COP26 takeaways: what does it mean for you?
25,000 politicians, business leaders and activists descended on Glasgow to try and move forward action on Climate Change.
But beyond the elbow pumps and keynote speeches, the physical and metaphorical stumbles, the celebrity guests, and high-profile no-shows, what actually happened?
The overarching narrative post conference is that progress was made, but perhaps not enough. But there's definitely plenty to build on and plenty to learn from.
So what are the key take homes from COP26? And what impact could it have on you and your business?
Focus on incremental progress
Tackling the climate crisis can seem so unsurmountable that it’s tempting to just carry on and bury your head in the sand. But we can't flick a switch and turn back the clock, it's going to take incremental changes to make the difference. Deforestation, fossil fuels, renewables and the switch to electric all have different and complex challenges. But what they have in common is that incremental changes over time can bring real progress.
The new deal agreed at COP26 moved the world forward with a set of compromises. Compromises that experts agree will have a measurable impact and crucially form part of plans that countries have been asked to ‘revisit and strengthen’ by the end of next year. When hopefully some incremental progress will already have been made.
It’s a model that businesses can adopt when considering their sustainability strategies. You can’t become a carbon neutral B-Corp overnight, but by making small and sustainable changes you might get there in 5 years. And if all businesses start on this road, the collective difference will be huge.
Carbon is key
If a debate over ‘phasing down’ and ‘phasing out’ can bring a cabinet minister to tears, it must be a big deal. Much of the high-level discussion in Glasgow was, as expected, around fossil fuels. And while debate will continue over the success of these discussions progress was made, countries agreed to ‘phase down’ coal power and ‘phase out’ inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and as the head of Greenpeace international said ‘This is the way the world is going quickly.’
Momentum was already building around net zero before the conference and Rishi Sunak reiterated at COP26 that UK-listed companies would be required to have net-zero plans in place by 2023. So what does that mean for your business? It’s time to move from net-zero pledges to a firm and actionable net-zero plan.
Don’t reinvent the wheel – share it
We all need to take responsibility but it’s a collective challenge and learning lessons from others is key. Take Copenhagen for example, as a city it only has 2% residual waste. How has it made that change? They have a facility that uses a massive incinerator to burn waste that then produces heat and electricity and only emits clean air. It’s a model that cities across the world can look to and take inspiration from for their clean waste and energy strategies.
Cooperation and collective action at the highest level was shown in the announcement from US and China that they would boost their climate cooperation over the next decade. What exactly that means is open to debate but sharing agendas, responsibility and action can only be a positive thing.
On a global scale, governments can set agendas and frameworks but it’s on the ground that really matters. To make the transition to better practices businesses needs to share ideas and initiatives and come together on programmes and solutions.
Climate change can't be put in a box
Gone are the days when climate change was a single role or single committee responsibility, at COP26 there was a whole host of global representatives from agriculture to development, education to finance.
There was discussion around the circular economy, support for developing countries, and climate finance frameworks and a general consensus that sustainability and climate challenges can’t be tackled in silos. Whether it’s government, industry or business strategies, only a holistic approach will deliver real change.
Our region can lead the way
At a COP26 session hosted by The Good Business Festival, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram called for a decade of action and investment to follow COP26 as the North West aims to become the first net zero region by 2040. He said “I want the Liverpool City Region (LCR) to be at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, leading the charge towards net zero, and taking advantage of the myriad of jobs, investment and opportunities that it will provide,”
In the Mersey we have an incredible natural resource with energy and investment potential and the HyNet project is an innovative scheme that will replace methane with hydrogen in the region’s energy supply by 2035. The Liverpool City Region has the potential to be a pioneer in the green industrial revolution and sustainable approaches to living, travel and doing business.