World leaders attending crunch climate talks at the Conference of Parties meeting in Glasgow - known as COP26 - have heard stark speeches on the environmental threat facing humanity.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed to melting glaciers, relentless extreme weather events, sea level rise and overheating oceans, warning: "We are digging our own graves."

He said while recent climate action announcements might give the impression the world was on track to turn things around, "this is an illusion" and that failure to act would be a death sentence for vulnerable countries.

"On behalf of this and future generations, I urge you: Choose ambition. Choose solidarity. Choose to safeguard our future and save humanity," he added.

Tomorrow, more than 100 world leaders will sign up to a landmark agreement to protect and restore the Earth's forests, the UK government has said.

Leaders covering 85% of the world's forests will commit to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.

Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the historic COP26 climate summit by warning world leaders that they faced a damning verdict from future generations unless they act decisively.

"The anger and the impatience of the world will be uncontainable, unless we make this COP26 in Glasgow the moment when we get real about climate change, and we can get real on coal, cars, cash and trees," he said in his keynote speech.

He said COP26 must mark the beginning of the end of climate change.

More than 120 world leaders are in Glasgow in a "last, best hope" to tackle the climate crisis and avert a looming global disaster.

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There is also pressure on developed countries to deliver a long-promised €86 billion a year - and more - in climate finance to help poorer nations develop cleanly and deal with the inevitable impacts of a warming planet.

President Xi Jinping of China, by far the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, said in a written statement that developed countries should not only do more but also support developing countries to do better.

China was not among the countries who brought forward new targets to tackle global warming, including India, which announced it would cut emissions to net zero by 2070.

It is significantly later than a global goal to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, which scientists say is necessary to avoid temperature rises above 1.5C and the worst impacts of climate change, and later than other countries, including China, which has said it will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking at the summit today, said Ireland spends around €93 million on climate finance for developing countries and Government would seek to double that to at least €225m by 2025.

Mr Martin, who will deliver his address tomorrow, also spoke to US President Joe Biden in Glasgow about the Good Friday Agreement.

Joe Biden and Micheál Martin at the COP26 summit today (pic: Twitter/MicheálMartinTD)

Addressing the opening ceremony, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley urged world leaders to "try harder" on climate change in a bid to avoid a "death sentence" for developing countries.

In a blistering speech, she pushed those in attendance while launching a veiled attack at those who chose not to come to Glasgow for the key talks, which include China's president Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin.


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US President Joe Biden used his speaking slot to call for Glasgow to "be the start of a decade of transformative action that preserves our planet and raises the quality of life for people everywhere".

Acknowledging that those who were responsible for much of the problems faced had an "overwhelming obligation" to nations which were not, he said: "We can do this, we just have to make a choice to do it. So, let's get to work."

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Antonio Guterres at COP26 today

Mr Biden pushed back against criticism that transforming economies to reduce greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuels will hurt jobs, arguing that "it's about jobs".

Electrifying transport, building solar panel and wind turbine networks "create good, paying union jobs for American workers".

Continuing down the same path is already causing economic damage, Mr Biden said.

"We're standing at an inflection point in world history," he said, describing the proliferation of wildfires, droughts and other climate-related disasters.

"Climate change is already ravaging the world. It's not hypothetical. It's destroying people's lives and livelihoods. God bless you all and may God save the planet."

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in a video message to the conference, echoed calls for leaders to take action. "If we fail to cope with this challenge, all the other problems will pale into insignificance."

Her son, Prince Charles, earlier urged the world to be on a "war-like footing" to tackle climate change, calling for a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector and the trillions at its disposal to achieve the needed fundamental economic transition.

In the first of what is expected to be a number of announcements on tackling issues from restoring land to cutting emission from coal power and cars, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said he was set to pledge €732 million for land restoration in Africa.

Outside the summit, Greta Thunberg warned change would not come from the COP26 conference as she criticised the "blah blah blah" of world leaders at the global gathering.

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a protest near the COP26 venue tonight

Ms Thunberg was among those protesting near the COP26 venue at the SEC, calling for "real progress" to be made by governments to reduce carbon emissions.

Other youth activists sailed into Glasgow on Greenpeace vessel the Rainbow Warrior, downriver from the COP26 conference centre, to deliver a message to world leaders to stop failing on climate action.

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COP26 marks the "last, best hope to keep 1.5C in reach", summit president Alok Sharma said as he opened the meeting yesterday.

"If we act now and we act together, we can protect our precious planet," he said.

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The Glasgow gathering, which runs until 12 November, comes as an accelerating onslaught of extreme weather events across the world underscores the devastating impacts of climate change from 150 years of burning fossil fuels.

The current commitments of the signatories of the Paris agreement - if they were followed - would still lead to a "catastrophic" warming of 2.7 Celsius, according to the UN.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose countries are two of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, have not travelled to the COP26 summit.

Instead, it has been confirmed that China's leader will address the conference in the form of a written statement.

Additional reporting Conor Macauley