This is a big week for sustainability and carbon neutrality. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference and is being held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, between October 31 and Nov. 12, 2021.
More than 190 world leaders will participate, along with tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and citizens for 12 days of talks. The summit aims to accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change signed by 196 countries in 2015, is meant to strengthen the resolve of countries across the world to reduce the rise in global temperature rise during this century. The goal is to keep it from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Perhaps again we need to take a step back. In 2015, there was huge support for the Paris Agreement, as countries vowed to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Many nations willingly participated in order to improve the Earth’s dangerously warming temperatures.
Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO, Schneider Electric, says the window of time is closing and we are nowhere where we should be, saying we should be doing three-to-five times more than we are doing. He argues the real timeline is not 2040 or 2050, but rather 2030 because if we don’t act in the next decade, it will be seriously too late.
The rising temperature requires not just a continual shift in thinking, a major shift from fossil fuels, and a commitment from all countries, but a transformational change. In addition, we need to consider how technology will help track such metrics and analyze the data to help us reach our targets. Collaboration is also key in order to develop policies and regulations, technology and innovation, and to enable much more.
This is also a huge priority for organizations like Schneider Electric, which states 90% of its carbon footprint is with suppliers. “We just signed an agreement with our top strategy suppliers to have them reduce their carbon footprint by 50% in the next five years,” says Tricoire.
He suggests collaboration with government, working with industry to understand innovation, and education programs are crucial. Further, a large part of every country’s infrastructure needs to lead the way by taking measures to become greener, he says.
In a CNBC panel at a Schneider Electric event in October, collaboration was a key point of discussion when it comes to achieving net zero. Lord Adair Turner, chair of the energy transitions commission and senior fellow, Institute for New Economic Thinking, explains there has been a positive ambition loop—or a self-reinforcing cycle—between government and the private sector in the last two years.
“Private sector companies have realized that with the technologies available they can commit to get to net-zero emissions by mid-century,” he declares. “That is giving government confidence that they can set that target. That is making it nonnegotiable for businesses to then come in line with that target.”
He goes on to explain that three years ago none of the “tricky” sectors—shipping, aviation, steel—made a commitment to net zero. Now, many are. He points to organizations in steel, aviation, and the concrete and cement industries that are setting out a pathway to net zero by 2050.
The discussions happening at COP26 in the coming days will be telling for what comes next for sustainability and net zero—but will it be enough? There is still so much work to be done and everyone needs to agree on all the efforts working together—and that is truly where the rubber meets the road. Will that really happen?
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