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COP26: Nature, Adaptation and Resilience

On the eve of the COP26 climate summit Boris Johnson likened the world’s battle against the climate emergency to a football team losing 5-1 at half-time. By the end of the first week, the PM asserted that the score was 5-3 and potentially heading for extra-time.

Whether the world will be able to score a dramatic win, however, may balance on the outcomes of the second week of discussion at COP26.

Week 1 of COP26 saw big announcements on saving forests, phasing out coal, cutting methane emissions, and stopping fossil fuel finance. The end of the week saw a buoyant march through the city and peaceful youth protests in Glasgow’s George Square. Scenes of a yellow-kilted brass band and school children chanting slogans in giant conga’s flooded social medias and words from Attenborough’s opening speech reverberated around the blue zone, green zone and the fringe events: “Nature is a key ally.  Wherever we restore the wild it will help us re-capture carbon and bring back balance to our planet…”. The critical, and often overlooked, requirement for us to urgently reverse the march towards pH level toward 7.95 in our oceans, after which point 80% of our plankton – a colossal and vital carbon sink – will be wiped out, was explained to worried-looking audiences. The positive power of forests and woodlands, regenerative agriculture, biodiversity, and ecosystem services were also prevalent in conversations.

Positively for Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company, which closes its IPO fundraising offers on 18th November 2021, The NCS (Natural Climate Solutions) Alliance was formed.  Five leading companies (Bank of America, Bayer, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company and Unilever), joined forces to create an investment accelerator, aggregating corporate demand for 1 Gigatonne of emissions from NCS reductions and removals per year by 2025.  They invited corporate leaders to join them as they roll out a sweeping campaign to increase investments into nature (with an estimated value well in excess of $10bn at today’s carbon prices).  By investing in high-quality NCS carbon credits―alongside decarbonising their full value chain emissions in line with a 1.5°C future―businesses are sending a strong demand signal to trigger a system change that will lead to higher trust in NCS as a credible and effective solution to reduce and remove greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) released their biomass policy statement outlining the vital role it can play in the energy transition and the pathway to net zero.

By contrast, week 2 will focus on ministers leading negotiations over finalising parts of the Paris Agreement to make it operational, and on finance for poorer nations to cope with climate change. The atmosphere could therefore become more fraught as countries push for competing outcomes.

Monday’s main programme was focused on the loss and damage caused by global warming and how countries can adapt to climate change. Discussions on adaptation touch on methods to adapt to the impacts of climate change: flood defences, weather warning systems, heat shelters and similar. On the other hand, loss and damage is a long-time demand from climate-vulnerable countries, who raise the question of compensation for the damaging impacts of climate change caused by historic emissions. The human toll of climate change is likely to be far-reaching. Extreme weather in the form of floods, drought, heat, and catastrophic storms are likely to be felt disproportionately, leading to lost lives and livelihoods, displacement, and migration. In response to this reality the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, today called on rich countries to ensure that at least 50% of money pledged to developing countries goes towards helping them adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Former US President Barack Obama took to the stage at COP26 and also addressed the UN Climate Summit on Monday afternoon. He urged attendants to acknowledge that the world was still falling short on climate action and the bulk of his remarks were dedicated to young people; motivating them to channel their anger with a lack of progress into action. While he stressed that there had been a number of significant achievements at the summit, he highlighted the importance that signatories follow through on their commitments and track them. Looking forward, will we see these sentiments echoed over the next week?

Rob Guest, Director, and Louis Bromfield, Investment and Sustainability Associate