Every year, we get asked whether the Conference of the Parties for the UNFCCC was a success or failure. Like most things, there is no binary response; the delight is in the nuance.
Here are some thoughts:
“Fossil fuel” finally made the text!
There is still no language on the phase-out of all fossil fuels by a specified date, which is a clear path to maintain hope for a 1.5 degree future and keeping the Paris Agreement alive.
Incremental progress is still progress! As we heard ‘science?’, ‘abatement?’, ‘methane?’, ‘equity?’ all debated, it is clear that education is still broadly required. That’s ok – more people, more voices, more information, means a pathway to more consensus for an equitable transition.
More content and side events in formal areas and around town that bring the voice from the field, from community, from the front lines of the effects of climate change and practical solutions to address both mitigation and adaptation.
The diversity of representation comes with the pressure from legacy industries and actors that have a perverse incentive to maintain the status quo, which can be destructive to the planet and for humanity.
Having a bigger and wider tent brings more ears and minds to the conversation. It also brings tremendous opportunity for alliances and coalition building. Never has translation and incentive alignment been more important.
Big announcements, big funds seemingly made available, a willingness to contribute to address some of the global deficit in funding.
Failure to address the bigger flows of capital propping up legacy, high-emitting sectors; and a lack of clear execution capability for the funds that have been committed for the transition.
While financing is still required, we are entering a period where transactional execution is becoming a limiting factor. Context, pathways, good governance, and integration remain hallmarks for efficient and effective transition.
More participation means higher profile.
The size and scale is getting unwieldy. COP now feels like part formal negotiation, part industry trade show, part Davos, part Fashion Week.
Climate change and nature need to be top of mind in the public consciousness. We are much closer to that today than in 1992 when these conventions were established. Aligned, honest, and accessible communication remains critical in order to galvanize the momentum.
In most good cop / bad cop interrogations, we seek clarity on what happened. Having “fossil fuel” finally enter the text clearly denotes agreement that why we are here (trajectory to a 3+ degree future) is because of human activity (burning of fossil fuels).
In the Good COP / Bad COP scenario, we seek global movement, behavior change, and an equitable climate-positive future. I’m inspired by the vocal positions (both positive and negative), the diversity of people now at the table (both for and against a just transition), and the momentum. I’m also encouraged by the commitments to triple renewable energy, address agriculture and land use emissions, and acknowledge and capitalize ‘Loss and Damage’. 20 years ago, climate change and nature were considered parallel and secondary to the global economy. Today, they are becoming material considerations.
As we close the year, I am more confident that we are well-positioned at a pivotal moment. EcoAdvisors continues to engage our clients in education, translation, integration, and communication. We are working so that tomorrow, climate and nature are embedded into a positive economic model where the planet and humanity can thrive. If that sounds appealing, we’d love to hear from you. Onward!