Code Red: Countdown to COP26

We’re encouraging journalists to report on science, justice, and solutions in the lead up to one of the most important diplomatic events in history.

COP26, the next round of climate talks and follow-up to the Paris Agreement that was signed in 2015, is set to start October 31 in Glasgow, Scotland. This is not just another international meeting, but one of the most important diplomatic gatherings in history. With so much at stake, we encourage newsrooms to start coverage of the summit now. Be sure to read our new COP26 explainer for background, reporting tips and stories ideas. 

Audiences need to know that the world’s scientists say it’s now or never for governments to reach an agreement for reining in global temperature rise. Either world leaders will reach an agreement to limit future global warming to a survivable amount, or they won’t. The science is clear: it’s now or never. 

So, what do our readers, viewers, and listeners need to know? At Covering Climate Now, we’re proposing a single organizing question for journalists’ coverage beginning now and extending through the COP26 summit: What’s at stake?

The question is purposefully expansive. If we answer it in the run-up to the summit, our audiences will be equipped to understand the magnitude of COP26. 

Ahead of the summit, CCNow will offer press briefings, frequent commentary, background resources, and story recommendations, culminating in our next joint coverage week, October 31 to November 6, the first (and quieter) week of COP26. Through all of this, we’re encouraging journalists to focus on this simple but essential question: “What’s at stake?”

We recommend framing your coverage around these three themes:

  • The most important number at COP26. Global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) risks irreversible humanitarian and ecological catastrophe, the IPCC said; 2 degrees C invites unimaginable suffering. We’re at 1.1 degrees C now, making rapid change essential. 
  • Climate justice is both imperative and self-interested. The rich have emitted vastly more heat-trapping gases than the poor, but the poor suffer most from the impacts. Poor countries are demanding that the rich honor their Paris Agreement promise to pay $100 billion a year in climate aid. The 1.5 C target is unreachable without that aid. 
  • Solutions abound—but so do political barriers. The technologies necessary to slash emissions in half by 2030 and keep the world on track for 1.5 C exist. But only the most powerful global actors can implement these solutions at the speed and scale needed. Powerful interests—especially in the US, China, Russia, and Brazil—stand in the way. Unrelenting accountability is key. 

The three themes should then provide a strong foundation for a range of creative reporting and storytelling. Don’t forget: Although COP26 is a global summit, there are local impacts, no matter where you live—meaning this is a story for every newsroom on the planet, as CCNow’s Andrew McCormick writes about here. 

Resources for Journalists

Explainer: How to Cover Cop26. One of history’s most important diplomatic meetings takes place this November. Journalists have to get it right and help audiences understand what’s at stake with robust, insightful coverage. Read it now.

Press Briefing: Cop26 Goals and Stories to Tell. On October 28, CCNow and Climate Central will host a second press briefing to help journalists understand what a successful summit in Glasgow will look like. Learn more and RSVP here

Press Conference. On October 26, we’ll host a press conference with COP26 President Alok Sharma. Learn more and RSVP here.

Press Conference. On October 21, we held a press conference with UN Secretary General António Guterres. Read key takeaways, watch video and see the event transcript here.

Press Briefing: Countdown to COP26: What’s at Stake? In mid-September we held a press briefing for journalists who plan to cover COP26 in person or remotely via the UN-provided video links. Watch the briefing, see reporting tips, and read key takeaways from our team of panelists. Check it out.

Joint week of coverage October 31 to November 6. During the first week of the COP26 summit, CCNow will hold one of its signature collaborative journalism efforts. Learn more.