Nicola Stopps – My expectations from COP27

The world’s most significant summit on climate change is the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, otherwise known as COP. November 2022 sees the 27th occurrence of the conference and is an opportunity to evaluate the progress made since COP26.

Hosted in Glasgow in November 2021, COP26 was a pivotal moment for ESG and Sustainability which fostered momentum and interest in a way that was previously unprecedented. Today the world is a different place, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and inflation at an all-time high. The global community remains significantly off-track to limit climate change to the agreed levels. The world’s leading scientific authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has stated that in all scenarios in line with these goals, global emissions must fall between 2020 and 2025, while in reality emissions are still rising. To have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, global emissions must halve by 2030 and reach ‘net-zero’ by 2050.

I believe we must not be disheartened and push forward collaboratively to ensure we reach these targets. Businesses have a role to play, transforming their operations to decouple growth from carbon, fostering longevity and success for all their stakeholders. The cost of doing nothing will be far more detrimental than any cost to innovate and decarbonise now.

As with last year, I believe the world leaders who attend COP27 will do so with the best intentions to commit to lasting change albeit will come short when it comes to actually instigating action. Below I outline my top 4 preferred outcomes from the conference:

1) Stronger governmental commitment to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C

Recognising the urgency of the challenge, the Glasgow Climate Pact – the formal outcome of COP26 – called on countries to “revisit and strengthen” their commitments under the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, many countries in the developed world have not lived up to their grandstanding at COP26. We need strong governmental leadership and developed countries must lead decisively on climate ambition. Unfortunately, they are the laggards in living up to their climate promises despite their overwhelming contribution to the climate crisis. They must also accelerate energy transitions, phase out fossil fuels, and undertake ambitious sectoral actions while making good on all their financial commitments.

2) More consideration of the Just Transition: the just transition is required to help all nations fairly level up on climate change

Active inclusion of developing nations and island states, and equitable measures within policies that account for challenges. At the last COP, the ban on deforestation for 2030, looked great for a global commitment, but blindsided Indonesia because of the impacts on income and there was no suggested caveat of how they would be helped to diversify to other sectors.

Another example, despite accounting for roughly only 4% of global emissions, Africa is both the region that is most vulnerable to and the least capable of protecting itself from the adverse impacts of climate change. Currently estimated to be warming 1.5 times faster than the global mean, the region is also experiencing disproportionate exposure to climate risks, which will worsen if ambitious commitments are not followed up by urgent implementation. The contribution of the continent towards global climate regulation, for example by the Congo Basin as a carbon sink, needs to be recognised and commensurate resources need to be allocated towards its protection. Africa’s special needs and circumstances owing to high levels of poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment, should be recognised globally. This would contribute to unlocking the necessary financial flow to Africa as it embarks on a just transition to a future powered by renewable energy expansion.

3) Credible financial targets set and agreed

What is needed at COP27 are clear finance targets for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage finance for developed countries, especially the G7 (which is to provide the bulk of this finance). This must be complemented by a delivery plan and a roadmap for increasing transparent, accessible and grant-based finance, especially for adaptation. Clear finance targets should be set for mobilising the private sector and other non-state actors, while recognising the indispensable role of public finance from developed countries.

4) Hold countries and non-state actors accountable

Implementing the Paris Rulebook, the rules underpinning the Paris Agreement, is crucial to ensure transparency and accountability for action. Without implementation, accountability cannot be achieved and climate promises, especially those from developed countries will remain unfulfilled. All stakeholders need to know what they are accountable for and sanctions that will be applied should they fail to act.

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