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COP26 Climate Summit: What’s going to change?

People with banners protest as part of a climate change march

The climate summit, COP26, has been all over the news recently. The summit aims to accelerate actions to achieve the climate goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The main goal of this agreement was to limit the rise in global average temperature to below 2C and not to exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Most UK big firms and financial institutions have been forced to show how they will achieve these climate targets. These businesses should have detailed public plans for how they will transition to a low-carbon future by 2023. An expert panel will ensure these plans are legitimate. These plans will, hopefully, help the UK meet the net-zero target by 2050.

What is net-zero?

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass the net-zero emissions law. By 2050, the UK will bring all greenhouse gas emissions to be net-zero. ‘Net-zero’ means that carbon emissions will be balanced by schemes to offset greenhouse gases – like planting trees or using carbon capture technology. The amount of carbon the UK emits will be directly balanced with the carbon removed from the atmosphere.

The UK’s major businesses need to play their part to achieve this goal. They will need to adapt their processes and make some huge changes to the way their business runs. For example, transport will shift for business trips. People may opt for a train to London instead of flying across the UK.

Transition plans

Financial institutions and companies with shares on the London Stock Exchange must develop net-zero transition plans under the proposed Treasury rules. These plans need to include detailed steps on how they will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and meet climate targets.

An expert panel of industry leaders, civil society groups and academics have set a science-based ‘gold-standard for the transition plans. The panel aims to stop ‘green-washing’ and invoke realistic plans that will make a difference to the climate. Greenwashing refers to environmental initiatives primarily used for marketing purposes in business. Greenwashing can make a business appear eco-friendly on the surface, without the substance underneath.

Is it enough?

COP26 President Alok Sharma announced that “time is running out” and there needs to be more focus on developing countries. Sharma targeted somewhat of a sore point for many people. Poorer countries had little impact on global warming compared to the major economies.

Tens of thousands protested on Saturday for UK leaders to deliver action at the COP26 summit. The British public is growing restless and frustrated with climate change policies. Climate experts say the UK is not on track to meet our ambitious climate goals, and many are concerned for the future.

COP26 has one more day to go, and many appear unsatisfied with the words and promised actions of UK leaders.

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