Matt Dickinson attended COP27 on behalf of Climate Spheres UK and Climate Spheres US, below he reflects on the experience and the outcome.
It has been almost 5 weeks since the conclusion of COP27 and as my first COP, I found it to be an exciting, if somewhat hectic, experience. Here are some of my key takeaways from the event.
The conference took place against the backdrop of many geopolitical issues. War in Ukraine, global food and energy crises and catastrophic extreme weather events across the world have played a major role in government and private sector discissions. It would also be wrong to ignore the concerns and anger around the host’s own human rights record.
It was always expected that these issues would dominate the conversation and throughout the conference, they came up everywhere I went. From the opening speeches by world leaders to the conversations between attendants in the queues for lunch. This really underlined how climate change needs to be addressed within the wider context. Without addressing these problems we won’t be able to solve climate change and vice versa. Especially when climate change exacerbates most of these issues.
The biggest headline from the conference was the establishment of a “loss and damage” fund. The idea of paying for loss and damages (sometimes called “climate reparations”) is that, rich high-emitting nations should pay towards assisting the most vulnerable countries to help them deal with the impacts of climate change, impacts for which they are the least responsible. The establishment of such a fund is a significant milestone as it shows how the more developed nations are beginning to take more responsibility for a crisis they have largely caused but which others tend to be most impacted by.
Now, there are still a number of details to be worked out, not the least of which are (i) who should pay into it (for example the EU and the US want China to contribute) and (ii) to whom the money should go. However, this is still a historic achievement and it sets a precedent by recognising that more needs to be done to help the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change.
Another key outcome of the negotiations was the decision on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture. Agriculture and food were expected to be major topics at the conference due to the ongoing global food crisis, and indeed they were. The decision to implement a new four-year work programme to continue focusing on sustainable agriculture, and specifically on implementing solutions, is therefore a positive outcome and will hopefully keep food security and agriculture high on the UNFCCC’s agenda for the foreseeable.
However, one aspect that was lacking in this agreement is a focus on a whole food system approach. Some parties have been reluctant to discuss a food system approach, which includes demand-side policies such as dietary shifts or combatting food waste, and this will be something that may prove problematic between countries at future negotiations.
The official negotiations are only one part of the COP and outside there was a lot of attention given to agriculture and food systems. Across the blue zone there were a number of stands concentrating specifically on agriculture and food along with plenty more that integrated agricultural presentations and discussions into their schedules. Amongst these talks, there was much more willing to address the food system as a whole than in the negotiations taking place in the green zone.
It was interesting and welcoming to see the range of solutions being put forward and this variety of opinions and ideas was supported by various announcements covering different aspects of sustainable agriculture. From the $8 billion funding announced by the United States and the United Arab Emirates for the technology-focused AIM for Climate initiative, to the announcement of $11 million from the Rockefeller Foundation to scale regenerative agricultural practices based on indigenous, agroecological knowledge. Common amongst all these ideas and the related funding commitments was an acknowledgement of the need for new approaches. It was encouraging to see ideas that we at Climate Spheres have been developing or implementing being mentioned for their potential to play a significant role across regions, such as novel crops and farming rotations (e.g. industrial hemp) and alternative practices (e.g. biochar).
Personally, it was inspiring to see the number of people coming together to focus on climate change and especially hearing from those on the front lines of the impacts. I’m excited about the connections I made there and I still have a long to-do list to work through. However, although there were a lot of promising achievements, the conference still ended on a disappointing note due to the lack of serious commitment to phasing out fossil fuels. This highlights just how much still needs to be done to address climate change. Together with our collaboration partners, including Soil2Space, the U.S. National Industrial Hemp Council, and others, we at Climate Spheres are committed to driving innovation in agricultural and food systems solutions, especially in support of those most impacted. Throughout COP27, I was particularly inspired to see that the areas on which we are focused are at the top of the global agenda and will play a major role in addressing the climate crisis.