homenews and insights cop26 nikki flanders

What happened at COP26? Nikki Flanders reflects

Nikki Flanders - Managing Director of Energy Customer Solutions
By Nikki Flanders
19 November 2021

Managing Director

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As SSE was a principal partner of COP26, I was lucky enough to be in Glasgow throughout the global summit and wanted to share some of my key takeaway moments.

The tools are in place; we need to get on with the job

Over half of FTSE100 companies have now committed to eliminating their contribution to climate change by 2050. Over 2,500 UK companies joined the United Nation’s Race to Zero campaign, demonstrating that going green doesn’t just make sense for the planet - it makes business sense too. This progress is positive, but to get to net zero we need to ensure all companies can access low carbon solutions so that net zero plans are integrated into business plans and operations.

Around the Green and Blue Zones at COP26 I had the opportunity to speak to many businesspeople and they all had one thing in common: everyone wanted to do more. In particular, they were grappling with how they can get to net zero faster, with a desire to better understand how all aspects of their business contributes to their carbon footprint to make the right changes. For example, when businesses look at reducing their scope 3 supply chain emissions, this impacts their internal procurement process and established business relationships can be significantly tested. As part of the solution to this specific challenge, it was great to share that SSE Energy Solutions has a Green Supply Chain plan, where an organisation can pass on their 100% renewable electricity preferential rate to their own suppliers and partners, taking them on the journey to net zero.

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Attendees were energised and talked to us about practical ways to take net zero pledges and theories through to actions. It was great to be able to offer tangible solutions including our 100% renewable energy, electric vehicle (EV) charging and smart building infrastructure and discuss how these approaches can transform businesses across the UK.

The engagement from businesses at COP26 was positive to see, particularly in light of the announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that all financial institutions and listed companies will have to publish plans on how they will transition to net zero. This announcement is a significant step on the road to the UK becoming the world’s first net zero aligned financial centre. It supports the funding for the net zero transition including the decarbonisation of the power sector by 2035, the shift to electric vehicles, and low-carbon heating. We were also able to use interactive technology via our Augmented Reality (AR) Smart City Platform to demonstrate tailored renewable energy solutions and the future of power consumption. You can experience this AR platform for yourself online here. (You’ll need to access this from a smart device rather than a laptop or PC.)

We invited people to sign the world’s largest offshore wind farm to pledge their support for tackling climate change. SSE’s Dogger Bank wind farm is being built off the North East coast of England and is a symbol of the change needed globally. Professor Cox joined other high-profile signatories including Alok Sharma, Rishi Sunak and Nicola Sturgeon, and put his name to powering change. It’s not too late to emblazon your signature on a wind turbine which can power a UK home for more than two days with just one rotation! Sign your name here.

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Diversity of thought for a just transition

While progress was made at COP26, it’s clear there are enormous challenges globally. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer and it’s essential that we have diversity of thought to tackle the complexity of challenges ahead of us. I was honoured to join the Gender, Diversity and Decarbonisation panel at the SSE Decarbonisation Summit, with panellists who share my passion for diversity. Over the course of two days, the Decarbonisation Summit brought together a wide range of speakers to share their net zero ideas and visions.

Countries, governments, businesses and communities across the globe are all at different points of the journey with unique challenges and varying pathways to net zero. What’s clear is that wherever we are, we must all move forward and drive change. It’s crucial that no one is left behind and that we ensure a just transition is achieved. You can watch the panel on demand here.

Black holes, lively discussions and an inspiring call to action

In addition to meeting a range of people around the COP venue, I was also thrilled to host an evening with Professor Brian Cox CBE FRS and some of our valued customers on the penultimate evening of the global summit. Professor Cox treated us to an inspiring and thought-provoking speech at our Let’s Power Change Together event.

As well as a fascinating lesson on the vastness of space and the potential energy capabilities of blackholes, Professor Cox really brought home the need to protect our planet, which set us up for a lively panel discussion on the commitments made at COP26.

Our SSE Youth Climate Ambassador Victory Luke closed the event with a moving rally cry for collaboration across generations to power real change. She left us with these words:

“My hope is that this event will keep the momentum going and keep alive the thoughts and discussions around small changes making big changes. The actions we take now will cause a domino effect on everything that will be in the future. I hope that COP26 helps us to learn how to power change together again.”

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The road ahead

While the COP26 negotiations have drawn to a close, it’s great to see that SSE is backing up its prominent involvement in the event with further ambition for the decade ahead. Just days after COP finished, we announced a 65% increase on our existing commitment to invest in renewables, promising to invest £12.5 billion into low-carbon infrastructure over the next five years in the UK and Ireland.

The time for words and negotiation is over. It’s critical we start delivering on climate pledges.

If you’d like turn your plans into actions with tangible low carbon solutions, get in touch today.