SIEW Energy Insights: The Road to COP26

Key updates in the lead-up to COP26, the first watershed COP for countries to submit ambitious NDCs following the landmark Paris Agreement. Jason Yun reports.

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With COP26 being hosted by the UK in Glasgow next year, how far along is the UK in its roadmap to inspire action ahead of the conference? Mr Simon Sharpe, Deputy Director of the COP26 Unit in the UK Cabinet Office, delivered an update on the progress. 

He opened the session by observing that while the pandemic affecting the livelihood of millions, countries and businesses remain committed to combating climate change and working towards low carbon transition. Yet, the outlook remains grim.

“Despite the many great examples of progress, we are in a situation where global emissions are still going up structurally despite a blip due to COVID-19. In many ways our resilience as a global community, as an economy, as an ecosystem is going down,” explained Mr Sharpe.

He acknowledged the need for an accelerated structural change to the global economy. 

Through its COP26 presidency, the UK aims to: 

  • Conclude a fair and balance agreement that further cements consensus globally
  • Propel more countries to table an updated nationally determined contribution since the Paris Agreement
  • Push international cooperation on the COP26 Energy Transition campaign in the areas of energy, nature, transport, finance and adaptation and resilience 

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Mr Sharpe noted that the world could achieve the Paris Agreement goals faster if the world moved towards the proposed change together. The challenge now is how to speed up the deployment of renewables. Despite it being much faster than earlier anticipated, the International Energy Agency (IEA) holds the view that the world needs to move four times faster to meet the Paris Agreement goal. 

Policymakers also play a crucial role in catalysing renewables, said Mr Sharpe. He cited the flourishing offshore wind deployment in the UK today which was cheaper than coal- and gas-fired generation, against all odds from analysts.

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When asked about the role of technologies such as electrical vehicles (EVs) in the global energy transition, Mr Sharpe highlighted that the speed of transition in this sector was accelerating faster than expected. According to BloombergNEF, market share for EVs will see a 20% increase in 2040.

When it comes to how green financing and environmental, social, and corporate governance can help pull the plug on coal, he opined that banks have a major influence and have emerged to voice their commitment to stop financing coal-fired plants globally. 

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