Many activists and campaigners felt that the Glasgow Climate Pact, which came out of COP26, didn’t go far enough despite some steps forward. After decades of inaction, they have a point; in the last few days a UN report found that current international climate pledges will put global temperatures at 2.5 degrees of warming, with countries currently set to miss 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement committed governments to keeping temperatures below 2 degrees and as ‘close to 1.5 degrees as possible’. How we cut emissions deep and fast enough continues to be the issue at the heart of these climate talks.
Other key issues on the table at COP27 will be strengthening adaptation to the effects of climate breakdown, building climate resilience, and delivering on long-promised climate finance to support countries at the frontline of the climate crisis. Wealthy countries at COP26 failed to deliver on a long-standing pledge made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year of climate financing to low income countries from 2020 and also failed to scale up financing further to the level needed to address this injustice. Similarly Loss and Damage, financial compensation to low income countries for climate impacts that cannot be adapted to, is set to be a big issue for COP27.
It’s good to see that nature is back on the agenda for COP27. At COP26, the UK government put biodiversity on the table and Egypt has followed suit with nature set to be discussed as part of the climate negotiations in the second week. The continued recognition of the inextricable links between the biodiversity and climate crises is significant. Not only is healthy nature essential for human wellbeing, air quality, and food security, but it will be critical for climate policy as the natural environment has a huge potential to capture carbon. This is all in a context in which the decline of nature is more stark than ever. The most recent WWF Living Planet report shows a 69% decrease in global wildlife populations since 1970. Investing in nature is both essential and a win-win for people and the planet.
The UK government recently pursued domestic policies of environmental deregulation and investment which undermine our international goals of restoring 30% of nature by 2030, as a recent report has shown (read our statement on recent government policy and nature here). In the lead-up to COP27, there are reasons to be deeply concerned about the UK’s climate leadership as well. Former PM Liz Truss’s government showed a serious disregard for our climate commitments in lifting the ban on fracking, licensing new oil and gas projects, and undermining investment in green energy, now cheaper than fossil fuels (For more detail, read our analysis of her climate leadership).
While we welcome new PM Rishi Sunak’s announcement reinstating the ban on fracking (a Conservative manifesto commitment at the last election), serious questions have been raised in the first week of his premiership about his commitment to climate issues. At the same time as the UN report came out, Sunak announced that he will not be attending COP27 “due to pressing domestic commitments”. It’s not abnormal for a head of government to miss the UN summit and we can sympathise with the new PM’s desire to focus on stabilising the UK’s battered economy. In addition, in the cabinet reshuffle it was announced that COP26 President Alok Sharma and Climate Change Minister Graham Stuart will no longer attend Cabinet meetings. Put together it’s hard not to interpret these decisions by the PM as a sign of the low importance of climate within his government’s agenda just when major reports are urging governments to scale up and speed up action or condemn the world to climate catastrophe.
This current level of political instability in the UK makes it even more difficult to secure the credible long-term climate action and investment in nature that we so desperately need. With a new head of government trying to stabilise the economy, now is a key moment to raise our voices and ask PM Rishi Sunak to take the climate crisis seriously and invest in green energy and infrastructure and restore the UK’s credibility as an international ‘climate leader’.
A Rocha UK will be at the COP27 Global Day of Action on Saturday 12 November in London. We’d encourage you to get involved in your local rally (find your local hub here) and if you’re nearby, join our Wild Christian team in London. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Join us during COP27 on the eve of the nature discussions – Tuesday 15 November – to look at the critical issue of climate and nature and analyse the negotiations so far. You’ll hear from COP veteran, our CEO Andy Atkins, as well as other experts. Register here.