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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Our best last chance

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
19 October 2021

Good morning,

With COP26 less than two weeks away, the pressure on the climate summit’s organisation and outcome is growing by the minute.
 
Repeatedly billed as “the world’s best last chance to get climate change under control”, the conference will welcome about 25,000 delegates and 120 world leaders to Glasgow, making for an especially tight security operation.
 
Yet, despite the conference’s one-year postponement due to Covid-19, the logistics and planning surrounding the summit have been fraught with uncertainty, decision-making delays, and, latterly, the threat of industrial action and protests.
 
While some of the city’s main tourist attractions will be closed to the public as staff are moved to work on the city’s COP26 team, railway workers and refuse collectors have escalated existing pay disputes by backing strike action for the duration of the international meeting.
 
If you factor in major road closures, mass protests, and accommodation capacity pressures, Scotland’s biggest city is facing disruption at an extraordinary level.
 
As the conference draws near, a group of major sponsors, which includes some of the UK’s biggest companies, have reportedly raised formal complaints with the organisers – that is, civil servants within the cabinet office led by COP26 president and former business secretary Alok Sharma – blaming them for a “mismanaged” and “very last minute” event.
 
Bearing in mind that sponsorship is expected to help cover a policing bill estimated to reach up to £250m, some backers are apparently frustrated by “unmet expectations”, especially with regards to delays to the “green zone” exhibition space and the participation of ministers at their events.
 
Beyond logistical drawbacks, however, the issue of who is and isn’t attending COP26 has grabbed most of the attention over the last week. Corroborating Her Majesty’s disappointment in world leaders who “talk” but “don’t do”, the premiers of three of the most polluting countries on the planet, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, India’s Narendra Modi, and China’s Xi Jinping, are either not attending the summit or still deciding.
 
Decisions to attend such international meetings are sometimes made at the eleventh hour, but the fact that none of them has submitted updated carbon-cutting plans ahead of COP26 is of greater concern for the purposes of the conference.
 
When it’s all over – including the shouting – COP26 will probably not be remembered for traffic cones, shuttered museums, or cancelled trains, but rather for its success or failure in agreeing carbon emission cuts to keep global warming within 1.5C.
 
If this is indeed our last, best chance to deliver on the promises made at the Paris conference six years ago, we have no time to lose.

News

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, told the House of Commons on Monday that the Queen had agreed to grant Southend city status. The announcement comes days after the killing of MP Sir David Amess, who regularly championed Southend’s case to be a city during his time in parliament. In addition to conferring additional prestige, city status is an opportunity for areas to attract more tourism and benefit the local economy.
 
North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the sea near Japan, according to South Korean and Japanese militaries, in the latest in a series of tests conducted by Pyongyang over recent weeks. The launch came as South Korea, Japan, and US intelligence chiefs reportedly meet in Seoul to discuss North Korea, whose missile programme has continued despite economic struggles under a self-imposed pandemic lockdown. 
 
Former US secretary of state Colin Powell died of Covid-19 complications yesterday, aged 84. The former top military officer, who became America’s first black secretary of state in 2001 under President George W Bush, had previously been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that may have made him more vulnerable to the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated. 

Business and economy

Tesco is opening its first checkout-free shop, GetGo, in central London later today, following a two-year trial of a similar store at the supermarket chain’s head office in Welwyn Garden City. The new format uses weight sensors linked to an artificial intelligence system to allow customers to shop and pay without scanning a product or using a checkout. 
 
The UK treasury is introducing requirements for large British businesses to disclose their environmental impact, including investment products and pension schemes. In a move to tackle so-called “greenwashing”, the sustainability disclosure requirements (SDR) will also require companies to justify their sustainability claims and set out their net zero plans “clearly”.
 
Ford plans to invest £230m in its Halewood plant on Merseyside to make electric car parts from 2024, helping safeguard 500 jobs. Through this investment, part of which will come from the UK government’s automotive transformation fund, the plant will be able to operate for many years longer, as the automotive business moves towards electrifying its vehicles.

Columns of note

In The Guardian, Marco Springmann turns his attention to the poor quality of British diets and the need for meaningful reductions in meat and dairy intake to meet emissions reduction targets. Springmann explores the positive impact of policy incentives required to support such dietary improvements and calls on policymakers to integrate health and environmental concerns into all policies, with the aim of safeguarding public health and that of the planet.
 
Writing in The Times, Karen Ward argues that despite all its achievements, the coronavirus job retention scheme should not be used again. While it is too early to call furlough a complete victory, she maintains, it is precisely because the Covid-19 crisis was not a “normal recession” that it has been successful. Ward concludes that the implementation of such a scheme in a normal recession would run the risk of holding workers in low-productivity, low pay-growth roles in stagnant areas of the economy. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks lower on Monday, following disappointing growth figures from China. The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.42% at 7,203.83, while sterling was weaker both against the dollar by 0.23% at $1.37 and versus the euro by 0.33% at €1.18.
 
Across the Atlantic, the benchmark S&P 500 index recovered from an early dip to close up 0.3%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8%.
 
In company news:
 
National Express was down 3.81% after the UK bus and train operator said it had been given until 16 November to make a bid for rival Stagecoach.
 
Playtech surged 58.08% after the gambling software group agreed to be bought by Australian gaming machine maker Aristocrat Leisure in a £2.1bn deal.
 
National Grid was 0.97% higher after reporting that it had continued to perform in line with expectations, ahead of its first-half results on 18 November.
 
Tesco managed gains of 0.7% after the supermarket chain said it had started its planned buyback of up to £500m in shares.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Bellway
Essensys
YouGov

Interims
B.p Marsh

AGMs
Mcbride

Int. economic announcements
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(13:30) Housing Starts (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The term ‘Lord’ comes from a combination of old English words for ‘loaf’ and ‘ward’, so, etymologically speaking, a lord is someone who guards bread. Meanwhile, ‘Lady’ comes from a combination of old English words for ‘loaf’ and ‘kneader’, so a lady is someone who kneads bread. (Source: @yvanspijk)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Bereavement Leave and Pay (stillborn and miscarried babies)
 
Motion
Motion under the Coronavirus Act 2020 relating to the renewal of temporary provisions
 
Opposition Day Debate
Opposition Day (7th allotted day – 1st part) There will be a debate on a Motion in the name of the Official Opposition. Subject to be announced
 
Adjournment
Regulation of investments in the fossil fuel industry

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Patient choice between a telephone or in-person GP appointment, and the impact of appointments not being in person on late diagnosis of symptoms
 
Dame Carol Black’s ‘Review of Drugs Part Two: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery’
 
Action taken in light of Nuffield Foundation’s review ‘Changing Patterns of Poverty in Early Childhood’
 
Discussions with France since the announcement of the AUKUS agreement
 
Legislation
Compensation (London Capital & Finance plc and Fraud Compensation Fund) Bill – second reading and remaining stages
 
Telecommunications (Security) Bill – report stage
 
Short debate
Iran and engaging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the detention of dual nationals

Scottish parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess. The parliament will next sit on 26 October 2021.

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