It’s a big coup to win COP26

With world leaders meeting at the UN climate summit today, we’re at a turning point in the bid to tackle climate change.

It’s no longer dismissed as a subject the preserve of elite scientists or “eco warriors” but now acknowledged as one of the biggest global threats by the majority of people in the UK.

Indeed, recent polls have shown its one of our biggest worries; You Gov found it is the third most pressing issue after Brexit and health, giving a higher cause for concern than the economy.

From Blue Planet’s poignant picture capturing a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton bud, to Swedish student Greta Thunberg’s rallying call to young people, the world is waking up to the fact this is not something that can be pushed down the line. 

If we don’t act now it will be our next generation that will pay the price. 

At the summit today, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on world leaders to attend COP25 in New York with concreate, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.

The UK has taken a leadership stance with its Net Zero by 2050 ambition and hopefully we’ll see more action galvanized which can slow global warming to 2°C or the 1.5°C as science now asks.

That’s why it really is a coup for Glasgow to win the nomination to host next year’s COP26. 

With ambitious leadership from leading economies it could be the most globally significant climate conference since COP21 in 2015 when the landmark Paris Agreement was signed. 

The Paris Agreement saw 197 parties sign the statement pledging to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

Up to 30,000 people will converge on COP26 in November 2020, with Glasgow nominated to host the main summit and Italy to host the prep events.  It is expected to drive even more momentum to the global efforts to tackle this man made problem.

At SSE we’ve ingrained the UK’s net zero ambitions into our business strategy.  Our vision of being the leading energy company in a low carbon world is backed up with positive action, which started many years ago, to reduce our carbon emissions.

Linking our long term business goals to the UN Sustainable Development Goals will ensure we drive systemic change in the power sector’s critical assets and infrastructure. 

We’ve committed to cutting our carbon intensity by 50% by 2030, compared to 2018 levels, trebling renewable output by building and developing more clean generation to contribute up to 30TWh of output a year.  And we’re helping accommodate 10m electric vehicles onto the grid by 2030.  We stand ready to do more, with increased ambition.

As we saw last week, renewable wind power is now so competitive that the most recent contracts awarded for offshore wind carry no additional cost to the consumer than the forecast wholesale prices – demonstrating the value for money renewable generation represents in achieving the UK’s net zero ambitions. 

Renewables, coupled with building the flexible electricity network to carry clean energy to where it’s needed, are the cornerstones of SSE’s business and will play a critical role in helping the UK decarbonise.

That’s why we’re backing the UK Government’s bid to host COP26 in the UK and will be offering our full support to Claire Perry O’Neill as President of the UK’s preparations. 

All countries need to accelerate the pace, going faster, bolder and harder – and the UK and the EU should look to lead these efforts by increasing their 2030 ambition in Glasgow. SSE’s portfolio of businesses have a centre piece to play in meeting net zero, and are ready to realise any increased near term ambition. 

We’re looking forward to working collaboratively to showcase how private investment, coupled with an ambitious policy framework, is making real inroads to solving one of the UK’s biggest challenges.

About the author

Alistair Phillips-Davies Chief Executive

Alistair became Chief Executive of SSE on 1 July 2013. He has a degree in Natural Sciences and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He has worked in the energy industry since 1997, when he joined Southern Electric. He was appointed to the Board of SSE as Energy Supply Director in 2002 and was appointed Deputy Chief Executive in 2012. As Chief Executive, he leads the Executive Committee and the rest of the SSE team in the day-to-day running and operations of SSE and is responsible for implementing the strategy and policy set by the Board.

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