You may have noticed an increasing amount of media coverage around climate change issues and an event in Glasgow called COP26. In this blog we’ll explore the upcoming climate conference and its implications for both the hospitality industry and wider society.
As October 31st approaches, news about COP26 is ramping up. The UK government published its Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and we are beginning to see which countries will be physically represented at the conference. But what actually is COP26, why is it important and what tangible impact will we see in the aftermath?
What is COP?
COP, or the Conference of the Parties, is the annual climate change conference that brings together all 197 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These states review and vote on the implementation of the convention and any associated decisions that are proposed. They review national commitments and emission inventories that are submitted by member states, assessing their progress towards the fight against climate change.
When and where is COP26 taking place?
Originally planned for November 2020, COP26 was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions and will now take place between 1-12 November 2021 in Glasgow.
There’s so much climate jargon, what does it all mean?
In the national commitments and in the conversations surrounding COP26 there are many key phrases and buzzwords thrown about. It can be tricky to figure out what they actually mean.
To start, nations will present their roadmaps to achieving Net Zero. Net zero means they will remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere they are responsible for emitting, while also being compliant with reducing emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
In their plans, they might also discuss carbon offsetting, where they will invest in environmental projects around the world in order to compensate for their residual carbon footprints.
Accordingly, these carbon footprints are a measure of how much carbon is produced from their actions.
How is the Paris Climate Agreement relevant to COP26?
The Paris Agreement was first negotiated in 2015 at COP21 in Paris and committed countries to keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C and ideally below 1.5°C in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
Why does COP26 matter?
COP26 will be the first time since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 that countries will set out their plans to cut emissions by 2030. COP26 will determine the direction of key aspects of the fight against climate change. How well nations have implemented their commitments under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2℃, and the extent to which they will increase that ambition will be clear within their Nationally Determined Contributions.
How will this affect regular people?
When thinking about the high-level negotiations that will take place, it can be difficult to see how these decisions will actually affect people. So, what could decisions made at COP actually change? Decisions made at COP could impact anything from how we heat our homes, where we get our electricity from and how we travel. Notable UK examples are the new Heat Pump Ready Programme, the decision to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and the commitment to phase out unabated coal power stations by 2025.
The UAE is in talks for their Net Zero target, and Singapore’s Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy aspires to halve their emissions by 2050, and achieve net zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century.
What implications are there for the hospitality and foodservice industry?
In terms of food, we are likely to see recommendations around choosing more plant-based options in our diets. As foodservice providers also look towards a journey to net zero, they will prioritise local and seasonal produce, plant based proteins and food waste reduction.
Not only limited to nations, Winnow’s clients are also announcing ambitious climate strategies in the build up to COP26. IKEA is an official partner of the conference, having committed to being climate positive by 2030 and Net Zero by 2050. For instance, one point of their sustainability strategy aims to be 100% renewable energy powered across the entire IKEA value chain.
Hilton, who are physically hosting the conference in Glasgow, were the first major hotel company to set science based targets aligned with the Paris agreement and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative. They have pledged to reduce their Scope 1-2 emissions by 61% by 2030 through, among other things, increasing use of renewable energy and promoting low-carbon diets.
COP26 presents a huge opportunity for us to take important steps forward in the race to a climate positive planet. We badly need action, and although there is much to be anxious about given the climate emergency, we also have reason to remain optimistic. With near-universal agreement that urgent action is needed, we must pull together to reach global net zero by mid-century to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.