Prior to the conclusion of negotiations, COP26 was hailed as the most significant climate conference in history, with delegates from close to 200 countries and NGO observer organisations in attendance. The Summit set out with one core aim; to keep the 2015 Paris Agreement warming target of 1.5°C alive.
COP26 began with emotive and passionate speeches, matching the gravity of the conference. Urging world leaders to be more ambitious, COP26 President Alok Sharma warned that what “Paris promised, Glasgow must deliver”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson looked towards future generations and the planet they may inherit – “If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”.
After two weeks of intense negotiations, a global climate deal was struck on Saturday 13 November known as The Glasgow Climate Pact. So far, there have been varying responses to the deal and, while it’s clear that it won’t solve the climate crisis on its own, it has taken us one step closer.
Several key outcomes have highlighted some real progress towards climate action. The protection and restoration of nature, significantly with the pledge from more than 100 countries to reverse deforestation by 2030, has marked a shift from degeneration to regeneration.
Another success, thanks to pressure from the most vulnerable countries, was the introduction of the yearly ‘ratchet’ system intended to force continual escalation of climate action by requiring states to present enhanced emission reduction plans in time for COP27 in Egypt, 2022.
However, even successes that seemed difficult to imagine only a few years ago still fall short of where we need to be to guarantee a 1.5°C pathway and support the most vulnerable nations to cope with loss and damage because of climate change.
These shortfalls, disappointments and frustrations around many areas will put huge pressure on COP27 next year in Egypt.
The pressure now builds on organisations to take up where the politics failed to deliver and, as always, we believe brands, institutions and organisations will be leaders.
For us and others like us, we need to continue to step up to fill these shortfalls by accelerating our net zero ambitions.
The end of Fossil fuels? Not quite.
Until COP26, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have never been explicitly mentioned in 26 years of treaties and decisions at UN climate talks, despite coal being one of the main causes of global warming. This is why the agreement between 20 countries at COP26 to stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects, including oil and natural gas, is a significant step. Could it represent a turning point, signifying not just the end of coal, but all fossil fuels? Maybe, but there is a lot more to be done.
The final climate pact, confirmed after intense last-minute discussions in Glasgow, recognised the need for dramatic cuts in carbon emissions but put off the commitments needed to achieve them until next year. Also, in a dramatic last-minute change, India and China significantly diluted the promises made on fossil fuels. Changing terminology to ensure the pact calls for the “phase-down of unabated coal” rather than the “phase-out of coal”. Prompting Alok Sharma to admit he was “deeply sorry” during the final minutes of negotiations.
Based on the goals countries have set out at the Summit, research conducted by Climate Action Tracker suggests temperature rises will top 2.4°C by the end of this century. Crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.
The last-minute agreements did, however, represent enough progress to encourage an emotional Alok Sharma to say that it kept alive the hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C
Business must keep 1.5°C alive.
We have seen global leaders unite, now it is time for them to deliver transformational change. To enact promises made at COP26 and crucially, to put in place further policies to redirect our warming trajectory. As has been evidenced during the Summit, countries can move the dial on climate change, but we know that businesses can move it at speed, and some are already.
A 1.5°C pathway is still technically achievable. But such a pathway would require radical emissions reductions – starting now. Global emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030, and to zero by 2050.
Ultimately, future generations will have been expecting COP26 to put in place the diplomatic and regulatory infrastructure to tackle one of the greatest threats to society. While some progress will have been made, it is likely that many will be coming away with as many questions as there have been answers.
But the impasse must be challenged. This is more than a matter of political hypocrisy. We all have an opportunity within business to reassure young people that we are doing our part to tackle climate change in a way that is effective and transparent.
COP26 has seen business and finance at the table for the first time
The British Chambers of Commerce tells us nine in 10 small companies are not even measuring their carbon emissions, while only one in seven have set reduction targets. Given SMEs make up 99% of UK businesses, they will play a crucial role in achieving a net zero economy.
The UK’s 2050 net zero target will only be achieved if all businesses commit to reducing their carbon emissions. For many businesses, especially SMEs, this represents a significant challenge, and they must be supported to access the right information and tools to give them the confidence to commit to going net zero.
The time is now to set Net Zero targets
The time is now for every person, organisation and authority to take decisive actions that will take back our climate. We appeal to businesses in every sector to join us in setting a net zero target. No matter what stage in your net zero journey you are on, from committing to a target to creating the action plan needed to get there, we’re here to support you.
To prevent more than 1.5oC of heating means cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 7% every year: faster than they fell in 2020, at the height of a global lockdown. However, at Planet Mark, we know this is more than possible. On average, Planet Mark certified businesses make a 12% cut in absolute carbon emissions per year, 16% carbon saving per employee per year through reductions in energy, waste, water, travel and procurement.
Our Zero Carbon Tour, and involvement at COP26 saw organisations rally around net zero, setting their own credible net zero carbon targets, in line with The Race to Zero’s rigorous minimum criteria. We have seen, first-hand, the value of collaborative and publicly visible net zero commitments.
Achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels requires a whole economic transition. The Mark Carney-led coalition of international financial companies has seen more than 450 financial firms, from 45 countries, responsible for more than $130 trillion in financial assets commit to aligning their operations and financing with achieving 1.5C. This will have a ripple effect across global business, with an expectancy on organisations to have aligned with a net zero target.
At Planet Mark, we have been helping organisations radically reduce carbon emissions since 2013, pre- regulation and pre-legislation. We will help you create a trajectory to net zero and provide the support needed to dissect the data, track progress and engage your employees in the journey.
What we do now will shape our present and our future, for our world and our civilisation. It is in the balance but crucially, it is in our hands.
Join our community, commit to net zero. And keep 1.5 alive.