Everyone is talking about COP26. It is, however, probably fair to say that many do not really understand what it actually is or indeed the extent of its significance.
Earlier this summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted one of his Stammtisch conversations with COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma about exactly this.
COP stands for the Conference of the Parties and it is the 26th iteration of this gathering, bringing together nearly 200 nations and territories that have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention. It is the decision-making body for the Convention’s implementation of Climate Change action, and this year it will be hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy. Held in the SEC from 31 October until 12 November, Glasgow will welcome leaders and delegates from all over the world to agree how best to tackle climate change.
Why is it important? Well in short, we are in big trouble.
Three years ago the world’s chief diplomat, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres issued a red alert for the world in the form of a call-out to humanity, and at the time, it attracted little media traction.
Gutteres has now acknowledged that we are on a code red for humanity and, my goodness, his comments have been heard this time.
The landmark COP 21 Paris Agreement in 2015 had the aim of stopping the temperature increasing. Its goal was to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels. For the first time ever, a binding agreement brought all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
Whilst its intention was bold, there is a country mile still to go to realise the targets and according to US Climate Envoy John Kerry, we have less than 100 days now to save the next 100 years.
Never before have global collaborative efforts been so important.
By 29 July 2021, now known as earth overshoot day, our planet’s population had utilised the materials it should have used over the course of the year. In 2000 it was early October and this is in the context that our global population continues to grow – set to be increased by two billion people within the next 30 years.
So how do we address this? According to Ellen McArthur’s foundation research, the renewable energy transition is half the story. If we adopt the circular economy as a way to make and produce materials, products and food, we begin to see the complete picture of a sustainable, net-zero world which will be better for all and for future generations.
Design and technology have a major role to play, as will a seismic shift in consumption patterns, and Governments must help unlock resources for innovation. The eco systems of cities will be key to scaling these changes and Glasgow certainly intends to be in the front row seats as a demonstrator city.
As the Leader of Glasgow City Council said at a recent session with our members, ‘Glasgow is the envy of city leaders all over the world’, and at Glasgow Chamber, we will be engaging our brilliant business community, brokering network connections with high-profile business leaders and stimulating knowledge transfer and international trade through our Climate Mission. We are also enabling a COP26 educational legacy to excite the next generation of our workforce about the many roles that have yet to be invented.
We must innovate our way out of this crisis and COP26 will bring Government, business and academic partners together to agree to do just that.
Alison McRae is senior director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce