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Pope Francis. Photo by Stefano Spaziani/Archivio Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Pope Francis is no longer planning to attend the critical United Nations climate summit that begins in three weeks in Glasgow, Scotland, the Vatican announced Friday.

Why it matters: Francis' attendance, given his global stature, could have helped provide momentum to what are expected to be difficult talks aimed at spurring more aggressive steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Emissions and finance pledges under the Paris climate agreement are non-binding and at each nation's discretion, so diplomacy and persuasion are important to securing stronger action.

Driving the news: The Vatican's delegation will be lead by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, according to Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office.

What we're watching: The rest of the RSVP list for the heads of state portion that occurs early in the two-week summit that starts Oct. 31.

  • President Biden is slated to attend along with many other leaders, but plans by heads of some key nations remain unclear.
  • In particular, officials in China — the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter — have not said whether President Xi Jinping will go.

The big picture: The summit, known as COP26, comes as global emissions are nowhere close to beginning the steep downward path needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

  • The agreement calls for limiting warming to "well below" 2°C compared to preindustrial levels, and ideally limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.
  • Those are benchmarks for avoiding some of the worst harms and risks from climate change beyond the damaging effects already taking hold and sure to worsen.

Go deeper

The most startling facts in 2021 climate report

An unsettling part of the human condition today is that the year you were born will most likely be the coolest year of your life, globally speaking.

By the numbers: Newly released climate data from NOAA, NASA and Berkeley Earth show that the planet has had an unbroken streak of 45 years of warmer than average temperatures.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden's latest Fed pick signals brewing climate battles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's plan to tap Sarah Bloom Raskin as top banking regulator at the Federal Reserve could intensify the central bank's already growing focus on climate change.

Catch up fast: The news broke Thursday night that Biden will nominate Raskin, a Duke University law professor, for the powerful role of vice chair for supervision.

2 hours ago - World

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.