"Big Question: What outcomes would you like to see from COP26?"

29th January 2021

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Shruti Gonglore

The delayed 26th UN Climate Change Conference is an opportunity to turn the Paris Agreement’s ambition into action

We are approaching COP26 – a pivotal event for climate action, the planet and, unquestionably, humanity. The science base has hardened and evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that there is a clear imperative for a rapid transition during this decade. However, the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to ‘COP uncertainty’.

Some have suggested that a smaller, streamlined COP should be held, limited to critical decision-making commitments and driving progress on the Paris rulebook. Will the wider stakeholder community, with whom IEMA has increasingly engaged, see COP26 events run as virtual sessions and opened up to a huge global audience? Could this wider climate action community bring a momentum to the COP that can feed into international decision-making?

At COP26 we will need to see progress and visible commitments at real scale and pace. Campaigns such as Race to Zero are providing a society-wide movement that could push global leaders towards strong commitments. Changing the politics in the US is not insignificant, but would complete the global jigsaw puzzle that now sees all nations ‘on board’. The Paris Agreement itself is recognised as being ‘politically smart’, and if the political will is there, the framework is ready to help realise the Agreement’s ambition. Is a global political shift now possible? A successful formula was found at Paris, and all eyes are on Glasgow.

Nick Blyth, FIEMA, IEMA policy lead and convener of the ISO (TMB) Climate Change Coordination Committee

Louise Pryor

President-elect, IFoA; chair, London Climate Change Partnership; director, Ecology Building Society

“The role of finance will be a key theme of the summit”

COP26 is an opportunity to manage climate change risks effectively – to move from talking about them to taking action. We need long-term policy frameworks so all actors can get behind solutions and pull in the same direction. We need to be sure we are working on adaptation to climate change that has already happened, as well as mitigating future change.

The role of finance and the financial sector will be a key theme of the summit. COP26 finance advisor Mark Carney is clear that companies and investors must have a plan for net-zero, to achieve a just transition. Central to these plans will be disclosure of climate-related risk, in line with Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure recommendations. Last year, IFoA and IEMA members developed A user guide to climate-related financial disclosures (bit.ly/3oGd4uL), outlining how stakeholders can understand companies’ disclosures and suggesting follow-up questions.

I would like COP26 to be the impetus for all finance to become green finance, with actuaries and other finance professionals playing their part in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders.

This year, we’ve seen the difficulties of a global crisis. Climate change is more far-reaching and long lasting than any pandemic – global collaboration is more important than ever.

Steve Malkin

CEO and founder of The Planet Mark

“We need a regulatory framework for the business community”

The biggest challenge is the perception that defeating climate change is a long-term goal. The 2015 Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for halving emissions by 2030. We cannot wait until 2050, and must persuade countries with longer term targets to bring their ambitions forward. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that governments need to listen to science, learn from the people and act urgently.

The appointment of Alok Sharma to work full-time on COP26, and climate change UN special envoy Mark Carney’s role as advisor to the prime minister, is a sign the UK government takes this seriously, but it needs to provide a regulatory framework for the business community. Carney’s proposal that banks, insurers and investors can profit from “changing consumer preferences and new climate policies” is a step forward in transitioning to a zero-carbon, regenerative economy.

We need to deliver climate legislation across nations. This will help us accelerate funding and business commitments to meet these goals, and deliver the necessary innovation and sustainable growth.

My hope is that COP26 leads to a greater understanding of how we are connected to the natural world, and how solutions harmonise the best of people, technology and nature.

Wanjira Matha.

Vice president and regional director for Africa, World Resources Institute

“We must focus on getting commitment on adaptation”

The adaptation agenda is the most important one for Africa, and we must focus on building and investing resources and getting commitment. The biggest challenge has been the quantity of resources going into adaptation, the quality and integrity of those resources, and accounting for climate finance and its impact.

COVID-19 has shown that when push comes to shove, equity and multilateralism are first to evaporate. We need to work on that. Most developing countries are not responsible for the emissions we are seeing and their impacts.

There must be a call to recommit to resolving article 7 within the Paris Agreement, which concerns adaptation. There was a commitment of $100bn a year for adaptation by 2020, which was not met; by 2020 it was supposed to rise further. The 2020-2025 targets need to see those commitments made and met.

A lot of developed countries have committed to net-zero by 2050, but that number needs to rise, especially among higher emitters. We also need countries to show how they will get there. Long-term commitments need to be matched by short-term Nationally Determined Contributions – five-year chunks of commitment that set the trajectory for the net-zero target.

Those are my hopes – big hopes, but these are big times.

Image credit: iStock

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