#DoChooseRenewables – REN21 at COP26

Leonardo DiCapario, Greta Thunberg, Ban Ki-moon and Barack Obama were at COP26 but it wasn’t all about the recognisable names. For us, the Climate Change Conference were an action-packed two weeks with many events, interventions, and countless meetings over coffee (shout out to the pavilions for their delicious coffee!) which resulted in many productive and interesting conversations. After two years of zoom calls, it was great to connect with so many members of the REN21 community and meet new faces, all passionate about working together to increase the uptake of renewables.

Bringing the renewables voice to the climate conference

10 years ago, it was obvious that REN21 needed to be at COP: renewable energy was not seen as a key sector that could help solve problems linked to climate change. From then on, REN21 made it a priority to attend the climate conference to share the value of renewables in addressing not only global warming but also advance sustainable development. COP26 had a focus on accelerating action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement – the message about making renewables the norm and phasing out fossil fuels had to be loud and clear.

Rana Adib hosted a conversation on achieving a renewable and efficient power system with H.E. Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment U.A.E, Yvonne Denise Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Jose Donoso, Chairman of Global Solar Council and Elbia Gannoum, CEO of Abeeolica.

Cities in the centre of attention

At COP26 cities were a large focus of the conversation. Although mayors do not have a formal role in the climate negotiations, several mayors came to Glasgow, showcasing their leadership on the road to net-zero, their renewable energy projects already underway, and goals for the coming years. In one event at the ICLEI pavilion Rana Adib highlighted the importance of these local action to achieve national decarbonisation targets and global goals. She also spoke about renewables as an urban opportunity to achieve healthy, clean and liveable communities. In the discussion with city experts, David Tudgey highlighted the challenges and also the opportunities of community energy projects in the city context.

An event at the SDG Pavilion looked at how we can build strong coalitions to support cities scaling-up renewables. Panellists discussed the need for an energy revolution and the role cities can play to the accelerate renewables particularly in heating and cooling and transport (where they lag behind). In addition, the panel spoke about the need for communication, a common vision and multi-level governance as well as building strong coalitions with citizens, communities, the private sector and investors.

What Will it Take to Achieve a Zero-Carbon, Sustainable African Economy?

Population growth and rising energy demand are opportunities for local and national governments in Africa to advance economic development. Renewables can ensure that this development is clean and sustainable. But the continent faces another challenge: poor grid infrastructure and network management. REN21 brought together various voice to discuss what a renewable energy future in Africa looks like and what policies, investments, infrastructure and technical capacity are needed to make this happen. Inspiring examples of actions that can be scaled up in cities and countries in the entire region were also shared.

Strategic intelligence to build global networks

Many pavilions broadcast their events, and there were many who dialled in as panellists including at our event which looked at how strategic intelligence can help shape conversations. Jerome Kusters from REN21’s partner TSC gave a presentation showing the power of a new tool designed to present the connections between people and organisations and what the conversations are. Being in the room on the day highlighted that whether Jerome was in Glasgow or not didn’t make a difference, the audience were impressed with many asking about how they can get access to the tool.

Rana Adib speaks with Jerome Kusters of TSC about how strategic intelligence can shape the climate conversation.

In contrast to the sounds of thousands of people deep in conversation, the silence surrounding the displays at the entrance was a stark reminder of why we had all travelled to Glasgow. This somber display of people playing dead in freezing conditions (don’t let the blue sky fool you!) really brought home what we were all doing at COP26. Addressing climate change while building a more equal and sustainable society is an issue which impacts us all, and requires everyone’s attention.

Silent Protest at the security gates going into the Blue Zone at COP26.

So whether you’re the Prime Minister of a country or an individual passionate about addressing the climate change issues – we all have a role to play in the fight against climate change. But it’s important that we don’t lose sight of what we’re working towards – a green, healthy and equitable future. And we must work together and build alliances to #DoChooseRenewables, so we jointly can get there – now.

See you at the next one in Egypt (or online).