Having attended COP27 leading a small delegation from the Canterbury Climate Action Partnership (www.ccap.org.uk) and representing also the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (www.clgf.org.uk), I fully agree with the assessment that – mainly because of opposition by the Saudis, Russia and big oil lobby – no progress was made on the core aim of 1.5c. Indeed, there had even been attempts to dilute what had been achieved in Glasgow. This is deeply worrying.
The Loss and Damage Fund, taken up on the initiative of the EU, is important, but remains to be seen how and when it will actually operate (and what kind of resources it will actually attract, not least from the UK Government given its Official Development Assistance (ODA) cuts.
The one positive was the huge array of practical grass roots climate actions being showcased by Indigenous peoples, civil society organisations (CSO’s) and city mayors. This is really where the climate crisis needs to be tackled, not only by slow moving central governments and Intergovernmental Organisations (IGO’)s.
It was also encouraging to attend the first ever COP Ministerial Meeting on Urban Affairs and Climate alongside many mayors from the Commonwealth and across the world. This will hopefully become a regular feature at future COP’s, and it echoes the focus of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) call for Sustainable Urbanisation and the targets contained in SDG 11 on Cities.
There were literally dozens of interesting sessions at any time apart from the official negotiations and so we decided to split between the four of us.
On Tuesday, 15th November, the focus was on energy transition with special attention on addressing needs of poorer people, not least in developing countries. Literally dozens of interesting sessions to attend with many varied experiences from around the world. Listened to mayors from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and elsewhere detailing what practical climate action they were doing in their own communities.
I heard some unexpected examples of good practice. Like the city of Austin in Texas, fastest growing US city, where the mayor has made great innovations to help the poorest in energy transition, even locating mass transit stations in low income areas to allow easy access to public transport and reduce reliance on private transport.
Around the conference centre you hear the sound of demonstrations from Indigenous peoples and other activists calling for climate justice and reparations for loss and damage. Inside there is the buzz of the 33000 delegates and observers busy discussing and networking – and often getting lost in the confusing maze of rooms and corridors!
This week will determine if the COP27 has been a success but whatever happens in Sharm-el-Shaik, there is much real implementation of concrete climate action on the ground around the world, which is heartening. Clearly there is a lot we can learn from each other and COP27 is a great opportunity to do this.
On Wednesday, 16th November the theme was on preservation of biodiversity and linkages to climate action. Our team attended a range of events, including the main plenary negotiations which we can observe a series of side events organised at the pavilions of the many organisations attending.
One striking example of how biodiversity impacts was hearing from the mayor of a coastal city in Mozambique, threatened with severe flooding on account of local people cutting down the precious mangrove forest for firewood and building materials. The mayor explained how he had ensured alternative fuel through biogas and availability of different sustainable building materials and how this was preserving the vulnerable ecosystem. Just one good practice among many showcased at COP.
However there remains a disconnect between the COP Climate process and the forthcoming COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal which need to be more integrated. Likewise at local level in Canterbury and elsewhere, these processes need to be linked and coordinated.
We also heard from the Executive Director of UN Habitat (who we had also met at COP 26 in Glasgow) about the important Ministerial Meeting on Urbanisation and Climate Change being held on Solutions Day (17 November), which I will attend. This allowed me to recall the Declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation agreed by all 56 Commonwealth Heads of Government at their recent summit in Kigali which gives important political endorsement to address the role of cities and urban settlements in fighting Climate change.
Last, but not least, COP has provided to meet and catch up with old friends from Rwanda and elsewhere and among other things present them with a copy of my book Global Citizen (Hansib Publications 2022) which sets out my international and Commonwealth work over 50 years. While much can – and should be – done by zoom, there remains a vital role for person-to-person contacts which virtual meetings cannot replace.
Thursday, 17 November was designated Solutions Day at COP27 ranging from so-called multilevel governance, embracing also subnational Government, the role of the private sector and a range of cross cutting issues, aiming to achieve Climate mitigation and adaptation. As in other discussions, representatives of Indigenous peoples also played an important role in these discussions at COP.
As at COP26 in Glasgow the day devoted much attention to the role of cities and local governments in tackling Climate change, it being recalled that most Greenhouse Gas Emissions emanate from urban areas. At the same time, it is precisely at local level where tangible practical action to deal with climate change is possible, as showcased at our own CCAP Festival and Awards, in contrast to the sometimes abstract theoretical discussions about climate action I often heard at COP.
A significant innovation at COP27 was the holding of the first Ministerial Meeting on Urbanisation and Climate Change, attended by ministers of housing and urban affairs as well as many mayors and local government representatives.
I had been asked to represent the Commonwealth Local Government Forum at the Ministerial Meeting and was able to interact with senior participants, including the Executive Director of UN Habitat. It is hoped that this Ministerial event will become a regular feature at future COPS.
A specific new initiative agreed at the meeting was the new SURGe programme – Sustainable Urban Resilience for the next Generation. This will address key ‘solutions’ in areas like buildings/housing, urban transport etc and will be implemented by UN Habitat in collaboration with ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability which has had a lead role at COP).
On the wider front, COP negotiations about the controversial issue of loss and damage compensation to developing countries for climate change are reaching a climax. The recent devastating floods in Pakistan, attributed to climate change, are being given as a striking example of where international climate finance is needed.
Another disputed issue is how far developing countries which have discovered recent deposits of fossil fuels and now want to use them, can be compensated for leaving them untouched.
While UNFCCC has published an outline of the proposed COP outcomes, worryingly negotiations on these and other issues are making only limited progress and may well-continue beyond the scheduled deadline of
Dr Carl Wright
Canterbury Climate Action Partnership