PREO insights and reflections on COP26

As the world reflects the key outcomes of COP26, Jon Lane, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust looks back on his time at COP representing the PREO programme and shares his reflections on the major events and announcements relating to energy access. 

Author: Jon Lane

COP26 was my first experience of attending COP in person, a milestone made even more significant with COP being held in Glasgow – a major city my home nation.

In the lead up there was a question mark against whether it was going to happen at all as a lot has happened since COP25. The reality of climate change and it impacts have become more evident with every news bulletin and the world has experienced and still is experiencing the effects of a global pandemic that has had far-reaching consequences in every part of the world.

This included postponement of COP26 to this year – and in the run up many views on whether people would be able to meet in person or if it would need to be fully virtual.

The final decision was to take a hybrid approach, which not only meant face to face interaction was possible but that events would be live streamed presenting an enormous opportunity to take COP to a much broader audience.

COP26 was also the first to give the topic of energy access a seat at the table as numerous heads of state called for a ‘fair and just transition’ as the reality dawns that reducing emissions is not enough, and we also need to ensure that we build back in a more resilient way that enables us to adapt to the changing environment while creating economic development that is equitable. Ensuring that clean energy is accessible to all is one element of this, but beyond providing access to clean energy we also have an opportunity to generate incomes and build prosperity in communities, particularly those who face the biggest impacts of climate change.

SEforAll in partnership with the newly formed Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, which launched at COP26 to accelerate investment in green energy transitions and renewable power solutions in developing and emerging economies, co-hosted the SDG7 (Sustainable Development Goal 7) Pavilion.

The Pavilion was in the main UN accredited (United Nations) zone (known as the Blue Zone) and provided a hub for hosting events entirely dedicated to energy access. During Week One that I attended COP26, the SDG 7 Pavillion hosted over 40 events and welcomed nearly 200 global leaders.  

The blend of in person events and virtual streaming meant the sessions I participated in at the SDG7 Pavilion on behalf of PREO and the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform, that funds PREO alongside Ikea Foundation, as well as many others of interest in energy access are available to access at the SEforALL website.

Register here to access the virtual platform and watch the full sessions.

On Tuesday 2nd November, we hosted a session on the importance of productive use of energy (PUE) which focused on the work of PREO, presented alongside Leslie Labruto from Acumen who shared details of the work they are doing on productive use. This was an opportunity to touch on insights from two new reports from the PREO programme (read the reports here) reflecting the investment opportunity and the business case for investing in PUE, highlighting the results to date of PREO funded projects. During this session we were also able to showcase the video case study for Opibus, an e-mobility company funded through PREO, you can watch their story here.

Energy Day, on 4th November, also brought a hugely significant announcement for energy access as Kwasi Kwarteng, a minister in the UK government, announced £126 million for scaling up the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform. This investment marks a statement of intent in helping to realise a just and inclusive global clean energy transition, reaching millions more people with improved access to clean energy by 2026.

I also had the pleasure of representing TEA and PREO in a session with the Energy Saving Trust exploring how solar-powered technologies can help empower people and protect the planet, on the panel alongside Vimbai Chapungu from the MECS programme and Souryadeep Basak, a PhD student from TERI School of Advanced Studies and participant in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge 2020 – 2021.

My day closed with a session on behalf of the University of Cape Town focusing on skills titled ‘Boosting economic empowerment by building local skills and expertise in clean energy’, This was an extremely rewarding session as we heard voices from students, academics and employers supported by the TEA platform.

Having the opportunity to attend COP26, to share the work of PREO and results achieved to date was an incredible experience, and it was hugely motivating to sense the interest and momentum gathering around energy access and PUE, and the potential to drive progress towards the shared goal of an inclusive global energy transition. It is clear going forward we need to keep the momentum created in Glasgow going. As the global pandemic has taught us, we can work together and innovate how approach challenges when faced with an existential crisis.