Reflections from COP 26
18 November 2021
COP26 has been front of centre of everyone’s minds for the past year. It was the largest international event of its kind ever held in the UK, with more than 25,000 delegates convening in the city of Glasgow, including world leaders, opinion formers and top businesses. It was also the first major test of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which agreed to limit the rise in global average temperature to well below 2C and pursue efforts to not exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
At the PLSA we have been working all year to highlight the important role that the pensions sector can play in combatting climate change. From our ’A Changing Climate’ report which sets out many of the practical barriers pension funds face when looking to invest in a more climate-aware way, to ‘Towards a greener future’, our case studies from the pension sector, which show how our members have responded to and overcome the financial challenges that the climate emergency has thrown their way.
Here are some of our highlights from the conference:
The Green Zone
During the first week of November, the PLSA headed to Glasgow to tune into the latest developments impacting the pensions and investment sectors on Finance Day at the conference. At the COP26 Green Zone, youth groups, civil society, academia, artists and businesses gathered to host events, exhibitions, cultural performances, workshops and talks. With over 100 exhibitors and 200 events taking over the space, it was an amazing opportunity for the PLSA to listen, learn and celebrate climate action.
There were a number of events that were relevant to the PLSA’s responsible investment work including one hosted by the Impact Investing Institute, which looked at adopting a transitional mindset for a better future. The event examined how investors have the power to drive solutions to climate change and support the transition to a net-zero carbon world. Later in the day there was also a session from Make My Money Matter, Count Us In and WWF-UK on “How your wallet could save the world.” There was a keynote appearance from Richard Curtis, who also spoke at our ESG conference earlier this year. The session looked at how people’s savings, banks and pensions are impacting the world and, most importantly, what savers can do to ensure it’s having a positive impact.
All of the sessions from the conference are available to watch via the COP26 YouTube channel.
Back in London
Back in London we were delighted welcome a range of industry representatives to discuss whether, in light of the growing awareness of the extent of the climate emergency, pension schemes are doing enough. The session was chaired by Jonathan Stapleton, Editor of Professional Pensions. We also were joined by representatives from the Investment Association, the Association of British Insurers, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, the Association of Consulting Actuaries, The Society of Pension Professionals and the Pensions Management Institute among others.
So what’s next?
Unfortunately, the headlines emerging from the closing stages of COP26 seems to be the lack of new targets and there had been a great deal of disappointment at the failure to get some nations to make a firm commitment to phase out coal use. There were, however, calls for more emphasis to be put on climate finance, to help developing nations cut carbon emissions and cope with the physical impacts of climate breakdown. While Glasgow didn’t bring the certainty and reassurance that we were all hoping for, it’s clear that the pressure on Governments and investors alike is here to stay.
At our ESG conference 2022 we will be looking at the outcomes from COP and what it means for our industry, covering communication, regulation and investment. Unlike COP26 and the PLSA’s other major events next year, it will be held online – a more sustainable way of bringing our industry together.