Five minutes with Jeff Oatman on COP26

27 Sep 2021

The anticipation for COP26 is building, but what will this event mean for our industry and why should we be interested? Jeff Oatman was recently announced as GBCA’s new Head of Collaboration and Membership, so we put these questions to him, plus a few more, to learn why we should get excited about this pivotal event.

What is COP26?

For nearly three decades, the United Nations (UN) has been bringing countries from around the world together for these climate summits known as COP, which stands for Conference of the Parties. The parties involved come together to accelerate towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

This COP year is the 26th summit of its kind and will be hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy. It was meant to be held last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, it’s now planned to go ahead from 31 October – 12 November in Glasgow.

Jeff Oatman
Jeff Oatman, Head of Collaboration and Membership

Sometimes these events can be all talk but no action. Should we believe the hype?

We’ve all read the recent IPCC Report or have at least witnessed its fallout in media reports. It paints a grim picture and a warning that human-induced climate change is already changing our weather patterns. I’m from Canada where they’ve recently experienced some of the hottest days on record across the country, while here in Australia we’re scarred with the memories of the black summer fires and ongoing droughts; these extreme weather events are happening now and they’re intensifying. 

The time for talking has passed. The science is telling us to act by limiting temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. We’re already seeing nations and businesses around the world moving towards net zero by steering away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy. The market is increasingly taking up electric vehicles, while tools like Green Star are helping to electrify our buildings and homes. Governments are committing to carbon reduction and growing economies at the same time. The change is already underway, and COP26 is an opportunity to build on all this work with greater protections for biodiversity and climate-ready, resilient buildings and places.

Is there anything our industry should be looking out for in the program?

Absolutely. This is the first COP that will have a day in the program dedicated to Cities, Regions and the Built Environment. The agenda for the day is being designed now and we know the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction are talking with global NGOs and the UK Government to shape the plan.

Given the built environment contributes 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the time is right to recognise the role our industry plays in climate change and that we can be part of the solution, COP26 is the perfect platform for this.

What are some of the ways GBCA members can get involved?

Head to the official website to learn more about the four goals of COP26 which are:

  1. Secure global net zero by mid century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  3. Mobilise finance
  4. Work together to deliver

Sign up to WGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (The Commitment)

Around the globe 109 businesses, 28 cities and six states and regions have pledged to take urgent action towards the decarbonisation of the built environment by signing up to The Commitment. In Australia alone 28 organisations are signatories.

The Commitment’s framework sets a clear pathway to net zero operating carbon emissions by 2030 and advocates for all buildings to be net zero by 2050. These signatories are leading the way to a net zero future and are innovating new ways to get there, see the full list of signatories here. We’ve been speaking with members about this for some time and are happy to talk you through it if you have questions.

Tune into Climate Week NYC and PreCOP26

In September Climate Week will see international leaders converge in New York to showcase their efforts to mitigate climate change and make commitments in the lead up to COP26. The PreCOP26 event will be another one to keep and eye on; this is where global leaders will discuss the political points of COP negotiations and give an insight into what we can expect at the summit itself.

Attend a #BuildingtoCOP26 forum

Hosted by WGBC, members are invited to attend the last two of these monthly forums to gain an insight into the #BuildingtoCOP26 campaign and be the first to hear key announcements about the Cities, Regions and the Built Environment Day at the upcoming COP. Register for the forums here.

Keen to know more? Read the official COP26 Explained brochure and check your inbox for Green Building Voice in the lead up to COP26.