Essential Climate Reads for COP26

Some of FP’s best arguments on ways forward for the world.

By , an assistant editor at Foreign Policy.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, and U.S. President Joe Biden stand before speaking at the United Nations climate summit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, and U.S. President Joe Biden stand before speaking at the United Nations climate summit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, and U.S. President Joe Biden stand before speaking at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 2. Erin Schaff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

As the United Nations climate summit kicks off in Glasgow, Scotland, Foreign Policy has compiled a list of essential reads on the politics of climate action. The summit, known as COP26, will throw into sharp relief the divide that exists between developed and developing countries in the fight against climate change, Foreign Policy columnist Jason Bordoff argues. The world’s poorest will bear the worst consequences of the climate crisis, and, as Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Beba Cibralic argued last year, providing them with a way out will require serious measures—including, perhaps, climate reparations.

But Ketan Joshi has argued that there’s also good reason to be hopeful about the summit: Over the past two decades, climate action has forced the global coal industry to crumble, and COP26 will only intensify pressure on companies and countries to act. Also expected are heated discussions around nuclear technology, which may be required to secure a clean energy future, Ted Nordhaus recently argued. And, according to Foreign Policy columnist Adam Tooze, collaboration between the United States and the European Union—two powers with very different climate policies—will also be needed to make progress at the summit.

For more, listen to our Ones and Tooze guide to COP26, in which Tooze and Foreign Policy deputy editor Cameron Abadi discuss the diplomatic power of peer pressure at international climate conferences—and why solutions for the crisis might be within reach. “In most cases, the scale of the investment [needed] is large, but we’re not talking war time,” Tooze says. “We should think of this as a cost we should be making. What we’re making is a better, more efficient, cleaner world. So it’s really down to politics.”

As the United Nations climate summit kicks off in Glasgow, Scotland, Foreign Policy has compiled a list of essential reads on the politics of climate action. The summit, known as COP26, will throw into sharp relief the divide that exists between developed and developing countries in the fight against climate change, Foreign Policy columnist Jason Bordoff argues. The world’s poorest will bear the worst consequences of the climate crisis, and, as Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Beba Cibralic argued last year, providing them with a way out will require serious measures—including, perhaps, climate reparations.

But Ketan Joshi has argued that there’s also good reason to be hopeful about the summit: Over the past two decades, climate action has forced the global coal industry to crumble, and COP26 will only intensify pressure on companies and countries to act. Also expected are heated discussions around nuclear technology, which may be required to secure a clean energy future, Ted Nordhaus recently argued. And, according to Foreign Policy columnist Adam Tooze, collaboration between the United States and the European Union—two powers with very different climate policies—will also be needed to make progress at the summit.

For more, listen to our Ones and Tooze guide to COP26, in which Tooze and Foreign Policy deputy editor Cameron Abadi discuss the diplomatic power of peer pressure at international climate conferences—and why solutions for the crisis might be within reach. “In most cases, the scale of the investment [needed] is large, but we’re not talking war time,” Tooze says. “We should think of this as a cost we should be making. What we’re making is a better, more efficient, cleaner world. So it’s really down to politics.”


 

A Zimbabwean boy does his homework by candlelight in Harare, Zimbabwe, on June 26, 2019.
A Zimbabwean boy does his homework by candlelight in Harare, Zimbabwe, on June 26, 2019.

A Zimbabwean boy does his homework by candlelight in Harare, Zimbabwe, on June 26, 2019.JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP via Getty Images

1. The Developing World Needs Energy—and Lots of It

At COP26, leaders must find ways to allow much greater economic growth across large parts of the world, Jason Bordoff writes.


 

Demonstrators take part in a climate march in Bonn, Germany.
Demonstrators take part in a climate march in Bonn, Germany.

Demonstrators take part in a climate march in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 4, 2017.Sascha Schuermann/AFP via Getty Images

2. The End of Coal Is Coming Sooner Than You Think

Despair elides the progress made over the last two decades, Ketan Joshi argues.


 

3. The Case for Climate Reparations

The world’s poorest will bear the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Redirecting international resources to address entrenched inequalities provides a way out, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Beba Cibralic write.


 

The cooling tower at the Muelheim-Kaerlich nuclear power plant collapses during a controlled demolition near Koblenz, Germany.
The cooling tower at the Muelheim-Kaerlich nuclear power plant collapses during a controlled demolition near Koblenz, Germany.

The cooling tower at the Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear power plant collapses during a controlled demolition near Koblenz, Germany, on Aug. 9, 2019. The plant was shut down on Sept. 9, 1988. THOMAS FREY/dpa/AFP via Getty Images

4. In Global Energy Crisis, Anti-Nuclear Chickens Come Home to Roost

In virtually every country that has closed nuclear plants, clean electricity has been replaced with dirty power, Ted Nordhaus writes.


 

5. Present at the Creation of a Climate Alliance—or Climate Conflict

The United States and Europe are on the brink of decisions that could save the planet—or tear apart the West, Adam Tooze writes.


 

6. A Guide to the COP26 Climate Summit

On Foreign Policy’s economics podcast, Adam Tooze and Cameron Abadi tackle the diplomatic power of peer pressure at international climate conferences—and why solutions for the crisis might be within reach.

Chloe Hadavas is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @Hadavas

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