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Back from COP27: is this format of Conference fit for purpose?

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By Cassia Moraes

· 3 min read

After a full week in this strange and powerful climate gathering, it [was] time to go back and continue implementing a few of the solutions discussed in the Conference. This [was] my COP #7, and I usually stay for one week (oftentimes divided over the two weeks of the conference), which in my opinion is the best way to optimize resources and avoid COP burnout.

This year, the highlights were the increasing participation of indigenous peoples and youth, the discussions about loss and damage, and the coming back of Brazil as a positive protagonist. President-elect Lula [spoke] at the Conference, and former Ministers, such as Marina Silva, Antonio Patriota and Izabella Teixeira were already in Egypt speaking at numerous events and having preparatory meetings with authorities such as John Kerry. At one of such key events, Patriota highlighted that [it] is absurd to demand a rapid energy transition in Africa, which has many people still living without energy and accounts for a tiny share of the world's emissions, whereas Europe can barely cope with decreasing a few degrees on the heater due to the war in Ukraine. Funds are needed to support transitions in the Global South, and climate justice should be at the heart of such plans. Marina also pushed for the view that industrialization in the country will now be fostered by environmental concerns and the knowledge of traditional peoples. [Exame]

I was also impressed to see how the topic of just transition was stronger this year, having a dedicated Pavilion and several events, including the launch of the Green Jobs for Youth Pact by UN Environment Programme, International Labour Organization and UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited (GenU). The pact pledges to:

  • Create 1 million new green jobs with existing employers, with a particular focus on young women; through policy development, entrepreneurship, social dialogue, and enterprise development
  • Assist in the greening of 1 million existing jobs; through the greening of businesses, upskilling of workers, and training of new young talent
  • 10,000 young green entrepreneurs set up sustainable businesses with an estimated employment multiplier effect of 10 jobs created per start-up after 5 years.

On the other hand, advancements in the loss and damage discussions have been disappointing, world leaders are close to discarding the 1.5C limit, and while negotiations continue slowly, the rapid impacts of climate change are already pushing countries like Fiji to reallocate whole communities. Hosting such a Conference in a luxurious environment, in a country with an obstructed civic space, and with a lot of logistical issues (last-minute hotel cancellations, inflated prices for COP delegates...) is definitely not ideal. The Conference itself has become a Fair, with little or no criteria about who should participate and too many events [plus] too little presence and authentic exchanges.

I think one potential change could be breaking out the two weeks of COP into smaller thematic gatherings, syncing it with other global or regional events (e.g. UNGA, WEF, C40 Mayors Summit, etc.), so that people who cover these topics can fly less. An online platform available yearlong could help people to connect, cooperate and find ways to promote other local in-person gatherings. After joining the Radical Collaboration to Accelerate Climate Action Future Lab on Wednesday, I reflected even more on how the framework of a global event like COP can foster or block successful outcomes. You can check the guidebook here for insights (developed by Reos Partners, The Climate Change High-Level Champions, TED Countdown, and Leaders' Quest).

For next year onwards: Perhaps we can have fewer events and more opportunities to input in the negotiations and connect with people we don’t, but should, know? Or have demand-led events to propose solutions for the main issues targeted by the Conference.

This article is also published on the author's blog. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Cassia Moraes is the Partnerships and Outreach Manager at EIT Climate-KIC (Strategic Programmes). She is Founder and Board Member of the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL). Formerly she served as Deputy Executive Coordinator and consultant for the Brazilian Mission to the UN.

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