As one of the most important climate change conferences draws to a close, Warren East gives us his reflections on what COP26 has meant to Rolls-Royce.
COP26 was important to Rolls-Royce because the messages were all about urgency and getting on with the energy transition now. It was also about getting that urgency into the policymakers so that we have the right policy environment in which we operate as a business to make that transition as fast as possible.
Representing Rolls-Royce at COP26 still feels like a very new thing to do. A few years ago, we wouldn’t have had Rolls-Royce at a climate conference, but today our business and the future of our business is all about the energy transition.
This summer we published our net zero report. We pioneer the power that matters, but at the moment much of the power we create produces carbon dioxide and is damaging to the environment. That’s what needs to change as we move from here to net zero. So, Rolls-Royce absolutely has a place at COP26, and I think Rolls-Royce will have a place at the future COP conferences going forward.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction to Rolls-Royce being at COP26, and I think that’s indicative of the fact that people understand that we are part of the solution to climate change and not just part of the problem. This has been very encouraging and I’ve seen it in terms of the amount of engagement that we’ve had, the number of people who came to visit our stand, the amount of people who wanted to talk to me and the team, and I’ve even seen it on social media in some of the comments attached to pieces of mainline media that have been produced, so I’m very encouraged.
So where do we go from COP 26?
However, we mustn’t get carried away with all the hype, we now have to deliver, and at COP26 the messages were all about delivery.
In the net zero report our strategy for the coming years is about executing on the path to net zero, and so we’ve got lots of things coming up.
We’ve got our all-electric aeroplane the Spirit of Innovation and the world speed record as a very important milestone. There’s all the electric aviation that sits behind that as well – the work with Vertical Aerospace, Tecnam and Wideroe and the demonstrations of the world’s largest hybrid propulsion system for aviation that we’ve been working on.
When we come outside of the sphere of aviation the types of applications that we serve through our power systems business are actually going to transition sooner and that’s why it’s very important that we’ve been able to use COP26 as a platform to talk about our hydrogen fuel cell activity. I know that we’ve had meetings where we’ve been talking about our microgrid and our system solutions around microgrids, and we’ve also been working on pulling forward announcements about making our reciprocating engines compatible with biofuels, eventually with synthetic fuels and compatible with burning hydrogen.
It’s been a real boost in terms of momentum towards the energy transition right across our business, and I’m looking forward to enabling the business to deliver in the months and years to come.