Below please find key take-outs from our September 30th panel featuring Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson for COP26; Amber Rudd, Senior Advisor at Teneo, Former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement; and Duncan Burt, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director for COP26 at National Grid.
- With one month to go until the UK hosts the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, a number of questions remain over what will be achievable; what success will look like; and where both governments and businesses will be called upon to do their part. Speaking about the UK Government’s priorities for COP26, Allegra Stratton summed up the commitments they are seeking as being for clear action on “coal; cars; cash; and trees”. The whole panel stressed that COP conferences are long and intricate process, with numerous tracks in operation throughout the two weeks of negotiations, but if progress is achieved on the following four priorities then we will see real tangible effects very soon:
- Coal – seeking commitments from developed nations to phase out coal by 2030 and developing nations by 2040
- Cars – the ask is for nations to commit to phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. The UK has already committed to do so by 2030, but there is a recognition that many nations are not as far along as we are.
- Cash – meeting, and even exceeding, the commitment for $100bn in climate aid to support developing countries in cutting their carbon emissions, minimising the impact of climate change and adapting their economies to deal with its impact.
- Trees – commitment to reverse deforestation by 2030.
- It is clear there has been a considerable amount of progress over the last few years towards net zero, and the global situation and political context is dramatically different compared to the Paris talks six years ago. All of the panel agreed that global action has increased, with nations like South Africa recently making substantial commitments to reduce emissions, but stressed that further Nationally Determined Contributions were essential to the success of COP26 and to meeting reduction targets. Amber Rudd and Duncan Burt also said the reaction of China will be crucial achieving a genuinely global response. It was also noted that other geopolitical concerns including the global distribution of COVID vaccines could cause problems for the UK Government in securing commitments from developing nations.
- On the running of the conference, it was noted that the Government is expected to publish more information on the operation of the Green Zone in the coming days, and that media outlets including the BBC have issued details of their coverage of the event. The question of major and disruptive protests in Glasgow was also raised. Though all panel agreed that there will certainly be significant protests throughout the conference, Allegra Stratton noted that COP26 President Designate Alok Sharma has been keen to stress that this has to be an inclusive process. COP26 is looking to make achievements on a global scale and we have to make sure that everyone feels their voice has been heard.
- Though the panel was optimistic about the prospect for success at the conference, stressing that the improvement of technology is paving the way for significant change, it was noted that COP26 needed to be viewed as the next rachet in progress in global change. While we do have time to achieve the commitments that have been laid before the global community, the panel discussed how COP26 will give us a sense of whether the 1.5 degree target is still alive and still in sight. For it to be a reality, we need to see proper recruitment to the cause and genuine international momentum achieved at COP.
- For businesses, the UK Government is engaged in a huge push to drive widespread participation in the net zero agenda, and it is clear that businesses will have dramatically increased role in this COP, compared to Paris. Amber Rudd stressed the Government will be looking for major commitments from businesses in terms of money, policy changes, and genuine collaboration that can be directed to global action. Though the COP26 conference was described as “the biggest trade fair going”, Allegra Stratton stressed that there is still a huge amount that businesses can do to participate in the agenda, even if they are not attending in person. She stressed that COP26 is only the beginning and that concerted action from businesses is essential to achieving success. It was noted that there will be a huge number of parallel events and conferences taking place across Glasgow, and that these can also provide effective platforms for businesses to engage with the process of COP.
- Finally, noting the recent comments from Mark Carney that COP “has to succeed”, the panel highlighted that the net zero agenda has unquestionably hit the mainstream in terms of business planning and investment and Allegra Stratton concluded that we know we have the clear evidence of the problem and we have the solutions to deal with it – so we now have to get on with it.