COP26 moves the dial towards 1.5C but momentum must increase in 2022


Following the conclusion of the COP26 climate summit, the Aldersgate Group welcomes the important pledges made over the last two weeks in areas such as deforestation, methane, finance and innovation, the progress made on agreeing rules for international carbon markets, the clear next steps that have been identified in the Glasgow Climate Pact for all countries to increase their emission reduction pledges in 2022, and the commitment for countries to move away from the use of unabated coal and fossil fuel subsidies.

Recognising that much remains to be done to put the world economy on track for 1.5C, the Group calls on world leaders to accelerate momentum, by significantly increasing national emission reduction pledges in 2022, updating low carbon development plans, providing clearer commitments on full coal phase out and end of fossil fuel subsidies, and reaching a solution to deliver the minimum $100bn of climate finance pledged to developing countries.

The UK Government – which deserves praise for its efforts during the negotiations and which will retain the COP Presidency for another 12 months – must continue to drive progress in these critical areas of climate negotiations, whilst at the same time developing the policies needed to accelerate the UK economy’s own transition to net zero emissions.

The COP26 summit saw an unprecedented degree of business support for achieving a rapid shift to net zero emissions, with a growing number of sectors and businesses taking on new climate targets and some of the world’s largest financial institutions committing to align their investment portfolios with the 1.5C target under the Paris Agreement [1].

The summit also delivered some important pledges, with China and the United States agreeing close collaboration on climate action [2] and over 100 countries agreeing to end deforestation by 2030 [3] and cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 [4]. Critically, the Glasgow Breakthroughs – which are supported by over 40 countries and aim to accelerate cost reductions and market deployment in renewable power, clean transport, hydrogen, green steel and sustainable agriculture – could have a significant impact on driving global private investment towards low carbon technologies [5].

The formal negotiations have delivered progress in some areas, most notably by introducing a requirement for all countries to submit more ambitious emission reduction pledges in 2022 to keep the 1.5C target alive, explicitly acknowledging for the first time the importance of national economies moving away from their dependence on fossil fuels and progressing rules on international carbon trading, despite some concerns remaining on the risk of double counting of credits. The Glasgow Climate Pact is also clear that developing economies urgently need to deliver the $100bn of annual climate finance pledged to developing economies and that this level of financial support will need to be increased.

However, whilst it has shifted the dial forward, the COP26 summit does not at this stage put the world on track for 1.5C, with many actions required in 2022 to close the emissions gap. Progress is urgently needed in areas such as the delivery of climate finance for developing countries, increasing investment in nature restoration and climate adaptation, the development of more ambitious national emission reduction pledges and low carbon strategies, and on a clear pathway to move away from fossil fuels, including a full phase-out from coal.

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Chair of the Aldersgate Group, said: “Despite many challenges, COP26 has delivered important progress, both in terms of the negotiations themselves but also through the meaningful pledges that governments, businesses and financial institutions have made over the summit. But we must recognise that much work remains to be done to put the world on track for the 1.5C target. Time is of the essence. Governments across the world must continue to work together to close the remaining gaps in ambition and with its Presidency of COP over the next 12 months, the UK Government has a vital role to play.”

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group said: “The business community – including many British businesses – turned up in force at COP26 and made clear its support for the 1.5C target and its intention to deliver a thriving, net zero emissions economy on the ground. Beyond its vital role on the global stage, the UK Government should build on this momentum by implementing its net zero strategy and driving much needed business investment in low carbon power, buildings, transport, industry and agriculture.”

Henrik Pedersen, CEO, ABP, said: “ABP welcomes the progress that has been made at COP26 in Glasgow. It is now essential that governments around the world – including here in the UK – maintain this momentum and accelerate the pace of policy development in the months ahead. The Clydebank Declaration on Green Shipping Corridors is a positive example of the collaboration between nations that will be required to drive decarbonisation in maritime and global trade. Around the world, maritime ports have a critical role to play in facilitating the decarbonisation of transport, industry and energy generation. In the UK, ABP’s ports stand ready to play their part in delivering these shared objectives.”

