COP26 - Our chance to make a difference
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as COP26, takes place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.
It marks six years since much of the world signed the Paris Agreement and set historic carbon reduction targets. However, the targets set in 2015 were too low to put the world on a path to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the target scientists say must be hit to avoid the worst-case climate change scenario.
The Paris Agreement signatories agreed to update their targets in five years (COP was postponed in 2020), making COP26 a crucial deadline for more aggressive action.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already shown that net human-caused carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, in order to have any hope of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 - a goal that means reducing emissions as close to zero as possible, then using natural or technological solutions to remove the remainder.
All eyes will be on world leaders to set ambitious net zero targets and demonstrate credible plans to achieve them. But COP26 is also a platform for all voices, including young people who will bear the legacy of a broken planet.
“COP26 has to be the moment where we ensure that we are keeping 1.5 degrees within reach” and the conference will be “the last best chance of getting it right” said Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, President of COP26 during New York Climate Week in September.
Since we were established 40 years ago, Ecology has been at the forefront of efforts to use ethical and green finance to promote sustainable living and help combat the catastrophic damage caused by climate change.
We are focussing our efforts during COP26 on the main outcomes: mobilising finance to urgently fund the transition to a low carbon economy and decarbonising the built environment by retrofitting existing homes and building new homes that are better for people and planet.
To coincide with COP26, we are also launching our 2030 Strategy in response to the climate and ecological emergency and the decisive action that is needed in this decade.
Decarbonising the built environment
Buildings are responsible for 39% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, with operational emissions (from energy to heat, cool and light buildings) accounting for 28% and the remainder coming from materials and construction processes.
We will not be able to solve climate change without dramatically reducing emissions from how we heat, power, build and maintain the build environment. Many of the buildings that exist today will still be in use in 2030 and 2050, so we must focus on improving their fabric to reduce their energy demand and moving to low carbon energy technology. New buildings must be built to high-energy performance standards so they will not need retrofitting in the future while minimising the emissions from their materials and construction processes.
For COP26, we're supporting
- the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) with their presence and series of events in Glasgow. ACAN is a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown
- the Built Environment Virtual Pavilion created by the UK Green Building Council, the charity with over 600 member organisations spanning the built environment sector. The theme of the Pavilion is ‘Build Better Now’, and is designed to enable widespread access and engagement on a more sustainable built environment
Earlier this year, Ecology was the first building society to sign the Net Zero Banking Alliance commitment to achieve net zero through our lending by 2050. As well as demonstrating our own commitment, we seek to create momentum for other financial institutions to ensure net zero is at the heart of their strategy.
Working together to deliver climate action is one of the key aims of COP26. As part of the Net Zero Banking Alliance and Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), we're adding our weight to broaden, deepen and raise ambition in the financial sector.
Earlier this year, we were the first building society to report the carbon footprint of our mortgage lending. Since then, we've been working to build knowledge and momentum for UK financial institutions to measure carbon emissions from their lending, by co-chairing the UK Working Group on Residential Lending of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, UK (PCAF UK). The annual report of PCAF UK will be launched around COP26, and will include our recommendations for UK policymakers to facilitate the accurate carbon performance of the UK’s residential building stock.
Ecology is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and we'll be supporting GABV’s annual ‘Banking on Values Day’, which this year is timed to take place on 3 November during COP26. Our work within GABV is a continuation of our important work in promoting sustainable banking, and as you may know, Ecology became the first building society to sign the first global sustainability framework for the banking industry, the United Nations Finance Initiative ‘Principles for Responsible Banking’, in September 2019.
We'll continue to make our voice heard as a supporter of change in the financial system, and doing everything we can to leverage the power of the financial community for the good of society, both at COP26 and beyond.
Paul Ellis, Ecology’s Chief Executive has also recently written a Letter to the Earth to add our voice to the call to action from business leaders for COP26.
In addition to the inter-governmental conference, there is a wide selection of events and exhibitions from environmental groups, businesses, academia and others taking place in the 'Green Zone' at the conference as well as 'fringe' activities around the city.
Other venues and online
There are also a wide range of ways to get involved away from Glasgow - many of which will be available to participate online.
You may be able to join activities in your area or contribute to the conversation on social media, using #COP26 and #OneStepGreener. There is also a wide range of information for schools, individuals and businesses on the COP26 website under Get involved.
You can also subscribe to the COP26 channel on YouTube and hear from Sir David Attenborough on why agreement at COP26 is crucial and the compelling case for why climate action matters.
You can learn how to live more sustainably. Ecology colleagues recently trialled the Giki Zero guide to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle - sign up for free here at Giki Zero.
Join the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday 6 November. Organised by The COP26 Coalition, you can access information on local hubs and regional initiatives for groups and individuals mobilising for climate justice.
Being a green finance ambassador
Finally, you can continue to talk with your friends, colleagues, children and others about why making an ethical choice in finance, savings, mortgages and the way we live our lives can make a difference in helping to save the planet and do our bit for COP26!