Updates from COP26

13 November 2021
Ramboll’s team of experts shared comments and reactions to the negotiations and surrounding activities at COP26 - discussing the impacts for governments and businesses alike.

Philippa Spence

Managing Director, UK
T: +44 20 7631 5291
Michael Simmelsgaard

Michael Simmelsgaard

Group Chief Operating Officer, Markets
T: +45 5161 0035
Jens-Peter Saul

Jens-Peter Saul

Group Chief Executive Officer
T: +45 5161 1000
Samantha Deacon

Samantha Deacon

Principal – Ecosystem Solutions
T: +44 1225 748 420
Martin Broderick. Ramboll

Martin Broderick

Senior Consultant
M: +44 7773 950 804

Stefanie O'Gorman

Director of Sustainable Economics
M: +44 7971 877065

Shane Hughes

Carbon Consulting Lead

John Mullen

Country Market Director, Energy

COP26 concluded on the 13 November - with nearly 200 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.

Although the pledges agreed don't go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5C yet - the talks have resulted in good progress. The pace and urgency to reduce emissions and limit temperature rise needs to be kept up globally by governments and businesses alike, to continue to pave the way for limited climate change and effects. 

13 November

Philippa Spence, UK Managing Director said, "It seems COP26 will deliver progress but fall short on securing our 1.5-degree future. I urge businesses and authorities to prioritise adaptation and resilience measures, whilst accelerating the pace of decarbonisation.

The solutions to do so exist here and now, but must be strengthened with changed leadership behaviours and the willingness to adopt low-carbon business models. The private sector can lead the green transition, but it will take bravery. We must be open to leaving the tried-and-tested behind, and acknowledge that some of the challenges are not as hard we think!”

11 November

Michael Simmelsgaard, COO reflected, “These past two days at COP26 I have been struck by how much Denmark and Danish companies are doing – and how much more we can do – to deliver on the green transition. We need to leverage our knowledge and industrial strongholds, be it in offshore wind, green hydrogen or construction, to enable other countries and companies to speed up their decarbonisation journeys.

We need to prove that more sustainable alternatives are possible, as well as commercially viable. And that we can deliver these solutions faster, at bigger scale and for the benefit of society and our planet. At the same time, we need to be mindful that each country and company has its own challenges. Our task is to help them navigate these dilemmas on the road to net-zero. What we can all agree on, is that we need to get going now.”

10 November

Jens-Peter Saul, CEO commented, “I had the privilege to participate at COP26 this week. Both as a speaker and – equally important - a listener, because a lot is being said, committed to, and challenged. The summit has veered between optimism and claims of greenwashing, while clearly raising momentum for the global green transition.

But ambitious policies are not the same as implementation. In the private sector, we need to deliver on our promises. We need to implement green solutions at scale to accelerate the journey to a 1.5C world. We need to do that alongside governments and civil society. The solutions and technologies are available. There is reason for us to stay optimistic. Let’s get to work, now.”

6 November

Nature experts Martin Broderick and Samantha Deacon reflect on the discussions from Nature Day on 6th November.

Samantha Deacon - Principal – Ecosystem Solutions says:

“Prior to Nature Day, 134 countries covering 91% of the world’s forests endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

With the UN estimating that land use generates at least one-quarter of global annual emissions, and with rainforests being cleared at a rate equivalent to 30 football pitches per minute (with three quarters driven by the agri-food system), this is an important commitment. 

Trees and their soil ecosystems capture and store carbon, thereby slowing climate change, whereas forest clearance conversely releases carbon into the atmosphere.

This problem may be further compounded by how the cleared land is then used, where for example unsustainable farming practices or extraction activities would cause even further climate damage.” 

Martin Broderick - Senior Consultant says: 

“A similar pledge to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use was made in 2014, called the New York Declaration on Forests. It focused on halving natural forest loss by 2020 and ending it by 2030. But in essence that agreement failed. So, should we feel sceptical about the new commitment in Glasgow? 

Critically, this time the agreement includes Russia, Brazil and China, they are the 1st, 2nd and 6th ranked countries in terms of tree coverage globally and none of them signed the 2014 agreement. This meant the New York agreement covered c.55% of tree coverage globally, while the COP26 agreement covers 91%. The financial pledge is also higher at £12bn.

However, we need to see real action and enforcement against these commitments, the monitoring and incentives need to be clear, with funding being directed towards the indigenous people who are the custodians of the global rainforests.

As always, governments will need, and may legislate for, action from the private sector. It was therefore important to see five of the UK's biggest supermarkets promising to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by the end of the decade.

They recognised that ‘a future without nature is a future without food’ and committed to reducing carbon emissions, deforestation, food waste and packaging, with their efforts being monitored by WWF. I would encourage all businesses to urgently look at their operations and supply chains to assess their impacts and actions.”

5 November

Green Growth Compact agreement between the UK and Zambia

"Ramboll is pleased to see more tangible outcomes during COP26 that address the specific needs of emerging economies globally.

The announcement of a Green Growth Compact with the fast-expanding Zambian economy is a great achievement and promises to be a pioneering and replicable approach to driving sustainable investment globally.

Expanding the opportunities in international trade for SMSEs are a proven way to achieve triple dividends of higher revenue, diversified and resilient markets, and sustainable development, so Ramboll hopes to see more of these Green Growth Compact deals being signed during the remainder of COP26." James MacGregor - Senior Economist.

More on this topic: Green Growth Compact agreement between the UK and Zambia

Youth & Public Empowerment Day 

"Today young climate leaders from all over the world took the stage in Glasgow, sharing their stories of climate change and their vision for a unified future for all. The day was co-chaired by YOUNGO, the Official Children’s and Youth constituency of the UNFCCC. 

