What can we expect from COP26 and what can Glasgow expect from us?  

By Claire Barraclough.

It is COP-eve – it’s been a long wait and expectations are high. All eyes are on Glasgow and the question is: can we now deliver action on the Net Zero commitments promised that the world needs to see?

We’re living in a climate emergency. The number of days passing 50 degrees has doubled in the past 40 years and extreme weather is our new reality. It’s still possible to tackle the worlds’ most urgent and complex global problem – but there needs to be urgent collaborative and coordinated action to get on the path to Net Zero in this critical decade.

COP watchouts could be China, coal and commitments. But if COP in Paris was in the form of a promise, COP26 in Glasgow is the moment for action and delivery.

Some COP firsts

  • Public private engagement This COP will be the first truly public private COP. The level of business and CEO engagement is expected to be unprecedented. Senior leaders aren’t just more informed about climate risks and opportunities but are really showing up. Climate leaders and their communication teams understand this is critical to all their stakeholders – finance, customers and their own people – part of their strategic agenda and competitive advantage.
  • A plan of action: On the back of Paris we saw real momentum with companies signing up to Net Zero commitments. The question for business now is what is the Net Zero plan? What are the milestones and metrics to deliver on it? With more climate transparency we’re seeing companies and their boards assessed on meeting these goals by shareholders, benchmarks and in executive pay.
  • Collaboration between competitors: In conversation with CEOs across sectors and especially in the carbon intensive industries there’s the realisation that no one company or market can do this alone. For the first time we’re seeing competitors coming together to look at innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions across their entire value chains. Scope 3 emissions are particularly challenging for some industries so shared knowledge and practical tools to get to 1.5 degrees are critical. FMCGs can’t reach their targets without green transport and industry so they need to care about shipping, aviation and trucking and the built environment which are responsible globally for 30% of current carbon emissions. CEOs are now experts in sustainable fuels, hydrogen and renewable feedstock to power clean energy.
  • Unlocking finance: At COP we can expect conversations about a global taxonomy to reduce carbon emissions and incentivise the market for green products. We’ve seen what was possible with wind, solar and electric cars with tax credits. This needs to be expanded to other industries so we can enable green transport and industry. Climate reporting is now mainstream in financial accounts while increased transparency makes it even easier for banks to step in and finance new and innovative solutions. Through customer demand we’re seeing even more green pension / mortgage options so we can have more say on our money making a difference.
  • Impact: Companies that are serious about climate are setting ambitious targets and delivering on them. They understand the interconnectivity between their company and the macro environment. They feel accountable for this on their watch and believe that climate change is part of the just transition creating the new climate economy with new jobs and wellbeing for their communities and people.
  • The need for policy intervention: Bold companies delivering on their action plans are bringing governments with them. We can expect even more public private engagement as we build the post Glasgow ‘architecture’ of how to operationalise the public private work in the new era of business engaging with Government. Expect companies to be calling on policymakers to go further and faster at COP26 and beyond.

Businesses are so engaged in climate discussions that Glasgow must be about action and implementation. It’s time to deliver on the promises.

I’ll be reporting from COP with key takeouts from weeks 1 and 2. To learn more about the COP26 programme. https://ukcop26.org.

Claire Barraclough, specialist in sustainability and corporate communications.

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