There are daunting expectations of the global climate change summit beginning this weekend in Glasgow, partly because its predecessors have fallen short of coming to grips with the social, economic and humanitarian threats posed by global warming . The goal of the 13-day United Nations event, also known as COP26, is to “bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement [of 2015]”. That is an admission the world is falling behind in the race to prevent a catastrophe. Even if all countries meet their targets to reduce emissions by 2030, the planet will still warm by at least 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century, according to a UN Environment Programme report. This is almost twice the internationally agreed target of 1.5 degrees to avert catastrophe, or at least well under 2 degrees. While global targets for net-zero emissions by mid-century could cut another 0.5 degree off global warming – a big improvement – temperatures would still rise 2.2 degrees this century. As a result there is pressure on big polluters such as China, the United States and India to set tougher targets, and on the rich world to do more to help poor countries. One measure of how the world is responding to the challenge is the performance of rich countries in meeting their commitments to compensate poor nations for the development costs of forsaking cheaper but emissions-heavy fossil fuels. They promised in 2009 to channel US$100 billion a year to less wealthy countries by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. After still falling short by US$20 billion in 2019, they will not reach the target until 2023, according to the Climate Finance Delivery Plan to be submitted to the summit. Climate finance will be central to the success or failure of the summit, with China’s environment vice-minister Ye Min saying the biggest obstacle to negotiations had been the disappointment of developing nations with progress on finance and climate change adaptation. Hopefully, developed nations will reach a deal to offer more help. There is a need for global leadership. One positive sign is that climate change is seen as one important area in which China and the US can improve tense relations.