IEMA's Martin Baxter reflects on the first week of COP26

8th November 2021

IEMA's director of policy and external affairs, Martin Baxter, reflects on the first week of COP26, and outlines what commitments he hopes to see going forward.

What are your feelings about the first week of the conference?

There has definitely been an increase in ambition, which is welcome. Unfortunately, there still aren't detailed plans from many countries to translate that ambition into action. That is the challenge that overhangs everything. So for example, Australia came out with a 2050 net-zero target, but that doesn't have any substance behind it at all.

What are some of the most important announcements made so far?

It was really good to see India come forward with its 2070 target. That's important because it is the first time India has come forward with a target like that. The pledge to end deforestation by 2030 is a high-level target, and if it's delivered, great. The question is whether leaders will go back to their countries and actually accelerate implementation. The mechanisms to drive implementation will be absolutely critical, particularly in Brazil, Indonesia and Canada. Commitments from the UK's finance sector, and the way they have been structured, are really important, because if we can shape the way money is allocated, that will help us drive the transition and bring in private sector finance, capital and investment to help companies make the transition. The draft sustainability and climate change education strategy is also really important from the UK's Department for Education, because we need to build the capacity and capability of the workforce of the future to tackle the climate and environmental emergency.

So has the UK been showing up some other countries?

I wouldn't say showing up, but instead showing the way. We shouldn't try to shame people. It's better to be proactive, and show that you can make this transition work in practice. But the UK has a fairly detailed, wide-ranging plan across the whole economy to move towards a net-zero future. Very few countries have got anything as comprehensive as we have here.

What are the key announcements to look out for in the second week?

For the UK, it will be very interesting to see what comes out on transport. There have been big moves around the electrification of vehicles, which was one of the areas highlighted by the COP president in the run up to the conference, so it will be interesting to see how much additional commitment there will be to that. But one of the biggest challenges is resilience to climate change and extreme weather events for communities all around the world. Developed countries have already failed to deliver the $100bn a year for loss and damage support promised to developing nations – which is disgraceful. People will be sceptical about new announcements in this area, but it will be interesting to see what happens with adaptation.

Boris Johnson has said that he is “cautiously optimistic” about reaching a 1.5°C deal. Do you share that optimism?

The analysis around getting to 1.5°C is based on how the Nationally Determined Contributions add up. But the question is, when does that become achievable, and to what extent does that rely on massive increases in negative emissions technologies? That is a key consideration. I would question anybody who would think we are currently on track to hit 1.5°C. I don't think the underlying policy mechanisms and investment are there yet for 1.5°C, or that we can be cautiously optimistic at all.

Has COP26 lived up to your expectations?

The announcements in the first week are welcome. The net-zero finance announcements, and the private sector stepping up, are really important. But my concern would be that countries around the world are not going fast enough to rapidly reduce emissions – ambition without action is meaningless. You can set as many targets as you like, but you have to do the hard work of developing plans with a governance framework to deliver it. It is about aligning all parts of every economy to deliver it, and that doesn't happen overnight. That's what we need to see going forward.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close