Your Tuesday Briefing

We’re covering fierce calls for action at COP26 and taking stock of the pandemic as the world passes five million Covid-19 deaths.

President Biden attended the opening session of the COP26 conference in Glasgow on Monday.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

‘Digging our own graves’: Leaders tackle climate change at COP26

Amid rising seas, more extreme weather and rapidly changing ecosystems, the global climate summit in Glasgow opened on Monday with a series of desperate pleas for action.

“Climate change is already ravaging the world,” President Biden said in a speech at the summit, known as COP26, on Monday afternoon. Leaders from more than 120 nations gathered for the conference.

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, opened the conference with a blistering critique of the world’s failure to unite to address global warming.

“Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper,” he said. “We are digging our own graves.”

Objective: A key goal is to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. Some countries are far behind where they need to be, and China did not make strong commitments. The U.S. committed to cuts, but lawmakers there have not yet approved the necessary pathways.

The latest:

  • Russian and Chinese leaders were notable no-shows. President Xi Jinping of China was expected to issue a statement to the summit.

  • Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, said his country would significantly expand renewable energy sources and aim to be “net-zero” by 2070.

  • Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, criticized China as laggards on cutting emissions.

  • The 27 member states of the E.U. are working on some of the most significant emissions cuts.

  • Txai Suruí, an Indigenous activist from Brazil, drew attention to Amazon devastation: “The rivers are dying, and our plants don’t flower like they did before.”

A funeral in Barisha, Syria, in September. The global rate of reported deaths climbed over the past two weeks after trending downward. Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Global Covid-19 death toll passes 5 million

The coronavirus has been responsible for more than five million confirmed deaths around the world as of Monday, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

That equates to almost the entire population of Melbourne, Australia, or most of the nation of Singapore.

Experts say that five million is an undercount. Many countries are unable to accurately record the number of people who have died from Covid-19, including India and African nations. They have also questioned the veracity of data from other countries, like Russia.

“All of these estimates still rely on data being available, or someone going and collecting it before antibodies and local memories wane,” said one infectious disease expert in London, adding that the true toll is unlikely to be known for years.

The real number of people lost to Covid-19 could be as high as twice the reported figure, an epidemiologist in New York said.

Pace: Despite the Delta variant, confirmed deaths seem to have slowed slightly since the world reached four million deaths in early July — a sign of vaccine impact.

Details: The U.S. leads all other countries with more than 745,000 deaths confirmed. Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia follow, in that order.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Thailand reopened on Monday to fully vaccinated tourists arriving by air from 63 countries as it strives to revive its economy despite struggling to reduce Covid case numbers.

  • Some Australians were finally allowed to return home, and leave the country without needing to be granted an exemption, after the states of New South Wales and Victoria relaxed restrictions.

Supporters of T.L.P. marched toward Islamabad last month.Credit…Arif Ali/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A standoff in Pakistan ended by a secret deal

Pakistan averted a political showdown on Monday and reopened a key national highway after supporters of a militant Islamist group occupied it for days, following a secret pact between the government and the group.

For days, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, which Pakistan designates as a terrorist organization, faced off with the authorities, leaving four police officers dead and 114 officers wounded. The unrest paralyzed several cities in Punjab Province.

The country was reeling after a series of debilitating standoffs with Islamist hard-liners protesting perceived blasphemy. Such groups have been growing in power as a weak government struggles with economic troubles.

Demands: T.L.P. demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador over cartoons published in France that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. The group also wanted their leader to be released from jail, and terrorism charges to be dropped for members.

Results: The government did not disclose the terms publicly, but they were reported by local media. T.L.P. dropped its demand that Pakistan cut off diplomatic ties with France. The government agreed to release imprisoned T.L.P. members and not bring new charges against its leaders. It also agreed to lift its ban against the group.


The Texas legal team in front of the Supreme Court on Monday. The law being challenged effectively bans abortions in the state after six weeks. Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times
  • The U.S. Supreme Court hinted that it may allow a challenge to a major Texas abortion law. The fight could set the precedent for women’s abortion rights in the country.

  • A U.S. military jury condemned the torture of a terrorist by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks, and urged clemency.

  • Barclays said on Monday that its chief executive, James Staley, would step down amid an inquiry into his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

  • New Zealand held a contest for bird of the year. A bat won in an upset.

A Morning Read

Our photographer found mesmerizing patterns, like this one in Yekaterinburg, Russia.Credit…Frank Herfort/INSTITUTE

From 2014 to 2020, Frank Herfort visited more than 770 metro stations in 19 cities to capture the stunning grandeur of Soviet-era metro stations.


Surviving two pandemics in South Africa

South Africa has been under varying levels of lockdown since March 2020, and has had the highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Africa.

It is not the first time in recent memory that a pandemic has made South Africans face their collective mortality. In the early 2000s, South Africa was at the center of the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic. The coronavirus has turned our world upside down in less than two years, but H.I.V./AIDS shook South Africa’s foundation for more than a decade. H.I.V. became part of the South African psyche, as fresh graves mushroomed, just as they did again this year with the Covid pandemic.

Lessons from the earlier pandemic helped to inform South Africa’s fight against Covid-19. Many of the scientists who have led the Covid response were the same faces we saw trying to make sense of H.I.V./AIDS. It also primed society to more readily accept a science-based response. Misinformation is still common, but not as widespread as it was two decades ago, when the country’s health minister suggested that fruit and vegetables could be used to treat AIDS.

“With H.I.V., there was no political will,” said Sibongile Tshabalala, the chairwoman of a group which lobbied for access to H.I.V./AIDS drugs. She said that this time the government had worked hard to acquire Covid-19 vaccines, with limited but tangible success.

The pace at which vaccines have arrived has been reassuring. About 21 percent of South Africans and fewer than 6 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated — a slow rollout compared with some regions, but the Covid vaccines arrived faster than antiretroviral drugs did in Africa during the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic. — Lynsey Chutel


What to Cook

Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times

This crispy salmon with mixed seeds uses yogurt to caramelize a crust.

What to Read

With her debut essay collection, “My Body,” the model Emily Ratajkowski takes stock of what she’s gained and lost from selling her image.


Need help waking up? Try these alarm clocks.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Simple dwelling (three letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina

P.S. The Times’s DealBook summit this year will feature Tim Cook, Meghan Markle and more.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about why hundreds of unarmed drivers and passengers have died during traffic stops at the hands of police in recent years.

You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

Lynsey Chutel contributed reporting.

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