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive, Anglian Water and Co-Chair of the Corporate Leaders Group, said: “Since Paris the world has changed, in the severity of climate impacts we’ve seen but also in how loudly progressive businesses and society want governments to step up. It was obvious during my time in Glasgow that private enterprise is already deeply engaged in transformative climate action, and a wealth of green finance is there to be exploited. The water industry’s sector-wide commitment to net zero by 2030, 20 years ahead of the UK’s legally-binding target, is just one example of businesses leading the way. But we need governments to go further and faster more urgently, given what’s at stake.”

Sue Riddlestone OBE, CEO & Co-founder, Bioregional, said: “Buildings are responsible for 40% of our carbon emissions, so it was significant to see more governments than ever before committing to cut emissions from the built environment in their Nationally Determined Contributions. And the fact that two-thirds of financial institutions have signed up to the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero will no doubt help much needed capital investment flow into sustainable buildings.

With COP drawing to a close, it is now crucial that we get on with delivery – working with Government to create a viable plan for the energy efficient retrofit of our homes, and to ensure that only net-zero carbon buildings are developed in the future.”

Gabrielle Ginér, Head of Environmental Sustainability, BT, said: “Despite COP26 coming to an end, the need for urgent climate action continues. While we welcome the launch of the Declaration on zero emission cars and vans which signals that we are turning a corner on road transport emissions, we need Governments and businesses across the world to do more. It’s time to commit to net zero, align to 1.5 degree Celsius science-based targets and set out clear and transparent implementation plans.”

Iain Patton, CEO, EAUC said: “It is exciting and a relief to see 1050 universities and colleges across the world committing to net-zero through the Race to Zero campaign of which EAUC is the global Secretariat. We also welcomed the draft strategy on sustainability and climate change from the Department of Education to support all education providers to be net-zero, to improve biodiversity and to obtain clear data on GHG emissions.

“We are delighted that Education Ministers from around the world were finally invited to COP26, but we still have much more to do. We need ALL universities and colleges around the world to commit to net-zero targets, and we need to get our own house in order to fully integrate climate education in the curriculum in the UK – it is clearly just not good enough to have a few hours in Geography or Science.

“Students and other young people are looking at us for leadership and we need to take bold steps to provide the skills and knowledge that young people will need to thrive. To quote the Italian Education Minister, Patrizio Bianchi, “everything starts with education and every career is a sustainable career”.

Ece Ozdemiroglu, Founder, eftec: “From official negotiations to side events with NGOs, sector organisations, and investment managers, from the Blue Zone, and to the streets of Glasgow on the Global Day of Climate Justice march, COP26 was an exhilarating experience for me. If I had a word cloud for the event, ‘Climate Justice’ and ‘Just Transition’ would be the biggest phrases, both internationally and here in the UK.

The statements from the Heads of States are still not enough, but they are encouraging. We must and will continue to bring mitigation and adaptation closer, to help design the most useful role for the public sector, to provide evidence to mobilise more investment in nature, and to encourage everyone to see adaptation as an opportunity to create a healthier and happier society.”

Tim Anderson, Group Head of Transport, Energy Saving Trust, said: “Transport is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the UK and accounts for around a quarter of all global emissions. We need strong policy commitments, practical support and incentives in place at national and international levels to decarbonise transport. We are motivated by the outcomes of COP26 including commitments to electrification, active travel incentives, as well as innovation to support the decarbonisation of rail, marine and aviation. There is significant work to be done to turn this ambition into action.”

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO, IEMA, said: “Whilst I’ve been at COP I have witnessed some great discussions and campaigning for a good outcome to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, but I and our IEMA members are worried that the outcomes of the negotiations won’t go far enough without more concrete plans from countries that are responsible for the highest levels of emissions.

There is an onus on those countries that have locked in ambitious emissions targets to continue to persuade those that have not done so to do likewise and therefore demonstrate real climate leadership, alongside a willingness to collaborate on solving this greatest of challenges. We must also continue to equip more people and organisations internationally with the right green skills to guide and lead real change for a sustainable future.”

Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and CSO, IKEA UK & Ireland, said: “COP26 was an historic opportunity to recommit the world to a 1.5 degree future, and as we emerge from the summit, at IKEA we’re clear that this remains the only way to deliver a more sustainable future. While we welcome the significant announcements made across COP26, governments and our leaders must now listen to the voices of the many people that were raised throughout the summit, including many thousands of inspirational young people to whom we must listen, learn from, and engage with. The UK Government must also recognise the demands for action from businesses and across society, and make good on their commitments and deliver the detailed pathways and policies we need to assemble a better and more sustainable future.”

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “My feeling is that it’s been good to hear about the initiatives discussed and launched at COP26 but too early to yet say whether they will be meaningful or successful. Though I’m sceptical about some statements and pledges, ultimately the most important figure is the atmospheric CO2 concentration, and we’ll only know whether COP26 has shifted that number in some years’ time. Looking back at the CO2 record from 2015 and afterwards it doesn’t look like COP21 had much impact (yet), so while I welcome all the initiatives it may be that we’ll need to substantially ramp up deliverable global actions if, in a few years, it turns out that COP26 has not led to in a noticeable shift in the CO2 level.”

Jon Khoo, Head of Sustainability (EAAA), Interface, said: “At COP26 we have discussed the urgency, now it is time to demonstrate agency. The business community is aware of the scale of the challenge we face with the climate crisis, and must now demonstrate its ingenuity, determination and willingness to act. Equally, we must ensure we’re listening to the youth activists, the scientists, and the diverse voices we have heard from at Glasgow. For a pledge is a promise, reducing GHG emissions will be a fact.

It was pleasing to see the built environment and construction take an important role on the penultimate day of COP26 as our industry is connected with up to 40% of global carbon emissions. With this in mind, tackling both operational and embodied carbon emissions must remain a key focus for every nation’s journey to net zero. Finally, we were encouraged by the progress of Race to Zero campaign and increased use of Science-Based Targets as basis for credible action by businesses.”

Simon Winch, Sustainability & Ethics Lead on Environment, John Lewis Partnership, said: “COP26 has been a vital opportunity for world leaders to come together to discuss how we accelerate action towards the goals set out by the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are absolutely committed to that ambition and recognise the important role the retail industry has in supporting its goals. This is why we are working hard to establish our science-based targets in line with the 1.5°C pathway, which will build on our existing 2035 net zero commitments. We won’t solve the climate crisis alone or overnight but we recognise that the time for talking is over and we are prepared to take bold action to ensure we’re part of the solution.”

Caroline Laurie, Director of Responsible Business, Kingfisher, said: “Now is the time for us all to take action and we know we all have more to do however, COP26 has delivered important progress through the pledges, initiatives and negotiation progress that has been achieved. Continued momentum is essential to put the world economy on track for 1.5C, both in terms of global negotiations, and in terms of national climate policy.

From a UK business perspective, one of the most impactful steps we have seen come out of COP is the requirement for listed companies to publish net zero transition plans that align with the UK’s net zero target. This will not only help accelerate actions to decarbonise the economy but will also address concerns over greenwashing. However, the commitment could be made stronger by broadening its application to all large companies.”

Simon Virley, Vice Chair and Head of Energy and Natural Resource, KPMG UK, said: “While the debate has already begun about whether COP26 has been a success or a failure, the truth is it’s somewhere in between. Progress was made in a number of areas: initiatives like GFANZ that has mobilised $130 trillion of ‘net zero’ global capital and the ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’ on clean tech are welcome, as are the agreements on reforestation, cutting methane, phasing out coal and the take-up of EVs. But, even with these measures, the world is definitely not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“One very big and welcome shift has been the much greater involvement of the business and finance community at COP26. In Glasgow there was evidence of more of a ‘bottom-up’ approach, with businesses taking the initiative on developing plans for Net Zero and not waiting for governments to act. COP26 is best viewed not in isolation but as part of an ongoing, global process of negotiations and initiatives to reduce climate change, one that continues next year at COP27.”

