Following the end of her secondment into the Strategy team in the COP Unit in the Cabinet Office, our associate director, Rachel Hayes, reflects on her experience, the outcomes of COP26 and what it means for the energy sector going forward.
Firstly, I’d like to express my thanks for the huge amount of support I received from the sector throughout my secondment. Many were keen to engage and support where they could, and it was fantastic to catch up with those who were able to make it to Glasgow. Being an integral part of the team delivering a COP on home soil was hugely rewarding, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
I set out with the key aim of showcasing the inspiring projects, people and organisations working to achieve net zero, as well as to ensure the smooth running of COP itself. It was fantastic to produce the Faces of the Energy Transition campaign which was widely shared by COP channels, Race to Zero partners, BEIS, other trade associations and used at COP to promote green jobs.
My reflections on COP itself. Firstly, we ran COP in very challenging times. The most popular COP ever with nearly 40,000 delegates coming to Glasgow and more able to engage via the online platform. I saw first-hand how dedicated the team were and how hard they worked to pull this off. When I was there, I was very much in awe of it happening and everyone being able to come together in person with the key aim to keep alive the possibility of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C. Outside on the streets of Glasgow the marches were truly inspiring, as other members of the team will attest.
This COP was the first test of the ratchet mechanism of the Paris Agreement, and it proved that it worked. Paris got us to around 4°C. Analysts are suggesting that Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from Glasgow got us to 2.4°C and if you include the pledges down to a possible 1.8°C, if everyone delivers. The gap in ambition has narrowed. Now the world needs confidence that we will shift immediately into implementation, that the pledges made in Glasgow will be delivered – and delivered in a just and inclusive way – and that the policies and investment will swiftly follow.
Where is still a huge gap, not just here in the UK but globally, is in policy implementation.
When I joined the team in March last year, I felt huge frustrations at the speed some of the slowest countries moved and their efforts to be blockers and derail the process at every opportunity. So I’m very glad that we did come out with the ‘Glasgow Pact’. We now have the mandate to come back every year with increased climate ambition and more ambitious NDCs. You can see the summary document of what COP26 achieved here.
All of this happened against the backdrop of Covid and the lack of any other multilateral process to pick up the significant broader issues around equality.
From a UK perspective, we came to hosting this COP from a position of leadership and I hope that will be super helpful moving forward. It was heartening to see the alignment of political leadership across Whitehall begin to happen, with COP26 being a key test for all policy announcements in 2021, which started to embed the importance of net zero across government. I hope that will continue and the importance of civil society and organisations such as the Climate Change Committee should not be underestimated. COP26 also saw the engagement of our Prime Minister, which I’m hopeful will continue.
You can see here the recent speech from COP President Alok Sharma on the priorities for 2022 and the presidency year.
I’m very happy to chat to anyone who would like to know more. As I’m sure you can imagine, it is hard to distil nine months into a short blog.