Reflecting on COP27: time to put the pressure on - Earthwatch

Reflecting on COP27: time to put the pressure on

Earthwatch CEO, Steve Andrews, reflects on the outcomes of COP27 and whether the world has managed to navigate off the ‘Highway to Hell’.

Breakages must be paid for

As I wrote in my third COP27 blog, the world needs a carbon tax. The polluter must pay. The delegates at COP27 developed this idea further into the loss and damage fund, which will offer vulnerable nations financial assistance in grappling with the climate crisis. For the first time we are recognising that we really are all in this together and developed nations that are rich – and (not coincidentally) have the highest historical emissions – should compensate the poorer nations that are being hit hard by climate change and lack the resilience to deal with it.

I welcome the news of the loss and damage fund but whilst it does represent significant progress on the symptoms of climate change, COP27 did nothing to address the root cause of the problem.

Don’t mention the oil

COP27 finally felt like the showdown between fossil-fuel producing nations and the rest of the world. Countries like China and Saudi Arabia fought hard against the inclusion of oil in the already weak agreement to ‘phase down’ coal. President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates put it most starkly when he said his country would continue to deliver oil and gas “for as long as the world is in need”.

Whilst the commitment to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees was not abandoned, as had been feared, no progress was made to make this target a reality. Along with failure to agree to reduce oil and gas usage was a failure to agree to a peak carbon output before 2025.

Bill McGuire, author of Hothouse Earth (the current Earthwatch Book Club book), wrote in The Guardian that the key takeaway from COP27 was that COPs aren’t working. After 27 COPs and no agreement on fossil fuels, it’s hard not to agree with Bill’s argument. 

The Highway to Hell… are we there yet?

So, if the United Arab Emirates will continue to extract oil “for as long as the world is in need”, what can be done? Well, to state the obvious, we have to reduce the need. As Canada has shown, it doesn’t take international agreements for countries to go it alone and introduce a meaningful carbon tax. Citizens of rich nations now need to put pressure on their own governments to follow suit.

Companies and individuals need to do all that they can to reduce their own impacts, to send a signal to the market and governments that they’re not afraid of this change and they want government action.

At Earthwatch, we will continue to work with companies to help them learn about and adopt sustainability as a core business principle. We’re also committed to working with communities and the decision-makers of the future to connect with nature and take positive action to care for the natural world.


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