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Insight

23 November 2021 by Adam Webb
Environment Glass Globe

It’s been a busy couple of weeks what with global climate conferences and legislative changes, so I thought I would update you with what’s been going on. I’m sure that most of you have seen or heard some of the bulletins about the progress made at the UN climate change conference in Glasgow (COP26), but if you didn’t catch the outcome, then read on!

 

At COP26 world leaders made a series of climate pledges with the intent to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say is required to prevent a climate catastrophe. Here are some of the key elements that were agreed:

 

Emissions

Countries have agreed to meet again next year to strengthen their plans and pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5°C. Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.

 

Coal

For the first time at a COP conference, an agreement was made to accelerating the phasing out of the relentless use of coal, which is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions, only to be watered down at the last-minute to phasing down its use following pressure from China and India. More than 40 countries including 23 new ones still pledged to phase coal out.

 

World leaders also agreed to phase-out subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil and gas, although no timescale was set.

 

Trees

Leaders from more than 100 countries, with approximately 85% of the world's forests, promised to stop deforestation by 2030. This is seen as vital as tress absorb vast amounts of CO2.

 

Green Technology

More than 40 world leaders agreed on a UK-led plan to speed up affordable and clean technology worldwide by 2030.

 

Transport

34 countries committed to stopping the sale of non-electric vehicles by at least 2040.

22 countries agreed to create at least six zero-emission maritime routes by 2025 and more green corridors by 2030.

 

Farming

Forty-five countries pledged urgent action on making farming more sustainable.

 

Methane

More than 100 countries signed up to the pledge to cut methane by 30% by 2030. Methane is currently responsible for a third of human-generated warming.

 

Marine Protection

Ecuador vowed to expand the Galapagos reserve by a further 23,000 square miles around the islands.

 

Finance

The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.

Financial organisations controlling about 40% of global assets (£95trn) have signed up agreed to back "clean" technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries.

 

US and China

The US and China signed a joint declaration that commits the two biggest polluters in the world to cut methane emissions, transition to clean energy and decarbonise over the next ten years.

 

Sadly, the bottom line is that most commitments made at COP26 will be self-policed with only a few countries making their pledges legally binding.

 

So as good as this all sounds, how does this agreement affect MPI? Well to be honest it doesn’t immediately or directly, however over time we will most likely have to continue to demonstrate how we aim to be carbon neutral and continue to progress towards becoming net zero.

 

Carbon neutral…net zero, what’s the difference? Well carbon neutrality means balancing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by offsetting or removing from the atmosphere an equivalent amount of carbon for the amount produced. The problem with a carbon neutral approach is in theory a company can just offset its carbon emissions without attempting to reduce them.

 

A commitment to net-zero carbon means reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of balancing those produced and those removed from the Earth’s atmosphere. To achieve net-zero carbon, MPI has to reduce its GHG emissions across all its activities as much as possible each year and then invest in projects that remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equivalent to that it cannot cut out or reduce any further in areas such business travel, electricity usage or buying from suppliers who produce emissions.

 

We are some way down the path to net zero now by cutting down on our emissions, contributing to tree planting projects to balance what we couldn’t reduce and changing electricity supply to green renewable energy.

 

Finally, last Tuesday the Environment Act 2021 was passed that aims to protect and enhance our environment for future generations. The new law has five priority areas:

 

•             Air quality

•             Water quality

•             Biodiversity recovery

•             Resource efficiency

•             Waste reduction.

 

The new Environment Act should help the UK deliver on many of the ambitious goals set out by the Government at Glasgow's COP26 and a new independent watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, will hold the Government to account on their goals.

 

I’m working my way through the 278-page document to see what the impacts to MPI are, if any and will give you some insights into what we can all do to continue to make a difference next time.