After a COVID-19 delay of a year, the annual global climate summit, COP, returned with great fanfare in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. COP26 was highly promoted by its host country, and around the world, hopes and expectations were high for the opportunity to pass critical legislation to tackle climate change.
For months ahead of the November conference, COP26 headlines, articles, and think pieces could be found across the media, but with less than 100 days to its follow-up, COP27, there’s been markedly less chatter. The difference is stark and as Egypt prepares to host the annual conference, many are left wondering why it seems that no one is paying attention.
The inconsistencies don’t come as a surprise for Andrew Sutherland, Palladium Head of Nature-Based Solutions. “Over the years, there never has been a consistent level of hype for each COP.”
“The COP in 2015 in Paris had a massive level of excitement because the global community was trying to establish the Paris Accord, a global level climate agreement. The COPs since then were obviously also big events but the ‘showstopping thing’ wasn’t nearly as big – it was more about figuring out how to implement the Paris Accords,” he explains.
“COP26 in the UK generated a lot of hype because there was the feeling that we would resolve Article 6 and we would see a framework emerge for global carbon trading,” adds Sutherland. “That didn’t happen clearly and comprehensively, and I think this COP is going to be a bit more like the COPs between 2016 and 2020 where the main objectives are perhaps a bit lower level technical and diplomatic dialogues.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and Egypt’s COP27 presidency vision is to move from negotiations and planning to implementation. “We now have a much clearer understanding of the extent of the potential climate crisis and what needs to be done to address it effectively,” noted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. “The science is there and clearly shows the urgency with which we must act regarding rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and taking necessary steps to assist those in need of support to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.”
Last year, Palladium staff shared that their hope for COP26 was less talk and more action, and it seems that they weren’t the only ones, as Egypt’s push this year is to focus on the shift towards implementing solutions to the climate crisis. This should garner more, if not the same amount of, attention in the run-up to the event, but Sutherland adds that last year’s outcomes from COP26 could be dampening hopes for this year’s. “Potentially there is a level of disillusionment about the last COP – I don’t think the world was overall that impressed with the progress that was made, given we are in a climate emergency.”
In addition, he notes that in general, the role of the UK as COP president, which included leading preparations for the annual COP and chairing the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee to coordinate government action towards net zero by 2050, didn’t go as planned. “COP26 was meant to be the start of the UK’s presidency, and all of this year it was supposed to be moving everything forward, but that unfortunately seems to have been hampered by the domestic political situation,”
Perhaps most obviously, last year’s COP26 was originally planned for 2020 and was delayed by the pandemic. With the excitement of returning to ‘normality’ and such a large international event, it’s only natural to assume that there was extra attention paid to the conference after nearly two years of virtual and postponed events. Contrast that with this year, where much of our attention and media coverage has been focused on the war in Ukraine, it’s no wonder that COP27 may be getting lost in the scrum.
But as Palladium CEO Christopher Hirst wrote last year, “COP26 alone is not going to save us. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.” The same goes for this year, and whether or not the media is covering the summit has little to no bearing on those projects and teams working in the field to scale practical solutions to the climate crisis.
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