Nigel Wilson, Group CEO, Legal & General, said: “In the two weeks of COP26 the world is ever more convinced of the imperative on action and delivery. Debate is not enough. The challenges and deliverables agreed in Glasgow on how we tackle climate reflects that this is not only the most urgent issue but also the biggest investment opportunity of our lifetimes. We can harness the power of business and markets to make sure that the transition happens. That is why our roadmap to net zero focuses on funding the transition to support a low carbon future and deliver secure returns. That is why we are investing in renewable energy, and we have actionable climate plans in place across our major business areas including investments, housing and commercial property.”

Daniel Johns, Chair of the National Flood Forum and Director at the Aldersgate Group: “COP26 has focussed attention on critical areas of climate action like never before. Adaptation, nature and water have finally had the focus they deserve. Yet despite that welcome shift, we are still not where we need to be in the races to net zero and resilience, especially in preparing for flooding, sea level rise and increasing water scarcity. If anything, COP26 has highlighted just how far governments are now lagging behind where businesses and the public want them to be in preparing the country for climate change.”

Duncan Burt, Chief Sustainability Officer at National Grid, said: “COP26 has set us on a trajectory where we can conquer climate change but we are just at the beginning of a vast effort to deliver and exceed the promises that we have made. There remains much still to do but Glasgow’s COP26 has moved us firmly forward, bringing us with the margin of error of 2C warming. Many of the major building blocks of a climate friendly future are understood and now simply need to be built: zero carbon electricity supply, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are all underway in the US, UK and around the world. But more needs to be done to demonstrate that richer nations will play their part on leading the global transition: richer nations should go faster and ensure the financial commitments to support the global transition are met.

We are working to deliver zero carbon energy for our communities and to help accelerate the transition. We are working globally to enable the wider transition through initiatives such as GGI-OSOWOG.  We must now move at speed to seize the opportunity to limit warming below 2C and keep 1.5C in sight.”

Greg Jackson, Founder and CEO, Octopus Energy Group, said: “COP26 was a great chance for business leaders, governments and activists around the world to come together to work towards a green, clean future, and Octopus Energy are delighted to have used its galvanizing influence to announce a flurry of agreements to bring our technology and wind turbines to even more countries, turbocharging the green energy revolution around the world. But, before we all pat ourselves on the back, COP26 also shed light on the fact that we still have a long way to go.

Octopus Energy recently secured funding from Al Gore founded Generation Investment Management and we’ll continue to use it as fuel for our global green mission. But please, we ask of you all – we have the tools to make green energy the cheapest energy for everyone, let’s not waste any more time in weaning ourselves off dirty fossil fuels for good.”

Gavin Templeton, Partner, Pollination, said: “It remains to be seen whether COP26 will be judged as a success or a missed opportunity but the stark warnings from the IPCC climate change report appear to have shifted momentum in the debate. Decisive action has been taken on halting deforestation, cutting methane emissions and the phasing out of coal-fuelled power plants and India’s engagement with the net zero target must surely be viewed as a diplomatic win. It is clear the transition to a low-carbon economy will require a reframing of the global economy, radical thinking, and breakthrough ideas so it is fitting that natural capital finally took centre stage and $130trillion of private capital has been directed to decarbonisation. GFANZ has laid down the gauntlet to policy makers and public sector financiers so will they step up to the plate? The time for talking is over and we now need concrete measures to accelerate the transition towards net zero.”

Philippa Spence, Managing Director, Ramboll UK, said: “COP26 has delivered progress but fallen short on securing our 1.5-degree future. I urge businesses and authorities to prioritise adaptation and resilience measures, whilst accelerating the pace of decarbonisation. The solutions to do so exist here and now, but must be strengthened with changed leadership behaviours and the willingness to adopt low-carbon business models. The private sector can lead the green transition, but it will take bravery. We must be open to leaving the tried-and-tested behind, and acknowledge that some of the challenges are not as hard we think!”

