The UK hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 13 November 2021. The conference brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but what did we learn?
IGEM CEO Oliver Lancaster attended COP26 this year, and these are his key takeaways from the summit:
- COP has delivered more than expected, and there are reasons to be optimistic
It’s probably quite fair to say that there was pessimist around what could be achieved at COP26, with only a few glass-half-full folk quietly suggesting that it could surprise us all. And do you know what, I think those with a bit of optimism have been proved right. Despite me seeing that business seems more ready to go than Governments do, significant progress has been made to bring the average global temperature rise within the 1.5-2 degrees bracket agreed in Paris at COP21. Although looking only at current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs that you may have heard about) doesn’t read through to a satisfactory temperature rise outcome, when they are paired with wider pledges, promises, commitments and announcements then the last month of activity has brought the expected temperature rise down from 2.7 degrees to 1.8 degrees, according to analysis by the International Energy Agency. I’ve heard myself from authoritative sources that a pathway to 1.6-1.7 is very much alive, which is great; however, each decimal point makes a massive difference and we only have about a year or two to ratchet the pathway down to 1.5 degrees. Clearly this pathway can only be achieved with policy detail, investment and action to deliver on all the promises – and business, including IGEM, is raring to go.
- Let’s all, as an energy sector, get on with things, rather than wasting our energy on pulling others down. We have no time to waste in delivery of action, but we probably have a few years where we don’t need to fuss ourselves with how much capacity we need of different things – an optimised energy system target and outcome can wait a little
During one event in Glasgow I was on a table asked to consider the subject of anger. Are we angry? Should we be angry? How should we be using our anger? My take on this I the context of climate change was that anger is a natural response to denial or to not doing enough quickly. I personally don’t get too angry about much, but working in anger towards something works well for me when there are pressing needs, such as this. Too much anger is distractingly misplaced into negative campaigning against different energy vectors, technologies, ideas and opinion. It would be so much better and healthier if that wasted energy (excuse the pun) or anger was instead channelled into delivering action in each person’s area of expertise to make an increased positive contribution. In that way, I expect we’d get more done sooner, which will only help to bring down cumulative emissions, limit climate change impact and reduce investment needed to adapt to climate change. We can sometimes spend too much time trying to design a perfect 2050, when really we can be getting on with so much in the next few years that offers little in the way of regret.
We need to maintain a sharp focus on the delivery that is required of us, working with a wide community striving to give the different demand sectors an affordable and secure way to decarbonise, whilst not asking too much of domestic customers when it comes to behaviour change and disruption
The gas industry has an array of action to be working on now. This is already happening all around us with the increasing connection of biomethane, which is soon to be given a boost by the new Green Gas Support Scheme – but I’m sure there’s more we can be doing to strategically reach wider and do more. We all know that we can’t take our foot off the pedal when it comes to delivering the programme of hydrogen transformation activity, such as hydrogen blending, new hydrogen appliances, hydrogen heating demonstrators and in development of infrastructure to support scaled hydrogen production as demand from industry and transport grows. These are just some of the things our sector is leading on to play our part, and IGEM’s at the centre of this from technical, safety, skills and policy perspectives to enable projects, set standards and facilitate the future as we transition to net zero.
Read more from Ollie in the next edition of Gi.
To find out more about COP26 and the outcomes visit ukcop26.org.