Held in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November, the UN Climate Change Conference  is setting the political, media and business agenda. Follow proceedings with our bi-weekly round-up.

The main event

Phasing out coal

Several significant national commitments were made yesterday at Energy Day to transition away from coal, the biggest contributor to climate change.

  • The UK and Italy lead a pledge from more than 40 countries to end all investment in new coal power generation, and to phase out its use over the next two decades. Signatories included major coal users Poland, Vietnam and Chile but some of the biggest coal-dependent countries such as the US and China have not signed up. External-link. [UN]
  • Banks and financial institutions also made a landmark commitment to end the funding of unabated coal, including major international lenders such as HSBC, Fidelity International and Ethos. External-link. [UN]
  • In addition, a group of 25 countries including the US and Canada and a number of public finance institutions have signed a UK-led joint statement committing to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022. External-link. [UN]

UK businesses lead on climate change commitments

Over half of FTSE100 companies have committed to transitioning to net zero by 2050, representing a total market capital of over £1.2 trillion.

  • The UK private sector is leading the way in the UN’s Race to Zero – a global alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Of the 5,200 companies who have joined the alliance, almost half are British businesses. External-link. [UK Government]

US-UK Strategic Energy Dialogue

UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng met with US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm to mark the launch of the US-UK Strategic Energy Dialogue.

  • The Dialogue was agreed by Prime Minister Johnson and President Biden in June 2021, to deepen collaboration between the two countries in areas such as clean energy technologies, industrial decarbonisation, and science and innovation, and to leverage the bi-lateral relationship to drive action at global conferences. External-link. [UK Government]

In the news

Leaders leave it to negotiators

As Boris Johnson and other world leaders left COP26 to leave it to their negotiators, accusations of hypocrisy recurred as the Prime Minister took a privet jet to attend a Garrick Club dinner.

  • Reports of Boris Johnson’s arrangements for coming home, which were found to have emitted nearly a ton more CO2 than a train journey External-link. [Daily Mail] External-link. [The Independent] External-link. [The Times]

Finance Day

Wednesday was finance day, meaning there was a lot of focus on what private finance could do to support the transition to net zero.

  • COP26 President Alok Sharma emphasised the culture change that had taken place in boardrooms, saying that financiers are ‘the new Swampys’ External-link. [The Times]
  • Not everyone approved, however, as some eco-activists accused Sharma of ‘appropriation’ External-link. [Daily Mail] External-link. [The Guardian]

Carney’s coalition

One of the biggest announcements from finance day was the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz), a group of 450 organisations pledging potentially $130 trillion of funding.

  • Mark Carney organised the coalition, which includes investment managers, banks and asset managers External-link. [Financial Times] External-link. [The Guardian]
  • However, there was scepticism about the announcement, with the FT’s Lex arguing that the size of the promise was simply too big to be believed External-link. [Financial Times]

New regulations

The government introduced some new regulations to try and move the private sector to taking more responsibility for solving climate change.

  • The IFRS Foundation announced a new body that from 2022 will set international standards for sustainability disclosure, to prevent greenwashing External-link. [Financial Times]
  • Rishi Sunak announced plans to force companies to set out their plans for net zero by fining them for failure External-link. [The Times] External-link. [The Telegraph] External-link. [The Independent]
  • The Telegraph seemed unconvinced by the policy, arguing that encouragement would see better results than punishment External-link. [The Telegraph]

Coal pledge

An agreement to phase out the use of coal received a lot of attention, although the focus was on those who didn’t sign up as much as those who did.

  • 40 countries signed up to the agreement, pledging to end all investment new coal power generation, and to phase out all coal power by at least the 2040s External-link. [BBC News] External-link. [The Guardian] External-link. [Evening Standard]

However, the fact that neither the US nor China were parties to the agreement was seen as a serious blow to the effectiveness of the agreement External-link. [Financial Times] External-link. [The Telegraph] External-link. [Daily Mail]

Other voices

Private sector joins government coal pledge

Major companies, including several large banks, signed the UK government’s pledge to end coal power investment domestically and abroad.

Police clash with activists at COP protest

Climate protestors have implored Nichola Sturgeon to step in and intervene against what they describe as heavy-handed tactics from Glaswegian police.

  • Environmental protestors urge Nichola Sturgeon to take action against ‘intimidating’ policing of COP demonstrations External-link. [The Guardian]

IEA views COP agreements with cautious optimism  

The International Energy Agency has said that climate commitments made by leaders at COP26 could reduce global warming if enforced properly

  • IEA says COP pledges put climate goals within reach External-link. [Reuters]

Government burnishes UK business’ ‘world-leading’ climate credentials

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has claimed that British companies are ‘leading the world’ when it comes to climate action

  • British government praises ‘world-leading’ environmental commitments of the country’s businesses External-link. [FE News]

Experts predict that half of all fossil fuel assets could be worthless by 2036

A major academic study has claimed that half of the world’s fossil fuel assets could lose their entire value by 2036

  • Research warns that $11tn fossil fuel asset crash may cause global economic downturn External-link. [The Guardian]

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