UK Government starts search for corporate COP26 sponsors

The Presidency

In a note issued this morning (18 August), the UK Presidency team for the conference said it is seeking corporate sponsors with “strong climate credentials”. Only businesses which are “making real contributions to the fight against climate change” and have aligned the entirety of their model with the aims of COP26 will be successful, the note states.

The conference, which is taking place in Glasgow in November 2021 after a 12-month delay due to Covid-19, will see nations update their contributions to the Paris Agreement in the wake of the IPCC’s landmark report on climate change. The report laid bare the stark difference between the environmental and socio-economic impacts of 1.5C of warming and 2C of warming for the first time, concluding that global emissions would need to reach net-zero by 2050 at the latest to cap warming at 1.5C.

The government’s note therefore defines “strong climate credentials” as a net-zero target, set for 2050 or sooner. Corporates should also have a “credible short-term plan” to ensure that they deliver against long-term climate targets, with approved science-based targets cited as best practice.

For businesses, sponsoring COP26 is an “outstanding opportunity, offering unique benefits”, the note states. It argues that sponsorship will offer reputational benefits and will further collaboration.

Past and future

Spain and Chile faced scathing criticism for their choices for corporate sponsors for COP25, particularly fossil fuel giants Repsol and Endesa. BBVA and Santander, the financial sector sponsors, were also accused of investing in high-carbon sectors, businesses and projects.

In turn, the Presidency was accused of greenwashing and activist groups including Polluters Out and Extinction Rebellion took part in direct action designed to exclude corporate sponsors from key negotiations.

While some high-emitting firms have used their platform at UN climate conferences, it seems that that UK is looking to avoid reputational risks. Would-be sponsors will be assessed by representatives from both the UK and Italy, given that Italy is co-host.

The UK Government recently kick-started its pre-COP26 engagement plan, ‘Race to Zero’. The campaign is designed to mobilise renewed levels of leadership from businesses, cities, regions and nations to spur a net-zero aligned economic recovery from Covid-19.

In related news, the UN has urged countries to deliver their updated national climate action plans and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, to prevent further delays to COP26. All nations should submit their plans at least 9 months ahead of the summit, it has stated, with the onus on developed nations to go the furthest and the fastest.

Sarah George

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