With just over two months before the world’s leaders meet in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit the pressure is on.
Recent weeks have seen a plethora of reports and studies which say the net zero proposals which have been set out to meet the aims of the Paris agreement are simply not enough. Some campaigners say not only is the drive to net zero in 2050 not enough it is actually a “greenwash” to allow the extended use of fossil fuels.
The US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry (pic) and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have also waded into the debate. Both agree that current policy is insufficient adding that COP26 represents the last and best hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.
Kerry has highlighted talks have been carried out between the US and leaders of island states who are already being forced to plan the relocation of their citizens as sea level rise becomes a present, rather than future, issue.
Blair warned that those who are at most danger of the impact of climate change are those that can least afford the costs of the steps needed to mitigate the effects.
There are growing calls in the run up to COP26 around the need for developed countries to follow through on pledges to help the developing world grow in a sustainable manner.
Kerry pointed to the 860 million people around the world living without access to electricity and the need to ensure that access is provided to these people in a sustainable way. The obligation on developed nations to assist their developing counterparts was perceived to go beyond simply providing climate finance. According to Kerry, it should also include assistance on the design of bespoke decarbonisation strategies, as well as the development and deployment of low carbon technologies.
A commitment from the largest emitting countries to move at the speed required to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement was viewed as the most critical next step in addressing climate change.
Secretary Kerry suggested that if key economies and emitters such as China, the US, the EU, and others began to transition at the pace required it would have a remarkable downstream impact, driving change in all other countries. The imperative for developed nations to step up action on climate change is therefore not only due to their overwhelming contribution to historical emissions, but also due the ripple effect of their market actions.
However, it is very likely that while the good intentions will come from the global governments the responsibility for tangible action will be passed to the private sector. Worryingly we have seen the Democrats in Congress looking to pass legislation that would seek to recoup $500 billion from firms and organisations they deem to be responsible for climate change.
Activists have already made it clear they hold the insurance sector to account for enabling fossil fuel industry to continue to operate and we are seeing increasingly concerning actions by protestors. It is telling that there is now a pressure group called Insurance Rebellion: few if any other sectors that are not involved in the physical production of fossil fuels now have their own dedicated and named climate action movement.
The industry should be braced for the fallout from COP26. It may be seen as the best and last hope of halting global warming to dangerous levels but it is likely that insurers will be asked to play the role as the enabler of the delivery of a net zero future that meets the needs of the climate, governments and activities alike.