As a first-time COP attendee, I was unsure of what to expect as I arrived in Glasgow. We are all conscious that if we are to tackle the climate crisis, genuine action needs to be taken now and I was keen to see real, tangible progress made. In reality, however, I was doubtful that the large number of high-level discussions would lead to pragmatic outcomes.
One important consideration coming from COP26 I believe is not to fall into a trap of discussing was it a success and have we agreed something actionable, but rather to start acting on discussions and promises, however small or big they are. As progress is made only one step at a time.
CGLN fellow and Professor of innovation and public policy at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego
“I’d say two things. First, there is no question that the signal of climate action has gone up. Governments have announced much bolder plans, at least judging by the top level goals. Business is out in force.
But the noise level may well have gone up higher, for it is really hard to sift fantasy from reality. Second, the idea that we will stop warming at 1.5 degrees is fantasy. There is too much inertia in the climate and industrial systems, and we have waited too long, to be talking meaningfully about that goal.
I get why everyone needs to pretend that’s the goal and nobody wants to be first skunk at the garden party. But I don’t see how the math adds up.”
My experience of the Conference is that I’m left inspired and actually empowered by what was happening outside of the high-level discussions. I was impressed both by the variety and sheer volume of events occurring in the Collaboration Zones, where countries and companies had set up pavilions to run their events in the margins of the official conference itself to both promote and better understand solutions to fight climate change and ensure the world is on track.
And I totally share the view of Julie Baddeley, CGLN Fellow and Chair of Chapter Zero, that “…as the world digests the outcomes from COP26, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the combined commitments of countries and sectoral coalitions, while a substantial step forward, are not enough to prevent catastrophic impacts.
It will be up to business to take the lead, through increased ambition, investment, and setting the pace for change. Our company stakeholders expect this leadership, and our communities demand it.”
Business has to step up yet the approach to tackling the climate crisis has to be changed. It must be driven by intergenerational engagement and by cross-sector collaboration too. Far too often we operate in siloes, working in parallel lanes to develop solutions, without considering the bigger picture. One key takeaway from our pandemic experience should be the deep interconnectivity of all parts of our society. To successfully decarbonise our society, we need genuine global collaboration that is cross-sector, cross-field and cross-party.
A systems-based approach is crucial, particularly within our supply chains. It is all well and good to use products and services which have a lesser carbon footprint at their usage stage, but if other aspects of the product development and delivery are carbon-heavy, we are essentially back to square one. The entire supply chains starting from sourcing and delivery of basic materials, everything is made of, have to be addressed and re-imagined. This new industrial revolution is impossible without massive movements of capital to support it.
The new pledges and alliances like GFANZ are an important part of the solution if they indeed would be working.
CGLN fellow and member of House of Lords
“Progress as always was too slow and too fragmented but COP26 had an important focus on finance, including how we ensure that climate risk is properly factored into the price of capital so that we stop misallocating it to activities that harm the planet, and instead reallocate it to those activities that can help save it.”
Financial regulators have to step up to the plate in this regard and there are encouraging signs that they may be willing to do so”.
It was encouraging to see so many young faces in those rooms and the amount of space provided for them to engage and interact. Intergenerational engagement is essential in our approach to tackling climate change. Young people bear no responsibility for the crisis, yet they will face its harshest consequences if the world fails to rapidly reverse rising trends.
Younger generations are set to see up to a seven-fold increase in adverse weather events during their lifetime compared to those born in the 1960s, and exposure to such extreme climate-related weather events increases the risk of forced migration and reduces access to education, employment and good nutrition.
The setting of climate targets is important – for example, the UK’s obligation to be net-zero by 2050 puts the UK on the right track to effectively mitigate against worsening effects of climate change. But even with a detailed roadmap of how to get from a to b, targets can often be missed, and it will be the leaders of tomorrow who will be left to pick up the pieces.
The creativity of young leaders is invaluable in finding innovative solutions to climate change, which is why the Clean Growth Leadership Network has launched its call for applications for those aged under 37 to join our Youth Advisory Council and lead the conversation on one of our nine key sectors.
The deadline to apply is December 1st – Find out more and apply today.
Overall I come out from COP with a constructive outlook as the focus has shifted from “why?” and “what?” to “how we are going to do it” and when we are together proactively looking for solutions, I believe we will find them.
CGLN Fellow and Chair of the Climate Group
We should be optimistic, even though the commitments from national governments at Glasgow fall short of what is required to meet the 1.5 degree imperative, because that is not the whole story.
First, important non-state actors – businesses and regional and city governments – are delivering ambitious emission reductions. Members of the Under 2 Coalition of regional governments convened by the Climate Group have set, and often exceeded, more ambitious targets than implied by national governments NDC’s: significant not least because the Coalition members represent over 50% of global GDP.
Second, experience shows that both businesses and governments who make commitments grow in confidence as they find that mitigation action is entirely compatible with a prosperous economy and become more ambitious over time.
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