For nearly thirty years, the UN Climate Change Conference has convened, bringing together almost every country on earth for global discussions on climate change. This year’s conference, COP27, will be held in Egypt, with a strong focus on Africa and its role in tackling the crisis.
These conferences have been the starting points for major commitments from national governments and the launch of massive global legislation, such as the Paris Accords in 2015. But this year, there’s been very little media attention paid to the upcoming conference, and it’s left many wondering whether the Russian war on Ukraine and the cost of living crisis has shifted the global consciousness away from the climate.
No matter the media’s attention, the window for action on climate is closing rapidly and COP27 is moving forward. So, we put the question to our climate experts at Palladium: what are they hoping to see come out of this year’s COP?
It's All About the Money
It’s a well-known fact that nature-based solutions and projects need funding, but despite proving that these solutions can be profitable, there’s still a massive gap for climate funding. “My main hope is that COP27 results in concrete plans for filling the climate finance gap,” says Andrew Ireland, Manager of Climate, Environment, and Natural Resources at Palladium. “Actual funding levels have consistently fallen short of commitments made at these summits, which in turn are only a fraction of the total (and growing) need.”
According to Ireland, rising interest rates and growing fears of a global recession are only going to make bridging this gap more challenging, as investors and companies become more risk averse with the era of cheap money seemingly over (at least for now). “Many governments are also likely going to become more conservative in their spending on these issues,” he continues. “At the same time, the impacts of climate change are only becoming more and more costly every year.”
What is the world’s plan to get ahead of these trends and keep us on track? “I hope to see some of the best ideas – particularly creative blended finance approaches – raised, discussed, and endorsed at COP27.”
Climate, Environment and Natural Resources expert Elmedina Krilašević adds that many successful examples of nature based solutions exist, they need to be mainstreamed into economic development planning, policies, and finance to scale up. “To achieve climate mitigation and adaptation, we need to develop the market for nature based solutions and we need trillions of dollars flowing annually to sustainable businesses and activities that preserve and restore natural capital.”
“We need to have transition plans that reframe entire economies and ensure that everyone will benefit from the switch to green energy."
Krilašević says we need more entrepreneurs and project developers entering the space to innovate and come up with new and unique partnerships with experts and local communities. “Both public and private financing are essential to kick start this early market development, create demand, improve the enabling environment, and help manage the perceived risks. We also need global-to-local connectors, such as Palladium, able to bridge some of the gaps in translating public and private sector ambition into real, scalable, impactful projects.”
A Just and Smart Transition
Erin Leyson, who works in commercial facilities for natural resources, notes that while there’s a lot of talk about a green energy transition, ignoring the need for fossil fuels in the meantime is naïve. She’ll be looking for not just big commitments but concrete guidance on how to meet those commitments.
“We have to have real plans to get to a fully renewable economy and that means realistic plans to ramp down coal mines to fill the gap. We can’t just shut them down,” she says. “We need to have transition plans that reframe entire economies and ensure that everyone will benefit from the switch to green energy, from governments to private sector, all the way to individual citizens.”
But divest from coal? “We can’t yet – we don’t have enough lithium coming out of the ground yet to replace it, which means we need a realistic plan for transitioning as a global society.”
David McMillan, Corporate Strategy expert, agrees: “The notion that we can decarbonise energy with wind, solar, and large battery storage is silly,” he explains. “The amount of metals we need for decarbonising transportation is immense without figuring out how we put battery storage alongside every solar farm.”
“We need more reliable sources of power for base loads and the best technologies we have for that are tidal, geothermal, and nuclear.” None of those solutions are perfect; they come with their own environmental costs and risks, but they are realistic for consistent power production.
“All three of these technologies take time to design and build and so we need the immediate permitting of new projects in large scale in the hopes of meeting 2030 targets.
Finally, as always, there are hopes pinned to the many commitments made each year. Tom Gegg, Nature Based Solutions Technical Lead, is watching for follow on news from the Breakthrough Agenda, which was launched by several governments with Bill Gates at COP26.
“If successful, this would see public support really speed up the scale up of new technologies in energy, transport and manufacturing through the type of stuff that we normally help with: accelerating promising business models, guaranteed offtake deals, and blended finance investing,” he describes.
McMillan adds that he would be eager to see improved policies on taxing carbon, a long debated topic. “Fundamentally we know from experiences like changing public health around smoking that taxation is a powerful policy tool to incentivise good behaviours,” he explains. “I would be delighted to see more movement on taxing carbon and spending that tax revenue to further incentivise the energy transition.”
Krilašević also calls back to COP26, more specifically the endorsements of the Declaration on Forests and Land Use and how they reaffirmed the importance of sustainable land use transition to meet the Paris Agreement goals. “Over the past few years, we have also seen increased financial commitments from public and private sector players to restore, conserve and sustainably manage natural capital,” she says.
“The rise in corporate commitments for net zero targets has also been a positive development. The next steps is translating these commitments and building momentum into real action on the ground.”
For Dragana Stojkovic, a member of the Climate, Environment and Natural Resources team, the climate emergency has never been more urgent and she’s excited that COP27 is being held in Egypt, indicating increased focus on the region’s sustainability plans. “But I hope to see more focus on policies for private sector greenhouse gas emissions disclosure and reduction targets,” she adds.
“Overall, I hope it’s more focused on implementation challenges and how to finally address the gap between the targets established in the Paris Agreement and immediate actions we can take.”
For more expert opinions, visit our Climate Change featured insights page and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.