Top of the COP: Science, Gender, Innovation & Industry

Transformation is accelerating across carbon intensive industries By Climate Champions | November 9, 2021

In brief: 

  • The UK presidency last night announced a series of initiatives aimed at accelerating and boosting science and innovation to help implement the Breakthrough Agenda that countries signed up to at the start of COP26. The agenda aims to tackle emissions from power, road transport, steel and hydrogen.
  • Among them, the new Global Checkpoint Process will see independent experts from the IEA, IRENA and UN High Level Champions produce an annual report tracking progress and advising on how to move faster to achieve the agenda’s goals.
  • There’s also the new Adaptation Research Alliance, a network of more than 90 governments, research institutions and communities in 30 economies working to increase resilience including by funding research and the development of solutions.
  • And there’s Mission Innovation – a coalition of 23 governments working to develop clean technologies for cities, industry, carbon dioxide removal and the production of renewable fuels, chemicals and materials.
  • The first-of-its-kind Centre of Excellence on Gender-smart Solutions launches today, as an online resource and knowledge-sharing platform to address the needs of poor and vulnerable women, men and children. The platform supports the InsuResilience Global Partnership, which aims to strengthen resilience in developing countries. The launch takes place at the Canadian Pavilion, from 16:00-17:00 today, or online here.
  • The 100-plus companies that are part of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action on Monday hiked their targets to halve emissions between 2020 and 2030, up from a previous target of 30%.
  • Today, a Just Skills Hub will be unveiled to leverage data analytics to help workers develop the specific skills needed for a zero-carbon and resilient economy, and guide policymakers and businesses to effectively support that transition.
  • 20 commercial-scale steel facilities are now planned to be deployed by 2030, marking a steel sector breakthrough on the path to net zero emissions by 2050 – with two new additions at COP26. The private sector’s momentum puts pressure on policymakers to follow through on the Glasgow Breakthrough on steel.
  • 40 major cement and concrete producers pledged ahead of COP26 to commit to net zero concrete by 2050 and cut emissions by 25% by 2030, in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • Chemical industry representatives will talk today about their new platform to help accelerate the development of net-zero-emission chemical technologies by investing together and sharing early-stage risks. It was launched in October by 10 chemical companies and the World Economic Forum.
  • The Solar Investment Action Agenda launching today identifies the high-impact opportunities for scaling up solar energy en route to US$1 trillion of solar investment by 2030. This will be followed by a more detailed Solar Investment Roadmap coming out in 2022.
  • A new initiative of 18 countries plus the EU, called the Global Partnership on AI, today presents a new playbook for policymakers on using artificial intelligence to drive climate action, proposing new partnerships across countries and the private sector.
  • 47 countries have now committed to develop health systems that are resilient to the impacts of climate change, under the COP26 health programme. Of those, 42 – covering 34% of health care emissions – have also committed to make their health systems sustainable and low-carbon. And 12 of those aim to decarbonize their health systems by 2050.
  • Multi award-winning music band Massive Attack are the first artists to commit their touring company to the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign, releasing a decarbonization roadmap it commissioned for the UK’s live music industry. Massive Attack is now calling on other music artists, touring companies, promoters, agencies and venues to join the Race to Zero too.
  • The Consumer Goods Forum has become a Race to Zero Accelerator, working to recruit more consumer goods retailers and manufacturers into the campaign and ensure they meet their interim targets towards net-zero emissions by 2050. Just over half of the forum’s board membership is already in the Race to Zero – up from 22% six months ago.
  • Today the World Travel and Tourism Council, UN Environment Programme and Accenture launch a decarbonization roadmap for travel and tourism – marking a milestone in creating the sector’s pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050.

In depth: 

Implementing the Breakthrough Agenda

Global Checkpoint Process: During its COP26 presidency, the UK intends to convene meetings of representatives from each emitting sector to develop a deeper consensus on the sectoral and clean technology transitions needed to reach net-zero by 2050. They will also look at how to strengthen, plug gaps and better align efforts across these initiatives. The High Level Champions will contribute to these discussions, using them to share early analytical outputs and insights in line with the State of Climate Action 2021 report, published last month as part of their Systems Change Lab.

This will become an annual process designed to maintain momentum of the Breakthrough Agenda and accelerate progress beyond COP26. Key elements include:

  1. The state of the transition in each of the major emitting sectors.
  2. How and to what extent enhanced international cooperation can help close the gap between the goals and current progress.
  3. Other key sectors in which further Breakthroughs would have the most impact.

Why it matters: The Global Checkpoint Process will help maintain leader-level focus on delivering the Breakthroughs while providing advice to governments, businesses, investors, cities and regions on global progress and opportunities for collaboration.


Just Skills Hub: By empowering workers and informing policymakers and businesses on pathways to developing skills for the zero-carbon, resilient economy, the hub that is launched today will leverage user-generated data to guide stakeholders through periods of unprecedented technology, market, and climate change. The hub is founded by SkillLab, which uses career guidance technology to address challenges in labour market transitions, with the support of the UN High Level Champions and other partners like the the EU’s Joint Research Centre.

