Wednesday August 18, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic brought humanity’s vulnerability into sharp focus, emphasising the importance of international collaboration. Now, as extreme weather events wreak havoc around the world, the climate emergency is beginning to receive global recognition. This could spur real change at the COP26 conference, which will be held in Glasgow this November.

The summit is likely to be shaped by a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report warns that there is now a very small window to reduce emissions before exceeding the emissions limit of 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. With this in mind, the gravity of COP26 cannot be overstated.

We look at the expected objectives for COP26, and how these crucial policy shifts could impact businesses across the UK.

Ambitious targets for 2030

So far, the focus has been on achieving net zero by 2050. But countries are now being asked to come forward with ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030.

According to the new IPCC report, global CO2 emissions need to decrease by about 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. Otherwise, if they continue to rise at the current rate, global temperatures are projected to increase by more than 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.

The UK has a significant part to play in this effort. Despite making up less than 1% of the global population, the UK is historically the fifth-largest contributor of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

For the private sector, this will most likely result in a greater emphasis on science-based targets. Science-based targets aim to reduce emissions, through concrete, corporate objectives. These shorter-term goalposts are designed to track progress for businesses, providing greater transparency on the road to net zero and beyond.

Prioritising adaptation

The IPCC report warns that even with global decarbonisation efforts, it will take decades for the planet to recover. This doesn’t mean that achieving net zero by 2050 and staying within the 1.5°C limit wouldn’t result in immediate benefits (such as improved air quality). But it could take twenty to thirty years for global temperatures to stabilise.

Critically, some of the damage could be irreversible. According to the report, numerous climate-related weather events will continue to cause disruption for centuries to come. This means that adaptation will be just as important as mitigation efforts.

Adaptation methods involve adjustments to ecological, social or economic systems in anticipation of climate change. These can range from building flood defences and early warning systems to changes in government policy and redesigning communication systems.

These methods can coincide with mitigation methods, which focus on reducing emissions.

Given the current state of play, it makes sense that adaptation and resilience are principle themes at the upcoming COP26 event. These are key considerations for large businesses hoping to thrive in the future.

Reforestation and conservation

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised new domestic pledges and plans to garner international commitments on “coal, cars, cash and trees”.

He said: “We want COP26, the UN great summit, to commit to restoring nature and habitat and ending the massacre of the forests, because trees are among our best natural defences against climate change. To be net-zero for carbon you must be net-positive for trees and by 2030 we want to be planting far more trees across the world than we are losing.”

The UK has faced criticism in the past for having the lowest levels of tree cover, compared to its European neighbours. Forests currently cover just 13% of the country. To reach its net zero target, the Committee on Climate Change has said that tree cover in the UK needs to rise to 17% by 2050.

Mobilising green finance

According to a new analysis from WWF, the UK government’s committed spending is currently well below the required rates to meet its legally binding net-zero emissions target.

Financing green initiatives is essential to combatting climate change, and mobilising green finance is a key objective for COP26.

Achieving our climate goals will require public finance for the development of infrastructure and private finance for innovation and technology. In this transition every company, bank, financial firm and investor will be expected not only to follow, but to lead change.

How can EIC help your business to prepare?

We can provide a bespoke, adaptable roadmap to net zero for your organisation – ensuring carbon compliance and long-term financial stability along the way. Our comprehensive energy and carbon services help guide organisations towards a more sustainable future.

Our goal is to help companies navigate the transition to a low carbon economy. We recognise that while policy decisions drive decarbonisation, every business has a part to play.

To learn more about our net zero and sustainability services, contact us at EIC today.

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