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COP26 and the path to progress

Glasgow SEC

There’s lots of coverage at the moment about what will happen at COP26

Which world leaders will attend? Will they deliver more than just talk?

The good news is, while speculation continues about what will and won’t happen at COP26, governments, businesses and individuals are making progress on climate change.

The US recently announced it would double the amount of climate finance it gives to the developing world. At the same time, the Chinese Government said that it wouldn’t build any more coal power plants overseas – a move that could significantly contribute to changing the global energy landscape.

Positive things aren’t just happening globally, though, so we want to shine a light on the lesser-known schemes that aim to make a change at a local level.

What’s happening locally, and how are businesses changing how they operate to meet targets?

In the build-up to COP26, the UK Government launched a scheme to enlist and work with 26 #onestepgreener ambassadors. These ambassadors are “everyday people who are going above and beyond for the climate.”

The aim is for these people to become the voice of the UK public on climate change and work closely with the Government in the lead-up to COP 26.

One of these ambassadors is James Lloyd-Jones, the founder of Jones Food Company which operates a vertical farm.

Another is Dame Jackie Daniel, who runs Newcastle hospital.

Both people are looking at innovative ways to make a difference.

There is also the COP26 campaign Together for our Planet and the UK Business Climate Hub, which is urging businesses, groups, schools and the public to contribute towards making a difference and commit to putting specific targets in place.

A cynic might say that this is all just PR in the lead-up to the conference (and the cynic might be right), but it’s good to know individuals are working hard to find ways to contribute and make a difference.

What are businesses doing to combat climate change?

As highlighted in our blog Climate change – are we going fast enough? innovation and change are everywhere. One in five of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly listed companies are committed to a net-zero emissions target.

The UK Government introduced the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) policy in April 2019. As reported by Carbon Trust, the policy aims to “encourage the implementation of energy efficiency measures, with both economic and environmental benefits, supporting companies in cutting costs and improving productivity at the same time as reducing carbon emissions.”

Those businesses that fit the different criteria need to report against this policy and it’s clear that for some businesses this is going to mean extreme changes to how they currently operate. However, it also empowers businesses not just to set goals but to actively measure them too.

Marks and Spencer recently announced it is going to “focus on becoming a net zero Scope 3 business across its entire supply chain and products by 2040.”

Part of McDonalds’ strategy is to address packaging and waste – an area of extreme concern across the planet – by setting specific goals and reporting their performance against them.

Small businesses are key players in fighting climate change

SMEs also have a vital part to play. A recent blog from the Confederation of Business Industries (CBI) stated that “almost three quarters of small businesses feel they need training to understand how to take action.”

SMEs can sign up to the SME Climate Commitment and get support to put strategies to reduce their carbon emissions.

Clearly, the main priority for businesses is to ensure they are contributing, but by developing solutions they’re also strengthening their own brand’s values.

Local initiatives, around the world

In the UK, forward-thinking councils, charities and societies are taking a more environmentally-friendly approach. At the same time, we’re seeing more and more new groups with a specific focus on climate change.

Canterbury Climate Action Partnership (CCAP) includes representatives from local civic society groups, universities, businesses, resident associations, faith, and youth groups. They are there to “mobilise action towards a more sustainable future; especially to achieve zero carbon district by 2030.”

Warrington City Council has a Green Energy Strategy and has put climate emergency plans and targets in place. Not only is it aiming to reduce emissions across the city, but it’s also working on combating fuel poverty in the area.

Across the globe, there are so many more examples of local governments tackling climate change as well a number of UN-backed development programmes and initiatives, supporting more vulnerable countries.

We still need more solutions

A lot is riding on COP26 with the need for more commitments from leading countries, as well as significant financial packages for developing countries. But with so much noise in the build-up to the conference it’s important to remember that there are solutions out there, and people who are driven by doing the right thing; not for money or press coverage.

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