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The HorosCOP26 was a tongue-in-cheek blog series that I wrote and posted each day for the duration of COP26 conference in Glasgow. Here are just three of the posts. You can see them all on Sweep’s Academy page.
The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow is set to be a nail-biting event. Will there be a last-minute deal to save the world from climate disasters? Who will be the winners and the losers? We look to the cosmos to see what the stars have to say.
Day 1: Policymakers
Policymakers, your big day has arrived. After jetting into Glasgow yesterday and a sleep in your hotel (we see you in the Blythswood Square rather than the Travelodge) you’ll be ready for COP26 action. The press will be making a thing about those airplane emissions, but nobody really expected you to come by canoe.
As the summit begins, the new moon in Scorpio will oppose unpredictable Uranus, which means great uncertainty. Will China’s Xi Jinping’s Zoom connection hold out? Will Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro make a surprise appearance? The answers are in the stars.
The UK prime minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has been busy making predictions of his own. He says it’s going to be very, very tough this summit. And he’s right. Be prepared for long hours trying to agree on how to turn Paris Agreement targets into credible climate policies.
But there will be many positives. As you, dear policymakers, focus on building back your economies post-pandemic, the role of business and finance will be very much top of mind.
We predict you will emerge from COP26with new regulations around carbon markets and clarification of the rules governing voluntary offsetting, and a general acknowledgement that investing in green tech and renewable energy is the way to go for a global net zero.
Day 2: Countries
How you’re feeling about things today will depend on whether you’re a rich country or a developing one.
If you’re the latter, you might be disappointed even before the talks have started. That pledge made in 2009 to deliver $100bn a year in climate finance to developing nations by 2020? It didn’t happen. And it’s been pushed back again to 2023.
But there are signs, with Mars forming a conjunction with Mercury, that progress is on its way. We predict there will be a sound resolution to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which is all about carbon trading between nations. It will allow the flow of finance to developing countries, with new carbon accounting laws that are robust without being stifling.
And if you’re a developed nation, you might be nervous about those climate pledges you made six years ago, because now you’ll have to unveil your NDCs. And you’ll be asked to bring some new, credible, commitments to the table – however reluctantly (be brave, Australia ).
We’ll tune in to the cosmos again tomorrow. In the meantime, read our (much more scientific) roadmap to 1.5C of global warming.
Day 3: Finance
Our prediction for today is that a wintry chill will descend upon Glasgow (granted, that was an easy one). The clear Scottish skies have also revealed to us that money will be on COP26’smind. It’s finance Wednesday.
A new moon rising in Scorpio this week is helpful for working on things in our lives that make us feel out of control, such as addictions. You, financial organisations, have an addiction to coal. And it’s one expensive habit.
But the stars are in cahoots to relieve you of that burden. Finance ministers, central bank governors and financial institutions will spend an exciting day discussing ways to boost green finance, build infrastructure for high-quality voluntary carbon markets and, in short, make it easier to invest in things that are better for the planet.
And because, as any addict knows, you have to come clean before you can get clean, we predict that soon you’ll all have to include scope 3 in your net zero targets and your reporting. So learn to love that scope 3, financial institutions, and you will be just fine.
For a more scientific view on COP26 for businesses, read our article. And join us for more cosmic fun tomorrow.
Next is an extract from a long-form explainer piece for the “Academy”, Sweep’s hub for content such as blog posts, articles on climate change, company news and information on product updates.
THE GUIDE TO CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
Here’s the good news. There are things we can do to stop climate breakdown, through the magic of technology or the genius of nature. Here’s our (non-exhaustive) round-up of climate solutions.
How do the solutions fit into the climate puzzle?
To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to limit global temperature rises to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. To do that, scientists agree that we need to reach global net zero emissions by the middle of this century. (Net zero is when the amount of greenhouse gas being poured into the atmosphere is equal to that being taken out. You can read more about that in our 101 on climate change.
If we have any chance of reaching that target, the most important thing we can do is drastically cut down on the emissions we produce. But that’s not enough. We also need to stop destroying the planet’s carbon sinks – the forests and soils and grasslands that naturally absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And we need to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, too.
So, while investing in climate solutions is no substitute for directly reducing your own emissions, they are a crucial part of the net-zero equation.
Which should we invest in?
There are, broadly speaking, two types of climate solution: removal and reduction (although some might fall into both, depending on how it’s executed. And reduction also includes avoidance – for example, protecting forest that would otherwise be cut down). Some solutions are old as the hills, quite literally, and some are still early-stage and unproven. Which should we be investing in? The answer is all of them.
When it comes to investing, we need a portfolio mindset. That’s because:
- No single solution can reduce or remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to solve climate change in the long run.
- We won’t reach global net zero without investing in both old and new removal and reduction solutions. Solely removal won’t cut it. Overall carbon-storage capacity on our planet is limited, and some of the removal might happen too late.
