Advancing the conversation on climate change – looking back at COP26
COP-26 was an opportunity for states, NGOs, the business community and the public to come together to discuss, debate and develop solutions to the climate crisis.
Clifford Chance played an active role at COP-26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021, including by launching a report on trade and climate change co-authored with the World Economic Forum (WEF), speaking on several panels on critical issues for our clients, and engaging in conversations with a wide range of key partners such as the International Chamber of Commerce. The platform helped our team at COP-26 further the conversation on issues including the just transition, the energy transition, and using trade policy to support the net zero strategies of businesses.
Delivering a Climate Trade Agenda
Clifford Chance co-hosted an event with our client Scottish Power to promote a report we co-authored with the World Economic Forum titled Delivering a Climate Trade Agenda: Industry Insights, which outlines how trade policy can accelerate action by businesses on climate change. The report, based on interviews conducted by the World Economic Forum and Clifford Chance with over 30 major businesses around the world, outlined eight ways in which trade policy can help businesses accelerate the transition to net zero.
In the foreword to the report, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted its “valuable insights into how businesses are taking steps to enhance climate action across markets. Drawing on these perspectives, it identifies opportunities for trade policy to accelerate climate action, while generating new sources of economic growth and job creation.”
The release of the report was timely, with 71 WTO Members releasing a Ministerial Statement in December 2021 agreeing to engage in structured discussions on trade and sustainability, encompassing several of the recommendations referred to in our report.
“The report, as well as our presence on the ground at COP-26, broadened our reach and enabled us to have a range of conversations with important clients and stakeholders, about issues which are top of mind for boardrooms and governments. There is power in a collective approach and the exchange of ideas in finding solutions to these complex issues,” says Jeremy Stewart, Senior Associate and core member of the report team.
While at COP-26, we also shared early insights into the findings from Just Transactions: A White Paper on Just Transition and the Banking Sector, which we published a few weeks later. The report was jointly authored by Clifford Chance, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and development finance institution BII.
“There is an increasing awareness that the energy transition could bring about losers as well as winners, especially in heavily fossil fuel-dependent communities,” says Janet Whittaker, Senior Counsel, Washington, DC, one of the report’s lead authors. “The report broke new ground in offering an early roadmap to banks on how to support a ‘just transition’ in their climaterelated financing activities and the challenges and opportunities that this presents.”
There are examples of a just transition being factored into financial issuance. Kate Vyvyan, partner, London led the Clifford Chance team that advised the UK Government in relation to its September 2021 £10 billion 0⅞% Green Gilt 2033. The UK Government’s first foray into the green bond market saw HM Treasury commit to report on the social co-benefits of the eligible underlying green projects.
The opportunity to engage with clients at COP-26 also has a galvanising effect on how our firm thinks about sustainability.
“Engaging with clients on the climate-related issues they face and how they are transitioning to a greener economy helps us serve all our clients better, but it also encourages us to think about what we as a firm can do to contribute to respond to the climate crisis,” says Jeremy. “Clients, NGOs, states and individuals all have valuable insights and perspectives on how we should be responding to climate change, and in the best-case scenario we’re pushing each other towards a common objective of accelerated climate action.”