The global solutions to climate change will have a far greater impact on future generations, and as a result, the young voices of today have an important role to play, in shaping a better tomorrow. But how do we equip young people to address climate change and ensure a more adaptive and resilient world? 

Mr Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education in the UK stated that 'Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equips young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future'. 

One of Ramboll’s clients, British Antarctic Survey (BAS), was at the COP26 IMAX theatre today inspiring and educating an audience of 150 school children about why Antarctica matters and giving them a chance to question experts about sustainable approaches taken on BAS research stations. Ramboll often shares our work in the Antarctic with schools and it never fails to garner the attention of the young. 

Empowerment of young people to think critically, innovatively and with empathy towards the environment through education, will be critical to ensure the youth can make informed decisions, not only in how they live, but also in how they will positively influence sustainable solutions for the future in their careers. Decision makers need to support the creation of platforms and opportunities for sharing climate information and solutions, fostering participation of young voices in the decision-making space. " Jess Dimond, Graduate Engineer

4 November

Finance day

“With such a significant investment announced on day 3 of COP, I asked Kate Forbes, Cabinet Sec for Finance, Scotland, whether we were ready in Scotland to access that investment and drive change locally. She noted the good work of the Scottish Government on the SNIB and the Global Capital investment Plan, but recognised the need for further structural changes if the opportunities were to be maximised. 

I believe in order for this investment capital to be the force for good which I clearly could be, we need to take risks and all parties in the process need to change their appetite for that. Alongside that, we need global ESG standards to provide the transparency the market and investors on what their investments are really supporting and confidence to businesses that they will be rewarded for ‘doing the right thing’.

The recent publication of ‘Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing’ by the UK Government is a great start but what we now need to do is ‘accelerate, accelerate, accelerate’ our actions.” Stefanie O'Gorman, Director of Sustainable Economics.

More on this topic: International Sustainability Standards Board launches as investors worth $130trn focus in on climate

3 November

Science Based Targets takeaways

Shane Hughes, Carbon Consulting Lead reviews the newly launched Science based targets:

The long awaited Science Based Targets Net Zero Standard was launched last week. While the bright lights of COP26 focus on politics, SBTs focus on directly on corporations, which is pretty important given that 85% of all emissions are emitted by corporations.

Below are the key takeaways from the launch of this crucial new standard:   
1. Net zero isn't the point at which you offset and remove all your emissions no matter how good the quality of the offsets. Under the new SBT Net Zero standard you have to have reached a deep decarbonisation point of +/-90% carbon reductions before reaching net zero.

This is a massive leap forward in terms of interpreting net zero as the approach used by many today leaves the door open for net zero to be a term simply linked to offsetting, which has led to greenwashing, which in turn has led to a reduction of the credibility of the term net zero itself.
2. Net zero isn’t done alone and in your operations. With SBT near term targets you only had to include 67% of scope 3 emissions but for net zero targets you have to include 90% of your scope 3 emissions. This puts an onus onto scope 3 where often the majority of a company's emissions are found.

On the upside this means that to reduce emissions in your supply and value chain, companies will likely need to engage in partnerships within their value chain, which can also lead to a rich vein of opportunities. One option for near term targets is the target approach called "supplier engagement targets", where the company pledges to engage a percentage of their suppliers to get them to set science based targets.

However, the company will only have 5 years to achieve these targets and they should as early as possible set up partnerships and procurement policies that are driving suppliers to actually reduce their emissions not just committing to reduce.
3. Net zero, as defined by SBT, is extremely unlikely to be achieved by 2025 or 2030. Many companies have entered a race targets to reach net zero by ever sooner dates. While this is a great ambition both of the points 1 and 2 mean that a company really has to look at this as a longer term process.

That said we still need companies to pioneer and push the boundaries and achieve net zero before 2050 and to go as fast as possible to balance out the laggards and blaze the trail. That means there's clearly a need for some way of recognising and even celebrating the companies that go faster than 2050 1.5°C aligned. Informal conversations indicate that this is something on the cards in the future.
4. The launch of Net Zero Standard is a giant leap forward but there's still lots left to be understood. The whole concept of Neutralisation of residual emissions is a fascinating growth area that we're only just starting to learn the science behind it and how to include in our corporate reporting structures.

These questions will likely be answered in part in the up and coming Forestry Land use and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance documents both from WRI (calculation guidance) and SBT (target setting guidance) which will have a massive impact on strategies employed by companies that have land use activities in their value chain. So the Net Zero standard isn't the final word on what it means to go net zero but it is a giant leap forward.

1 November

Need for speed: Clear messaging and action needed in UK race to net zero

COP26 is a vital opportunity to bring the pace of the net zero transition up to speed; at present, it is simply moving too slow.

John Mullen, UK energy market director at Ramboll, discusses how the discrepancies between messaging and action from the government is proving a major hindrance. 

"To ensure that the UK hits the ground running on initiatives emerging from COP26, the government must ensure that messaging is clear and direct, that actions are consistent with this messaging, and that strategies, such as the recently published Heat and Buildings Strategy, are effective and well-executed."

28th October

Ahead of the conference, Philippa Spence, Ramboll Managing Director, UK shares her final plea. 

“Now is the time global leaders have to be bold. Going into COP there is no doubt as to the weight of responsibility they are carrying. As an industry we urge them to make the hard, but necessary decisions to deliver their Nationally Determined Contributions in line with the 1.5oC target, do the just thing for developing nations to support their transition and finalise the Paris rulebook”.  We look forward to sharing further commentary as we move through COP.


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