What are the climate solutions?
Removal solutions are about, you guessed it, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing it somewhere out of harm’s way. This can be done by natural carbon sinks, such as forests and wetlands, or through manmade, engineered sinks, such as direct air capture.
One of the simplest carbon storage methods around. Using good old photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 from the air and store it as part of the plant itself. Forests do need space, which can put them at odds with the need for land to feed a growing population, and trees take a while to grow to their full carbon-storing potential. But it’s relatively cheap and can improve soil and water quality and limit erosion, desertification and risks of wildfires.
- Reforestation: Replanting forests that have been destroyed, either by wildfires or by humans clearing them for plantations, mining or other development.
- Afforestation: Planting forests where there weren’t any before.
Water ecosystems such as seagrass, algae, mangroves or peatlands can be even better than forests at absorbing CO2. They not only trap CO2 but they also retain organic matter in roots or stagnating water, storing the carbon forever. And they offer a home to critters such as lizards and snakes, fish and marine mammals as well as helping prevent erosion. Preserving and restoring them is a pretty good investment all round.
- Coastal ecosystems restoration: Restoring natural CO2 sinks, harnessing the CO2 absorption power of algae and lagunas.
- Peatland restoration: Restoring hybrid CO2 sinks in wetlands with peat soils.
Soil has an almost magical ability to absorb and store carbon. CO2 gets into the soil via decomposed roots, dead insects and little stones that have already captured carbon through a long chemical process. That carbon, in turn, makes the soil more fertile and more resistant to erosion and desertification. Dirt really can be gold.
- Agroforestry: Basically, putting trees and agriculture together. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship that leads to cleaner air, richer soils, less erosion and more wildlife. It was practised around the world before industrialised farming came along, and it could soon be coming to a field near you.
- Biochar: The result of burning biomass underground with limited O2 can be spread over soils to improve its fertility.
Plants are great at capturing and storing CO2. Biomass solutions take this beyond just growing forests, by using them as a material to create new things. Think wooden houses, or a heating system using organic waste. Rather than create more emissions with new stuff, we remove them. Using land for biomass solutions, though, needs to be carefully thought through – we have to avoid deforestation, and to consider the competing needs of food producers.
- Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS): Burning sustainably grown plants or organic waste, then capturing the released CO2 and storing it in the ground.
- Biomass building materials: Using wood from sustainable forests or other organic material to build and construct buildings (that have a longer lifetime).
Direct air capture ⛰
While natural sinks are great, there aren’t enough of them and we can’t plant enough trees and restore enough soil in the time we have. Direct air capture is an artificial method of sucking the CO2 straight out of the atmosphere and either storing it or putting it to use. It’s the cutting-edge of climate solutions. It’s still mostly in the pilot stage – and it’s expensive. But the price should come down as it becomes more widely deployed.
- Storing carbon underground: CO2 is drawn from the air, mixed with water then pumped deep underground, where it reacts with the rock and turns into stone. It can be stored in this way for thousands of years.
- Re-using carbon: Captured and compressed CO2 can be turned into products ranging from fertilizer to cement – or even precious gems (see below).
Diamonds from the sky 💎
Diamonds are basically crystalised carbon. Most natural diamonds were formed more than a billion years ago, 120 km under the earth’s surface, and extracting them can have a devastating effect on the environment. However, these days you can make diamonds in labs out of CO2 pulled from the air. It’s a process that takes months, or even days, but it uses an awful lot of energy and is incredibly emissions-intensive. Now some companies, such as UK-based Sky Diamonds, are trying to clean up this process by using only renewable energy and rainwater. If successful, then maybe diamonds can be one of the climate’s best friends.
Some software release update notes, posted on the ‘Academy’ and included in newsletters and documentation.
What’s new on Sweep
Easier ways to view and manage emission measurements
It’s now much easier and faster to enter, view and manage your carbon emission measurements on Sweep.
There’s a new, customisable, table that shows you at a glance everything you’ve input and where measurements are incomplete.
It includes any custom columns from your own CSV file that you have uploaded, and you can edit data more easily using new bulk edit features and business rules (see below).
Go to the Measure section and the All data tab to view the new measurement table.
Bulk edit is a new feature that lets you quickly edit multiple data fields all in one go.
Click on the Edit button ad tick the boxes of the rows you would like to change. Then click on Bulk edit and choose which column you want to edit (Emission factor, Activity data, etc.). Enter the correct value and hit Done when you’re finished.
Handle emissions data automatically
Business rules are a smart, flexible and fast way to manage and edit your emissions data. You simply set up a rule to tell Sweep what to do with data that meets certain criteria.
Rules are most useful when handling large amounts of data, and when you have to import similar datasets repeatedly – if you upload a new data export from your systems every month, for example.
To create a new rule, click on Bulk edit + rule + new rule. You can then apply the rule to take effect when you input new data or to data that’s already in your Sweep table.