What the news from COP26 means for brands, businesses and clients

COP26 is happening in Glasgow. As you might know. 

MSQ/Sustain has been heavily involved, helping our clients launch several campaigns to help accelerate change. So we thought we were quite well-placed to give you a simple briefing at the end of Week 1 (and same again next week) – on what the key things are to be aware of, and what your clients and business ought to be aware of too.

Here’s a summary below, but for a more in-depth look into each point and what this means for your clients, check out Richard Armstrong’s blog, here.

The five big themes from Cop26 Week 1

1. Companies Commit to 1.5 and Nature Positive

There is already massive momentum behind corporate action on climate. All companies are increasingly under pressure to commit their business to 1.5C as setting targets on climate becomes a commercial and economic imperative.

We have been working with We Mean Business and the Science-Based Targets Network for some time and have witnessed first hand an acceleration in corporate ambition. The latter have now launched targets for nature recognising the vital role nature plays as the foundation to all economic activity and the former catalysing the urgency of decarbonising business radically by 2030.

2. $130 Trillion committed to hitting net zero

Known as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero or GFanz, it covers more than 450 firms based in 45 countries across six continents and from all parts of the financial industry. 

It marks a significant recognition that the finance sector must change in order to continue trading effectively into the future.

 The world’s biggest banks, asset managers, insurers, and pension funds increasingly see climate as a fundamental risk to be managed. This means a virtuous cycle of large-scale investment, faster decarbonization, and more jobs. 

3. Forests winning at COP

Last year, the planet lost more than 30 million acres of tree cover——including around 10 million acres of tropical rainforest. 

1t.org, which is part of the World Economic Forum, has secured 50.8 billion trees to be planted by 2030. This is part of a wider goal of 1 trillion trees which would capture 205 billion tonnes of carbon. 

Alongside reaching this goal, more than 100 global leaders at COP26 pledged to stop and reverse deforestation and The LEAF Coalition raised $1 Billion from companies to protect forests. 

(MSQ Sustain worked with our clients Emergent to make the LEAF Coalition a success and we have been working with 1T.org and The World Economic Forum to drive awareness and commitments toward tree planting, restoration and protection).

4. Climate change isn’t an ‘environmental’ issue

Climate change is connected to every issue facing humanity; poverty, hunger, water scarcity, health disparities, gender inequality, and racism. As a result, it’s important that climate policies take a holistic approach that considers how investments and divestments impact various communities. 

The call for a “just transition”  means more than merely phasing out fossil fuels; it also means phasing out the injustices and inequalities that have defined the past. 

When a company starts to address the ghg emission in their value chain or consider its impacts and dependencies on nature it also crucially opens itself up to wider topics covering social justice and human rights. A company that understands the interconnectedness of its action on climate alongside complex social issues has a better chance of avoiding greenwashing and connecting with its audience positively around environmental concerns. 

At this COP26 justice is a big talking point. I recommend listening to this speech by Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados at the Opening of the COP26 World Leaders Summit. 

5. Hope not fear. A pathway to 1.5C if we want it.

Ending this piece as it began, with hope.

It is easy to despair at the fact that countries’ commitments on climate are falling short of what is needed to keep global temperatures close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Halving emissions by 2030 might feel impossible. Yet, the technologies already exist. 

Moving to more plant-based diets, electrifying transport and switching to renewable energy are within reach. And making these changes do not just result in cleaner air or healthier living but a more stable society. 

As explained here such shifts can occur exponentially.  These changes will be a race to the top as the benefits of green jobs, infrastructure and technologies become clear.