Countdown to COP26

By Devi Santosh

This week has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity around carbon reduction commitments, as outlined in our political blog, and also a combination of carrot and stick messages from global organisations who are looking at corporate environmental behaviour.
 
On the political side, we’ve seen that diplomacy can move some mountains (even if greater mountains still remain for the COP26 conference itself). Small steps have boosted hopes that COP26 can deliver the commitments needed.
 
We’ve also seen COP26 sharing inspiring stories of climate change projects to showcase what a net zero future could achieve.
 
The European Central Bank has also publishing its climate stress test that sets out the cost of climate change vs the cost of the green transition – drawing the conclusion that doing nothing will cost considerably more than transitioning to a net zero future.
 
So, we have seen some important progress this week, but we have a long way to go. Earlier this week the UN’s Synthesis Report into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) was released. The NDCs are submitted as part of the Paris Agreement, providing an up-to-date assessment of all 191 parties to the Agreement on intended climate action prior to the COP26. According to the report, nations must redouble planned climate targets if the world is to meet the minimal threshold of the Paris Agreement, and warned that while emissions are being reduced, the pace of progress is falling behind required rates.  
 
This week also witnessed a group of 18 celebrities including Billie Eillish, Joaquin Phoenix, Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais sending a letter to the Rt.Hon. Alok Sharma, president of COP26, demanding that the role of animal agriculture is included in the discussions at COP. The letter was sent in support of #TheCowIntheRoom, a campaign created by Humane Society International (HSI), and said that the animal farming industry is the second-biggest source of damaging emissions. 
 
And finally, a 16-year-old environmental campaigner is getting noticed for cycling to the summit. Unable to afford the train fare and refusing to leave a carbon trail by flying, Jessie Stevens has decided to cycle 570 miles to Glasgow. The teenager from South Devon, wants to attend the climate conference to bring youth representation to a conversation often dominated by older voices. Her aim is to create a joyful, positive ride based on reinforcing the need for sustainable transport and climate action from our leaders.  
 
With just six-weeks to go the noise and expectations for COP26 are rising. For corporates so are the stakes for not acting. The Competition and Markets Authority has warned businesses that from next year it will start reviewing green claims made by business. While the focus is now on COP26, the flurry of activity is only going to intensify after COP26 when having a plan, implementing it and delivering impact will become the focus for the entire corporate word.