Following on from the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, a new global agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact – has now been reached. With 200 countries planning to cut emissions by 2030, the summit initiates plans to eventually reach net-zero by mid-century.
The upcoming plans will serve many changes for businesses of all natures. What does COP26 mean for small businesses and how can you accelerate towards impactful climate action?
What is COP26?
The COP26 summit is an event that takes place every year and was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate the movement and initiate action towards the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The event is attended by countries around the world that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994.
The two-week summit is a critical moment for world leaders, with a strict goal to continue cutting emissions until they reach net-zero by mid-century.
Next year’s COP event (COP27) will take place in Egypt in November 2022.
Why Is COP26 Important?
COP26 is crucial in tackling climate change worldwide and is a major stepping stone in discussing the promises made in Paris in 2015. A big promise was to limit the rise in global average temperature to below 2C and pursue efforts to not exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The summit is considered the ‘last chance’ to regain control of climate change and is, therefore, a global priority and urgency.
All nations are working together to reach an agreement on how best to tackle climate change during the twelve days of talks. The event welcomes thousands of government representatives, businesses and citizens hoping to address these concerns.
COP26: What Was Agreed?
Over the course of the summit, over 100 countries joined together to agree on new pledges to aid in reducing climate change. Only some countries have made these pledges legally binding, meaning that most of the commitments will be self-policed by other countries.
Limit Global Temperature Rises
With temperatures soaring globally due to climate change, increased efforts will be made to limit these rises to 1.5C.
Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) must be reduced, with plans to meet next year to pledge further costs to this promise.
Each country that has pledged will have their own emission-reduction targets. These targets will be reviewed every five years.
Currently, coal is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions each year. The use of coal must be reduced with the support of funding poor countries to make the switch to clean energy.
As the world’s biggest CO2 emitters, the US and China have pledged to make a switch to clean energy and reduce methane emissions.
Leaders of more than 100 countries have agreed to cut 30% of their methane emissions by 2030, however, China, Russia and India have not joined this pledge.
Leaders of more than 100 countries have promised to put an end to deforestation by 2030. It’s not yet clear how this will be policed.
How Do the COP26 Agreements Impact Small Businesses?
Smaller businesses are keen to reduce their carbon emissions by becoming more sustainable and achieving a net-zero status. However, many small firms are sharing concerns about how to contribute their efforts with no plan in place to tackle it.
Small businesses will require support and smart policies to aid in playing their part by introducing sustainable practices. Those businesses that are making a difference are doing so by increasing recycling and reducing energy usage where possible.
The Government is being urged to support small businesses by:
- Launching a Help to Green initiative with vouchers for businesses to spend on environmental products and services
- Reduce the capital requirements that banks adhere to when lending for green improvements
- Introduce target-based infrastructure strategies to deliver ZEV charging infrastructure by 2030
- Introduce a scrappage scheme to recycle diesel commercial vehicles in exchange for grants towards cleaner vehicles
Businesses of all sizes have a crucial role to play in reducing their environmental impact to set us on the path to net zero.
Ways Businesses Can Address Climate Change
Below are a few simple steps that you as the owner of a small business can implement in your journey to taking actions for climate change so that your business can thrive over the long term.
1. Pay attention to your carbon footprint
Measuring your business’s carbon emissions means that you are measuring your business operations’ carbon impact. For example, vehicle emissions and electricity consumption. Including your ‘value chain footprint’ can also be a valuable move as the value chain footprint covers other emissions that are indirect such as goods or services that are purchased.
There are many free online resources that you can use to help in measuring your business’s carbon footprint. A good place to start out is Carbon Trust’s newly published guide.
2. Understanding energy audits
Understanding and undertaking an energy audit is helpful for your business in driving energy and capital savings. As an example, if you were to scrutinise your energy usage, you can then highlight a few basic savings like upgrading LED lighting or utilising solar power for the generation of renewable energy. Sheppard Robson, the UK-wide architect firm, recently teamed up with the Carbon Trust so they could conduct an energy audit for their business. It was highlighted that Sheppard Robson, even though they were already conscious about good energy-saving practices, could save a further 32% with respect to energy usage.
3. Establish net-zero targets then implement them into your business plan
As a way of helping small businesses right across the UK to establish net-zero targets, BT has been encouraging companies to sign up to the SME Climate Commitment. The government supports the SME Climate Commitment via the UK Business Climate Hub – an initiative that’s designed to offer small businesses guidance on setting net-zero targets, measure emissions, and then develop strategies for the climate. Tips are also offered by the Hub about how to reduce emissions in value chain operations.
4. Behavioural change within your business
Ensuring net-zero targets are built into your own business plan and providing a clear explanation as to how these will be obtained is key to changing behaviour within a business. Undertaking an energy audit is also a good way to build a case for change as it typically highlights savings on energy and on capital. In a similar fashion, encouraging your employees to get on board with your own strategies will help to make a big difference. Engaging your teams in such a way can aid the understanding that they too can have a very positive impact.
The UK Government is calling on all businesses to step up and take the One Step Greener pledge. Businesses are also encouraged to sign up for the UN Race to Zero Climate Commitment, which helps organisations become more sustainable.
Not only can this protect the planet and your business, but taking action on climate change can also help seize new opportunities, create new jobs, save money by reducing running costs, attract new customers, and ultimately grow the business.
If you haven’t considered your own business plans, take the opportunity now to pursue a greener and more sustainable model of operating.