experiences replacing closed High Street stores

However, it warned that there remained “substantial uncertainty as to the continued strength of consumer demand, as well as disruption in both supply chains and consequent pressures on costs and margin”.

Despite this, M&S said that – assuming there are no further Covid-related restrictions on trading – it expected full-year profits to be “above the upper end of previous guidance of £300-350m”.

The news sent shares in M&S up by more than 11% to 158.65p.

Shoppers

The latest retail sales figures from the ONS showed food store sales slipped by 1.5% in July, compared with a 3.9% rise in the previous month when they had been boosted by the Euro 2020 tournament.

Non-food stores reported a 4.4% decline in volumes, with the ONS seeing declines at second-hand goods stores and computer and telecoms equipment stores.

“Following the Euro 2020 related boost in June, retail sales fell in July to their lowest level since shops reopened in April, but still remain well above pre-pandemic levels,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS.

“Food sales fell back as further lifting of hospitality restrictions meant consumers had more opportunities to spend outside retail.”

He added that heavy rainfall at the start of July had also hit fuel sales, which dipped for the first time since February.

Sales at clothing stores and household stores also fell. The ONS said the only sector to see a rise was department stores, with a 0.2% increase.

Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said July was a “washout for sales”.

“While the rain came down, we didn’t see the point in getting a new wardrobe, especially with so many people holidaying in the UK this year, so clothing sales didn’t get a boost from last-minute swimwear purchases.”

She said food was also hit: “In the absence of a decent BBQ season, we gave ourselves a bit of a break from the kitchen, buying less food, and spending more in restaurants and takeaways.”

However, Retail Economics boss Richard Lim says there was some demand for new clothes “as the backlog of weddings and other larger social gatherings filled households’ calendars, giving shoppers a reason to purchase new outfits”.

Ashleigh Barty beats Barbora Krejcikova to reach Cincinnati semi-finals

World number one Ashleigh Barty eased through to the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Open with victory over Barbora Krejcikova.

Australian Barty beat the Czech ninth seed 6-2 6-4, but had to recover from a break down in the second set.

The 25-year-old, two-time Grand Slam champion will face Angelique Kerber next after Petra Kvitova retired injured from their quarter-final.

Germany’s Kerber was leading 6-4 3-3 when she was awarded the win.

Czech world number 11 Kvitova later said she had been struggling with a “stomach issue” for several days.

Wimbledon finalist and fifth seed Karolina Pliskova will face Swiss player Jil Teichmann in the other semi-final after her last-eight opponent Paula Badosa retired from the match.

Czech Pliskova took a tight first set 7-5 but Spaniard Badosa called time after two games in the second set due a right shoulder injury.

Teichmann, who is a wildcard at the tournament, eased to a 6-3 6-2 win over compatriot Belinda Bencic.

In the men’s tournament, Russian top seed Daniil Medvedev crushed Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-1 to set up a semi-final meeting with compatriot Andrey Rublev.

Fourth seed Rublev progressed after defeating Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-2 3-6 6-3.

A repeat of the French Open semi-final is in store as Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Alexander Zverev and world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas face each other once again.

German Zverev easily overcome Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-1 6-3, while Greek Tsitsipas needed three sets to defeat Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime 6-2 5-7 6-1 after dropping two match points in the second set.

Tokyo Paralympics: Sarah Storey aims to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian

In the 29 years since she made her Paralympic debut, Sarah Storey has been there, done that and got the medal collection to show for it.

With 14 Paralympic golds to her name already, the first five from swimming before her switch to cycling, she is Britain’s most successful female Paralympian – yet more history beckons.

Win her three events at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games – the C5 individual pursuit, C5 time trial and C4-5 road race – and she will surpass swimmer Mike Kenny’s record of 16 titles, making her the nation’s outright most successful Paralympic athlete.

Not bad for someone who, after joining her first swimming club at the tender age of 10, was told she had “started training too late to be any good at anything”.

“I think [the record] would just be something where I don’t know if I would quite believe it. I’m just focusing on each race, one at a time,” Storey, 43, told BBC Sport.

“To make eight Games is a huge honour and to be in with a chance of this target is another huge opportunity. I’m excited to see if I can try and do it.”

But it will be a very different scenario in which Storey, who made her Paralympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, will be trying to make that history.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has meant training has been very different in the 18-month lead up to the Games, but Storey remains as “confident as anyone could be” of retaining her titles from Rio.

Restrictions mean spectators are not permitted at the Tokyo Paralympics – which start on 24 August – so there will be no trip to Japan for Storey’s children, eight-year-old Louisa and three-year-old Charlie.

Louisa and Charlie, as well as their dad and Storey’s husband, Barney, are almost a constant presence at her races, in non-pandemic times at least. But Tokyo will be different, and that’s something of which Storey is all too aware.

“It’s the first Games my parents haven’t been to, so it’s not a thing to be taken lightly,” she said.

