What can young and old learn from each other in the face of climate crisis? The Good Business Festival team headed to COP26 to find out.
As the curtains closed on COP26 – the 26th edition of the UN’s Conference of Parties climate conference – last weekend, a fragile agreement emerged. It signalled progress, albeit imperfect. Facing an eleventh hour objection to wording that would agree to “phase out” coal-fired power generation, the agreement hung on a lesser adoption of “accelerating efforts towards the phaseout of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.
25,000 politicians, business leaders and activists arrived in Glasgow – although access to the conference this year has not been without controversy. The event marked the first five-year review since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 – and gave delegates the opportunity to take stock and ramp up commitments.
The Paris conference in 2015 resulted in the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, with 196 countries agreeing to limit global warming to 2ºC (preferably 1.5ºC) above pre-industrial levels, see emissions peak by 2050 and make $100bn each year available to meet these aims.
But the years since Paris have seen increasing impact from wildfires, drought, storms and pollution, with the IPCC report warning in August this year that those commitments to 1.5ºC or 2ºC require “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions…” Abandoning coal is essential to staying within 1.5C. To do so, the International Energy Agency insists that 40% of the world’s 8,500 coal-fired power plants must close by 2030.
The Good Business Festival team headed for Glasgow, and last week presented an event for the North West region: Talking about my Generation – as a way of translating that ‘immediate and rapid’ ambition into action.
In spite of the existential crisis our planet faces, a generational schism has emerged as one of its key battle grounds. Journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason hosted the session, which brought together two panels to ask what we can learn from each other.
“It’s overly simplistic to pit young people against old in this battle for the planet, but there is certainly a difference in the way that these two groups view the challenges we all face and the best way to tackle them,” – Paul Mason.
Mason continues: “young activists often accuse those in power of not acting with enough speed, depth or aggression to tackle the problem, while it is not uncommon for these demands to be dismissed as naive by those currently at the helm. In a moment of unprecedented global crisis, should leaders be throwing out the norms and following the progressive overhaul many younger activists are calling for? And as this new generation start to come through and take up positions of power, what can these new voices learn from those leading the way now?”
The first session, called Innovation will save us all, focused on dynamic, creative solutions for the future. David Parkin, project director for HyNet North West – the region’s first large scale low carbon hydrogen production project – was joined by two PhD students, Kate Thompson from the University of Liverpool and Eleanor Lewis from the University of Chester.
In the second session, Liverpool City Region’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram called for a decade of action and investment to follow COP26, delivering social, economic and environmental wins for communities in the region.
Rotheram was joined on stage by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, alongside Emma Greenwood, a Youth Member of Parliament for Bury and climate activist, Alex Gorton-Kennedy, Member of Youth Parliament for Manchester Central and climate and mental health activist and Iman Hussain, a PhD student from the University of Lancaster, to answer the question, how can we create real change through engagement and empowerment?
The session focused on translating climate talk to action, ensuring the North West becomes the first net zero region by 2040. Rotheram highlighted the region as a driver of a national effort to cut carbon emissions and decarbonise. “I want the Liverpool City Region (LCR) to be at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, leading the charge towards net zero, and taking advantage of the myriad of jobs, investment and opportunities that it will provide,” he said. “From our existing strengths in wind and solar power, to revolutionary new projects like HyNet and our Mersey Tidal Power scheme, our region has the potential to be Britain’s Renewable Energy Coast – with local people benefiting from the employment and training opportunities that go with it.”
Major green projects in Liverpool City Region are being profiled during COP26, as part of the Metro Mayor’s mission to double the number of green jobs in LCR and unlock investment to become net zero, at least ten years ahead of the national target. Events in both the North West and Glasgow are showcasing the progress made on initiatives such as retrofitting homes and supporting grassroots projects through the Community Environment Fund. The region has also profiled major energy projects and investment opportunities such as Mersey Tidal Power and HyNet, a pioneering project to replace methane with hydrogen to supply’s the region’s grid and energy intensive industries by 2035.
The Good Business Festival is passionately non-exclusive. It’s not about what you do or who you know. It’s not about agreeing on everything all of the time. It’s about everyone working towards a better world – no matter where you’re starting from.