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| 1 minute read

COP26 update: "Keep 1.5C alive"

A new analysis by the Climate Action Tracker calculates that the world is heading for 2.4C of warming, far more than the 1.5C limit nations previously committed to. However today saw the announcement at COP26 that a panel has begun looking at how countries, corporations and climate organizations can “keep 1.5C alive,” referring to the 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Leaders spoke of the need to adapt to climate change and embrace technologies to tackle, and reduce, the impact of climate change.

“We have many of the technologies needed to tackle the problem but they need to be improved,” said Patrick Vallance, UK Chief Scientific Adviser, listing that technologies need to “come down in cost, they need to increase in convenience, they need to be applicable right across the globe and we need to scale them.” The latter, he said, requires research and development.

Science has to be woven through “every single consideration in our response to this global problem we face,” Mr. Vallance said. “Science has played the role of the diagnostician ... now it now needs to play the role of the treatment as well, and the treatment will be in technology, innovation, land and natural solutions and behavioral and societal change.” Although today's focus was on science and technology, there must be a two pronged approach that takes into account behavioral and societal change as the window (for 1.5C) is rapidly closing. 

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in August that the 1.5C goal is likely to be breached in the period 2021-2040, even with steep cuts in emissions. Reaching 1.5C in any year would potentially be the death knell of the iconic goal - particularly for at-risk coastal nations - without new technology and societal actions that helps reverse course. 

What this means from a practical standpoint for businesses may evolve over time. Various initiatives were announced today to immediately reduce emissions, but technologies that do not exist yet are not a way to keep 1.5C alive. Regardless, one thing is clear, limiting warming to 1.5C is a critical goal for the planet and "no country or company acting in isolation can deliver the change that is needed at the pace that is needed" said Science Minister George Freeman. 

Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific advisor, said that science and technology have the biggest role to play in tackling, tracking and measuring climate change, as well as assessing measures being put in place to reduce carbon emissions.


esg, cop26