Public Policy

November 8, 2021

Cutting through the COP – 8 November 2021

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With the COP26 summit now underway, we will be providing regular updates on the Conference. For more information on how Instinctif Partners helps companies develop and communicate impactful climate and environment strategies, please email James.Nason@instinctif.com.

Good COP

US President, Joe Biden

Upon his return to the USA following the COP26 Leaders’ Summit last week, President Biden received a much-needed boost as his ambitious Infrastructure Bill was passed by Congress. The $550 billion infrastructure package includes a number of measures that are aimed to mitigate climate change including funding for electric vehicle chargers and the expansion of domestic renewable energy.

Bad COP

Australian Resources Minister, Keith Pitt

Today, the Australian Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, reiterated the government’s position that it won’t be walking away from fossil fuels and coal. “We’ve said very clearly, we are not closing coal mines and we’re not closing coal fired power stations,” he said during an interview with ABC. Last week, Australia failed to add its name to a list of more 40 countries pledging to phase out coal use within decades during the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow. Pitt defended the stance claiming increasing prices and demand meant “if we aren’t filling that market somebody else will.” The country is the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal, which is used in coal fired power stations.

What’s been agreed?

Today, the UK has pledged £290m to help poorer countries cope with the impact of climate change. The majority of the money from the UK will go to help Asian and Pacific nations plan and invest in climate action, improve conservation and promote low-carbon development.

Over the weekend, 45 governments, led by the UK, pledged urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming. On Saturday, Nature and Land Use Day, the countries signed on to a new Policy Action Agenda, which aims to help nations make the changes necessary to deliver a low-carbon and deforestation-free food system that is sustainable.

The UK Government has launched a £500 million funding package to support the implementation of the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Roadmap which is intended to help protect five million hectares of rainforests from deforestation. A further £65 million will support a ‘Just Rural Transition’ to help developing countries move to more sustainable agriculture and food production.

Other national commitments announced include Brazil’s plan to scale its low carbon farming programme to 72m hectares, saving 1 billion tonnes of emissions by 2030, Germany’s plans to lower emissions from land use by 25m tonnes by 2030 and the UK’s aim to engage 75% of farmers in low carbon practices by 2030.

The Global Action Agenda on Innovation in Agriculture, was also announced. Signed by the same 45 nations, plus more than 100 other organisations including businesses, research institutions, farmers groups and regions and states, the Agenda will aim to leverage more than $4bn of public investment to increase investment in agricultural research and innovation in order to create more climate-resilient, low-emission technologies and practices.

Something important that you may have missed

95 UK businesses have made a joint commitment to deliver ‘nature positive’ operations by the end of the decade. Many high-profile UK firms have pledged to work together towards halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030.

Following this, the UK’s five biggest supermarkets have announced that they are to try to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by the end of the decade. Leading UK supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op and M&S will work with the World Wide Fund for Nature to halve the amount of global warming that shopping baskets cause. In the Retailers Commitment for Nature the firms have committed to cut their environmental impact across climate, deforestation and nature In a joint statement, the supermarket bosses said: “As CEOs of leading UK food retailers, we recognise that a future without nature is a future without food. By 2030 we need to halt the loss of nature.”

European Union and COP26 update

Representatives of the EU’s climate negotiating team at COP26, including EU Presidency holder Slovenia and its chief negotiator Tina Kobilšek, have reaffirmed their commitment to a successful outcome. Kobilšek said last week that the EU and its member states had come to Glasgow with an ambitious mandate, backed by a European commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55% by 2030.

The EU Commissioner for Energy has said that the squeeze on the gas market across the globe should not deter nations from phasing out coal use, instead it should spur countries to press for clean energy solutions. However, Polish government in a volte-face has confirmed it still intends to produce energy from coal until 2049. This was despite being among the 190 signatories of the “Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement” at COP26,  a sign some had hoped meant Warsaw would part with the fossil fuel earlier.

Meanwhile, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen is under fire for jetting across Europe – even for distances as short as 50km. In terms of policy, EU taxonomy is likely to include nuclear power and natural gas, fuelling allegations of greenwashing. Plans are well under way in Brussels to include nuclear and gas in the bloc’s package on green investments, in part because of the current energy crisis having deepened the resolve of member states which insist on these energy sources to be included — even if this will result in a weaker EU ‘green standard’.

On the fringe

  • At the Strengthening Parliamentary Consensus for Global Change panel on Friday, a number of leading UK parliamentarians discussed the UK Parliament’s work on climate change in recent years. It was noted that tackling climate change is an issue where cross-party cooperation has resulted in firm action and policy changes. The panelists agreed that climate change will only be tackled if the UK takes the collective approach that was taken locally, nationally and internationally tackling the pandemic. The MPs and Lords warned that achieving net zero will require far greater political will and public consensus on how we change our behavior and how we live.
  • During the Sustainable Agriculture & Halting Deforestation & Conversion from Agricultural Commoditie session, panelists including representatives from Tesco and the NFU discussed how the agricultural industry is vital in tackling climate change. The overall message from the event was that food justice needs a focus on coherent and joined up legislation and regulation in order to address the interconnectivity of the issues we face. Panelists agreed that there is a need to start by understanding what a healthy and equitable food system looks like and designing policy response from there.

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