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Closing thoughts: Supporting societal change

A daily blog series during COP26 — closing thoughts on COP26 — today, leaders have gathered to negotiate and finalise the COP26 outcomes.
Europe from space. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. 3d rendering

Today, leaders have gathered to negotiate and finalise the COP26 outcomes. The last two weeks have been about moving the ambitions of COP20 to action.

As outlined on day one, the COP26 goals are:

  • To secure global net zero by mid-century and keep the target of 1.5 degrees within reach.
  • To adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
  • To mobilize finance.
  • To work together to deliver.

The mantra for COP26 was “keep 1.5 alive”, and Sir David Attenborough reminded us during the conference that nature is a key ally in tackling climate change. Though COP26 has been a meeting of leaders, the world has been listening — and using its voice.

The Global Conference of Youth called for action through its global youth statement, while thousands of young people marched in protest outside in Glasgow about the amount of progress made to date.

We also heard testimonies from communities heavily impacted by climate change, along with the locally led initiatives they had implemented for adaptation.

Public feeling is clearly that the time for theory is over. We need to move from “what” to ”how”.

A number of notable commitments have been made in line with achieving the COP26 goals.

There were commitments to “halt and reverse” deforestation globally, with more than 100 countries pledging funds in excess of £15 billion (US$20.45 billion) to initiatives. Notably, 30 financial institutions, including insurers, have also pledged to terminate deforestation activities in their portfolios.

The World Bioenergy Association, in partnership with ITN Productions, looked at the work taking place in the bioenergy sector, in a special programme, launched at COP26, featuring Marsh experts.

A number of governments, along with those from the automotive industry, committed to accelerate the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans by 2035 in leading markets and 2040 in the rest of the world.

And there was a doubling down on the COP20 goal of US$100 billion a year in climate-related finance to developing countries to limit global warming — this may be an area that sees stronger language in the COP26 outcomes. There was an awareness that after the missed targets of COP20, the public is ready for pledges and promises to materialise.

Indeed, the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership outlined that COP26 needed to focus on accountability, action, and acceleration.

Insurance will continue to play a key role in accelerating climate-related action. Over the days, the need for insurance to help smooth the transition and support societal change was very evident.

The pressure on companies to demonstrate resilience and adaptation in the face of increasing climate volatility is mounting — from regulators, investors, and customers.

The road ahead will include significant policy to support climate action. The Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures, for instance, will provide a risk management and disclosure framework for environmental risks.

Over the coming years, we will see the transformation of food chains globally, making food trade sustainable and impacting agricultural commodities. The energy sector has begun its transition to sustainability, and the insurance sector is supporting this by finding progressive ways to manage risk associated with innovative technologies and infrastructure.

The insurance sector now needs to use its tools, expertise, and resources in enabling climate action. With forethought and planning, resilience can be built into policies and processes so that businesses can smooth the road as we transition to a more sustainable world.

This blog is part of the COP26 series.