Held in Egypt, COP27 was dubbed the Africa COP, providing an important opportunity to table issues critical to the continent; and the COP of implementation, where pledges would be translated into action on the ground.
The most talked about achievement of COP27 was that an agreement was finally reached to establish and operationalise a new loss and damage fund. Beyond this, progress was underwhelming, but while there were disappointments, there were significant gains, too.
Antonia Gawel, Head of Climate Change, and Nathan Cooper, Lead Partnerships & Engagement Strategy at the World Economic Forum, look back at the highlights of COP27 and show which wheels it has put in motion.
COP27 was dubbed the Africa COP and the implementation COP. It provided an opportunity to table issues critical to the continent and a chance to turn the words, drawn up at COP26, into action. Confronted with a global food and energy crisis, increasing extreme weather events and record greenhouse gas concentrations, COP27 was a key milestone to instill renewed solidarity between countries and deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement.
The World Economic Forum hosted over 50 interactive sessions, bringing together over 800 leaders spanning sectors, generations and countries. These sessions drove multistakeholder action across areas as broad as raising climate ambition, financing the Net-Zero transition, accelerating industry decarbonisation, water security, adaptation finance, ocean innovation and more.
Was COP27 a success?
COP27 did not progress commitments or show evidence of significant action by countries to further draw down global emissions. Every year and every COP is critical to progress this key objective – without it, the world will not limit the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. By this measure, COP27 was a missed opportunity and potentially a step back.
On the other hand, as the ‘Africa COP,’ the issues of critical importance to developing economies, including climate adaptation and loss and damage were brought to the fore, rebalancing the negotiations and reinstating trust between parties. A breakthrough agreement to provide loss and damage funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters was seen as a success, although details of the fund still need to be fleshed out.
What did COP27 achieve?
When you work on climate day in and day out, you come away from every conference feeling that more could have been achieved. While we didn’t leave COP27 as hopeful as we would have liked, there were many positives leaving us optimistic for the future.
Alongside the agreement reached on loss and damage, it was also encouraging to witness China and the US reopen their conversation on tackling climate change, and to see adaptation dialogues begin on enhancing resilience for 4 billion people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.
The largely untapped innovative finance model (enabled by COP negotiations, that monetises avoided or reduced emissions through carbon markets) was tapped into by African nations, who announced a carbon market partnership. Under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, countries can work together to raise money for much-needed decarbonisation and adaptation projects, through trading carbon credits on regional or international markets.
Then, at the G20, which ran alongside COP27, the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership was launched to help finance the energy transition. This is important because coal contributes to three-quarters of the power sector’s CO2 emissions and coal needs to be phased out almost six times faster than it has been over the past five years to align the power sector with well below a 1.5 degrees Celsius global average temperature rise.
The private sector stepped up
We also saw the private sector take a major role at COP27, particularly across the areas of climate ambition, low-carbon technology and climate adaptation. It was recognised that the adaptation market could be worth $2 trillion per year by 2026, with the developing world standing to benefit from much of this. Thousands of leaders at COP27 also committed to working towards 1.5 degrees Celsius.
We were also proud to announce the First Movers Coalition's expansion, from 25 members when it was launched at COP26 to 65 members, which includes companies and governments. Those First Movers sent a $12 billion market signal to pull forward critical, low-carbon technologies of the future to decarbonise the cement and concrete industry.
More than 100 CEOs and senior executives of large multinational corporations, all members of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, signed an open letter to leaders at COP27 committing to work side-by-side with governments to deliver bold climate action and encourage all businesses to accelerate the Net Zero transition by setting science-based targets, disclosing emissions and catalysing decarbonisation and partnerships across global value chains.
Additionally, major agricultural trading and processing companies launched the Agriculture Sector Roadmap, which moves the industry towards science-based, transparent and traceable actions to avert and reverse deforestation. And, 26 countries signed a global MOU that 100% of new truck and bus sales will be zero emissions by 2040.
Beyond COP27 Leaders On The Road Ahead
We also heard some largely uplifting thoughts at one of the COP27 closing panels Beyond COP27 Leaders On The Road Ahead. From a national perspective, James Mnyupe, Presidential Economic Advisor to the Office of the President of Namibia, said he was pleased to have “mobilised about $63 million in grant funding to get various projects underway in Namibia, that will help us with mobilising concessionary financing." He added: "And we also mobilised about €500 million of a framework loan, that will be available to us in very concessionary terms as well.”
Speaking on behalf of business, Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group (IKEA Retail), said he had come away from COP27 filled with optimism for the commercial sector in particular: “I want to call out the companies here who are not waiting for legislation or pledges, but realise by their own ethical and moral motivations and understanding that sustainability and climate are not about making sacrifices. It might be about making upfront investments and taking some leaps of faith, but it's really about being a winner in the economy,” he said.
Anish Shah, Managing Director and CEO of Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group, added that it was time for business to: “Make it personal and ask what is the impact on the society that I live in? What is the impact on my company and on me as an individual, and not just in terms of threats, but also in terms of opportunities?”
Janet Ranganathan, Managing Director of Strategy, Learning and Results at the World Resources Institute (WRI), added every individual on the planet has a part to play too: “We need citizens to be holding countries accountable to see the policies being put in place and the money mobilised, otherwise it's all for nothing,” she said.
Youth raise their voice
One group of people certainly getting their voice heard at COP27 were the future generations, whose very planet that they inherit from today’s generation is at stake. Pato Kelesitse, Global Shaper at Gaborone Hub and Founder of Sustain 267, said: “When we use our money as young people, we need to know that whatever we're giving it to is what we're voting for. Whatever we're giving our money to is what we're demanding. So when businesses come to COP27 they need to know that if you're not going to get us closer to 1.5. You are not going to be getting our money.”
Looking ahead to COP28
For those companies who have not yet fully embraced ambitious climate action, the message from youth, civil society and business at the forefront of this agenda at COP27 was clear: the private sector has a unique role to play to provide the capital and solutions to meet our global climate goals. With the results of the Global Stocktake Process published at COP28 and the UN setting out its recommendations for robust climate action from non-state actors, 2023 will be about countries and companies showing how they are meeting their climate commitments, while pressure is still on to ramp up ambition.
The Annual Meeting in Davos will be a key milestone to build on the progress made at COP27 and to kick off the Road to COP28. Over 2,500 leaders from government, business and civil society across the world will gather in the Swiss town from 16-20 January 2023 to focus on the theme 'Cooperating in a fragmented world.'
Antonia Gawel - Head, Climate; Deputy Head, Centre for Nature & Climate Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Nathan Cooper - Lead, Partnerships and Engagement Strategy, Climate Action Platform, World Economic Forum