Power and renewables

No silver bullets at COP 26 to achieve global sustainability

Al-Karim Govindji at COP26

Contact us:

Al-Karim Govindji

Al-Karim Govindji

Head of Public Affairs and Policy, Energy Systems

We all have our part to play, including consumers.

Having worked in climate change for the past 13 years, 2021 was a year like no other before it for me, where I felt both the deepest concern for the impacts the world is and will continue to face from the terrible impacts of climate change, and an emerging doubt that we will see action taken to avert disaster.   

Even before COP26 kicked off in Glasgow, it was clear to most that the 5-yearly Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted in 2020/21 were inadequate to limit a global temperature rise by 2100 at 2oC, let alone less than 1.5oC.  The pre-COP G7 and G20 meetings likewise had good intentions but diluted language So, we knew that Glasgow would be a challenge to achieve stronger statements of commitment aligned with Paris from all 200 countries.  At the back of my mind was that nagging fact that even a 1.5oC world still leaves us with serious climatic impacts around the world, most of all in regions that can least afford to deal with them. 

Despite my slight pessimism, I came to Glasgow hopeful that we would leave with a conviction we will do the right thing. And along with me came national leaders, CEOs, development banks, NGOs and the public with the same aspiration that the world would finally come to its senses of the risks that its current trajectory was taking it, and to finally truly commit at COP26 to take the actions needed and as quickly as possible. 

The reality of COP26 is an improvement in national commitments, but a failure on the fundamental aims set beforehand:

  • No clear global pathway to attain a temperature rise of no more than 1.5oC at the end of the century, but did achieve agreement to the 1.5oC, an improvement of the Paris text.
  • No agreement of a “phase-out” of coal and no timeframes.
  • No agreement from developed countries to fund the $100bn to channel to developing countries to help them make the transition. 

So, we are now left with many questions of how jointly we will achieve our ambitions.  COP26 President Alok Sharma said it best in his concluding statement following the signing of The Glasgow Climate Pact, “This is a fragile win. We kept 1.5 alive. But I would still say that the pulse of 1.5 is weak.” We know that phasing out coal and fossil fuels, while critical, is not easy in every country, and that some markets are hugely dependent on fossil fuels for power and heat, making the transition for those policymakers much harder. This is true in many Eastern European countries, in China, and in India. OECD countries will likely need to go much faster to achieve net zero than others, as DNV’s Pathways to Net Zero Emissions report indicates. 

We all have our part to play, including consumers.

While in my mind COP 26 remains a little disappointing, in my heart I do believe that countries feel the added pressure and moral imperative to do more. COP is an iterative improvement, not a silver bullet, and more positive announcements and actions will continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead, with the hope that that these help us navigate a route to achieve global sustainability. 

Contact us:

Al-Karim Govindji

Al-Karim Govindji

Head of Public Affairs and Policy, Energy Systems