COP26 engagement lead Nick Baker: Businesses are 'key lever' to delivering Paris Agreement

The UK COP26 Unit's deputy director for engagement, Nick Baker, has called on businesses to step-up their own commitments and "turbocharge collaboration" on climate ahead of the conference, to help keep a 1.5C future within reach.

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Delivering the keynote speech at edie’s COP26 Climate Action Workshops, hosted in London today (5 October) for members of edie’s exclusive networking clubs, Baker recapped on a busy 18 months engaging non-state actors ahead of the crucial conference.

Baker’s team works closely with High-Level Champion Nigel Topping and the Race to Zero Campaign, providing information and inspiration businesses, civil society, cities, regions, academia NGOs, faith organisations and youth organisations.

His audience this morning consisted mainly of business representatives, with more than 75 sustainability and energy professionals gathered.

Baker said: “I know that many of you are climate leaders, leading action within your own organisations, so you’ll be familiar with many of the arguments [for accelerating action].  But, I think, over the summer, the impacts have become all too apparent; they are very much in the here and now. The effects of climate change are already with us, whether it’s floods in Europe, or China, wildfires elsewhere or huge storms. They impact everyone but particularly the most vulnerable.”

Baker described the Paris Agreement as an “excellent” vehicle for delivering climate adaptation and mitigation but emphasised the fact that “we now need to implement it”, as progress and commitments to date have not put the world on track for a 1.5C world.

The UN’s recent Synthesis Report on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement concluded that current commitments would deliver a projected decrease in global emissions of 12% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. However, a 25% decrease would be needed to deliver a 2C world, or a 45% decrease to deliver a 1.5C world.

Next steps for businesses

While emphasising the importance of the international negotiations this year, which are largely regarded as the most important since the Paris Agreement was ratified in 2015, Baker highlighted the role businesses can play.

He said: “Much of the action that is needed is going to be taken and delivered  - and is being taken and delivered – by businesses. And, often, I think people relate much more to the tangible, concrete actions businesses are taking – whether they are building offshore wind farms, or manufacturing electric vehicles – than they do to the less tangible commitments taken by governments in the form of NDCs.”

Additionally, he stated that businesses often have “masses of influence” in engaging other non-state actors or, when action is taken collaboratively, national governments.

He went on to give a string of recommendations for best-practice actions businesses can take to accelerate and broaden climate ambitions and turn them into action. These are:

  • Setting a net-zero target, with 2050 as the latest deadline
  • Backing this long-term ambition with a commitment to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030
  • Setting verified science-based targets
  • Joining the 4,000+ businesses already committed to Race to Zero (Baker said this initiative “simplifies many of the climate initiatives and brings them all under one umbrella, making it easier for companies and others to know what to do”)
  • Ensuring they are taking action across all COP26 themes: Clean energy, clean transport, finance, adaptation and resilience and nature.

As Baker concluded his speech, he summarised his calls to action. He said: “Either take further ambitious commitments, or, being leaders yourselves, encourage other companies you work with to do likewise – both in the short, remaining time until COP26 and during the course of the event.

“Promote what you’re doing to tackle climate change. I think people really need to have a sense of momentum that things are being done. Often, people have a sense that we are not able to meet this challenge. Showing that action is being taken will give a sense of hope.

“Action does not stop at COP26 and nor does our presidency. We will want to promote what businesses are doing throughout the course of the coming year; action needs to continue beyond COP26.”

Click here to browse all of edie's COP26-related content. 


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Sarah George



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