The COP26 Build Better Now virtual pavilion

Well, that escalated quickly

You look away from COP26 for a moment to read about the melting of Britain’s longest lasting patch of snow, and everything starts happening without you. We originally wanted this blog to coincide with The Fifth Estate’s newsletters, so Tuesday and Thursday, but we’re moving to a higher frequency to keep up with events. More about that further down, but first…

COP26 as a rallying point for other activity

One great value of COP26 that I didn’t see coming, is what is best described as the COP26 festival fringe, where COP26 has become a rallying point for organisations to showcase their wares and activity. Here are a few: 

Buildings

The Build Better Now COP26 Built Environment Virtual Pavilion is an online showcase of sustainable built-environment projects. The Monash Woodside Building for Technology and Design is one of the 17 projects featured, which include refurbished Victorian tenements in Scotland, the Milan Innovation District, a green school in Bali and the Singita Volcanoes National Park. It is well worth a look, but give yourself an hour, because you’ll want to linger. 

Finance

BNP Paribas has used COP26 to announce the world’s first Green Repo deal (a type of short-term loan using the company’s securities as collateral). The deal will finance the EDF Renewables “Big Beau Solar” project in California that combines 16 megawatts of solar and 40 mW of battery storage. 

IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, has announced $US400 million ($A537) million anchor funding, from the United Arab Emirates, for its Energy Transition Accelerator Financing (ETAF). The ETAF hopes to raise at least $US1 billion ($A1.34 billion) to accelerate the transition of developing countries to renewable energy – 1.5 gigawatts by 2030. 

Insurance

The Start Network, a coalition of more than 50 humanitarian charities, has partnered with the Insurance Development Forum to create a new global financial service to assist communities to “Get Ahead” of escalating climate risks. Called Start Ready, it will use sophisticated risk analysis, collective planning and pre-agreed triggers and pre-positioned financing to anticipate and respond to needs around the world. 

Australia’s involvement

Outcomes from COP26 have been coming thick and fast. By Tuesday, Australia had signed up to, or endorsed: 

  • COP26 World Leaders Summit-Statement on The Breakthrough Agenda, a commitment to work together internationally to develop and deploy clean technologies and sustainable solutions to meet our 2030 Paris Agreement goals. They are now only eight years away!
  • The One Sun Declaration: Green Grids Initiative, to provide a common global framework for effort in investing in renewables, building long-distance cross-border transmission lines, developing and deploying new technologies, supporting transmission to zero emission vehicles, attracting investment in solar mini-grid and off-grid microgeneration in vulnerable communities, and developing financial instruments, markets and assistance to attract low-cost capital for solar grid infrastructure. 
  • The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which emphasises the need to preserve forests and biodiversity as a carbon sink, adapt to climate change and maintain ecosystem services. (Is maintaining an “ecosystem service” the same as preserving an ecosystem? I suppose time will tell). Signatories will try harder to conserve ecosystems, facilitate trade that preserve ecosystems, recognise indigenous and local voices, incentivise sustainable agriculture, make more finance more available to sustainable agriculture, forestry, forest conservation and restoration, support for indigenous and local communities, align financial flows with international goals to reverse forest loss and degradation and transition to a resilient economy that advances sustainable land use, biodiversity and climate goals. It is a relatively small statement which will, I imagine, lead to us seeing a greater emphasis on forestry stewardship and supply chain traceability. 

Notably, Australia did not sign up to: 

We will have to wait and see if signing up to the Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use but not supporting and financing real action amounts to Australia being unwilling to put its money where its mouth is. Or it may be that Australia thinks its obligations under the COP26 Climate Finance Provisions are enough. 

In addition to all this activity, The Multilateral Development Banks all agreed to address nature loss and transform the way we value and use undeveloped land – nature – with a view to preserving its benefits. 

Basically, they are placing a value on nature, which sounds small and obvious, but is actually big and hasn’t been done before. This may have an impact on Australia’s global-scale building and development companies and new projects they wish to undertake. It may also affect greenfield developments in Australia and abroad. We will have to wait and see.

Back tomorrow with more COP26 Shenanigans.

Damian Clarke is a freelance journalist and writer who contributes to The Fifth Estate and The Green List. He has recently relocated to London and will be bringing us updates from COP 26, hopefully peppered with a little bit of gossip to keep things spicy. 

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