In a little under a month, one of the most significant climate events of our time will play out in Glasgow for the world to see. But why exactly is COP26 so important? And what opportunities does it present for the business community?
Why is COP26 so important?
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference - more commonly known as COP26 - will see governments from almost every country converge in Glasgow from the 1st of November. Joined by a community of scientists, activists, and business leaders, the conference is being touted as the world’s last best chance at reining in runaway climate change.
But why is this COP in particular so important? For one thing, it is the first COP since the 2020 deadline for numerous parts of the landmark Paris Agreement to come into effect in 2020. After being signed by 196 countries in 2015, this year marks the first time signatories are expected to make good on those commitments. Specifically, they’re expected to considerably strengthen their emission reduction targets to keep warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels in pursuit of limiting it to 1.5°C.
As we recently highlighted, following the release of the IPCC’s 6th assessment report, every little bit of carbon reduction we can achieve now will have a profound impact on our ability to meet this goal.
What COP26 means for business
With all the technical language that comes with international climate negotiations, one could be forgiven for thinking governments and their negotiators are the only main players. But achieving the radical decarbonisation of our global economy can not be done by governments alone. As one of the biggest international policy events of the last decade, business has a key role to play.
The increased ambition at COP26 is likely to see additional announcements about future policy directions for governments, including faster transitions to electric vehicles, reductions in deforestation rates and faster phase outs of coal power. By paying attention to the outcomes of the event, businesses may get early key insights into these directions, and proactively plan for, and capitalise on, such changes.
The momentum behind the long-awaited summit is also likely to supercharge investments in technologies and businesses working towards rapid decarbonisation. In fact, the mobilisation of hundreds of billions of climate finance per year is actually the third main goal of this year’s COP. As every financial decision going forward will need to take climate change into account, we’re going to see increasing amounts of capital being deployed to accelerate the transition. This presents an enormous opportunity for companies to seek additional investments to scale their operations.
Upward trends in consumer accountability on the environmental performance of businesses across the board is also likely to be heightened in the lead up to and beyond COP26. Companies would be wise to keep in mind that more than ever before, environmental performance is becoming increasingly important for consumers. Consumers are also more willing than ever to pay a premium for products and services that are contributing to a more sustainable world. And looking beyond consumers, employees, especially younger ones, are demanding better too. For companies to attract and importantly, retain the best young talent, they need to be a part of the solution. These trends suggest that companies who genuinely and meaningfully align their value chain with the goals of COP26 stand to see major commercial opportunities.
As the business community, we are uniquely positioned to contribute to this important time in history as we often have a more direct and ongoing line of communication with our customers that governments simply do not. We must capitalise on this trust and make the need for rapid decarbonisation policy clear and meaningful.
Tips for companies in the lead up to COP26
COP26 will drive major news coverage on the importance of transitioning to net zero as quickly as possible across the two-week conference. If your business is actively contributing to carbon reduction, or if you’re working to reduce your business’ impact, this will be a fertile opportunity to join the global discussion and communicate with your stakeholders.
- Get out and talk about how your product or service is contributing to decarbonisation. If companies can show they are not just broadly supportive of major global policy, but their business is actively contributing to achieve it, both customers and potential employees are going to be impressed.
- Make an effort to engage with the virtual events and be sure to let your customers know about it! Due to the pandemic, COP26 will have more online engagement than ever before meaning the opportunities for business and civil society participation are huge.
- Brush up on your climate knowledge and sustainability buzzwords. If you haven’t been across previous COPs, you’ll be surprised how much jargon is used that you won’t have heard previously. From ‘Article 6’ to ‘carbon neutral’ to ‘climate finance’, all these terms have a specific meaning in COP spheres that you may not be across. This SBS article is a great place to start.
- Start planning for any media opportunities which may arise during this time. A good way to start is to look at the major goals of COP26 and consider what insights your company can offer towards those goals.
- Bring your colleagues and team into the mix. Climate change is of major interest to many and it’s a good opportunity to bring up this conversation at work. Whether it’s an in-office sustainability competition or a session to talk about why climate change matters to them, your colleagues are likely to appreciate some time to engage with this.
No matter where you’re at in your transition to net zero, we strongly encourage you to get involved in the opportunity of a lifetime. Talk to your customers and show them what you’re doing to be a meaningful part of the solution.
To learn more about Pathzero, and how your organisation can start its own climate journey now, schedule a demo with one of our team.
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