The View from COP26

The View from COP26 – David Picton, SVP of Sustainability

So much has been (and will yet be) written, broadcast and said about COP26, but what matters of course is what gets done as a result. Being here with Alcumus in Glasgow for this week, in person, is a uniquely inspiring experience, a first-hand sense of positivity that we can make a change, we can get things done. The will to act on climate change is palpable as we walk through the Green Zone, on the streets, at the huge CBI business forum and at our fringe event thought leadership roundtable.

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Written by: Alcumus
8th November

For us, that may be due – in part – to our own commitment to be net zero and set a science-based target, working with our customers, our suppliers and our people across the world. But it’s also coming across in the constant flow of Blue Zone practical policy commitments – on ending deforestation, mobilising finance, cutting methane – alongside new multinational net zero pledges. And, as we talk to dozens of people in the Green Zone stands, stalls and exhibits, it’s clear that businesses want to act, are already acting and has much more to give.

There’s a clear ‘three-way’ link between policy agreements, the business cases which back those up across organisations and the actions we can take as individuals. Meeting people from disparate sectors, and different company sizes, they talk of markets coming together with purpose. Most acknowledge that they don't have all the answers, but they speak with passion of the need to try things, to experiment and potentially to enjoy unexpected benefits from their climate change actions.

Talking to Microsoft about data centres, waste and ecosystem initiatives, it was clear that data visibility, knowledge-sharing and accessibility will underpin our ever-increasing understanding of where we need to act. Working with the Reckitt team, the need to extend our thinking to the wider impacts of our products – in their case water usage – was powerfully simple. Who knew that the difference between washing our hands with cold water rather than hot – equally cleansing – could save carbon worth up to 3.3 billion car miles in the UK per year?

Whilst campaigning and public pressure are important, it's also crucial to promote positivity, opportunity and optimism. Despairism – the notion that we're all doomed – is a threat making this summit even more important. We need to come away from COP26 with a will for action, a belief that we can still make a difference and realistic business strategies amongst so many tough priorities.

Over the next week, we’ll share the outcomes and perspectives from our time at COP26 and our Alcumus thought leadership fringe event – an exceptional mix of business, consultants, government policy advisors and academic experts. There’s a lot to do to tackle climate change, but here in Glasgow, I’ve had Kennedy’s stirring words ringing in my ears:

“We choose (these things) … not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

He was of course, talking about the moon, but those words fit exactly with the climate challenge we face. Together. With the best of our energies and skills.