COP26 Reflections

Now that we have had some time to take stock and reflect on COP26, I wanted to share my thoughts on the event.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet and hear a number of brilliant, passionate and heart-felt speeches from people representing many of the vulnerable areas throughout the world. It was quite harrowing to hear the extent to which some of these vulnerable nations are already suffering the impacts of climate change today and just how much they fear for the future.

While governments talk of pledges and carbon emission reductions, the glaring truth is that we continue to see global CO2 levels rise. The final agreement at COP26 seemed to get a ‘pass’ mark but not from the vulnerable countries who have been sorely let down by previous pledges and shortfalls in the level of funding promised by the richer nations they are relying on to adapt. The wording within the Glasgow Pact has been criticised for being too weak (the most notable example being the downgrade from “phasing out” coal to “phasing down”) a disappointing indicator that many parties are still not grasping the urgency and scale of change that is required.

Will the proposals within the Glasgow Pact make a difference?  ‘The devil is in the detail’ as they say but with the major emitters getting their way it is difficult to be hopeful. Consequently, I am not optimistic that we will meet the global decarbonisation targets necessary to help the vulnerable nations in time.  Sadly, it may take the countries with the larger emissions to feel the impact of climate change before we see the necessary targets being met.

During COP26, we joined forces with a range of concerned stakeholders from across the wider built environment sector, through our partnership with the GlobalABC Buildings Pavilion in the COP26 Blue Zone and more than 100 partners within the #BuildingtoCOP coalition participating in the Build Better Now campaign. I was grateful of the opportunity to present live from the Blue Zone alongside many other passionate speakers within our industry.

I know I am biased but I believe the need for our ICL Digital Twin technology increases every day. Decarbonisation of the Built Environment is critical and it needs our Governments to lead by example and start the decarbonisation of the public sector. 

Over the past few weeks, we made the most of the opportunities COP26 presented to spread our message and raise awareness of the critical role the built environment must play in the drive towards zero emissions. This included some excellent panel sessions including one with The B1M, featuring our COO, Ruth Kerrigan, and other key experts from the Centre for Digital Built Britain, Mott MacDonald, SSE and the University of Glasgow (you can watch this session on demand here); as well as at the VISION 2045 summit, which was covered by our Associate Director & Chief Product Manager, Ruggiero Guida. Our Research Lead, Adalberto Guerra Cabrera, also presented to engineers of the future at the University of Strathclyde, where we hosted an installation with a local initiative called After the Pandemic, and I hope he left many feeling inspired to make a difference in their future careers.

During COP26 I also visited the ‘Green Zone’ where COP26 Principal Partners, SSE, were presenting a digital twin of the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) – the COP26 venue – which had been created using our ICL Digital Twin technology

Featured within SSE’s Smart Cities exhibition, the ICL Digital Twin formed part of an immersive augmented reality experience to help visitors understand what a net zero solution could look like, demonstrating a range of energy solutions for decarbonising the built environment, including: heat networks, low carbon technologies, energy storage and electric vehicle charging hubs. When I was there, I met with Ross McClory from SSE who was doing a great job demonstrating to visitors how a Digital Twin applied to the SEC is being used to de-risk the decision-making process for achieving net zero carbon.

As the first of a number of projects that SSE and IES are partnering on, our ICL Partner Operations Manager, David Ross, worked closely with SSE’s Smart Energy Systems team to develop Digital Twins of the iconic Armadillo, Hydro and SEC Centre buildings as well as a campus-wide Digital Twin with surrounding buildings. You can interact with a demonstration version of the digital twin here.

Collaborative partnerships like these are so important, and I hope to see many more built environment stakeholders embrace the technology which is available now to start making a significant dent in the almost 40% of global emissions for which our sector is responsible.

So while I am not optimistic that COP26 will go down in history as a resounding success in the fight against climate change, I think we can at least take some pride in the efforts our industry has made to raise awareness of the level of action that is required within our sector. I am hopeful that many, like ourselves here at IES, will not be discouraged from continuing to beat that drum and do our utmost to drive awareness and continue to provide solutions which can help create a more sustainable, resilient built environment for all.