COP26 goals and the role of collaboration

Matt Toombs, Director of Campaigns and Engagement for the COP26 Unit in Cabinet Office, joined us in June, 18 weeks out from the COP26 summit, for a roundtable with Sustainability Directors across the WIG membership. Matt talked us through the four key COP26 goals, progress so far, and where further cross-sector collaboration is crucial to stay on target. Our members shared valuable insights from their experiences and identified where impactful action could be taken.

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Matt stressed that the 2020s are the years that count when it comes to climate action, and science shows that we are moving faster towards a 1.5 degree rise in average global temperature than we thought in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was negotiated at COP21.

The G7 summit made good progress towards this goal; all members are fully committed to Net Zero by 2050, with science-based targets in place for 2030, however we are still a way off where we need to be. 70% of global GDP is now covered by Net Zero targets, but the remaining 30% including countries such as Australia are not committed; and some major emitters including China do not have ambitious interim 2030 targets. 

Matt highlighted crucial sectoral changes that must be prioritised to keep 1.5 degrees within reach: a faster phasing out of coal, curtailing deforestation, and moving to zero emissions vehicles.

You can catch up on recent WIG events on decarbonisation and energy transition in the resource library.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats 

Adaptation is a critical element of the Paris agreement, Matt warned that some areas of the world are disproportionately affected and need funding to build resilient infrastructure. The Race to Resilience will build on the successes of the Race to Zero, to drive industry commitments in this space. 

Our roundtable attendees noted that nature loss should be addressed with the same urgency as climate change, with greater alignment between these fundamentally interrelated issues. It was agreed that leveraging the green recovery to rebuild with nature and climate centre stage will be crucial.

If you missed our panel session with Baroness Brown, take a look at our quick recap.

3. Mobilise finance

Developed nations have committed to mobilising at least US$100 billion a year to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change, this is of course amplified by potentially trillions more in private finance. Work is now needed to deliver on these promises. While the World Bank has published a new climate change action plan, Matt flagged that more needs to be done via organisations such as the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mark Carney, the UK’s Finance Adviser for COP26, has called on all major financial institutions to join the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero before COP26 begins in Glasgow in November. Existing members have committed not just to 2050 net zero targets, but also to short term action and making their plans public.

In June we heard from HM Treasury and Natural England on the recent ‘Economics of Biodiversity’ Report. 

4. Work together to deliver

Signing up to the Race to Zero is a key mechanism for businesses to play their part in delivering climate change action. But beyond individual actions, Matt stressed that it is crucial we work together, across all sectors, towards systems change, and in doing so reduce risks and costs for any one actor. We need whole sectors moving to low and zero carbon solutions, with leaders and first movers acting to galvanise support across their industries. We have seen some good progress from the corporate sector (noting that now over 3,000 businesses and investors are now members of the Race to Zero campaign, up from just over 1,000 in September 2020).

Our members noted the role they are already playing, and hope to build, in influencing their supply chains and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, to bring them on the decarbonisation journey. Matt encouraged them to not just think domestically, but internationally, looking at how businesses with international footprints might influence the geographies they operate in as the UK seeks to maximise the impact of our COP26 presidency.

So, which WIG member is next on the starting line to join the Race to Zero? Joining the Race to Zero will result in the following benefits to your company:

  • Your business action being recognised as credible and science-based
  • Joining a community of members spanning regions and sectors with whom to share best practices
  • Accessing powerful communications material in the run up to COP26
  • Playing a role in a decisive year of climate action 
  • Receiving support every step of the way

Bringing sectors together

Our Environment & Climate Change programme will also continue to support the goals of COP26 in the run up to the summit and beyond. We aim to support leaders across the sectors as they devise and implement effective decarbonisation and environmental impact strategies for their organisations. We will do this through a range of events providing impartial space to discuss key learnings and shared challenges. In doing so we hope to identify opportunities to work collaboratively around achieving net zero, protecting biodiversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation.