COP27 visitors left the conference with some optimism for the future Image: Photo by Matthew TenBruggencate on Unsplash
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- Recent catastrophic weather events confirm that unchecked climate change continues to put the Earth and all its citizens in grave danger.
- An important breakthrough achieved at COP27 was an agreement on the creation of a financial instrument to mitigate loss and damage suffered by vulnerable countries as a result of climate disasters.
- An agreement on 25 collaborative actions was reached by countries attending COP27, this will develop crucial infrastructures.
As the world economy powers ahead into a fourth industrial revolution, a growing chorus of international voices demands a cleaner, healthier environment for us and our children. We cannot focus exclusively on progress without taking into account the toxic footprint left behind by historic human exploitation of the Earth and its resources.
Recent catastrophic weather events confirm that unchecked climate change continues to put the Earth and all its citizens in grave danger. Typhoon Noru caused widespread damage and killed at least eight people in September 2022 in the Philippines, where it escalated to a super-typhoon within 6 hours and forced tens of thousands of civilians to be evacuated from its path. Hurricane Ian made landfall on the US coast on September 28, 2022, it brought with it winds in the region of 240kph; the fifth strongest hurricane on record. Experts believe that these powerful meteorological events serve as an urgent notice to all concerned that the effects of climate change are creating ever more powerful and destructive storms.
Feeding back on the progress of COP27
The annual Conference of the Parties (COP) gathers government officials and climate representatives from across the globe at its meeting, where crucial discussions take place regarding the challenges posed by climate change and ways to address them. COP27 represented the 2022 climate change summit, held in November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and attended by representatives from governments that are signatories to the Paris Climate Accords, the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. Government representatives, industry players and negotiators met to consider progress reports on climate issues and to agree on how to jointly address current climate change parameters and factors flowing from it.
On 15 November 2022, at the first of a series of COP27 meetings, high-ranking ministerial representatives from a wide range of countries used the opportunity to express their collective concern about current progress on climate change. They called on industry leaders and governments everywhere to step up their efforts to combat destructive pollutive patterns and ever-rising atmospheric temperatures. The goal is to achieve a rise in Earth's temperature of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, but this requires renewed efforts and more ambitious undertakings by all involved. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, expressed the prevailing consensus succinctly: “The world is bending the curve of greenhouse gas emissions downward, but these efforts remain woefully insufficient…”
Greenhouse gas emissions remain the greatest challenge and more effective ways of reducing them were discussed at length during the ministerial meeting. A consensus was reached that international partnerships and government-level undertakings will be essential to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions reach a peak before 2025 and see a 43% reduction by 2030 to stay on track for no more than a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature by the end of this century.
Financial funds to mitigate climate damage
An important breakthrough achieved at COP27 was an agreement on the creation of a financial instrument to mitigate loss and damage suffered by vulnerable countries as a result of climate disasters. Poor and developing countries are often hardest hit by these calamities, as they do not have backup funds or contingency plans in place to redress damage to structures and to rebuild areas affected. Participants at COP27 agreed to create a specific fund to minister to the needs of those affected by climate disasters and a transitional committee was created to finalise the logistics of the fund and to investigate practical ways of distributing it; with a mandate to report back on its findings at COP28. Stiell described this positive outcome as follows: “This outcome moves us forward. We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
To truly combat climate change, a comprehensive transformation of the world economy is required. To focus exclusively on the curbing of emissions of toxic gasses will simply not get the job done; a seismic shift in the way we conduct industrial processes and create energy is the only way to return Earth's temperatures to pre-industrial levels. A positive outcome in this regard was the adoption at COP27 of the comprehensive Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. This calls for $4-6 trillion per annum to fund the global transformation of the world economy towards a low-carbon operation. Obtaining and distributing this kind of funding requires a total overhaul of the world’s financial systems, in line with some changes that have organically manifested as part of the fourth industrial revolution. The evolution of global financial systems, however, needs to be accelerated via leadership-driven programmes and initiatives on an international scale, including the implementation of a centralised digital currency and the elimination of unnecessary restrictions.
The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan is an ambitious vision, but the time for ‘business as usual’ is over. The annual funding envisioned by the plan is an essential instrument to drive climate transformation. The acquisition of this level of funding requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders, including governments, development banks, large international financial institutions and financial industry leaders.
Future financial investment
A lack of timely financial investment in climate conservation will exact a greater cost, by way of future damages and losses, than the cost of proper conservation and preparation. With this in mind, an agreement of 25 collaborative actions was reached by countries attending COP27, to decarbonise crucial infrastructures such as power, agriculture and transport.
The level of international cooperation on display at COP27 shows the way forward in our struggle against climate change, towards a sustainable future with a healthy climate.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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