What Has COP26 Got To Do With Project Management?
The Paris Agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, set out a legally binding framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Some 196 countries (including the EU and its members) agreed to transform their development path in pursuit of this and committed to targets in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Whilst well-defined targets and strategies to achieve NDCs are essential, on their own they are not enough. Strategy must be executed through the right portfolio of project-based work, and excellent project management in delivering to targets.Massive Investment In Addressing Climate Change
Big investments currently address climate targets. For example, in the UK alone, Barclays Bank forecast a spending of £100bn on green financing by 2030. And whilst it might be imagined that the pandemic might have derailed climate action, in fact countries have used the crisis as an opportunity to enable transition to a low-carbon economy through the introduction of 'green' stimulus packages. In May 2020, the EU set out a €750bn economic stimulus plan and a revised proposal for the EU budget through to 2027. This aimed to both mitigate the shock from COVID-19 and to pave the way for a sustainable future. In particular, the funds will be partly used to reach the EU's objectives of climate neutrality and digital transformation.
In the UK alone, an additional £3bn of energy efficiency measures were announced in 2020 as part of a broader coronavirus stimulus aimed at boosting the economy. The package includes £2bn towards a Green Homes Grant scheme and another £1bn for public buildings to improve energy efficiency. The measures are also aimed at helping the UK meet its ambitious 2050 target for net-zero carbon emissions.
The bigger picture was set out by Mark Carney, retired Bank of England governor who forecast that 'every year, for the course of the next three decades, there will be investments of $3.5 trillion. It is an enormous investment opportunity.'Project Management is Where the Rubber Hits the Road!
This investment will only have an impact on climate change if it leads to the execution of the right strategies, through successful projects implementing the necessary technology changes, across all sectors. 'Project Management is where the rubber hits the road!' as an American colleague of mine says!
This is where the PMI, the world's leading Project Management organisation, comes in. The PMI leads in defining Project Management standards and the new, 7th edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) keeps the standard right up to date. The PMI's set of accreditations, including Project Management Professional (PMP) assure that certified project managers have both proven experience and the right skills
Importance of COP26 Hosted by the UK in Glasgow
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change 'Conference of the Parties' (COP26), is due to take place from 1st to 12th November in Glasgow. The city was chosen by the UK, host of COP26, due to its commitment to sustainability, experience in world class events, and first-rate facilities. Recently awarded the status of Global Green City, it has the ambitious target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.
The 2015 Paris Agreement was a landmark achievement after 25 years of effort, with almost every country in the world agreeing to a 5-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action involving economic and social transformation and based on the best available science. By 2020 each country had to submit its NDC as well as, optionally, its strategic approach in the form of long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS). The sum of the NDCs equal the global commitment towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. For the Paris Agreement goals to be achieved, every country needs to play its part.
COP26 is significant because it will be the first to take place since the ratification of the Paris Agreement, and is an opportunity for nations to come together to review commitments, strengthen ambition and accelerate action.Big Challenges But We Can Win
The world is anticipating that each country submits a new NDC in 2021 with even more ambitious targets. So, if every country achieves their national targets set out in their NDC, will the Paris Agreement be a success, and will we avert the worst effects of climate change? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.A recent report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme indicated that if all countries met their current NDC targets, we would still only be one third of the way towards achieving the Paris Agreement. When we consider that many countries aren't even close to reaching their current NDC targets, the enormous challenge ahead comes sharply into focus.
However, all is not lost.
A major factor is the massive growth in public awareness concerning the need to manage climate change, even in the immediate face of a pandemic. And governments and businesses are beginning to listen. This is a race that not only must we win, but we can win. Action at the local level paves the way for change at national and global level.Project Management is the Profession That Makes it Happen
Establishing ambitious targets, and the systems, institutions, and resources essential to meeting them, is the starting point. Innovation is especially important to promote sustainability and to create solutions to address and adapt to climate change. Multidisciplinary researchers and entrepreneurs with diverse social backgrounds provide the skills, but we can only meet the challenge with the equally skilled support of Project Managers and the framework within which projects may be managed. PMI involvement becomes an imperative necessity.
COP26 is an important event for the PMI, because it will generate enormous worldwide need for the professional skills of Project Management. The Conference will be attended by financial institutions, banks, investors, delegations, and heads of state from 200 nations, including the newly elected US president Joe Biden. The event is of particular importance for the UK because it has the Presidency and COP26 is the first significant international meeting for the UK since leaving the EU.
I conclude this article with a note of optimism, both with regard to the prospect of contributing to building a liveable future for our children, and for the job prospects that COP26 opens for our profession and the value that we can bring to the world.
Franco Guarrella is an engineer whose career in the oil and gas sector transitioned through design engineering to project management to eventually become Managing Director of a major international engineering and construction company. Franco founded the PMI Rome Chapter and served for a number of years as its President