London Climate Action Week 2023 took place from the 24th June-2nd July and a number of the H+K Better Impact team headed down to catch the latest conversations relevant to the central topic of this year’s programme: Harnessing the Power of London for Global Climate Action.  

As the title suggests, the conversations and events were focused on ambitious action and practical solutions to advance progress towards climate and nature goals, particularly in the run-up to COP28 which has been the focus of many negative news headlines in recent weeks. Despite this, the key takeout was positive – that with collaboration, strong action from business and the real economy and clear, transparent evidencing of green claims, there is a feeling of hopeful urgency.  

The four themes this year were: accelerating the global clean economy; delivering fair, inclusive, and just climate transitions; expanding networks for Whole of Society Action; and creating a greener London with and for Londoners.  

If you couldn’t attend LCAW events, we have collated some of the key takeouts from some of the key sessions that we joined. 

Reset Connect Events

We attended four panel sessions hosted by Reset Connect, the now flagship event of London Climate Action Week, discussing:

  • How major corporates and global brands can oversee the sustainability transformation. Panellists included representatives of Microsoft, HSBC and Whitbread. 
  • How we can address overproduction, waste and packaging through driving behaviour change across sectors. Panellists included representatives of WRAP, Electrolux and Currys.  
  • The role of developing net zero buildings and infrastructure to support business and government. Panellists included representatives of Excel London, Canary Wharf Group and Bates Wells.  
  • The role of brands in driving consumer behaviour change to meet sustainability goals, avoid greenwashing, and protect the planet. Panellists included representatives of Danone, WPP and Clarasys. 

Our key takeouts:

Increasingly, the role of Chief Technology Officers is expected to be a critical driver of sustainability in organisations.
Many businesses are still falling short of reaching their sustainability goals and,
according to a recent study by Intel, it’s often because of their failure to adopt new technologies quickly enough.  CTOs will play a critical role in aligning business strategy, technology, and sustainability to meet this challenge.  

Honest communication from businesses will be fundamental for the public and their employees.
The “say/do gap” is becoming increasingly apparent and scrutinised so it will be important for businesses to be honest about the areas of weakness, as well as evidencing strengths when it comes to sustainability. 

Collaboration is key.
One person reaching the finish line doesn’t mean everyone has won and collaboration is vital to ensuring sustainable outcomes whilst achieving sustainable profits. 

You can’t reduce what you can’t measure.
The utilisation of carbon measurement software by companies is increasingly important.

“The climate crisis is one of the biggest creative briefs we will ever very be a part of” (WPP – Felicity McLean).
We must all rise to the challenge and continue to deliver cutting-edge creative work with sustainability at its core.   

Climate Investment Summit 

For our clients in the Financial and Professional Services sector, we attended the opening plenary session on Short-Term Pathways to Finance the Net-Zero Energy Transition: The “No Nonsense” Way. Unsurprisingly, we need to treble investments in net zero solutions by 2030 from $1 trillion to $3.5 trillion. We also need to achieve a seven-fold increase in emerging market renewable energy investment.  

Key takeouts:  

Economics is driving the transition: The heavy lifting has been done – we now need to look to increase the pace of the transition. There isn’t always a financing gap and there’s no shortage of capital, it’s simply not in the right assets and markets.  

There are some key barriers to achieving this: 1) Considering the lack of domestic enabling conditions, we need to address policy and regulatory barriers. 2) There is a mismatch of global capital and de-risking to fold in capital into projects – thus the importance of MDBs to de-risk investment vehicles. 3) In OECD countries there’s a significant capacity gap to unlock finance in emerging markets 

Concessional finance needs to be better utilised: The first key priority here will be a major reform of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The key question is scalability, so not looking at a project level approach but a programmatic approach. 

Policy conversation is now about industrial and commercial policy: for too long it’s been viewed only through a climate policy lens.  

Expect progress on the launch of the Energy Transition Accelerator: which will look to deliver three times the investment to $4 trillion a year. Keep an eye out at COP28 for an announcement of when the Energy Transition Accelerator will launch to the market.  

Kite Insights: Is Being Human Our Biggest Impediment to Climate Action? 

Hosted at The Conduit, this session took a more existential and philosophical approach, with panellists including Leo Johnson (Head of Disruption, PwC), Himanshu Gupta (CEO and Co-Founder ClimateAI) and Judy Lin Wong (Black Environment Network).     

Key takeouts:

Some of the most ground-breaking human innovations have also been among humanity’s biggest environmental mistakes.
These include the development of fossil fuels and refrigerants, which contributed to widespread safety and prosperity. In this light, they debated whether being human itself is the biggest impediment to climate action.  

Examining the potential of technology to solve climate change faster and better than humans.
Audience members were invited to debate amongst themselves on whether – if human mindsets are not sufficient to address climate change on a global, long-term scale – could technology solve climate change faster and better? 

Connecting London for local and global climate action  

One of the sessions we attended at this event featured Ambassador Suwaidi, chief climate negotiator for the UAE. Given the intense scrutiny of the presidency of COP28, this was watched for any nuance in language that might reveal any change in course. 

Key takeouts: 

In typically diplomatic refrains, Suwaidi emphasised the importance of partnership and continuation of the work of previous COPs including COP26. He tipped his hat to the evidence from the first Global Stocktake and recognised that this will necessitate a bold course correction and clearly defined interventions on mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage.  

Suwaidi’s speech also continued to use the language of ‘phase down’ of fossil fuels rather than ‘phase out’, though he did recognise this as inevitable, in the same way that the COP28 president did only a few weeks ago in media interviews.  

Some “firsts” at COP28, included the first-ever leader’s declaration regarding the interplay of food, climate, and biodiversity and the first health day to explore the impacts of climate and health. He also referenced that the presidency had made progress in bilateral talks on climate finance with Germany and Canada to help deliver on the overdue $100bn promise from the Paris Agreement.  

This coming COP has a lot to prove, as summarised by Sahana Kaur, Climate Action and SDGs Youth Advocate. In sum, there wasn’t much that was new, which was reflected in the brief, but focused contribution of Sahana Kaur. However, it was highlighted that the delayed start of recent Bonn talks was emblematic of the lack of urgency among policymakers – with a reminder to the audience that not a single Nationally Determined Contribution is yet compliant with a 1.5-degree future.  

The Implications of Recent ASA Rulings on Green Claims  

Green claims in advertising are increasingly prevalent, as companies seek to demonstrate their environmental credentials to consumers who are looking to buy from brands that they see as aligned with their values. That prevalence is prompting the global advertising industry and many national regulators to better define what a good green claim looks like and to introduce tougher measures to prevent ‘greenwashing’.

In this context, the H+K’s Better Impact team recapped ASA case histories and highlighted 5 recent rulings and the precedents that should be noted by brands looking to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Read our summary of the session here.