The COP26 Climate Change Targets Are Real – We Should All Pay Attention

World Car Free Day

Next month, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow – the conference is better known as the snappier COP26. Although conferences come and go, this time the world leaders are going to be judged on whether they have made any progress on the promises made in Paris back in 2015. Their homework is about to be marked.

It’s easy to feel powerless when facing the question of climate change. If one individual recycles a plastic juice bottle then does it really matter when nations around the world are still powering their electricity grids by burning vast amounts of coal and gas? 

COP26 is focused on energising action at both the individual and government level and there are real changes taking place. In the US, President Biden has announced a pathway to almost half of all electricity generation being solar by 2050. In 2019, the UK government announced a plan for the entire nation to be carbon neutral by 2050. We are slipping on the interim 2025 and 2030 targets, but then the government has been busy with other emergencies in the past 18 months.

Many companies have announced their intention to become carbon neutral, minimising their impact on the environment. The Scottish brewer Brewdog is a good example. It has purchased a large area of land upon which it is now actively planting trees to offset the carbon used inside its business. It’s an initiative in support of World Economic Forum’s ambitious January 2020 plan to grow, conserve and restore a trillion trees.

At Sensée our management team is considering ideas for the reduction of our own carbon footprint, but we are trying to study all the angles and impact, rather than trying to generate headlines with a few short-term measures that may, or may not, really change anything.

Most people will remember how much the urban environment changed in 2020. Birds were singing in cities and plants appeared in places long without any signs of life. One town in Wales was so quiet that hundreds of goats came down from the hills and started exploring the streets.

This is where we know that work from home companies like Sensée can make an immediate difference by avoiding thousands of people having to cross cities in cars or buses everyday. Employees just stay at home and avoid the environmental cost of commuting – the goats in Wales showed just how different towns could be if people don’t have to zip all over the place in cars.

But it’s important to remember that there are many factors involved in determining how we impact the environment. What, for example, is the environmental impact of drastically reducing cars on the road all year around versus homeworkers slightly increasing their heating bills during the winter months? Reducing commuting is an obvious win for the environment but we all need to explore our actions in detail to understand our net impact. This study into the net impact of WFH by the International Energy Agency is particularly interesting.

The very existence of events such as COP26 show that governments are taking climate change extremely seriously. Now everyone else – companies and individuals – must play their part….. while recognising that their actions must be genuine and not just about gimmicks that make for a snappy press release.

There are some significant behavioural changes that will persist after Covid. The Customer Contact Management Association Annual Conference is going to be held virtually in November, even though it’s now possible to organise in-person events in the UK. Business travel will return, but the bar has been raised now. We have seen how productive we can all be using online tools, so if you are going to travel in person then it needs to be for more than just a few drinks with industry colleagues.

The changes we decide upon may be significant. How we change our travel arrangements. Whether we work from home or from the office. And, indeed, whether we buy food and other products that originate closer to home, rather than never think about where our lunchtime salad originated. 

We can all do something to start out on this journey and hopefully the intense media coverage of COP26 will inspire ideas for both individuals and companies to act.

World Car Free Day, which is celebrated on September 22, encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day.

 

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