What’s changed since COP26?

By Chris Winward

Six months after COP26 we have seen more interest in climate investments, but the much-publicised target to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C has almost entirely slipped away.

To accelerate a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, leaders must take responsibility for their impact of their business’ activities, stop waiting for politics to catch up with reality and start the conversation on achieving energy self-sufficiency for communities.

Current global emissions

The final part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report, released in April 2022, shows the world is on track to overshoot the 1.5°C global temperature rise target. However, there is still a chance to limit warming to 2°C, if all COP26 emissions pledges are met.

Currently, a reduction in emissions is not happening fast enough, because politicians all over the world are failing to be brave when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. For example, the UK government’s British Energy Security Strategy, which was published in April 2022, supports continued development of North Sea oil and gas projects. As well as propping up fossil fuels, the strategy fails to take a balanced approach to renewable and clean energy production, favouring nuclear and wind power over other sources of energy generation.

A balanced approach is going to be essential to allow the UK to completely ditch the fossil fuel security net. Over-reliance on one source, such as wind, can mean demand for fossil fuel rises when the weather conditions are still and calm for a period. Production of green gas, using anaerobic digestion (AD) technology, doesn’t only provide a stable source of energy, but can also resolve waste management issues by processing organic wastes like sewage sludge or food waste while not releasing further carbon emissions into the atmosphere that equivalent fossil fuels would.

What can be done to reduce GHG emissions?

With policies lacking ambition, it now falls to business leaders and individuals to make a real impact.

On an individual level, keeping the environment in mind when making decisions can have a lasting impact on GHG emissions. For example, making a conscious effort to reduce food waste will have an impact on personal carbon footprints over time.

Business leaders are well-placed to take the lead on GHG emissions reduction. This means reviewing all aspects of business activity and identifying how GHG emissions can be saved. There are usually some quick wins, such as switching to a renewable energy supplier or incentivising electric vehicles for employees.

Collectively, businesses can have a huge impact on reducing GHG emissions. In 2021, Privilege signed up to the SME climate commitment, in which we pledged to halve our GHG emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, while disclosing our progress annually.

How is the financial sector contributing to reducing GHG emissions?

In the AD industry, there has been a lot more interest from investors in recent months. In turn, this can enable the progression of more projects which offer solutions to climate change.

The increased investment is driven by ambitious ESG targets across sectors, meaning companies of all types are opting for investments which are good for people and the planet. The conflict in Ukraine has also played a part, as it becomes clear that energy self-sufficiency is needed.

Community energy

Renewable energy projects which enable a community to become energy self-sufficient will be key to achieving energy security and reducing GHG emissions.

Privilege is currently developing an AD project in Norfolk which takes local organic waste, processes it to produce biomethane and injects it into the grid which allows it to be piped into Attleborough, the local town. Projects like this, which identify the right technology for a community to generate its own energy, based on the resources available, will help move communities from dependence on fossil fuels to thriving on clean energy.

Shifting thinking to identify how best to achieve local energy self-sufficiency will be big stride towards a true transition to a net zero economy, in the place of clinging to targets set at COP conferences and waiting for politicians to act.

Now is the time for everyone to be brave on climate change to save the future of our planet. We need communities to work together for energy creation which incorporates all energy types. This will help tackle the climate crisis as well as ensuring towns with better energy security.

Communities should be in control of their energy and even their own energy pricing. Let’s work together to reduce the country’s emissions and make a positive difference to our planet.



Chris Windward, CEO of Privilege Finance