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COP27? Thoughts, feelings and emotions - aplenty; Actions - emergent

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By Kirsten Buck

· 5 min read

Now nearing a close, what will COP27 be remembered for? The commentary and analysis has been thorough, and the impact is yet to be seen.

The words “Highway to climate hell” have been thrown around. And “together for implementation” branded as the mantra that will bring about the commitments needed to quash scientifically accelerating global warming.

Our political leaders together can’t be just some lame ducks treading water near the river Nile over the course of two weeks. Together means setting aside personal opportunism and political differences and committing to a course of action that is not deviated from, as soon as the next immediate global catastrophe emerges. Together also means our Governments showing up fully; the near opting out of attendance in Egypt by the UK’s Prime Minister was beyond churlish and incongruent with -some- progress made, signalling an offensive deprioritization of climate change to all leaders before him, and all that will come after him. 

We have seen conscious citizens and eco-activists in Egypt increase in influence- with the young educating their seniors. The strength in the message from the youth forums feels tangible. In fact the passion to alter the outcome of the human constructed course of self-destruction we are on, permeates social media. However the palpable beat of grass-roots activism on regenerative futures has been hampered by, what has been called, a “hostile” stage for campaigning.

Any togetherness from delegates, negotiators and activists at COP27 can’t help but feel fragile- weakened by any inaction from our “leaders” and stifled by a dogmatically driven Egyptian Government.

Which brings us back to nations having to deviate from how they have governed until now, to unify on how we collectively act here on in, and ultimately try our damned best to save the planet.

Macro events of the last three years, set against political turmoil globally, have undeniably seen the World shake on a tectonic scale. With each global emergency, catastrophe, war, we retreat - as individual nations, or at best strategic alliances - to focus on our problems now. 

Right now - as the discussions at COP27 continue - the news is laden with stories of China’s zero covid policy, UK’s cost of living crisis, the battle for control of the senate in the US, and of course the abhorrent war in Ukraine. Honing in on Ukraine, it has been well publicised that the environmental cost of Russia’s war is huge; from the destruction of protected areas, to the climate warming emissions. The now problem is therefore intrinsically linked to the future problem. We know this, yet we continue to react, rather than combat and prepare.

My wise colleague once shared with me that, as individuals, we all have plates to juggle, but how much is actually on our respective plate(s) is all relative. This advice applies to our home nations, and beyond that, planet Earth. We are actually all sharing the same plate but often unable to see beyond our immediate needs.

At People & Transformational HR Ltd, we recently enjoyed learning about the notion of the abundant organisation from Angelique Slob, where scarcity shrinks and abundance ascends. In the words of Angelique, "moving from fear to trust, from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, from time and presence to results, from problem to solution - it all has the abundance mindset at its base. Let's start with being aware of what we think, what we say, what we reinforce, what policies we develop, what behaviour we stimulate and reflect on the mindset that is underneath." 

Abundance in 2022 set against the macro crises mentioned may seem impossible, idealistic even. Yet a shift has to happen. And this shift can’t happen solely once a year at COP when political leaders are physically together and the media spotlight on the climate crisis. This is a crisis with a severity that will not fade, yet sadly Earth’s light is diminishing. If individuals can change their mindset, and from here, create abundant organisations, we can make a step change in the business community to challenge the economic system and behavioural norms that have become the status quo. 

So, what has COP27 achieved so far? It’s too early to say. We head to the climax of negotiations over the next three days. Agreements on climate finance for the Global South (loss and damage fund), halting deforestation, fossil fuel alternatives and transition to clean energy, as well as a global accountability framework are in discussion.

The time for “some progress is better than none” has expired. Political leaders having the option of whether to attend, or not, has also fallen out of question.

I can’t help but see the political figureheads treading water in Egypt, whilst the Children’s & Youth Pavilion advances upstream. Power and action seem somewhat inversely proportionate. There’s numerous discussions, distilled crucial outcomes, inspiring innovations but less commitments to action… so far. It’s as if this particular climate summit could be represented by the mighty pyramid, but inverted; spinning faster and faster on its axis. We have the innovation, passion, activism, knowledge, governmental commitments in isolation but we need unification before time is up.

For those of us not in politics, or participating in activism at COP27, what can we do? It’s all relative. We have to do what is within our direct sphere of influence. No matter how big or small the reach is. Do you need more than one car per household? Do you need to commute to the office? Do you need that new coat? Does your organisation carbon offset? Is your pension fund ethical? These questions that show routes to more sustainable behaviour are non-exhaustive, and they are also, largely, from a position of privilege, 

Which brings me back to the simple yet effective advice imparted from my colleague to me. The size of our own plates. My colleague is a sole parent, and her energy and time is more finite than mine, and many others. But her care and love for her son is abundant. Perhaps if our care for future generations is the focus, rather than our own immediate - localised or nationwide - concerns, our collective plate juggling can find unified solutions. And these co-created solutions we bring to the next COP. Where those with vested power act morally, intently and together.

For now, we await the crucial outcomes from Egypt.

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

Kirsten Buck is Chief Impact & Culture Officer at PTHR - a growing consultancy in progressive HR/OD and the next stage of business evolution, and a certified B Corporation organisation. Kirsten is a Semco Style Institute certified expert, Co-chair of B Local Scotland, a Fellow of the RSA, member of the EODF, and an avid writer.

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