Two-weeks of negotiations in November 2015 led to the Paris Agreement. The culmination of 20 years of discussions, concessions and compromises. Is the Paris Agreement an important document to the hospitality industry? Without a doubt. Science-based targets driving the industry decarbonisation efforts are based on the 2°c (1.5°c) threshold as per the agreement.
COP26 in Glasgow will see countries submitting new or updated targets which is an integral component of the Agreement. A good time to take stock of how much (or little) has been achieved since 2015. Despite the pandemic, the International Energy Agency predicts that emissions are on course to surge, reversing the 2020 decline (-5.8%) due to the pandemic [1, 2]. No wonder many are asking: when are we going to get it right? .
It is with desperation that reports [4, 5] are published indicating that some large, global corporations with proclaimed climate commitment, are actively impeding stricter legislations (on fuel, carbon etc.) through lobbying. Regulation is a core component (as many argued and discussed here a few months ago: Sustainability-driven legislation: setting the right conditions for hospitality?) to ensuring a level-playing field as it is sending a decisive message that climate emergency must be dealt with, with all tools we have available.
For hotel development and operations, it is a mixed bag which can actually lead to new opportunities. In the bag are the regulatory and transition risks for inefficient assets, imminent carbon market systems for buildings, a decreasing costs of capital for sustainability-driven investment and access to cheaper technologies (e.g. market for photovoltaic).
So from your stance, experience and position, why is COP26 important? Why should our industry care? There has been talk also in this panel (see The (Green) Recovery Imperative: Hospitality Re-Set Or Bouncing Forward?) about post-COVID-19 green recovery. Is this happening and can COP26 foster this somehow?
-  IEA (2021). Global CO2 emissions rebound by nearly 5% in 2021, approaching the 2018-2019 peak. International Energy Agency: Global Energy Review 2021. https://www.iea.org/reports/global-energy-review-2021/co2-emissions
-  IEA (21 April, 2021). Global carbon dioxide emissions are set for their second-biggest increase in history. International Energy Agency. https://www.iea.org/news/global-carbon-dioxide-emissions-are-set-for-their-second-biggest-increase-in-history
-  DW News (24 September, 2021). Fridays for Future demand an end to empty promises. Deutsche Welle News. https://www.dw.com/en/fridays-for-future-demand-an-end-to-empty-promises/av-59303592
-  Milman, O. (01 October, 2021). Apple and Disney among companies backing groups against US climate bill. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/01/apple-amazon-microsoft-disney-lobby-groups-climate-bill-analysis
-  CERES (2021). Despite ambitious corporate pledges, major U.S. companies shy from climate policy lobbying, new report finds. https://www.ceres.org/news-center/press-releases/despite-ambitious-corporate-pledges-major-us-companies-shy-climate
Although the objective of keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C seems increasingly unlikely, it is still standing. COP26 will thus be all about accelerated efforts on a national level in the format of stricter Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The pressure is high, especially on those countries righteously asked to lead the way to a decarbonized future. With Biden's Climate Plan just taking a major hit and the global economy in turmoil, the world is in urgent need of precise and strong signals towards net zero. Those signals will resonate in our industry - perhaps most probably as risk mitigation strategies. Risks, especially with regards to energy prices and asset devaluation, might have more activation potential than (business) opportunities, especially for those for whom a net zero world is still the stuff of science fiction. At the same time, hospitality companies that have been investing into regenerative power generation as early adopters are right now benefitting massively from rising utility prices. Their competitive advantage will be difficult to catch-up with.