The end of this month will see the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October–12 November 2021. The COP26 summit brings together parties to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The impacts of COP26 will be felt by luxury businesses for years to come. The decisions that are going to be made will inform legislation across the world and set the sustainability agenda. To help luxury businesses prepare for incoming change, Positive Luxury are directing businesses towards articles, books and resources that can help them think differently about sustainability.
This week we turn to Reuters Events’ The Sustainable Business Review, an excellent source of context on COP26 for the last few months that will give businesses an insight into the political and social context around the conference.
Kerry tells world leaders to ‘Stop the BS’
In the October Issue of The Sustainable Business Review, Reuters Policy Correspondent Angeli Mehta gives an excellent overview of the legislative challenges facing COP attendees.
As a goal, one of the areas she points to is an agreement between the U.S. and EU to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas but short-lived one by comparison to carbon, this has been identified as one area when achievable emissions cuts could allow nations to make their Paris commitment.
A challenge identified by Mehta is that COP26 comes against the backdrop of soaring energy prices across the world. This has led to coal power being switched on again and leaders urging for the turning on of oil and gas taps despite the clear environmental need for countries to do the opposite. The EU’s green deal chief Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament that the record prices only underlined the need to speed up the energy transition.
Hopes for success at COP26 dim
An opinion shared by the Positive Luxury team is laid out in the September Issue of The Sustainable Business Review – that despite the urgent need for real action on climate change, COP26 is unlikely to produce the ambitious result that the planet needs.
In the article, editor-in-chief Terry Slavin points to earlier in September when Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, left empty-handed from his trip to China at the beginning of this month to try to persuade the most polluting nation to rein in its coal consumption and set more ambitious emissions reduction targets.
They point towards the hypocrisy of the U.S. and the UK as a possible cause for the lack of success. It is difficult for them to ask China or less developed countries from the global south to cut emissions when both nations are showing reluctance to wean themselves off fossil fuels. The UK’s development of an oil and gas refinery west of the Shetland Isles could not have come at a worse time.
‘We have to get from net-zero to near-zero’
In this article, Oliver Balch interviews Alberto Carrillo of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). In the interview, they explore how the organisation is launching a new net carbon standard to to boost companies’ role in addressing the climate crisis.
Talking about how SBTi sets their goals, Carrillo says: ‘From the beginning, SBTi has had the priority of making sure that [climate] targets lead to an absolute reduction of emissions’, noting that the initiative encourages businesses to forget the notion that meaningful sustainable practice can be achieved through tweaks to business-as-usual. As a result they have developed a detailed methodology and set of criteria for setting short and long-term targets, drawing on guidance from technical and scientific experts. Over the last six years SBTi has done incredible work to make targets more achievable for businesses. This new step is a hugely exciting addition to that, encouraging businesses to take bigger steps forward and leave offsets in the past.
What luxury businesses can do
Whether governments take the necessary action at COP26 or not, it is still essential that luxury brands take positive action today. Society is gradually moving in the direction of becoming more sustainable, and although the conference may not lead to sweeping legislative changes, it is the start of a conversation that can only result in stronger sustainability drives in the UK, USA, and EU.
To prepare for this eventuality, we recommend that businesses develop their understanding of two key sustainability topics: Carbon and Biodiversity.
Positive Luxury’s Understanding Carbon and Understanding Biodiversity reports give an in-depth look at the basics of both topics, allowing luxury organisations to reduce their impact and make plans for positive change in the future.