Hopes are high and energy is positive at the world’s most important climate summit, ‘COP26’ being held in Glasgow. Glasgow talks mark the first concrete test of the Paris Agreement, and an important milestone in global collaboration to reach a net-zero future. We have virtually met with our experts live on the ground, Amy Haddon and Andy Dewis, to discuss early achievements and open tasks at halftime, with one week of discussions and negotiations to go.
Amy, Andy, as you have been at COP26 in Glasgow, we wanted to connect for a quick halftime check-in. What happened during Week 1 - any remarkable outcomes so far?
Amy: The frequency of pledges and announcements made at COP26 during the World Leader’s Summit is promising. In terms of scope, these three announcements are likely to have the largest impacts:
- On Day 2, 105 countries – including Brazil – pledged to end deforestation by 2030, covering 85% of the world’s forests. The pledge will mobilize around $19 billion of public and private funds to forest protection and restoration projects.
- On the same day, 100+ countries joined the global methane pledge with the ambition to cut methane levels by 30% by 2030. The initiative, first proposed by the US and the EU in September, aims to reduce one of the most potent yet “invisible” greenhouse gases, as methane accounts for a third of human-induced global warming to date and is 80 times more potent in global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane, quickly, is one of the fastest ways we can impact climate change.
- On Day 3, the so-called Finance Day, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) committed $130T in assets to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This commitment was made by banks, insurers, pension funds, money managers, and other finance firms joining a coalition led by former Bank of England governor and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Mark Carney.
Andy: India’s pledge for net-zero by 2070 with 50% renewable electricity by 2030 was another milestone. Much of the reaction to this announcement is that it doesn’t go fast enough – but the coal transition will be extremely difficult for India.
Week 1 announcements have made headlines, but other topics which are less prominent are still consequential and negotiators still have a long way to go to reach agreements. For example, climate finance to developing nations is crucial. After Week 1, we are still far from the targeted $100B threshold for funding promised in the Paris Agreement despite some initiatives like the Asian Development Bank’s initiative, where Indonesia and the Philippines announced the creation of the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM), and Japan committed to spend $25M to the clean energy transition in SE Asia. Further commitments are needed in climate change adaptation tactics and financing. Stay tuned as we track this topic for developments throughout this second week.
Amy: The first week closed with an optimistic turn: Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s executive director, told delegates that a “big step forward” was possible if all the pledges set out at COP26 were “fully achieved”. As of today, with everything on the table and assuming everything moves forward in Week 2, the IEA has indicated that it will be enough for us to limit warming to 1.8 degrees. It’s easy to get excited – even relieved – by this progress. But commitments are just the first step. Governments and businesses – many of whom, including Schneider Electric, have made commitments aligning them to the 1.5-degree trajectory – must now do the real work of taking concrete actions and fulfilling their promises.
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You have been part of Schneider Electric’s team on the ground, together with Kelly Becker, Vincent Petit, Gilles Vermot Desroches, and Gregory Conary. What was on your agendas throughout Week 1, and what contributions has Schneider Electric brought to this summit thus far?
Amy: We have been busy meeting with customers and business partners, and speaking on panels and roundtables with climate scientists, policymakers, influencers, and entrepreneurs. For example, my panel on Day 2 was on the topic of technology for net-zero, hosted by BCSE, alongside speakers from Salesforce, Planet, and Novozymes. Our joined message to the COP26 audience was that the pathway to limiting warming to 1.5°C is more feasible than we think using existing technologies. We used the findings from our recently launched report, Back to 2050, together with examples from our own operations and clients to demonstrate that rapid and deep decarbonization is needed and possible.
Andy: Various players in climate action underline this message at all COP stages loud and clear. As one example, we have seen majors of larger, but also very small, cities and communities speaking at the Net Zero Carbon Cities (NZCC) event, where we helped present a toolbox for urban energy transitions. Our CEO, Jean-Pascale Tricoire, highlighted the importance of cities for decarbonization, as 60% of today’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, with a rapidly growing share due to urbanization. On another stage, the Schneider Electric Foundation was collaborating with Art of Change 21 to shine a light on how artists can shape the ecological transition by engaging youth and creating meaningful, emotional connections between art, technology, innovation, and climate. The role of businesses, civil society, NGOs, youth, artists, and others present in Glasgow is evident; combined, they are a very visible call to action.
Amy: Our launch of the Energize program on Day 4, the Energy Day, was another testimonial for the feasibility of bold climate action. The Energize program is a collaboration between Schneider Electric and 10 global pharmaceutical companies to engage its suppliers to decarbonize the pharmaceutical value chain’s power with renewable electricity. The program is a first-of-its-kind effort to leverage the scale of a single industry’s global supply chain in a pre-competitive fashion to drive system-level change. Jim Goudreau, head of environmental sustainability and external engagement at Novartis predicted that the 'Energize' model could be replicated in other areas and by other industries. He underlined the power of collective systems and processes to amplify solutions.
The power of working together is something you hear a lot on Glasgow streets.
"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely if working together we are powerful enough to save it"
- David Attenborough, COP26 Address to World Leaders
See how Schneider leverages the power of collaboration for a sustainable future:
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With all the announcements and excitement, what was your personal highlight of the week?
Andy: I had a few eye- and heart-opening moments throughout the whole week. David Attenborough’s speech on the first day was an emotional kickstart of its own, and the flurry of commitments across the week created a sense of optimism that cumulated in the ENERGIZE launch. It is so inspiring to see the potential that can be delivered by industries coming together, and hopefully, this leadership will spark more to follow. Let’s cross our fingers the 2nd week can deliver on this optimism.
Amy: On the closing of Week 1, I was honored to join Special Envoy Kerry’s end-of-week address as part of the US delegation. Mr. Kerry was cautious – reminding us all that this week is when the real work of the negotiations begins – but also extremely optimistic, saying that he’s felt a greater sense of urgency and focus than at any other COP that he’s attended. I take his words as my compass for Week 2 and am looking forward to sharing more as the event draws to a close.