Posted:

Reflecting on COP26

In this blog, our Managing Director Jonathan Kini reflects on the COP26 Conference in Glasgow which drew to a close last weekend, and looks to the future for our business and customers.

While there was certainly progress made in key areas, in many respects COP26 didn’t deliver the breakthrough we may have hoped for.

As the conference reached its official end on Friday evening, a coalition of 190 countries had signed up to phase out coal power and stop supporting new coal power plants. However, negotiations continued well beyond the deadline, and on Saturday reports emerged that India and China would not agree to the phasing out of coal and wanted the wording revised to a “phase down”.

One of the key aims of COP26 was to secure an agreement that would consign coal to the history books. This revised wording gives increased scope to continue using the dirtiest fossil fuel, which has been met with dismay by many.

However, even though the last-minute U-turn on coal power was disappointing, it’s important to remain pragmatic. The simple truth is that some countries are currently more dependent on fossil fuels than others and it’s not reasonable for nations who aren’t as reliant on coal, to simply pull up the ladder behind them. For the world to move forward, we must do so together.

The commitment was still a huge step forward, and it’s important that we don’t forget that COP26 delivered many reasons for us to remain optimistic and momentum is building in many areas.

For one, we can take heart from the fact that major banks have agreed to stop financing coal. And the public awareness of the need to remain inside 1.5C of global heating has grown, providing a strong platform of awareness for us to build upon.

Additionally, in a conference with no shortage of twists and turns, a most welcome surprise was the announcement that the US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon, are going to work together more closely to address climate change. Although details are yet to be defined, this was a massive development.

And while parts of the final COP26 were ultimately somewhat watered-down, we can be encouraged that the net zero goals cover those countries responsible for 89% of the world’s emissions. These countries will have no choice but to reduce their use of fossil fuels and implement cleaner alternatives to meet these targets.

Beyond politics

At the conference, John Kerry, the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said that while ambition has increased, it’s critical that we follow through on our commitments.

And Kerry commented that businesses will play a huge part in the fight against climate change: "We can win this fight, [but] we cannot win without the private sector at the table.”

No government has the funds to support the trillions of dollars needed to get to net zero by 2050, and this is where businesses can step in – and it’s in their interests to do so.

So it’s heartening that businesses, financial institutions, and other critical stakeholders are committed to fighting the cause and 50% of global GDP has signed up to a UN Race to Zero pledge. Added to that, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) has more than $130 trillion of resources available to help the global economy transition to net zero.

The key challenge here is how we move from discourse to action. As chair of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Net Zero Carbon Taskforce, I work with some fantastic business leaders across a variety of industries, and I truly believe that businesses have unique role to play in helping the UK deliver a net zero carbon economy. That’s why the recent news that 60 of the FTSE100 companies have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign and 2,000 SMEs have signed up to the government’s Together For Our Planet Business campaign, is so welcome.

In Glasgow last week I spoke at a BITC about how we can deliver a fairer, greener future for all. It was a genuinely refreshing session. Businesses spoke openly and honestly about the challenges they’re facing, and it was a constructive atmosphere which acknowledged that we don’t have all the answers, but by increasing collaboration and cooperation we can find them.

The climate emergency presents an unprecedented challenge. On this journey there will be many occasions where we’re going to take a collective leap of faith in how we’re going to tackle this crisis: ultimately, we’re running out of time, and the cost of inaction will fast exceed the cost of action.

The Future

At TalkTalk, we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far, but we know there’s much more to do. Since 2014, we have been a pioneer in developing Full Fibre, driven by a belief that it is critical for the UK’s digital future. We are determined to remain at the forefront of this drive, as we recognise the benefits to the UK economy, society, and the environment.

There is evidence that FTTP itself offers substantial direct environmental benefits, particularly in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased energy efficiency associated with the delivery of broadband services. Whilst this is great news, we have a responsibility to go further and transform every part of our business. This means working with our teams and colleagues to promote sustainable business practices and working with our suppliers to ensure they’re doing all they can to reduce their carbon footprint. It won’t be easy, but we’re committed to the challenge