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Charlie
Morrow
charlie.morrow@cognitomedia.com

What does Richard Curtis, Tunnock’s Caramel Bars ( just up the Clyde on the outskirts of Glasgow) and the Financial Stability Board have in common? They can all be found at day three of COP26: labelled “Finance Day” due to the large focus of the plenaries focused “Mobilise Finance” – one of the four goals that underpins this global climate gathering. 

On the third day of the event, I headed down to the Green Zone, the public engagement space across the Clyde River from the Blue Zone where negotiations take place. 

A trade show like no other

What has struck me here in Glasgow is the wide cross section of attendees and speakers. The Green Zone is a mix of businesses looking to engage with attendees – ranging from solar innovation businesses, university research teams, conglomerates such as Unilever waxing lyrical about the food of tomorrow, energy giants such as Scottish Power and Microsoft – with the biggest corporate sponsors taking the top spots in the exhibition hall. On the fringes, you have spaces looking at glass production, robotics and ice cores taken from Antarctica, alongside examples of vertical farms from local schools in Glasgow. 

The Presidency programme is limited to those with a coveted Blue Zone pass but ultimately no different to the footage you can view through YouTube of main broadcast channels., What you get form being here is a sense of the conversation and collaboration in the air. 

Today’s sessions in the Blue Zone brought together an unrivalled mix of intergovernmental finance body representatives, central bankers, academics and politicians – in a morning session moderated by Gillian Tett. 

Emerging from the discussions were some exciting new developments in the standardization of sustainability reporting from the IFRS Foundation, whichformed a new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to help unify and create consistency in the way that corporates disclose performance attached to sustainability and climate-related risks. Global consistency in sustainability reporting and how companies disclose progress is a critical aspect and once that will no doubt not go away. 

This triggered the burning question that all reporters want to know – when. When will such standards be adopted? The response from the IFRS Foundation chair Erkki Liikanen was over the next 2 or 3 years. That to me feels like a real measure of action media will be looking at – and isn’t that far away compared to other pledges being made.

The Green Zone program of speeches was different and more varied. Sessions on the line-up included how Northern Ireland can green its bus fleet; a Women in Finance Climate action group discussion put together by Aviva Investors; how we can better assess climate risks in insurance are examples of what attendees here listened too.  

A new normal for finance

The best session I attended was kicked off by (sadly not in person) Richard Curtis but chaired brilliantly by Moral Money’s Simon Mundy, along with speakers from B-Lab, One Million Women, Make My Money Matter and WWF. The focus was on how we as consumers can do more with our money, mainly through our pension and the bank we use, to ensure our own hard earned capital supports sustainable businesses and helps to establish the new normal in finance. 

What’s emerging from the sessions across both zones is a message of action, and action now. Commitments are one thing but action and, from my own perspective, communicating about that action, is going to be critical. 

Coming off the back of the conference I hope that we see more companies speaking loud and clear about the action they are taking and the progress they are making that takes us beyond commitments and onto a real roadmap of progress. The message from Mark Carney in the opening session was the money is here for the international community to leverage. What is now needed is a focus on how to distribute and apply this funding to power the transition. 

Charlie Morrow is the head of Cognito’s Sustainability Practice and a director based in London