Keith Anderson, CEO, ScottishPower, said: “It’s fair to say that Glasgow has never experienced anything quite like COP – it has energised civic society and brought commitments from business ranging from the car manufacturers to the finance sector to take action to address the climate emergency.

“From our headquarters in Glasgow, at ScottishPower we’re proud to be playing our part in the green transformation.  Speeding up the journey to a greener future is at the heart of everything we do. We were the first large energy company in the UK to generate the 100% Green electricity – closing our coal plants, ditching gas, and focusing entirely on green generation and investing in the grid to bring on even more renewables. All of our investments – £10 billion in the next 4 years – are determined through the prism of Net Zero.

“What we’ve seen over the past two weeks are the building blocks being laid for the Net Zero transition, with enduring commitments on coal, methane, forestry and transport. On their own they may not be enough, but together they begin to build momentum. My expectation is that COP26 will prove to be the springboard for faster action and greater ambition. Reflecting on a momentous fortnight, what really brought home the significance of COP to me was seeing the thousands of people – of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities – coming together to march for change last weekend. Coming past our building, which is decked out in the global warming stripes along its base, it was clear to me that the message really was very simple: do more, do it now, do it faster, do it for them.”

Carl Ennis, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens plc, said: “Measure of the success of the COP negotiations must be more nuanced than simply the ultimate target. Net zero, with net benefits, is a journey, and whilst the discussions in Glasgow may not have detailed all the steps required, I believe that we should focus our efforts on delivering what we can do right here, right now. Business is ready to play its part.”

Meg Baker, Director of Education, SOS-UK, said: “We welcome the progress being made to connect the climate crisis with the role of education as a key enabler for change. At COP26 we saw the first ever convening of Education and Environment Ministers as part of the presidency programme which is a positive step in the right direction. From this a number of nations have made meaningful commitments to embed climate and sustainability into education policy, including the UK Department for Education who used the event to launch their draft Climate and Sustainability strategy. The strategy includes a strong focus on training and skills as well as integration into STEM subjects which are all absolutely crucial, for an even more ambitious strategy we are calling for this to cover all subject areas to break the current silos we are seeing in education.”

John Scanlon, Chief Executive Officer, SUEZ recycling and recover UK, said: “Although frustrated by the absence of waste and resources on the agenda at COP26 before the conference began, two weeks on I am more upbeat – it was there, time and again, woven through and embedded in speeches by high profile figures from across the globe, indicating the pivotal role resource efficiency plays in meeting our emission reduction pledges. With the Environment Act passing into law this week, the path is clear for the reforms needed to transform our take, make and dispose culture to a more circular economy and we stand ready to work with our partners across the value chain to make resource efficiency a reality.”

Giles Bolton, Responsible Sourcing Director, Tesco, said: “We are encouraged by a number of the agreements secured at COP26, notably in areas such as eliminating deforestation and reducing potent methane levels by 30%, both by 2030. We look forward to supporting the implementation of these initiatives. Delivering low carbon economies and net zero commitments requires everyone to play their part, facilitated by targeted investment. Earlier this year we announced our own commitment of achieving net zero across our entire value chain by 2050, in line with a 1.5C trajectory. We welcome the announcement of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero to deliver more than $130 trillion in financing to transition global economies by 2050.

We hope COP26 will lead to continued ambitious action, both from governments and businesses and that the UK will accelerate its transition to net zero emissions. We have no more time to waste in this important decade of action.”

Maria Connolly, Partner and Head of Clean Energy, TLT LLP, said: “Collaboration will continue to be key even after COP26 is over, but it’s extremely encouraging to have seen so many organisations coming together over the last couple of weeks to make global pledges. In particular, the launch of The Adaptation Research Alliance was a hugely positive step towards creating affordable low carbon technologies. However, it was slightly discouraging to see only a small number of countries signing up to the policy declaration on the transition to zero emission vehicles, with some of the world’s largest auto markets staying on the side-line. Currently private sector investment is driving the change in this market and we’re seeing creative new joint-ventures and deals come about to deliver record numbers of EV charging stations. While there’s still much to be done, we can be encouraged that the progress made over the last week or so will surely go some way in helping all nations reach their net zero goals.”

Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank UK, said: “Triodos Bank welcomes the inclusion of dedicated discussion on the role of finance in the COP26 programme, and the creation of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). Having called repeatedly for net zero transition plans to be made mandatory, we see the announcement that UK financial institutions will be required to produce such plans on a ‘comply or explain’ basis as a step in the right direction. It is critical that the standards developed for such plans are robust, science-based and aligned to 1.5-degree scenarios.

However, more action is needed. We call for an end to investment in fossil fuel expansion and exploration, for robust carbon pricing that truly reflects its social and environmental cost and for fossil fuel subsidies to be systematically dismantled.  And we ask that the financial sector be regulated not only in line with the potential risks and opportunities that arise from climate change, but also with recognition of its role in the causes of this crisis. If we want a net zero society and economy, we need to regulate for a net zero financial sector.”

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council, said: “We needed this COP to deliver global commitments to limit temperature rises to 1.5C and whilst it is far from perfect, the Glasgow Climate Pact is a step in the right direction but far more still needs to be done.

Important progress for our sector has been achieved through initiatives which will help drive the decarbonisation of key construction materials. Likewise, we have also seen a powerful drive on steering private financial capital towards low-carbon investment, with welcome initiatives targeting disclosure, credibility and transparency.  However, much of the momentum has come from the market with a multitude of impactful global climate action initiatives announced by the Building to COP Coalition, Race to Zero and World GBC.

As we look to move from pledges to action, especially here at home, the launch of UKGBC’s Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment marks a significant milestone. Co-produced and supported by key industry organisations, it sets out a clear pathway of the policies and stakeholder actions we need to reach net zero moving forwards.  With forthright action lacking at the COP26 negotiating table, it’s now even more important to deliver measurable action through implementing the Roadmap here in the UK.”

Colin Skellett, Group Chief Executive, Wessex Water said: “The fallout from COP26 will continue to be picked over in the months ahead. Irrespective of the global outlook, UK business is primed to play its part and needs long-term certainty from government and regulators. Coming away from COP26, we need an ongoing strong commitment from the government to deliver Net Zero in partnership with the private sector as part of its wider environmental goals. This should include mechanisms and incentives to attract private investment in new technologies and nature-based solutions to decarbonize our supply chains.”

Rick Willmott, Group Chief Executive, Willmott Dixon, said: “We welcome the leadership demonstrated by the UK government at COP26 and are delighted that many world economies and large companies have like Willmott Dixon committed to a net zero transition pathway aligned to 1.5C. We now urge others to join us in turning their commitments into action to deliver a world fit for future generations. It really is Now Or Never.”

Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust, said: “At COP26 it has become clearer than ever that we must urgently drive down emissions and do all that we can to ensure that staying within 1.5 degrees stays alive. The stakes could not be higher. Life depends on it and that requires leadership which extends way beyond Glasgow and enables everyone to play their part to the full.

Another powerful message emanating from COP 26 is that restoring nature is central to tackling the climate crisis and that they are two sides of the same coin. Post COP, we must protect and expand vital habitats such as woodland with a renewed energy and sense of purpose both at home and abroad. The UK’s desire to lead on climate must not end with the Glasgow conference. Instead, we need the Government be a loud voice on the international stage while implementing the Net Zero strategy at home by seeking out every opportunity to do more and faster for nature and climate together.”

David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability, WSP said: “COP26 has to be viewed as a success. National carbon commitments are at the higher end of expectations and there’s been many standout pledges from decarbonising transport to halting deforestation. These all support WSP’s goal of halving the carbon of our designs and advice by 2030. But perhaps most important is the leadership that chairing COP26 has brought to the UK. For the first time we have a clear, long term national Net Zero Strategy which sets out clear plans. The UK’s Net Zero Strategy, the new Environment Act, and the global commitments made during COP26 are warmly welcomed, and need now to be implemented at scale, at pace and in full.”