A lot can happen in a year. Hurricanes, flooding and droughts around the world have displaced millions; the war in Ukraine continues to produce ripple effects across global markets; inflation, new heads of state, legislative reversals and social uprisings from the Middle East to South America have dominated news cycles in what feels like an endless loop. There’s not a lot of good news these days, it seems.
World leaders, journalists and activists have a lot to discuss at the U.N. Convention on Climate Change (COP27), which begins next week and spans the 6th-18th November. Leading up to the summit, it’s fair to say that expectations are high. We’ve taken the opportunity to gather our thoughts on the state of affairs after COP26 and what we might expect from this year’s conference.
Firstly - and most significantly - the state of carbon emissions remains perilous. Progress since COP26 has been “woefully inadequate”, and little action has been taken to slow our progress towards a warming of the planet by 2.8C. Gaps in financing, paired with a general apathy towards meaningful action, have hampered the progress that was intended following last year's summit. The situation is only deepened by worsening natural disasters, displacement-driven mass migration and waning resources for communities in need.
The stakes are higher than ever, and those attending the summit must leave with practical solutions rather than vague commitments. Execution and enforcement must be considered mandatory at this point. Diplomacy is simply not enough.
We also need to begin viewing environmental and social issues as interrelated. The events of COP27 dedicate a couple of days to the role of women, youth communities and civil engagement in combatting rising temperatures, but meaningful discussions of the effects of climate change on underserved and underprivileged communities is lacking. In 2021 we discussed just transition and its role in developing truly sustainable roadmaps for all. While COP27 is a climate summit, it is difficult to talk about environmental issues without discussing broader social ramifications of actions taken – or not.
Just transition seeks to ensure that the benefits of net zero greenhouse gas emissions are enjoyed by all societies; in the run-up to COP27, we can already see the dire consequences of climate change playing out in communities around the world. Recent flooding in Pakistan is a perfect example of the costs of not connecting climate change with social realities. 33 million people have been directly affected, in a country poorly equipped to respond due to a lack of resources, infrastructure and medical aid. We're curious to observe how much of the following weeks’ conversations will revolve around not only agents of change, but the actions needed to protect vulnerable populations.
This naturally feeds into the question of finances. Last year’s event saw pledges from developed countries to aid those communities most susceptible to the effects of climate change. However, in practice, these pledges have fallen short. There is a call to address financial responsibility more practically during COP27, with “loss and damage” expected to serve as a key area of focus for attendees.
However, as leaders attempt to determine which countries can and will finance regions damaged by climate -induced events, current global economic concerns are likely to worry wealthier countries and diminish further financial pledges. As in many fields of life, the question of just who should foot the bill has become a contentious one. With growing pressure on developed countries to assist nations in need, we anticipate that this debate will continue through COP28, and beyond.
Expected attendees – which include US President Joe Biden, former US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, alongside environmental activists, delegates and journalists from around the world – will discuss Mitigation, Adaptation, Finance and Collaboration. Importantly, many prominent leaders will not be attending COP27, excluding several key nations from the conversation altogether. The UK’s King Charles III will not be in attendance and newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak succumbed to public pressure this week after initially declining his invite. It is not yet known whether China and India – two of the world’s biggest economies – will be represented.
This, then, begs the question, what can we realistically achieve when key decision-makers are not in the room? Activists and journalists are essential to raising awareness, but the power to actually implement laws rests with governments. Moreover, it is the responsibility of world leaders to put politics aside to address the larger needs of the planet. What message are they sending by not showing up? It’s easy to see why skepticism is the dominant tone in the days leading up to the events.
This year's COP event is arguably the most scrutinized ever, with criticism and skepticism circulating before the convention has even opened its doors. Will COP27 deliver on its promises, or even exceed them? Check back with us post-event for our follow-up.