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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

CISL's first week at COP26

Week 1

Week 2

CISL's first week at COP26

Find out more about the major pledges announced by government, business and finance this week

On the eve of COP26 our CEO, Clare Shine reflected on the need to use this opportunity to ‘push for bolder faster action in every way we can.’ She said, “A huge amount of action and ambition setting has already happened in this area. But we need to go further and we need to go faster. The 'why' is behind us. This is about ‘how’ and ‘now.’” Read Clare’s post here and CISL’s COP26 asks for business, government and finance.

The conference kicked off with the World Leaders Summit including an emotive address from COP26 People’s Advocate,  Sir David Attenborough, who urged everyone to use the climate crisis as an impetus to 'rewrite our story.' Another speech hailed as a breakout moment came from Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados – a country under threat from rising sea levels. "We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we have come here today to say, 'Try harder,' " she said.

On day 2 came the pledge  from more than 100 global leaders to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Bronwyn Claire, from CISL’s Centre for Sustainable Finance, spoke to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about the implications of this announcement for tackling climate change. She said, “As well as pledges I’d also like to see concrete plans coming from COP26.” BBC Radio Cambridge focus on deforestation continued later in the week with a follow up interview with CISL’s Research Fellow Emma Garnett on sustainable food.

Meanwhile, CLG UK supported the UK Business Group Alliance for Net Zero event which showcased UK business action towards meeting the UK’s net zero by 2050 target. The session provided an opportunity to highlight examples of where businesses and business groups are taking action that supports the UK in meeting its net zero by 2050 target.

Day 3, finance day, was action packed for CISL’s sustainable finance team who launched a new report Risk Sharing in the Climate Emergency: Financial regulation for a resilient, net zero, just transition at a high level event in Glasgow City Chambers. The report urges policymakers, financial regulators and industry to expand risk sharing systems at scale to tackle the Climate Emergency. In the report forward Mark Carney states, "In the face of the unfolding climate emergency, this report provides a timely and valuable overview of the lessons we can already draw from the global insurance system.”

Also on day 3, CISL hosted an event at the We Mean Business Pavilion on the ‘SME Climate Hub: Supporting SMEs to decarbonise’. Chaired by Beverly Cornaby (CLG UK Policy Lead), the event explored the role of SMEs in achieving net zero, the challenges and opportunities they face, and the support needed to help SMEs fast track their decarbonisation journey. The event launched new resources available through the SME Climate Hub, developed by CISL in partnership with BSR: Climate Fit, a self-paced online course to help SMEs reduce carbon emissions in seven achievable steps; and finance guidance to help businesses understand and obtain financial support to achieve net zero. The event also featured SMEs founders Frankie Phillips (The Rubbish Fashion Company) and Rozalie Ryclova (Thermulon), part of the CISL Accelerator community.

Back in Cambridge, the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, collected an honorary degree of Doctor of Law from Cambridge University after attending COP26. He said The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership is “demonstrating that academia and the corporate sector can work together to drive transformative change.”

On Day 4 CISL responded to the news that over 20 counties propose to stop financing overseas fossil fuels by the end of the year. In an interview with Sky News Dr Nina Seega, CISL’s Research Director for Sustainable Finance said, "Frequently it is assumed that transition to a net zero economy will be costly, and business-as-usual will not. But the focus on the cost of inaction is essential." Nina’s comments were also picked up by the New Scientist, where she welcomed the US’s inclusion. “We know that the US is among the top five G20 countries for international public finance for fossil fuels. Their inclusion in the list is absolutely key.”

Day 5: The week culminated with CISL’s flagship COP26 event, ‘What now? What next? From ambition to action’ bringing together perspectives from government, financial institutions and corporates to examine what needs to happen to help economies globally to build forward better following the pandemic, protect communities and nature, and build resilience to climate change. We were joined by speakers from CBI, Dentsu, Lloyds and Iberdrola. You can watch the event again here and a video that featured at the event with statements from our global network and young leaders from around the world on the leadership needed to achieve zero post COP26.

Also on day 5,  the launch of a new suite of tools, created in partnership with Normative, BSR and CDP, to help small and medium sized businesses educate themselves on climate action, and measure and report on their emissions. Find out more about the SME Climate Hub.

Over the weekend people on almost every continent gathered for marches and rallies on Saturday to mark a Global Day for Climate Justice, halfway through the Glasgow climate change summit.

CLG UK participated in Moving for Climate NOW, an initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of taking action in the fight against climate change. Meanwhile CLG Europe held an event in the EU Pavilion bringing together policymakers and businesses to discuss new opportunities for political and business collaboration stemming from recent EU policy including the Green Deal.


CISL's second week at COP26

Click here for a roundup of the announcements from the second week of COP26.

Day 8: CLGs and WMB held Race to Resilience event, chaired by CLG Director Eliot Whittington, exploring what resilience means to businesses and the case for businesses to act on adaptation not just mitigation and how this connects to policy.