Why it matters: The shift to a zero-carbon, resilient economy could create 18 million jobs worldwide by 2030, according to the International Labour Organization. But around 6 million jobs in coal-fired power, petroleum extraction and other emitting sectors could disappear at the same time, while new jobs will require evolving current skill sets. An inclusive and equitable transition can be data-driven, to better inform the dialogue and planning efforts needed to ensure that those who depend on fossil fuel-intensive work receive the support, social protection and investments needed to thrive in a changing economy, WRI says.

Heavy Industry

Steel breakthrough: With recent additions, 20 commercial-scale steel facilities are now planned to be deployed 2030, hitting the Race to Zero campaign’s 2030 breakthrough towards net-zero emissions by 2050 (if fulfilled). This adds private sector pressure on governments to deliver on the Glasgow Breakthroughs pledge made at the start of COP26 to ensure near-zero emission steel is the preferred choice, with its efficient use and production established and growing in every region by 2030.

Also providing support, the Cities Clean Construction Coalition showcases commitments and plans to build efficient and green steel markets in developing and emerging economies by 2030. The First Mover Coalition, led by the US government and World Economic Forum, is driving demand for green steel and other products from the private sector to achieve this breakthrough.

Low-Carbon Emitting Technologies Initiative: The initiative aims to accelerate the development and upscaling of low-carbon emitting technologies for chemical production. It looks at technology, regulatory, funding, market and collaboration challenges to accelerate the deployment of priority technologies. The first joint programmes include a research and development hub for plastic waste processing and the first commercial electrically heated steam cracker furnace. Partners include Air Liquide, BASF, Clariant, Covestro, Dow, Mitsubishi Chemical, Royal DSM, SABIC, SIBUR, Solvay and the World Economic Forum.

Why it matters: Emissions from crude steel and cement and concrete production all need to decline by 4% per year by 2030 to follow the IEA’s scenario for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Emissions from chemicals need to decline by 10% between 2020 and 2030.

Demand management of steel can reduce the amount of primary steel needed by as much as 25-40%, by improving the designs of cars and buildings and extending lifetimes, according to the Marrakech Partnership’s Climate Action Pathway for industry. Decarbonizing cement and concrete requires a combination of lower demand – thanks to recycling and reuse – as well as increased energy efficiency and investment in new technologies. Decarbonizing chemicals calls for more sector collaboration to realize large-scale technology demonstration and drive ambition, it found.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence for climate action: A report released this morning at COP26 calls for governments to recognize the potential for AI to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions and put in place the support needed to advance the technology. The report was developed by the Centre for AI & Climate and Climate Change AI for the Global Partnership on AI, made up of 18 countries and the EU. It makes 48 recommendations for governments and points to examples where AI is already being used.

Among those, the UN Satellite Centre has improved flood responses in Asia and Africa using satellite data and machine learning to deliver high-frequency flood reports. The independent emissions reporting service Climate TRACE uses AI algorithms and data from over 300 satellites and 11,000 sensors to improve the transparency and accuracy of emissions monitoring.

Consumer Goods and Retail

Consumer Goods Forum: Led by the CEOs of Unilever and Walmart, the sector’s largest trade association will work to bring more consumer goods and retail companies into the Race to Zero campaign and ensure they meet commitments towards halving emissions within the 2020s and reaching net-zero before 2050. The Consumer Goods Forum represents over $4 trillion in revenues. Half its members, or 45 companies, are already in the Race to Zero, representing $1.69 trillion in revenue committed to halving emissions between 2020 and 2030. That’s 52% of members, up from 22% six months ago.

→Why it matters: To reach net zero emissions before 2050, one-third of consumer goods suppliers need to set science-based targets by 2025, according to the Race to Zero’s 2030 Breakthroughs.

What Civil Society Says 

  •  Yvonne Blake, social justice advocate at Migrants Organising For Rights and Empowerment: “Talking about climate change in terms of fossil fuels is a Eurocentric perspective, it should be viewed through a human rights lens which recognises that everyone has the right to thrive, not just survive.”
  • Tammam Aloudat, a Syrian doctor and director of the Global Health Centre in Geneva: “The People’s Summit is not only about shifting power, it’s a pronouncement of mistrust in our leaders. This is a symbolic act of dissent.”
  • Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa: “Rich countries publicly claim they care about adaptation but inside the talks most of the money goes on emission reductions and they undermine efforts to prioritise the adaptation needs of vulnerable nations.”







The Glasgow Climate Pact for business: ambition, action and collaboration

Cop26 provided an opportunity for businesses to present their plans and discuss with their peers, value chains, policy makers and civil society what it takes and what is needed. They all recognize that this cannot be done alone. Their message is loud and clear: Collaboration, collaboration and collaboration, says Maria Mendiluce, CEO of We Mean Business Coalition.


A COP26 message from the Champions on a Glasgow Pact for 1.5

“To ensure commitments are followed through, our work ahead focuses on turning pledges into near term plans and enhancing accountability for delivering on commitments through better tracking of progress and impact.” A message from High Level Champions for Climate Action, Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Munoz.