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Was COP27 a ‘cop out’? Reflecting on COP27 and looking forward to COP28.0

Summary: Did COP27 produce the outcomes and goals needed to maintain a 1.5°C future? An analysis of the results, a review of the newly established fund and looking ahead to COP28.

A third of Pakistan flooded. Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in blackout. And … in the United States, Hurricane Ian has delivered a brutal reminder that no country and no economy is immune from the climate crisis.” These are the words from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of COP27, highlighting the devastating effects of climate change across the globe. The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which came to an end in November, brought together 198 countries that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This year’s event was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, and sought to address five key issues: nature, food, water, industry decarbonization and climate adaptation. Unfortunately, many were disheartened by the outcomes, whilst others remained optimistic that progress, albeit slow, was made. Simon Stiell, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary stated that overall “this outcome moves us forward”. The overarching success of the event was the closure of a decade-long debate regarding the creation of a ‘Loss and Damage Fund’.

The aim of the fund is to offer aid to those marginalised by the unavoidable risks of climate change. Historically, 70% of global greenhouse gasses are produced by G20 countries, yet the impacts of climate change are devastatingly felt in developing nations that do not have the infrastructure or economic tools necessary.  Many vulnerable countries desperately require multi-hazard early warning systems and further climate tracking infrastructure, in order to future proof for climate crises. These concerns have been addressed with the creation of a new loss and damage fun, that aims to generate greater financial support for developing countries to deal with the consequences of climate change. However, the funding specifics and budget allocations are still on the negotiating table, despite the ending of COP27 several weeks ago. Although the creation of this fund is extremely positive, it seeks to tackle the ramifications of climate change, rather than the source. Previous COPs have been criticised for their inability to cement policy change to realise hard commitments globally to confront the source of climate change.

So, did COP27 conclude with any hard adaptive measures and policy changes to tackle climate change head-on?

With a record number of lobbyists (636, up 25% from last year), COP27 had a challenging geopolitical backdrop which contributed to the back-and-forth of the final summary document. The 10-page finalised summary was completed in the early hours of Sunday morning –  much later than the official end time, and as a result without a perspective from all countries involved. The document reaffirmed a global commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in line with the Paris agreement drawn up in 2015. Moreover, it outlined further implementation plans to strengthen action on a national level within countries by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.

However, the summary reiterated, verbatim the exact phrasing used at COP26, encouraging countries to “phase down coal”. Yet, there has little evidence to suggest progress has been made in this area over the past year. The final agreement highlights “low-emission energy”, yet it does not negate the use of natural gas in developing countries, where renewable production cycles and solutions are already present. Therefore, although the final agreement did call for “the urgent need for deep, rapid and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions” it failed to conclusively define the necessary pathway to achieve 1.5°C, nor outline strict policy updates to keep businesses and countries accountable nationally or globally.

In addition to this, the Emission Gap Report released by UNEP just weeks prior to COP, delineated a depressing picture of our future. The report concluded that without rapid societal transformation, there is no credible path to a 1.5°C future. As it stands, we are currently on track for an alarming 2.8°C. As a result, given the lack of ‘transformative’ agendas presented at COP, in addition to the challenging geopolitical environment at present, it seems COP27 was not as successful as we had hoped in creating pivotal global change to tackle climate change. Our current course of action fails secure adequate funding to engage in the meaningful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and 1.5°C; what can we do about it moving forward?

Itriom realises the potential that engaging in sustainable development discourses presents, placing the SDGs at the forefront of ESG efforts across the board. This is particularly relevant for UHNW principles and their families, that are seeking to engage the next generation in meaningful dialogue, legacy and impactful investing. Itriom’s unique platform problem the tools and expert experience to drive ESG & SDG investment strategy, planning and lifecycle delivery. Given the importance of accurate, and transparent reporting, Itriom offers guidance and support to enable UHNW families to produce targeted and impactful environmental, social and sustainable change, that contributes to the wider SDGs and Paris agreement ahead of the Global Stocktake at COP28.

COP28 is already taking shape, with the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week approaching in the New Year (January 14th-21st 2023), which aims to reflect on COP27’s outcomes, to inform the agendas for COP28 and pave the way for the first Global Stocktake since the signing of the Paris agreement. The Global Stocktake presents the opportunity for countries to empirically verify the effectiveness of their emission targets and compare Nationally Determined Contributions against global goals. This process is likely to be mirrored by private sector reflections and in turn, enhanced emissions and ESG commitments. The COP27 agenda highlighted the unique role the private sector has in providing capital and solutions to meet the SDGs. Currently, only 1.6% of all adaptation funding comes from private sector investment. The adaptive market has recently been estimated to be worth over $2 trillion per year by 2026. To learn more about the opportunities this market and our SDG platform click here.

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