Surrounded by controversies and tension from the start, COP27 attracted a great deal of global and media attention. Justifiably so.
With only seven years left to attain the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, with exponentially growing evidence of the effects of climate change on our planet, and with patchy implementation of pledges signed during last year’s COP26, expectations were unusually high for this year’s conference.
The 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly called the Conference of the Parties (COP), just ended in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt after two weeks of intense conversations and negotiations as representatives from countries around the world gathered to discuss global progress in dealing with climate change.
Building on the Promise of COP26
In a breakthrough moment for rainforest protection, a key pillar of climate action and Rainforest Partnership’s core mission, last year’s COP26 resulted in the promising Glasgow Leader’s Declaration for Forests. In the signatory, “world leaders committed to work collectively to halt, and reverse, forest loss and degradation by 2030 by delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.” (1)
Although this declaration has been a huge step forward, great progress remains to be made to meet the 2030 target of halting deforestation globally. Unfortunately, the same can be said of general climate targets, for which progress has been slower and patchier than what scientists agree is needed to keep our planet under the critical 1.5°C limit.
This is why COP27 was regarded as a definitive turning point, for global climate action and rainforest protection. But did this year’s agreements step up enough to meet the necessary standards to effectively keep the world from the 1.5°C mark while keeping our planet’s forests standing?
The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple yes or no.
The Good News
Several encouraging announcements were made during this year’s COP, both for general climate action and for rainforests (2):
Calling for climate justice
- The biggest win of COP27 was a breakthrough agreement on a “loss and damage” fund, negotiated by diplomats and climate envoys, through which developed countries would establish financing to help developing countries manage devastation and economic turmoil caused by weather-related disasters and climate change. Representatives from 24 countries will work by committee to hammer out the details of the fund, which countries and financial institutions should contribute, and where the money should go.
Promising new rainforest protections
- The president-elect of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, pledged a transformation of Brazil’s policy that represents a seismic shift and a hopeful future for the Amazon.
- The LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance) private sector-led coalition announced that it plans to mobilize $1.5 billion in finance for tropical countries committed to forest protection. This is the largest ever public-private effort to protect these ecosystems.
- Following last year’s Declaration for Forests, 26 countries launched the new Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP) to hold each other accountable and accelerate progress to halt reverse deforestation and land degradation. These countries represent around 35% of the world’s total forest cover.
- The Mangrove Breakthrough, a joint initiative launched by IUCN and the Global Mangrove Alliance in collaboration with UN High Level Climate Champions, aims to drive and unlock finance for the protection of mangroves.
- A new alliance between the three tropical countries with the most rainforest cover (Indonesia, Brazil, and Democratic Republic of Congo) was signed in Indonesia on November 16, in the context of COP27 and ahead of the G20 meeting.
Calling for accountability
- The UN released a strong report on greenwashing, stating that some companies, banks, and cities' pledges are often no more than greenwashing. This report clarifies where actual progress can be made and where false claims can confuse consumers, investors, and policymakers.
Lowering agriculture’s climate impact
- A new pledge signed by dozens of countries and organizations plans to drive over $8 billion into research and development projects that aim to reduce the impact of agriculture on the planet.
Focusing on gender equality
- 41 grassroots organizations formed an alliance to have governments increase climate funding for local women’s movements.
Much Work Remains
Despite the encouraging announcements, COP27 didn’t quite tick all the boxes.
- During the opening of the climate summit, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, said that Earth is on “a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator […] We are in the fight for our lives, and we are losing.”
- A new emissions report by the Global Carbon Project showed that carbon emissions hit a new record level this year, and if this trend continues, we won’t meet the 1.5°C target within the coming decade.
- New analyses of deforestation in West Africa showed that cocoa farming contributed to 2.4 million hectares of forest loss between 2000 and 2019, making cocoa the main driver of deforestation in West Africa.
- Generally speaking, this year’s agreements and declarations are still far from what would be considered a strong climate deal. (4)
Although some major commitments were made during COP27 and important steps taken on several important fronts—including deforestation, mangrove protection and restoration, renewable energy, water, gender equality, etc.—we are still falling short when it comes to tangible, radical action. Until actions match pledges and promises, we’re not moving forward; at best we’re running in place.
However, the protests surrounding COP27, the great alliances and partnerships formed during the event, the strong youth presence throughout the conference (and youth from the Global South), and the thousands of people, governments, and organizations mobilizing to change the course of our future bring us hope in these crucial moments of our history.
At Rainforest Partnership, we build the systemic change necessary to scale radical global action and impact to protect tropical rainforests, end deforestation by 2030, and lead the way to a thriving and balanced planet. Let’s continue working together to achieve this future for all.