COP 27 – Positive updates from the global climate gathering

At the recent POW NZ summer camp we spoke with some experts on climate communication. One of the key takeaways was the importance of remaining positive and celebrating successes. We want to keep ambition high, focus on action over apathy, and progress over perfection. With that in mind here’s a summary of COP27 with a focus on the positives. 

POW Germany was on the ground at COP27 representing other POW chapters. Specifically, from POW there was a global call from the outdoor industry for climate action at COP27. As representatives of the outdoor industry, we’re already taking bold climate action to reduce our impact – but we need stronger policy support to do more. Read this open letter from POW Europe which was signed by some of our partners, such as Burton Queenstown and The North Face. Here’s a good read about the letter from POW Europe and here’s an excellent interview about it from the Blue Earth Summit. Also from POW was Erik Huis from POW Sweden. He presented scientific findings from a polar expedition in the Cryosphere and screened a movie HLR pa en glaciär which brings hope for our glaciers. 

Far from mountains and glaciers, COP27 was held in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. This is significant because a COP being held in Africa draws more attention to the impacts of climate change on some of the world’s poorest countries. 

The largest and most progressive progress made was a fund for loss and damage. Wealthier countries, who have historically had very high emissions, and therefore caused most of the climate damage (and mostly to lower income countries) will soon have to contribute to a global fund, to help countries pay for the loss and damage caused by climate change. While much to yet to be decided about how this fund will be funded, and how the money will be spent, it reinforces how important it is to slow warming. Otherwise planetary damages will not be able to be adapted to, or paid for.  This also sends a powerful signal to large corporations too – their time to pay may be coming.  For a good explainer podcast on loss and damage (with positive vibes) this one from Outrage and Optimism is worth a listen. 

From an NZ perspective there was the largest and strongest group of Maori representatives at COP27. Indigenous voices are critical to addressing climate change and the voices of Maori and other indigenous populations are getting louder. Another win for marginalised groups was with the inclusion of disability language in the overall COP strategy. This was in large part due to the lobbying from NZ climate advocacy group SustainedAbility. Listen or read more about that here.

A few other signs of progress from COP27: 

We need large-scale action from every country in the world, and that means action and commitment from world leaders, especially from those who are relatively wealthier, and responsible for large emissions. COP 27 was attended by US president Biden, and Brazil’s president elect Lula. There were also many other heads of state in attendance, indicating that more countries are recognising the importance of addressing the climate emergency. 

1.5 to stay alive remains. The final COP 27 decision reads ‘the impacts of climate change will be much lower at the temperature increase of 1.5c compared with 2c and resolves to pursue further efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5c. The world is not giving up! 

More attention to methane. Methane is responsible for about half of today’s warming and as it is a short-lived gas, is key to slowing warming in the next 10-20 years. The world bank launched it’s fast methane mitigation sprint initiative and the Global Methane Pledge now has more than 150 countries signed on (NZ is one of them). This agreement is to gut methane globally by at least 30% below 2020 by 2030. 

China and the US are working together again. Two of the world’s largest emitters. Cooperation is key. One thing they are looking at formally negotiating is cutting methane emissions.

Young people were given greater prominence at COP27 with a first-ever pavilion for children and youth, as well as a first-ever youth-led climate forum. 

There was a clear dialogue around the need to phase out fossil fuels. More than 80 countries asked for this. As COPs require all countries to agree no formal announcement was made here but this is still progress.

Overall, yes there was some progress but it’s slow. If nothing else this should provide motivation for more action at a national and local level, instead of waiting for global consensus. We don’t need the whole world to tell us to reduce emissions. We know that and we know what to do so we need to act regardless of what other countries decide to do. For a more in-depth run down on what did and didn’t happen at COP27 check out this Carbon Brief overview.