global perspectives

‘Coal, cars, cash and trees’: what progress has COP26 made so far?

‘Coal, cars, cash and trees’: what progress has COP26 made so far?
Khangzhen Leow - Senior Sustainability Analyst

Khangzhen Leow

Senior Sustainability Analyst
Thomas Höhne-Sparborth, PhD - Head of Sustainability Research

Thomas Höhne-Sparborth, PhD

Head of Sustainability Research

Need to know

  • Delivering pledges that could restrain global warming to 1.8°C, COP26 has fulfilled the primary objective of maintaining the 2°C threshold agreed at COP21 in Paris.
  • Such commitments include international initiatives to phase-out coal production, drastically reduce deforestation and increase private-sector investment in the net-zero transition.
  • So, there is cause for optimism – but a stronger case for realism as the detailed work of implementing these promises lies ahead.


Under the spotlight – and the weight of the world

In full COP26 limelight, political leaders used pop culture to seize attention and headlines in their opening speeches.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres exhorted: “Choose ambition. Choose solidarity. Choose to safeguard our future and save humanity” and not, similar to Mark Renton in Trainspotting, the “something else” of fossil-fuel addiction. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged participants to be like James Bond and stop the climate-change “doomsday device”.

After this tribute to COP26 host nation’s film industry, aspirational pledges and critical speeches followed. Johnson had promised that targets for four key dimensions of the climate transition would be set: “coal, cars, cash and trees”. This slogan partially reflects the agenda of the summit. In this insight, we ask: what has been achieved in its name so far?

For our climate, pledges are not enough

Before political leaders met in Glasgow, 80% of the global economy was committed to or considering net-zero targets. At the summit, climate pledges have become more ambitious. The IEA has given its verdict: if these pledges are implemented and achieved in time, global warming would be restrained to 1.8°C – an immense reduction from the pre-COP26 projection of 2.7°C.

The IEA has given its verdict: if these pledges are implemented and achieved in time, global warming would be restrained to 1.8°C


This is a cause for optimism, as it is the first time humanity’s combined pledges have aligned with warming of less than 2°C since the climate movement began. In this light, the major COP26 objectives have been achieved: escalating the COP21 Paris Agreement for a climate-change threshold of 2°C and stretching for the more ambitious goal of below 1.5°C.

But actions will speak louder than these words.

Pledges must be kept from collapsing into broken dreams, and the fine lettering of agreements is yet to be finalised, loopholes closed and a common accounting system established to track progress. COP26 has been described as the last chance to keep warming of 1.5°C alive. Another week of negotiations could reveal whether we have seized or scrapped this chance.

No matter the outcome, we must confront the consequences of the global climate transition.


Last week, Lombard Odier hosted the Zero-Hour Sessions in Glasgow during the first week of COP26. To watch presentations about investing with a focus on net zero, nature and planetary boundaries, click here.

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