COP27, the annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change, took a step forward and held the multilateral climate process together, in and of itself a significant outcome.
The formal decisions, like at all COPs, were numerous, but this time the outcomes themselves were relatively modest, including:
- A new loss and damage fund or facility was a victory on principle for developing countries, particularly those that remain only minor contributors to global warning. A Transitional Committee of country representatives will aim to design the mechanism, including how it could fill gaps in the existing financial architecture, and produce a report for COP 28 in December 2023.
- No retrenchment from the Paris Agreement goal of aiming to keep warming as close to 1.5C as possible, but little progress on overall mitigation ambition to deliver the emissions reductions required. The COP27 reiterated calls to reduce “unabated coal” and “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, but didn’t go further on other fossil fuels.
Beyond the formal negotiations, the outgoing and incoming Presidencies (UK and Egypt) engaged heavily with leaders, experts, and stakeholders to generate ideas and action. WSP climate experts were involved in some of these:
- Peter Hall, a WSP climate thought leader and advisor on the Climate Champions Race to Resilience, participated in the development of the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, rallying global action around 30 outcomes to achieve a more resilient world by 2030. The agenda will focus on outcomes that include:
- Protecting and restoring lands in critical areas of the world severely impact by climate change;
- Introducing early warning systems in vulnerable countries;
- Transitioning to more resilient and sustainable agricultural practices; and
- Mobilizing an additional $140 billion USD from both the public and private sector for adaptation measures.
These measures, if acted upon, will help countries’ ability to adapt to their new climate realities and become more resilient to further increases in global temperatures.
- Stacy Swann, and the climate finance advisory team in WSP USA, supported the Egyptian Presidency in publishing the Guidebook for Just Financing to lay out an agenda to scaling up financing from public and private sources to drive climate action, integrating principles of climate justice.
The Wider Conference Inside the Blue Zone
As a former climate negotiator, I was surprised by the dynamism of the “official non-official” program in Sharm El-Sheikh, compared to pre-Paris Agreement COPs, where the multilateral process dominated the event. Thousands working together in dozens of pavilions, event and meeting spaces, sharing ideas and best practices, developing new opportunities for collaboration and investment, called to action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, namely keeping warming as close as possible to 1.5 degrees as possible, building resilience to the impacts of climate change, and shifting financial flows to support the climate transition. On the floor of the Blue Zone in Sharm El-Sheikh, there were endless opportunities meet with and learn from technical and business leaders from around the world, and get introduced to the latest innovations helping to reduce our carbon footprint and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
This was the largest gathering I had ever seen of stakeholders involved in the definition and execution of climate solutions -- low-carbon energy, nature-based solutions, mitigation and adaptation technologies, blended finance, insurance, and other policy and investment actions that governments, corporations and financial institutions, and civil society can take right now to have a significant impact on reducing their carbon footprint.
There were also glimmers of hope even as we recognized that much more needed to be done to reach the 1.5-degree goal. If national targets and long-term net zero commitments are implemented fully – a big if – UNEP estimates that this would put us on track for 1.8 degrees of warming.
While UNEP also points out that this is not yet a possible future given progress on implementation, it still reflects the progress we have made that we know so much more about the pathway to 1.5 and resilience and that so many have committed to progress along it.
Perhaps, we have, indeed, pivoted to implementation, as C2ES suggested we needed to do at COP27.
Where Canada Stands
Canada had a significant presence at COP27, both from a corporate and government perspective. Canada hosting its own Pavilion this year showed its commitment being part of the global conversation on combatting climate change, giving its innovators, political, corporate, civil society and and thought leaders, a forum for sharing ideas and solutions. It was a meeting place for the Canadian delegation, Canadians and friends of Canada at the Conference, including the Quebec-based delegation Olivier Joyal had the honour of joining.
In Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault’s public statement, delivered at the close of COP27, he commented on the positive progress made in Egypt, stating that: “We leave Egypt with an outcome that keeps the target of 1.5 alive and supports the world’s most vulnerable, landing a historic deal on loss and damage.”
However, he was quick to note his concerns with the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan, the next step forward in the global fight against climate change. He noted that Canada had “… fought hard so that the world did not backslide on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and coal…”, and his desire to have seen “… have seen stronger references to human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to the importance of traditional knowledge in achieving climate ambition.”
When the Minister spoke at the Corporate Knight’s event launching the Action Declaration on Climate Policy Engagement, to which WSP is a signatory along with leading Canadian and global companies that support ambitious climate policies, he was clear-headed about Canada’s own green transition challenges, outlining progress on a number of policies and measures, but also noting the work remaining to achieve Canada’s commitment to reduce emissions 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. Like most countries, Canada did not bring new economy-wide targets to the table at COP27.
Next Steps – The World Comes to Montreal
Momentum from discussions at COP27 will carry to Montreal, the site of COP15 on biodiversity in December. That conference will focus on building greater protection and restoration efforts for our natural environment, understanding its vital role in combatting global climate change. Nature-based solutions, including reversing biodiversity and ecosystem losses, will be critical to a net-zero, climate-resilient, and equitable future.
At WSP, we’ll build off of the productive discussions we had with companies, governments, and other climate stakeholders to continue to provide our expertise in delivering climate-friendly solutions as the country charts its path towards net zero by 2050.
The next edition of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP28, with take place in Dubai November 30th to December 12th.
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