image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Glasgow COP26 Starts Clean Energy Revolution

  • In future, company board room discissions are likely to take into account the impact of climate change on businesses.

  • Due to international contractual, financial and taxation incentives, development of cheap clean technology and business sense will be the main drivers for change.

  • Reluctant countries like China and India will have to respond to international trade demands and the need to compete for mega projects abroad conditional on clean energy clauses.

Last minute change of one word by India and China in the COP26 (26th Conference of the Parties) Treaty made it toothless so far as coal burning is concerned. Fossil fuels will be phased down but not out. However, while this last minute change in wording was driven by country politics and dependency on coal, what has come through is the collective political will of the world to change to clean energy, although, it fell well short of achieving its target of  limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

Politicians seem to have realised that the climate issue cannot be kicked further down the road and Glasgow summit is the start of a global clean energy revolution made possible by technological advances as clean energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels: coal, crude oil and gas.

The positive impression gained from COP26 is that clean energy revolution has started because it now makes political, technological and business sense. Demand for clean products will increase as whole industries, including the motor and engine producing industries, switch over to clean energy.

Management of and reversion of the damage which has already been done and which continues to be done to the world, is the main challenge. The question is if it is already too late. The brakes to eco-damage being applied may be too late and not completely reverse the climate change.

As the last few years have shown, the vicious circle of eco-imbalance has already started. Natural and man-made fires destroy forests, reduce carbon absorption by forests and jungles, add to global pollution, cause global warming causing the melting of the polar ice, raising sea levels and causing floods. Soon low-lying island countries will start going under water as sea levels rise. They seek climate justice and compensation from richer Western nations which has been denied to them. There is loss of trust in richer countries.

These days, few talk about the impact of the increasing global population, increased expectations of higher standard of living and irresponsible behaviour towards the environment. The need to keep people employed creates own problems because demand has to be kept up through increased consumption and production of luxury goods and services to satisfy fashions and fads.

No matter what is included in the International Treaty, it is what actually happens at ground level that will bring about real change. Democratic Governments are unable to change the behaviour of people in own countries. This has to happen as a global movement.

Some reservations and disappointments are likely to be expressed by climate activists and those who understand the vague language of UN agreements. They can argue that the major countries like US, China and India, did not sign binding agreements with deadlines about the use of the most damaging carbon fuels. However, the impression gained is that a technological revolution backed by massive global investment in clean energy technology has already started.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd