At the end of the first week of COP26, Naomi Harris gives her top three takeaways and looks ahead to what next week holds.
Corporate communications haven’t quite gone to plan
The comments by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden that investment in the technology necessary to transition to net zero could only be financed by oil and gas revenue led to questions about the viability of the Anglo-Dutch giant reaching its own 2050 target. Greta Thunberg walking out of a panel on carbon offsetting, arguing that it was just another method of ‘greenwash’ by business illustrated yet again what happens when the corporate world, which is moving – but more slowly than Greta would like – collides with activism. We look to see whether such risks are better managed over the next few days.
The UK (and the UN) are trying to create a drumbeat of announcements but not all the pledges are in tune
More than 130 of the 197 countries attending have so far pledged to reach net zero by 2050, but fewer than a third have pledged to phase out coal. You’d be forgiven for scratching your head and wondering how that circle will be squared. Carbon capture and storage is an option, but the technology and its take-up will have to move on leaps and bounds. Critics argue it won’t and so the net zero pledges of those clinging to coal aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
National political tensions are playing out on an international stage
The Indonesian president committed to halt and reverse deforestation within his country’s borders, but before he could enjoy the warm glow of international approval his environment and forestry minister backtracked by saying Indonesia ‘can’t promise what we can’t do’. The minister added that the country’s natural resources should be used to support development and zero deforestation by 2030 would be ‘unfair’.
Expect another week of wall-to-wall news coverage
The week ahead will touch on the role of innovation and transport in decarbonisation as well as what action needs to be taken across the world’s cities to keep us on track towards net zero. Going beyond the headlines, WA is conducting primary research to understand what impact COP26 has had on how people engage with the climate debate, how they view business and what this could mean for how organisations choose to communicate.