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Businesses can no longer ignore climate change, COP26 hears

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We must bring science into the boardroom if we are to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C alive, delegates heard today at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).


Speaking on Tuesday 9 November, on week two of COP26, UK Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said: “Science isn’t something off in one corner, it’s not something called on when you need someone in a white coat to come and help you. It’s something that has to be woven into every consideration in our response to this global problem that we face.

"Science has played the role of the diagnostician but in planetary health it has to play the role of the treatment as well.”

Panellists at the talk that followed urged for big business to play their part. Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and former Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, said that: “Businesses must no longer ignore the voices enduring this unfolding existential threat. They can no longer ignore the voices of our young people.”

An increase of even 2°C in global warming would lead to the complete destruction of the planet's coral reef. Photograph: iStock

The talk was centred on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which came out in August this year. It said that unless huge cuts in carbon take place, promises made under the Paris Agreement in 2015 to keep emissions within 1.5°C will be broken.

Mr Puna said that we are ‘not there yet’ at COP26 with ensuring that the hope of 1.5 degrees is kept alive. “We need stronger action and we need it in the next few days. It is no longer an issue for debate. It is a matter for survival.” 

Last week, the International Energy Agency said that climate pledges agreed so far at COP26 could keep the world’s rising temperatures to within 1.8C of pre-industrialised levels. However, only if the commitments are implemented in full.

COP president, Alok Sharma, said that negotiations were not yet at a place to keep the 1.5 degree commitment realised. “We have made progress in negotiations, but it’s at the point where the rubber hits the road. We still have a big mountain to climb.”

He hinted that more levers could be used to get all countries to act: “We are looking at the Paris rulebook to see if we can unleash the full force of it.”

An increase of even 2°C would cause two billion people to die from exposure to extreme heat and it would lead to the complete destruction of our coral reef, said Sharma. “Think of the real world impact,” he urged leaders.

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