CISL, Cambridge Zero and Birdlife International held a UNFCCC side event Building forward better: A blueprint and tools to meet global goals for climate, nature and people chaired by CISL’s Research Director for Sustainable Finance, Nina Seega, which showcased opportunities and approaches for a green and just recovery and climate action from nature-based solutions.

Day 9: CLG Europe held an event exploring industrial decarbonisation and the role of demand side policies in the WMB Business Pavilion. The event included speakers from the climate thinktank Agora Energiewende, Mission Possible Partnership (MPP) alliance of climate leaders, Steel Zero and other organizations from heavy industry. 

CLG Europe also announced a new Taskforce that aims to support an enabling environment for the innovation and development of materials that are produced without using fossil fuels or emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) as by-products.

CISL and the University of Exeter held a roundtable for The New Economics of Energy Innovation and Systems Transition: Embracing Complexity to Make Better Decisions. At this event, world leading experts in complexity economics, systems thinking, and energy policy introduced a new conceptual model for policy and investment decision making.

CLG UK held a resilience report roundtable exploring the recommendations from CLG UK's policy briefing on adaptation and resilience and the importance of taking a place-based approach in building climate resilience in the context of delivering the UK’s 2050 net zero target

The CLGs finished an action packed day with a Corporate Leaders Network dinner at Merchants House to informally explore the opportunities for catalysing new corporate leaders' groups in other countries globally through networking and the sharing of best practice.

Day 10: CISL and the University of Cambridge held an event in the Climate Action Hub which showcased how the Aviation Impact Accelerator will accelerate the transition to climate neutral aviation by facilitating industry alignment and decision maker engagement. This fireside chat between Prof Rob Miller, Eliot Whittington and Heathrow CEO, John Holland, explored the opportunities and challenges for climate neutral aviation and the need for a whole system of aviation perspective. Heathrow CEO John Holland Kay said, “After coming to CISL the scales fell from my eyes and I saw we needed to play our part otherwise everyone else would be reducing their carbon and we would still be putting carbon into the atmosphere.”

Ahead of built environment day, CISL Director, Eithne George spoke to BBC Look East for an eco special on green homes on how to make our homes greener, the future of green building materials and retrofit of our new HQ. Watch Eithne’s interview here.

Day 11: On Built environment day CLG launched a new policy briefing highlighting the role and interaction of business and policy in supporting resilient places. Beverley Cornaby, Policy Lead, CLG UK, said: “The need to act has been steadily rising up the global agenda with ambition on adaptation and resilience increasing in the lead up to COP26. One of the core goals set out by the UK has been to call on countries to increase action on adaptation and reduce loss and damage.

CLG Europe celebrated reaching milestone with 75 businesses and business networks from across Europe outlining 10 principles for an effective and coherent Fit for 55 package of climate legislation for continued leadership on achieving zero.

Day 12: CISL’s final event at COP26 captured the key messages, insights and actions from the conference, and explored implications for business and the finance industry. The event brought together experts in climate science and policy, business and finance from CISL's network to reflect on the key topics that emerged during COP26 and how to address the challenges of the coming years.

Day 13:

On 13 November, a final COP26 agreement was reached within the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow – almost 24 hours after the summit was supposed to close. The Glasgow Climate Pact will mean that all nations should formulate and publish updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement for 2030 by the time COP27 begins in Egypt. They should strive to align targets and plans with a 1.5C temperature pathway. 

In a first for any COP, the final text mentions fossil fuels, stating that “unabated” coal power should be phased down as a priority and that “inefficient subsidies” for all fossil fuels should be removed. Concluding comments from CISL’s Research Director, Sustainable Finance, Dr Nina Seega and Policy Director, Eliot Whittington were included in round ups from Business Green and Edie.

“Glasgow has demonstrated that the Paris Agreement is working as intended– but that our delivery is far too slow. We have to do more and that should start with implementing and accelerating what has been agreed here at COP26.” Eliot Whittington

“The commitment of 137 countries, covering 90% of global forests to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 is integral to the goal of creating a nature positive and a net zero future. However much remains to be done. The key to all these pledges would be setting short term targets and moving into immediate implementation.” Dr Nina Seega

Risk Sharing in the Climate Emergency: Financial regulation for a resilient, net zero, just transition

CISL launched a call to action at COP 26 finance day urging policymakers, financial regulators and industry to expand risk sharing systems at scale to tackle the Climate Emergency. This report highlights five key areas of action for policymakers, private and public financial authorities and the finance sector.

Living in the Climate Crisis: Young People in Uganda

This report documents the diverse livelihood strategies of young people living in Uganda, the impacts of climate change on their lives, and the adaptation and mitigation strategies that they have employed to address the crisis so far.The research presents a vivid picture of how climate disruptions are already impacting young people.

CLG UK Policy Briefing: Preparing for the storm: The role of UK business and government in improving UK resilience to climate change in the UK

As COP26 focuses on the built environment, the UK Corporate Leaders Group (CLG UK) launched its new report highlighting the role and interaction of business and policy in supporting resilient places.

Find out more about CISL's activities at COP26