In Zurich last week, global leaders gathered for a major climate summit with the goal of cementing the Paris climate accord and setting the global framework for addressing climate change.
What was accomplished? More than 1,000 policy discussions were held throughout the city and at COP26’s headquarters. A total of 30 landmark agreements were announced to combat climate change and move forward on reducing carbon emissions.
Here are six key takeaways from COP26:
1. The private sector needs to take the lead
Private companies are stepping up and committing to reducing their carbon emissions through policy measures. Initiatives like big box retailer Amazon’s Climate Plan, Cisco’s Greenwares, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Future Product Portfolio, and many others. At COP26, companies from a range of industries and sectors collectively took one trillion to three trillion metric tons of carbon out of the market. It was the most aggressive action taken by any company to date.
“In a corporate setting, this really shows,” said Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations climate chief. “You can come together and make bold things happen.”
2. Tech companies are demonstrating global leadership
Leading tech companies, such as Ericsson, Axon and Samsung, all stepped up at COP26 to demonstrate corporate, social and environmental commitment and to advance policy agendas. Ericsson announced that the companies has set carbon neutrality targets of carbon intensity or below as a company, and pledged to invest $20 billion of its own resources in clean energy research.
3. Environmental financing has begun
Unlike some other conferences, which focused on technical means of helping communities transition away from fossil fuels, this conference also recognized the importance of financial incentives to spur the long-term transition away from fossil fuels. Innovative financial mechanisms that incentivize large and small firms, private investors and low-carbon sources of finance were accepted into practice.
One of the most notable achievements of the conference came at the data analytics finance innovation center, where Swedish technology company Berg created a dashboard to measure emissions for a portfolio of companies. By comparing data to previously-reported numbers, the dashboard will show companies where they are making strides to reduce emissions and where they need to be further engaged.
4. Proposals to phase out fossil fuels were well-received
The adoption of new renewable energy sources to power the world was a chief objective of last week’s summit. Proposals include renewable energy standard, verified renewable energy (REIP) certificates, and feed-in tariffs. The latter offers electricity buyers in Europe and North America financial incentives to generate and sell excess renewable energy. In addition, policy makers agreed to give revenue guarantees to solar companies and large scale energy project developers, which helps spur the growth of renewable energy projects.
5. Protectionism may be on the rise
Protectionism worries dominated climate talks last week as countries and regions submitted information that they will need to address climate change. This information was the first round of the Assessment Report of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) 2016 Report, which examines the projected global effects of climate change. The report warns that increased land and ocean temperatures and marine species are causing the economy to grow much more slowly than any kind of warming is expected, a fact that points to the potential for countries and regions to protect some of the least affected industries to ensure long-term growth.
6. A new carbon tax pilot project could be in the works
COP26 put forward a proposal for a pilot project that would incentivize businesses to insulate homes. If companies agree to adopt expensive, but cost-effective measures to reduce carbon emissions, government agencies would encourage them to transfer their technological knowledge and expertise to other districts in order to lower overall costs. If the pilot project proves successful, COP26 is open to the idea of adopting a similar program across the country.