Cop Till You Drop

Cop Till You Drop

COP Till You Drop

The long anticipated COP26 has finally started. As we write this, watching from afar via media coverage and twitter feeds, it feels like being in the back row of a theatre observing the choreographed speeches of presidents and prime ministers on stage, while hearing real life dramas unfold amongst the protestors outside. There are lots of different voices all vying to be heard and it will be fascinating to see who will emerge as the real leaders and influencers – the politicians or the people.

As with previous COPs, there is a focus on numbers. We know we must limit global heating to 1.5°C, but scientists tell us that in reality we are on a trajectory towards 3°C. In his speech at COP26 yesterday, Sir David Attenborough added another number to the mix: 419 parts per million – the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere. He said:

“The people alive now and the generations to come will look at this conference and consider just one thing: did that number start to drop and stop rising as a result of commitments made here.”

That’s it in a nutshell. After all the promises and pledges, the negotiations and the agreements, it will come down to a single number and the actions we take as governments, businesses and citizens to bring it down in a fast and fair way.

On a global scale, it feels like an overwhelming task. But it is still possible – just. As Kevin O’ Sullivan writes in the Irish Times, the essential ingredient for big action is “hope that is not masquerading as naivety. It is the antidote to fear and powerlessness.” 

So at a time when you may be feeling powerless as you watch the COP26 drama play out, here are some articles that we hope will give you hope:

Kevin O’ Sullivan on 12 reasons we can be optimistic about climate action;
Bill McKibben on how the cost of renewables is falling and citizen power is rising;
Solitaire Townsend on how businesses can take meaningful action by being honest, calling for policy change, and selling climate solutions.

Happy reading and see you on the other side.


Our October Top 5

  • Guide to the COP rollercoaster ride: this is an easy, light-hearted take on the mechanics of a COP from UK journalist John Vidal who’s been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Helpful for weathering the emotional rollercoaster that we’ll all be on for the next 2 weeks as COP26 unfolds. (Guardian)
  • Launch of new net zero standard: in October the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) launched its much-awaited standard for corporate net zero target setting. From now on, science-based net zero targets will require companies to achieve deep decarbonisation of 90-95% before 2050. (Edie)
  • Bringing humanity back to business: wise words from former Unilever CEO Paul Polman on the future of sustainable business in this article which summarises ten insights from his new book on ‘courageous companies’. (Sustainable Brands)
  • Kenyan tea workers file landmark law suit: 1,300 former tea plantation workers are suing the British-owned tea plantation company James Finlay for permanent damage to their spines as a result of poor working conditions and excessive hours. This could set an important precedent for similar human rights cases in the future. (BusinessHumanRights)
  • A model for combatting climate change: this article was published earlier this year but we only came across it in September so we’re sneaking it in! It’s a macro overview of how we can get to net zero. We like it for the simple way it explains the role of carbon reductions versus carbon removal. (

From Chaos to Transformation: Sustainable Innovation

“The future will be de-carbonized, decentralized and digitized. But how will we get there?” This report – The Cleantech 100: your guide to the companies and themes delivering sustainable innovation – showcases the 100 best companies in cleantech today. It also offers insights into the trends in key cleantech sectors such as agriculture and food, energy and power, and transportation and logistics.

The Cleantech Group also published another report – 50 early stage start-ups to watch. Great to see an Irish start up – Carbon Collect – featured, as well as one of the companies – Concular – participating in the current Climate-KIC Accelerator programme that SW is involved in.

At SW we’re passionate about cleantech innovation, and we see it as see it as one of the most positive and solution-focused climate actions that businesses can take.

Milestone Moment: Ireland’s First Carbon Budgets

On 25th October, Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) sent its proposal for the country’s first carbon budgets to Minister Eamon Ryan. The budgets create a map for Ireland to follow to meet the government’s target of cutting carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 – a stepping stone on the way net-zero emissions by 2050.

Following government review, the budgets will go to the Oireachtas to be approved within a 4-month time period. Once approved, they will be divided into ‘sectoral emissions ceilings’. This is essentially where the government will set emissions reduction targets for specific sectors such as agriculture and transport. These sectors will have to quickly develop their own detailed roadmaps and plans to achieve their designated targets.

The creation of carbon budgets are an important milestone on Ireland’s climate action journey. To put it bluntly, s*** is getting real. We’re moving away from the abstract and getting down to specific figures and real measurement, which is exactly what’s needed. It will naturally be worrying for those sectors that have a published target to meet and it will therefore be vital that they receive the right supports so that no organisation or individual gets left behind in the low carbon transition.

For more information on the carbon budgets see this article from The Irish Times.


Client Spotlight: Broadcasting Sustainability Network

During October, SW was delighted to be part of an exciting event with the members of the Broadcasting Sustainability Network. Hosted by Virgin Media Television the event focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in broadcasting. It was moderated by SW Associate Catherine Smith McKiernan who chatted to three of the people leading Virgin’s DEI initiatives across their programming and in their workplace.

Against the glamorous backdrop and bright lights of a live TV studio there were some real and frank discussions about how we create a culture of belonging in organisations, how we give people permission to make mistakes and learn from them, and how by embracing DEI in programming, broadcasters can create content that is more interesting and more relatable for their audiences.

Pictured at the event below are (from left to right): Catherine Smith McKiernan (SW), Karen Deignan (SW), Áine Ní Chaoindealbháin (Virgin Media Ireland), Alison Hodgson (Virgin Media Ireland), Anthony Nilan (Virgin Media Ireland). 

What We’re Reading 

Paul Hawken of Project Drawdown fame has written a new book called ‘Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation’ which promises to be an insightful and inspirational read. Add it to your list!

You can also check out this video where Paul is interviewed about the new book for the Rich Roll podcast.

Sustainability Jobs

  • Sustainability strategy manager – Diageo
  • Group Sustainability Manager – MHL Hotels
  • Sustainability and Data Insights Manager – Logitech
  • Sustainability Manager (Social Value and Sustainability Reporting) – Sisk
  • Sustainability Materials Specialist – Penneys
  • EU Snr Construction Category Manager Sustainability – Amazon
  • Senior Communications Manager – Inclusive Impact & Sustainability Communications –Visa
  • Postdoctoral Researcher – DCU Centre for Climate & Society
  • Research Centre Coordinator – DCU Centre for Climate and Society