“It is a huge undertaking to do this by yourself, when you’re used to having that support around, but I’ve got big mental strength, I’m going to be calling on that every day no doubt, I’m expecting it to be tough.

“I’m prepared, the kids have been preparing me, they’ve been drawing me things and we’ve been talking about it, they know I’ll be away for 22 days. Whether they can picture what 22 days looks like, I’m not sure.

“It’s going to be hard, but it’s just the way it is and I can’t change it.”

Bellator 265: Cheick Kongo claims dramatic submission to win heavyweight thriller

France’s Cheick Kongo dramatically beat Russian Sergei Kharitonov to win the battle of the heavyweight veterans in the main event of Bellator 265.

Kongo, 46, defeated Kharitonov, 41, via submission in the final second of round two at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In the co-main event, home favourite Logan Storley scored a split-decision win against welterweight Dante Schiro.

Kongo rallies late

When the bout started, Kharitonov immediately forced a tentative Kongo to retreat towards the fence as he stalked the Frenchman around the cage throughout the opening round.

‘The Paratrooper’ briefly dropped Kongo with a straight shot and had him in trouble in the closing seconds of the round as the 46-year-old showed signs of distress early on.

Kongo started to fire back with shots of his own in round two, but Kharitonov kept the pressure on as he stuffed Kongo’s takedown attempts and punished him with heavy shots to the head and body.

But, after finding himself on the receiving end for a round and a half, Kongo suddenly exploded into life mid-way through the second round as he dramatically turned the bout in his favour.

Kongo hammered Kharitonov with heavy strikes, then took him powerfully to the canvas.

Then, with Kharitonov trapped and unable to escape, the Frenchman poured on the pressure with ground strikes before taking the Russian’s back and locking up a rear-naked choke which forced the Russian to tap with one second left in the round.

The victory – the 31st of Kongo’s 44-fight MMA career – saw him return to the win column after he was defeated by Tim Johnson in the main event in his native Paris last October.

Storley grinds out win

Logan Storley
Storley improved his career record to 12-1

In the co-main event of the evening, South Dakota’s Storley bounced back from his first career defeat to score a split-decision victory in his home state.

Number-five-ranked welterweight contender Storley lost a split decision to Yaroslav Amosov last November before the Ukrainian moved on to capture the Bellator welterweight title.

But the 28-year-old American returned to winning ways as he outwrestled debutant Schiro through the first two rounds to help secure scores of 29-28 on two of the three judges’ scorecards. The other scorecard scored the fight 29-28 to Schiro.

Despite improving his career record to 12-1, Storley admitted he was “embarrassed” with his performance, but made no secret of his desire to face world champion Amosov again.

“I want Amosov, but I don’t [think I’ve] got much of an argument after a performance like that. But I know I can take him into deep waters,” he said.

“I think I’m better than him, I respect him. I didn’t show it in there tonight. But that’s what I want. I want to be world champ.”

Golm scores buzzer-beater TKO

Brazilian heavyweight Golm made a victorious start to life inside the Bellator cage as he finished short-notice debutant Billy Swanson in the closing seconds of the opening round.

Golm, a former UFC heavyweight who earned a Bellator contract after claiming back-to-back wins after his UFC release, looked the bigger, stronger, better conditioned fighter in their main card bout.

The 28-year-old American Top Team-trained fighter spent much of the round forcing his man against the cage. Then, as the 10-second clapper sounded in the closing seconds of the round, he unloaded a barrage of punches that dropped Swanson and forced the TKO stoppage at the 4:57 mark.

The victory improved Golm’s career record to 9-3, and extended his post-UFC win streak to three fights.

He also issued a challenge after his win as he called out unbeaten 6ft 8in contender Steve Mowry.

Lugo targets bantamweight Grand Prix

In the opening bout of the night, undefeated prospect Lugo became the first fighter to finish Keith Lee as he scored a first-round technical submission victory in their 140lb contract weight match-up.

Lugo came close to locking up a D’Arce choke earlier the round as he chased a submission finish against Lee, the younger brother of UFC welterweight Kevin Lee.

But the unbeaten 25-year-old would not be denied as he kept on the pressure and locked up a tight rear-naked choke in the final seconds of the round. Lee refused to tap and was rendered unconscious as the bell sounded.

Lugo’s impressive finish improved his record to 7-0, with four of those wins coming inside the Bellator cage.

After his victory, Lugo said he hoped his performance was good enough to earn him a spot in a potential Bellator bantamweight Grand Prix tournament.

He even revealed his ideal first-round opponent – reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis.

“Sergio, come on. Let’s get the belt. Imagine me, 7-0, winning a belt,” he said, before explaining that he wants to emulate the success of newly crowned featherweight champion AJ McKee, who recently won the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix by defeating champion Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire.

However, Lugo said he would prefer his route through the tournament to look slightly different.

“I’m gonna do the opposite of AJ McKee,” he explained.

“AJ McKee won the tournament [and] got the belt at the end.

“I’ll get the belt in the beginning and defend it through the tournament.”