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1 October, 2021updated 29 Oct 2021 12:48

Better late than never? Why COP26 matters, to FDI markets and beyond

Whatever climate action is agreed at COP26, it will be too little, too late. Investment Monitor looks at how the event could influence FDI markets in coming years.

By Richard Gardham

MILAN, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 30: General view inside on the Pre-COP26 on September 30, 2021 in Milan, Italy. On the final day of the pre-COP26 climate change summit in Milan, some 400 young activists from 180 countries met for thematic working groups before addressing and debating with ministers attending the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow this November. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

With the preparations now all but finalised, all eyes are on Glasgow for the COP26 event in November. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

It is perhaps fitting that COP26 will start in earnest on Hallowe’en. The event, this time around held in Glasgow, Scotland, will be the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, but in none of the previous 25 have the consequences of climate change been more visual, more frightening. From floods and wildfires to drought and record numbers of ‘high heat’ days all around the world, it is now clear that the time for real climate action was way before even COP1, held in 1995 in Berlin. Almost three decades later and the message seems to have finally sunk in for the world’s leaders: words and gestures just won’t cut it anymore, action – swift, meaningful, maybe brutal – is essential, even if the measures taken should have been carried out a long time ago.

Between 31 October and 12 November, the dignitaries able to attend the Covid-delayed event will have one aim – take ‘climate action’ – but will have different ways of going about it. At Investment Monitor, we have spent the week assessing the relationship between foreign direct investment (FDI) and climate change. ‘Is FDI making the climate crisis worse?‘ is a question asked by Jon Whiteaker, looking at some of the environmentally disastrous pieces of foreign investment carried out over the years by the likes of Shell and pondering whether this link between FDI and carbon-intensive industries can be broken. As the chart below shows, foreign investment in these industries is declining – but is it declining quickly enough?

Sebastian Shehadi has previously chronicled the environmental damage that China-owned power plants are doing in the Balkans, and this is a pattern that can be found in many of the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). A rival to the BRI involving Western governments has previously been mooted, one that would provide greener infrastructure, and for Shehadi the success of COP26 will depend upon whether such an arrangement can be finalised.

Elsewhere on Investment Monitor, Sofia Karadima has looked into how companies need to up their climate game, and ponders whether FDI can help them. How? Well, for a start, the data shows that companies that take climate action seriously tend to see the benefits on the balance sheet. It can also enhance their all-important reputation. The likes of GoogleFacebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Tesla, HP and Nike are all striving to out-green the opposition, and these big global investors can bring their best practices to the countries they venture into. These are topics considered by Giacomo Lee in this thematic report on the topic of greenwashing.

On our sister site Energy Monitor, carbon trading rules are assessed, with the glass-half-full brigade happy that an agreement over the rules at COP26 could help climate finance flow to developing countries, but the glass-half-empty crowd bemoaning that the threat of a strict agreement could bring the market to a halt. Elsewhere, it ponders why grids are being overlooked ahead of event in Glasgow, but also stresses that COP26 is vital for business. Energy Monitor also looks at the fight to keep track of climate finance flows.

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COP26 coverage across the GlobalData network

COP26, and the issues set to dominate the event, have been covered in depth across the GlobalData network this week. On Verdict, there is a rundown of the sustainable finance tech that COP26 attendees should think about, and there is also a look inside Cervest’s plan to map the world’s climate risk. The publication also profiles the start-ups trying to make the online shopping industry more sustainable, the robots that are trying to clean up the oceans and Norway's attempts to move into cleantech.

Just Drinks provides a guide to what drinks brand owners should know about COP26; Just Auto looks into why the UK government wants ‘iconic’ British chargepoint design for the event and offers an overview of climate change and the automotive sectorJust Style offers a similar analysis of the apparel industry and its environmental impact and the apparel supply chains tackling climate change; and Just Food explains why food giants need to pick up the pace on greenhouse gas emissions.

Elsewhere on the GlobalData network, Railway Technology looks into overtourism and sustainability in the post-Covid, COP26 era and asks the awkward question: should travel be only for the rich? Motor Finance Online assesses the businesses within the industry that are creating tools that will play a valuable role in combatting climate change, while Medical Device Network looks at how hospitals and the medtech sector are tackling the climate crisis. Finally, Retail Banker International assesses how COP26 is driving momentum for European retail banks’ ESG strategies and The Accountant Online analyses ISSB and the need for comparable sustainability reporting standards.

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