UnNeutral | COP27: A haven for hypocrisy or an avenue to action?

COP27: A haven for hypocrisy or an avenue to action?

COP. Three seemingly innocent letters that have somehow spun more controversy in the past few years than the slew of prime ministers revolving one after another through the doors of 10 Downing Street.

What was once an infrequent meeting between “developed” nations (a somewhat derogatory term in its own-right, btu we’ll run with it for now) the now-annual COP climate summits have become a significantly polarising time. What should be a celebrated occasion recognising the coming together of every nation, race and creed to tackle the biggest issue we’ve ever faced as a species — the climate crisis — has instead done little more than to produce abundant rhetoric at the expense of action. 

Climate change figurehead, Greta Thunberg, said it best at COP26 back in 2021, which she surmised had succeeded in doing little more than “watering down the blah blah blah.”

Will this year’s COP renew its title as a flop?

Fast forward to COP27 which kicked-off in earnest yesterday and one doesn’t need to look too far to see things aren’t off to a great start. In what can only be assumed to be a PR blunder or an ironic statement of our flawed capitalistic economic model, the event sponsor has been named as The Coca-Cola company — a global corporation that has won “the world’s top plastic polluter” for four years running by an annual audit of corporate brands by Break Free From Plastic. 

And unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. 

From King Charles reportedly being asked (or was it told?) by the short-lived British prime minister Liz Truss to not attend COP27 (despite being a huge proponent for the protection of nature and having been invited to speak at the event by Egypt), to the reported human rights abuses happening in the host nation (which have led to many refusing to attend including the previously mentioned Greta Thunberg), to a somewhat classic British U-turn from our latest prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who having previously turned down the occasion citing the need to “focus on domestic priorities”, has since declared he will, in fact, be attending the event after.

Finding hope in a sea of despair

Politics and national wranglings aside, COP27 is going ahead. Fact. So what can we expect, if anything, will come out of this year’s event and what will be the repercussions if we find ourselves in the same place in a year’s time? 

Here are our thoughts on what to expect from the coming couple of weeks: 

  • Loss and damage 
    At COP26 in Glasgow, the G77 plus China (which collectively presentes 6 out of 7 people on Earth) called for a “loss and damage” finance facility to be established to mobilise the money needed to address climate change impacts in low-income countries. “Loss and damage” refers to the consequences of climate change that cannot be mitigated or adapted to. Unfortunately, wealthy countries blocked the proposal outright. 

    The global south is set to be more severely affected by the effects of climate change, however so far only Scotland and Denmark have actually made any concrete financial commitments. At COP27, we hope that the UK will step up and back previously made promises and guide other wealthy nations to do the same.
  • Investment in the global south 
    Further to the need for greater reparations for countries most affected by climate change, we’d like to see wealthier countries investing in and funding projects in the global south. We were lucky enough to attend a talk by Abraham Bugre at the Blue Earth Summit a few weeks ago, where he talked about projects happening in his native Ghana to combat pollution and climate change, and highlighted the need for greater outside investment. 

    As the global south will likely face the brunt of famines, floods and forest fires as a result of the warming climate (whilst only producing 8 precent of excess global carbon dioxide emissions, the majority of which are accounted for by India and China) it’s only morally right for the north to contribute their fair share, however defining what is “fair” is where conversations have broken down. 

    Climate financing needs to make significant advancements, as developed nations are still failing to honour their 2015 commitment to provide $100B per year to developing countries to finance climate adaptation and mitigation. 
  • Staying within 1.5C 
    The Glasgow Pact agreed upon at COP26 recognised both the importance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as well as the fact that globally, we are not yet on course to be able to deliver this. The UK also presided over an agreement that all countries should revisit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2022 and aim to close the gap to 1.5°C. 

    39 countries and institutions also signed up to a separate statement to end international public finance for fossil fuels. However, the UK government has as recently as this month announced new North Sea oil and gas licences, seemingly in a signal that the climate agenda isn’t as high up on its domestic list as energy security. 

    Our government must reverse such decisions that are stopping the country from taking ambitious climate action and that counter its investment in scaling renewable energy. As much as we’d like to, you simply can’t have your cake and eat it (only in this case, replace cake with fossil fuels).
  • Stop the war on nature 
    The Glasgow Pact also officially recognised the critical role of nature in addressing climate change, and the UK secured a global agreement to halt and reverse deforestation. However, changes to UK domestic policies are now threatening nature and biodiversity. Discussions on the Global Biodiversity Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity are far behind schedule, have received little political attention and have made little progress. 

    As a country, the UK must reverse its onslaught on nature, and work with other countries around the world to ensure the most ambitious outcomes for future nature and food systems.

The bottom line

We desperately hope that this year’s COP27 will make a difference in the fight against climate change, and that it’s not (as many people seem to expect) a ‘greenwashing festival of empty promises.’ 

Hope is an incredibly powerful tool, and there are some brighter times looming on the distant horizon. Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva’s recent presidential victory in Brazil looks to be a huge win for the Amazon Rainforest (a key carbon sink), Rishi Sunak seems to be holding on to some climate credibility having maintained the backing on fracking in the UK, and technological innovations such as this one from carbon-reporting firm Plan A, are beginning to help us improve accountability against climate targets. 

We’re going to be keeping our eye on the proceedings at COP27, so stay tuned…