The conversation around COP26 and climate action (post 1)

Nithya Balakrishnan

November 2021

The conversation around COP26 and climate action (post 1)

The good news is Climate Change, Sustainability, ESG and the Environment are no longer conversations restricted to just ministerial conferences, bureaucratic discussions or the boardroom! The harsher truth probably is that today there is far too much noise on Climate Goals, Emission Targets and Renewable Energy adoption and action on-ground is definitely wanting. To briefly quote the young environmentalist Greta Thunberg’s reaction to the climate summit and revised agreement
“The COP26 is over. Here is a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.”

Here is where I do not wish to be as jaded as young Greta – as a professional in the Sustainability realm, headlines around #COP26 making it to the front pages is mildly reassuring. There is hope that decision-makers across the spectrum are reading about the immediate need to make smarter, cleaner and greener choices for future generations. As a former journalist, I can only hope that this coverage translates to actual impact – home owners begin aligning towards renewables powered houses and electric vehicles; CXOs demand that clean energy alone fuel business processes; heads of universities encourage plastic-free, green campuses while promoting R&D on clean technology; the investor community realizes climate initiatives deserve the moolah while policy-makers understand the significance of a long-term, stable regulatory framework coupled with incentives to accelerate energy transition.

At the Climate summit it was observed, “enabling developing countries to bypass fossil fuels and move directly to renewables is arguably one of the biggest technology transfer challenges the world has ever faced. To hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, developing countries cannot follow the same path the rich world did, industrialising using coal power and dirty manufacturing, and only going green when wealthy.”

Challenges are immense in a post-pandemic reality: jobs creation, innovative & efficient technologies, low-cost manufacturing and investment at scale, infrastructure and affordability will need to be addressed, especially for developing nations like India. Probably why the revised agreement agrees to acknowledge India’s insistence at ‘phasing down’ and not ‘phasing out’ Fossil Fuels.

In light of this argument, do I believe #COP26 and the revised agreement could be that ultimate gamechanger where nations and companies prioritise the environment hand-in-hand with economic development and profitability? Probably not. However, if there is a possibility that scientific realities can translate to more stringent commitments to accelerate the road to Net-zero, I am all for that dialogue at least.

Undoubtedly, the developed world must acknowledge that a lot of their manufacturing has shifted to the ‘poorer nations’ – hence emission reports seem a lot better than reality when plotted against domestic consumption. To create maximum impact, policy will have to be coupled with green finance especially from capital-rich businesses and countries. Companies will have to wholly commit to Net Zero agenda and embrace the role of the Environment in the ESG reporting framework.

Post the COP26, here is to a cautiously optimistic outlook that Government, Businesses and Individuals decide, in tandem, to walk the talk when it comes to a greener tomorrow.

(This article is the first post around the Climate Summit, COP26 held in Glasgow last week. The second post captures the key conversations around Solar Energy at the convention. Do check it out in the blogs column alongside)