Monday 26 July 2021 6:00 am

Cop26 is our last chance to tackle climate change as extreme weather takes hold

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London.

With less than 100 days to go until the UN Climate Change Conference – also known as COP26 – kicks off in Glasgow, preparations are well underway for the most important summit since that held in Paris back in 2015.

Expectations are high, and rightly so. After all, to quote Sir David Attenborough, this is our “last chance” to tackle climate change and its effect on weather, oceans, biodiversity, and ultimately our way of life.

This year we’ve seen again first-hand the effects of extreme weather, from heatwaves and wildfires sweeping North America, to floods and heavy rain devastating parts of Europe and cities in China.

The science is clear: if we don’t take action now on emissions, these issues are only set to get worse.

Since the Paris Agreement in 2015 there have been some welcome developments, as people, governments, and businesses across the world become more aware of climate change. We’ve seen commitments by countries including the UK to cut emissions by 2050, and encouragingly moves by the largest emitters- namely China, India and the US – to get around the table and be more engaged on tackling the issue.

But while warm words are welcome, it is concrete actions that are needed, particularly when we have the tools and capabilities to deliver a transition to a net zero future. We need 2030 plans now, backed up by real nationally determined contribution (NDC) based plans to limit global warming.

This is why this COP is so important: the developed, emerging and developing world must come together and strike a deal. There is a great responsibility on the UK’s shoulders to help broker this, and in turn enhance our global impact and reputation.

Of course, public policy and public finance will be central to any agreement. But no job will be complete without private finance, with its long-term view, global reach, flexibility and speed and links into the real-world economy.

I am glad the UK Government recognises this, putting Finance Day first at COP26 on 3 Nov.

I am also proud that the City of London Corporation and Green Finance Institute are playing our role by helping mobilise private finance at the summit through our hybrid event, GHS@COP26. This will focus on resolving some difficult, but necessary issues, including the key barriers to accelerating the mobilisation of capital, how can finance both transition and growth, and how we price carbon and nature.

There are no easy answers to these questions, all of which will no doubt change the way we do business forever. We also shouldn’t kid ourselves here in the UK that we ourselves don’t have further to go in our ambitions, including the need for many banks and asset managers based in the City to reallocate their capital to more sustainable projects around the world.

Three months out from November’s summit, it is clear there is still a lot of work to do. But the stage is set for a critical event and I for one am optimistic that we can deliver.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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