A round-up of week two at COP26

The week before, we saw steps put in place towards tackling climate change and this summit provides a unique opportunity to reach historic outcomes and bring countries together.

Highlights of the week

  • 200 countries have agreed to the Glasgow Climate Pact
  • China and US agree to boost climate co-operation
  • New momentum from around the world to put gender at the forefront of climate action on Gender Day, as countries and non-state actors set out gender and climate commitments
  • 30 countries have agreed to work together to make zero-emission vehicles the new normal by making them accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030 or sooner
  • The UK has pledged to shift to clean trucks by committing to end the sale of new diesel trucks between 2035 and 2040

One of our representatives, Simon Harrison, past vice president of the IET, has been reporting back to us this week and provided us with his opinions from events he has attended throughout the week.  

Monday: Adaption, Loss, and Damage

I attended a great session that involved a panel of four CEOs of Unilever, IKEA, Accionia, and DSL.

It seems that in the wealthy countries the pace is being set by consumers rather than governments, with even consumers moving faster than regulatory and policy processes. As a result, this is driving business action and in turn, driving governments to aim higher.

The panel agreed that sustainability needs to be framed as cost-reductive for society, business, and consumers. This way brands will grow faster, use fewer resources and sustainable approaches will have less financial risk – so it is simply good business.

Overall, there are big items on the to-do list around building trust, providing consistent measurements financers can rely on, and labelling that consumers can draw meaning from when making choices.

Tuesday: Science and Innovation

I attended the Global Optimism event with seniors from IMB, ATOS, and Amazon, where they spoke about the role of the cloud in climate change.

There were many positive stories about the cloud as a democratising force around the world, and those data-led solutions can drive outcomes that both reduce emissions and better business.

However, there was a clear need to reduce our digital carbon footprint, which is currently 4% of global CO2.

In a recent study commissioned by the IET, we uncovered Britain’s dirty data habits.

You can read the full report online and learn how you can reduce your digital footprint.

Wednesday: Transport

The overall narrative of the session I attended was that in the developed world, we’re seeing encouraging progress and real commitments on transport decarbonisation.

Even when pledges have been less than universally supported, the focus has been less about not wanting to make them and more about whether individual organisations can see a way to deliver them and be held accountable – feeling like a real shift, as the discussion has moved beyond what needs to change, and even how it needs to change, to how pace can be delivered.  

The value of partnerships reaching across sectors and value chains is continually emphasised.

For example, in e-mobility, the availability of power where needed matters as much as vehicle sales.

Learn more about the future of the transport industry with our Transport academy courses.

Thursday: Cities, Regions, and Built Environment

Two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions happen in cities and, in the session, I attended in the UK Pavilion, which brought together voices from the UK, Australia, USA, Japan, ad Canada, it was shown how developed the connectivity is between developed countries.

They highlighted that cities understand the particular needs and views of their residents in ways central government does not, and can, ultimately, act themselves and catalyse community action.

This was not limited to urban environments; the needs of rural communities are often quite different too. An example of this was trying to persuade people to shift to public transport when there is none widely available.

This was particularly evident in Australia, where 10 coal mining towns had combined forces to explore how to use their resources to find success in a decarbonising economy.

The ideas of a just transition were prominent during the debate, as in Glasgow, for example, there are many more people far more concerned about feeding their families, than driving an electric car.

It seems that cities are succeeding to create change without a cohesive and supportive policy framework from higher layers of government.  

We urgently need to think through the power cities need to have, the accountabilities they can take, and the resources they need to achieve their full decarbonisation potential, and how that relates to national and other efforts. 

In other words, systems thinking – something the engineering profession does naturally and strongly advocates.

Friday: Close of Negotiations

For my final day at COP26, I attended a great session on the BEIS MacKay Carbon Calculator – a tool developed by the UK government to make visible the complexities, challenges, and trade-offs in achieving net-zero.   

Importantly, the process to develop the calculations and lever settings behind the graphical interface is a collaborative activity that brings diverse government, NGO, and private sector stakeholders together to debate the many complexities involved; and those involved say that this is almost as valuable as the resulting output.  

The calculator is being customised in a range of versions, at a global scale, for different countries and even individual cities.

During the session, we heard from the Nigerian Government about their development of a version for Nigeria and its use in a major energy policy reset there, as well as from Lancaster University about how it’s being used in teaching. 

Keep an eye on our website for the latest COP26 updates.