Hopes for COP26

More than 300 people took part in the October City Gathering last week, showing our Bristol One City Approach in action. The main focus was our climate and ecological emergencies, in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow.

We opened by setting out the scale and urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies. This included presentations on the growing challenge of climate-driven migration and the need to ensure we have what unions have called a ‘Just Transition’, by which we mean the most vulnerable are not negatively impacted by the measures we take to decarbonise our systems.

We then heard from people, groups and organisations from across the Bristol who shared what they were doing to support the 2030 Net Zero target set out in the Bristol One City Climate Strategy. But we know Bristol’s efforts alone won’t be enough, that it’s going to take a change in the very nature of the national and international political economy to meet the challenge of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees or less.

In the final section of the event, we heard more about the work we have done to connect cities, including Bristol, with the investment needed to decarbonise the very energy, transport, housing and food systems on which city life depends. As Mark Carney recently said, we can’t get to net zero by flipping a green switch. We have to rewire our entire economies. 

Our key messages

I asked for contributions from attendees, to tell me what messages they wanted me take to Glasgow for COP26. And we have already been sharing a number of important messages in the lead up to COP. Among them:

  • That the battle against climate change will be won or lost in cities. We cannot successfully decarbonise the world economy without decarbonising our cities.
  • That to be successful, COP must produce the basis (or better still launch) decarbonisation plans that are set in actual places (cities), have measurable outcomes set against agreed and ambitious dates, and all this must be matched by the scale of investment needed to deliver it.

To decarbonise Bristol’s economy we anticipate it will require an investment of approximately £9.5bn. The UK Cities Climate Investment Commission has identified at least £205bn decarbonisation opportunities across the UK Core Cities and London Councils. Mark Carney has called for £100tn as the minimum amount of external finance needed for the sustainable energy drive over the next three decades if it to be  effective.

The numbers are big, but they also give us hope. As the Chair of the UKCCIC, Prof Greg Clark, said at the City Gathering “We know how to do this”.

On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday 31 October (listen from 10:27), I explained that this will only by possible with long term predictable finance from central government. Give us ten years of predictable finance, and we’ll be able to produce a ten-year plan to decarbonise our transportation, energy and waste systems. This is reflected in Bristol’s One City Plan, as we try to plan, as an entire city, our shared objectives and goals up until 2050.

Why should Bristol be at COP26?

It’s important for Bristol to have a presence at COP26. We are trying to secure the investment needed for our city to decarbonise. We have consistently said that working for the interests of Bristol cannot be fulfilled by only working within our city borders. We must influence the national and international context in which we operate and which shapes our lives.

Climate change will impact Bristol in numerous ways. Among those we have been focussing on are flooding, air quality and heat. So we must plan for and develop solutions for a city which can still function, but also consider the effect those have on our wildlife and nature.

But we are not only impacted within our geographical area. We are an international city. Many Bristolians have relatives across the world, in countries which are on the frontline of climate change, desertification, loss of arable land and coastal flooding, such as Bangladesh, Jamaica and Sierra Leone.

Related to this is the growing pressure of climate-driven migration. It’s anticipated that there will be up to 200 million climate-driven migrants by the middle of the century – Bristol will host many of them. As members of the Mayor’s Migration Council and C40’s Task Force on Climate and Migration, we are influencing the responses to this challenge to support those people and ensure the best outcomes for Bristol.

Bristol cannot abstract itself from the global context: politically, morally or technically. COP is an event of global significance, and will involve thousands of delegates. Our voice will be there to speak up for Bristol and the city networks we are a part of. We are urging national politicians to act now, to work with city leaders here and in the developing world to ensure the declarations are attached to how they are going to be delivered.

Highlights from my schedule for COP26:

Wednesday 3 November – Representing the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission, composed of Bristol and other UK Core Cities, London Councils and coordinated by Connected Places Catapult.

These events will enable us to discuss with government and investors on potential £200 billion plus collective low carbon investment opportunities across the UK’s 12 cities, an approach for place-based financing and low carbon demonstrator districts.

The city investment Imperative for Net Zero (Uk Cities Climate Investment Commission event in partnership with ICLEI: (speaking on panel in the UNFCCC blue zone, ICLEI LGMA pavilion)

Investing to Achieve Net Zero (Glasgow City Chambers)

Thursday 4 NovemberBristol Green Zone event “The Business of Net Zero” in partnership with Business West, exploring the economic opportunities of the low carbon transition

Tuesday 9 NovemberClimate Migration: Cities at the Forefront- Bloomberg Green Summit Representing C40 cities network and the Mayor’s Migration Council as a member of the Global Taskforce on Climate Migration – raising agenda on more inclusive climate action.

Wednesday 10 November – Eurocities/Mayors Alliance for a European Green Deal; UK100 reception for city leaders (As a member of the Mayor’s Alliance, with other European Mayors and City Leaders raising the importance of the implementation of the European Green Deal and a socially just and green covid recovery)

Thursday 11 November – High-Level Champions and Marrakech Partnership at COP26, Main UNFCC Cities and Regions Programme (Anticipating challenges for an equitable and resilient future, Representing C40 cities network and the Mayor Migration Council as a member of the Global Taskforce on Climate Migration)