By David Symons, WSP Future Ready Innovation Leader
Impacts like these are why this year’s COP27 United Nations Climate Conference – starting in Egypt on November 6 – matters more than ever. We are at the foothills of dangerous climate change which the UN warns will be ‘catastrophic’. This climate change will affect every country in the world, yet it seems to have been put on the back burner by many governments in favour of short-term priorities of energy security, inflation, and the war in Ukraine.
It’s against this backdrop I expect to see the following ambitions surface during the multi-day summit.
- Keep 1.5oC alive – Current country commitments put the world on track for around 2.4oC of warming above preindustrial levels by 2100. It’s an improvement – but is a long way short of the 1.5oC target. So above all, expect COP27 to keep cutting carbon as the highest priority. COP26 made significant progress on commitments on addressing methane, phasing down coal and reducing deforestation. Now it’s a matter of strengthening the country commitments (which was a key element from COP26) as well as stronger commitments on transport emissions. And, most importantly, COP27 will be looking for progress on implementations that were already promised. Stakeholders are learning that it’s easy to make a commitment, but much harder to take the difficult decisions and gain the funding to implement this on the ground.
- Accelerate progress on climate resilience – Climate adaptation has been described as the “Cinderella” of climate change, always sitting in rags by the stove – under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. This should change at COP27, with resilience taking more centre stage – perhaps reflecting slow progress on cutting emissions. Alongside resilience, expect to see significant time spent on climate finance. In 2009, developed countries committed to giving $100 billion a year by 2020 to both help developing countries get ready for climate change and to cut their emissions. This target was missed and moved back to 2023. Developing nations are now calling for payments for ‘loss and damage’, seeking compensation to pay for extreme weather events impacting developing countries. With this year’s COP taking place in Africa – where many countries are impacted – this issue will be on the table a lot over the next two weeks.
- Challenge businesses and cities to keep up the pace – Governments will be centre stage at COP27. But with economic uncertainty ahead, it’s not just governments who will have to deliver on their commitments. Members of the finance sector are already starting to vacillate on their commitment to phase down fossil fuel finance, so expect COP27 to expand focus to the 7,000 companies, universities, cities, and regions that are part of the UN’s Race to Zero and Race to Resilience programmes. Together (and this includes WSP) these organizations are committing to halve their Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2030. These are bold – and challenging – commitments.
Climate will be in the spotlight for the next two weeks. As you read the headlines coming out of COP27 coverage, keep in mind that climate change is a global challenge that is both entirely predictable and entirely preventable.