COP 26: Leading by example

The Government is keen to portray the UK as global leaders, but do we live up to that title?

The behind the scenes goings on of COP 26, or therefore lack of, has been well documented over the past few weeks. Following the unexpected dismissal of Claire O’Neil and her damning testimonial on the current state of planning; what was supposed to be the catalyst and the anchor point of the UK’s road to Net Zero has been left looking a little lacklustre  

Despite the worrying progress of COP planning, all is far from being lost. The support for the conference exuding from parliamentarians, the renewables industry, businesses and the general public has been unwavering. Spurred on by the support and held to account by national and international media outlets – many of which will be watching how this unfolds more closely than originally planned – the Government has sprung into action to rectify the accusations made on the fate of COP26.  

Alok Sharma MP has now been appointed as the new COP 26 President. Nicola Sturgeon has publicly declared she will not let ‘squabbles’ between Boris Johnson and herself get in the way of  COP and Michael Gove has set out the UK’s stall for global emissions reductions – the UK will lead the global revolution, not only because of the opportunities it entails but because it is our moral duty to lead the way. 

With the new President in place COP will hopefully be back on track, allowing everyone to resume speculating on what the conference will look like. The Government has already stated that they are planning on COP 26 being the most important climate change event since the Paris agreement. From this, it is safe to assume that their focus will be on international cooperation and ramping up commitments. 

The industry are expecting most of the decisions and pathways for the UK’s road to Net Zero to be unveiled at COP. However, if we are to position ourselves as global leaders, we should really have our own house in order before expecting others to follow. To lead by example, we must have examples at our disposal. This means putting Net Zero enabling policies in place now and providing progress updates on them at COP26. 

“To lead by example, we must have examples at our disposal. This means putting Net Zero enabling policies in place now and providing progress updates on them at COP26.”

To help out Alok Sharma and his team, the REA has put together  the top three things that need to be in place before COP 26 to show the rest of the world that we are serious when we say we are the global leader: 

  1. A strong Net Zero Strategy: this strategy needs to be a detailed, funded and measurable roadmap that delivers the wholesale systems-change required to decarbonise heat, power and transport, while protecting natural capital and creating jobs 

Many in the industry are anticipating this strategy to be the big commitment made by the UK at COP26. However, for it to be successful and for UK businesses to assess its achievability and plan effectively this Strategy must be made available as soon as possible. 

  1. Implement a more effective taxation system: implementing this ahead of COP will show the rest of the world that we are committed to protecting natural capital and incentivising renewable energy and clean technology beyond fossil fuels. 
  1. A strong Office for Environmental Protection: if the new Office for Environmental Protection has strong enforcement capabilities it will act as an example of how Governmentacross the world can produce and enforce policy that supports decarbonisation in line with their Carbon Budgets

For years the UK has been positioning itself as global leaders when it comes to mitigating climate change. We have proved that we can talk-the-talk, but a string of negative policies and political short sightedness has stopped us from walking-the-walk in the international arena. COP 26 is the perfect opportunity to correct this perception. There is no better way to do this than to demonstrate that the big infrastructural changes needed to make a Net Zero UK a reality are already taking place.  

Nina Skorupska is chief executive of the REA. This blog originally appeared in Business Green

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Nina Skorupska is chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association source