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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow is less than 20 days away, and diplomats have entered a crucial period when expectations are raised or lowered to guard against any blowback that might come from a particular outcome.

Driving the news: Officials in the U.S. and abroad are sending clear signals that the odds that COP26 will meet some of its most important goals are diminishing, for a variety of reasons both macro and micro in scale.

The latest: U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry raised eyebrows in an AP interview published Thursday when he said there will be "gaps" between the emissions pledges secured at COP26 and the cuts needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious temperature target.

  • This target would limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels by 2100 — a threshold for avoiding some of the greatest harms.
  • But meeting it would require a 45% global cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 — a staggering turnabout from current trends

What they're saying: “It would be wonderful if everybody came and everybody hit the 1.5 degrees mark now,” Kerry told the AP. “That would be terrific. But some countries just don’t have the energy mix yet that allows them to do that.” It's one of several such warnings he's provided recently.

  • Kerry also blamed the Democrats' failure to pass robust climate legislation for slowing momentum and hurting U.S. credibility going into Glasgow.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said the president's climate agenda does not start or finish with COP26 and played down the ramifications for the summit of climate legislation.

Meanwhile... UN officials and UK leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have also been saying that some of the summit’s goals are in doubt. Johnson recently estimated there's a 60% chance of meeting a promised $100 billion annual commitment from industrialized countries to help developing nations cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.

Yes, but: Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying island nation, told Axios there is still momentum heading into Glasgow, "with positions still evolving."

  • "The RMI and our close partners across vulnerable regions remain deeply committed to seeing 1.5-[degree] aligned plans... If there are gaps, then we need to address those head on," she said.

Be smart: Getting every nation to agree on a slate of policies is tough enough in the best of times. But there has never been a COP held amid the level of geopolitical strife and disruption present today, one veteran of international climate negotiations dating back to the 1990s tells Axios.

  • The response to COVID-19 widened the gap between rich and poor nations and generated distrust.
  • There’s also a deepening energy crisis, and hostility between the U.S. and China, the top two greenhouse gas emitters.
  • These geopolitical factors alone argue against major breakthroughs at COP26, the source said, adding there's also a lack of clear deliverables to guide diplomats toward when entering the talks.
  • In Paris in 2015, for example, there was the Paris Agreement text for leaders to flesh out.

What we’re watching: New emissions reduction commitments and climate finance pledges just ahead of the summit.

Go deeper

Nov 29, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Fall is trending warmer in Minneapolis

Expand chart
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Axios Visuals

This year's warm fall was not just a one-off. Autumn in Minnesota is getting warmer.

The details: The number of days with above-average temperatures in fall has been creeping up for the past 50 years in Minneapolis, according to NOAA data analyzed by climate science research group Climate Central.

Biden administration makes first move on data privacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is launching its first big effort on privacy policy by looking at how data privacy issues affect civil rights.

Why it matters: An administration perspective on privacy policy could be key in developing a long-awaited national privacy law by putting the White House stamp on how to regulate privacy.

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australia Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.

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