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COP27: what happened and what’s next?

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

There was much controversy about COP 27, from being sponsored by Coca Cola, the world’s top plastic polluter[1], to hosting 646 fossil fuel lobbyists[2], to the massive carbon footprint of the event itself.

Expectations were low.

And yet, a few very important things happened.

All governments agreed to a historic Loss and Damage fund

A Climate Action Network International press release proclaimed:

‘This is a first step in a process to rectify the systemic injustice to billions of people, particularly in the Global South, who are the least responsible but are on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
Those who are suffering devastating climate impacts; floods, droughts, hurricanes and sea level rise, will have some hope that their right to access support will be respected.’[3]

We are still waiting for more details of the fund, but it’s definitely a very welcome outcome.

Many thanks and congratulations are due to everyone who has campaigned for this since at least 1992 and negotiated without rest.

Will it be enough? The world suffered $1.8 trillion in weather-related losses during the first decade of the new millennium. In the second, it was $3 trillion[4]. We don’t know the number for the next decade, but we know that it will be higher. Most of this is happening in countries that have not caused this crisis, so it’s only right that the so-called developed countries should pay up.

However, some things can’t be compensated for, because they aren’t things. Lives that are already lost to climate change are lost.

China and US re-opened their dialogue on climate change

There is hope that these dialogues will lead to more progress on low-carbon technology and reducing methane emissions.[5]

Climate sceptics often say: ‘What about China? What’s the point in doing anything if China isn’t on board?’ There are many ways to respond to that (exasperating as this question is), but it’s good to point to the progress of negotiations with China.

A reference to a healthy environment as a right

There are questions about the human rights record of the host country Egypt, not to mention of many of the countries participating.

Apparently, there were some concerns that ‘linking climate policy with human rights (specifically political freedom and the treatment of minorities) could impede climate conversations.’[6]

Although we can’t claim that this COP has advanced human rights, such as political freedom, something else happened.

The final text of the COP27 agreement has reference to ‘the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment’.

Why is it significant?

Women Gender Constituency point out that ‘The COP27 became the first multilateral environmental agreement to include an explicit reference to the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.’[7]

While the words on their own are toothless, it is the case that climate justice is not possible without human rights, and it’s great to hear them finally being discussed together. Of course, it doesn’t go anywhere near what we hope, but sometimes things need to be written down before they can be acted upon.

Businesses showed up

In order to have any hope of any progress on climate change, we need all the tools in the box and everyone to play their part.

For businesses, it means reducing their emissions, investing in innovation and reviewing the impact of their mission, everyday operations and their supply chains. This is a moral imperative, but there are both many financial risks of not getting involved, and many rewards for playing their part.

The World Economic Forum’s write-up exclaimed:

‘We saw the private sector take a major role at COP27, particularly across the areas of climate ambition, low-carbon technology and climate adaptation.
It was recognised that the adaptation market could be worth $2 trillion per year by 2026, with the developing world standing to benefit from much of this.’ [8]

After this COP, businesses leaders need to make a decision: are they in with the global community attempting to tackle the most important issue of our time, or are they going to wait it out on the sidelines?

What’s next?

Fossil fuel reductions

When your bathtub is overflowing, you turn off the taps, right? Well, that wasn’t the consensus of this COP, and a call to phase out all fossil fuels was blocked. It is an undeniable setback, that must be addressed at the next COP, or ideally long before, as when it comes to climate change, time is most certainly of the essence.

We need global emissions to be halved by 2030. We are not going to get there by appeasing the fossil fuel lobby or by pretending that this isn’t an issue. Tick tock!

A deal for climate refugees

There’s been great progress on finance as a helping hand this year, but who will help people fleeing their homes because of climate change events, like floods and fires? Will there be an agreement on climate refugees, perhaps with the most polluting countries pledging to take in a certain amount of people and pay for them to have safe homes? Will these countries agree to amend their immigration policies to account for climate refugees? There is little hope, but it’s not impossible.

More representation

This COP had more children, youth groups and indigenous people that were not previously represented, but there is still a long way to go. We need all the voices, particularly ones from the frontlines of the climate change emergency, and the ones that will probably live until the end of the century. We’ve moved on from talking about climate change only in terms of the future, because we know that it’s happening right now, but if we don’t get our act together now, our children will, without any doubt, inherit a much more dangerous world. It’s telling that it’s the youth who educate us about this more and more – they have much to lose or gain.

More urgency – it needs saying again and again

COP 28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates. We hope that it will build on the successes of this year’s COP, and win where it failed – to urgently address the reduction of fossil fuels and be the ‘Implementation Cop’ that this one aspired to be.

There is so much we agree on now, it’s time to finally act. Every year of inaction costs lives and the livelihoods of too many.

On the 30th November 2022, UN Global Compact (UK network) are hosting a webinar entitled ‘Measuring Up on Climate: Reflections on COP27’[9] – you can find more discussions about this topic there. We’ve booked our place.

As always, you are welcome to invite Private Goodness to speak about climate change and business by clicking ‘let's chat’ below.

cop27: what happened and what's next. The private goodness write-up

[1] [2] [3] [4] Referenced in 'The true cost of climate change' chapter by Eugene Linden in 'the Climate Book', created by Greta Thunberg, p. 193 [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]



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