World leaders cannot let climate commitments slip after a year of devastating floods and droughts. 

Energy & Climate Change, Flooding, Natural Environment, Water Resources

World leaders cannot let climate commitments slip after a year of devastating floods and droughts, writes Heather Gardner.

COP27 must put climate change at the top of the political agenda, and pledge more money to fund adaptation and resilience when leaders meet at the United Nations climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh next week.

In the year since COP26 in Glasgow, there have been record high temperatures reached in the UK. The worst ever flooding in Pakistan. Record-breaking destructive hurricanes hitting North America. But still only 24 out of nearly 200 countries submitted updated climate targets before the September 2022 deadline, showing a concerning lack of commitment globally.

Coverage of the talks in the UK has been mostly focused on who is not attending – notably King Charles, activist Greta Thunberg, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is now begrudgingly making the journey. Any momentum gathered on climate action seems to have slowed, with priorities shifting to the cost of living crisis and geopolitical tensions.

The United Nations has given a stark warning that at the current level of ambition, we will miss the target in the Paris Agreement of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

This year’s conference is unlikely to result in a headline grabbing agreements or commitments as previous meetings have, and instead should provide the building blocks for action globally. The energy crisis is a stark reminder of our need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. And as extreme weather events become more frequent, improving the resilience of our natural environment and infrastructure is ever more important.

The IPCC recently concluded that whilst global tracked climate finance is increasing, financial flows for adaptation are insufficient, and constrain implementation especially in developing countries. There must be a plan for overcoming barriers for adaptation, on finance, planning and implementation.

COP27 is an opportunity for renewed focus on climate action. The solutions to the energy and cost of living crises lie in tackling climate change, achieving sustainable economic growth whilst restoring the health and resilience of our natural environment. As well as working to limit global temperature rise through emissions reductions, COP27 must focus on action on adaptation and driving climate action to the top of the global agenda.

Look out for a COP27 reflections edition of Planet Possible podcast shortly after the summit finishes, co-hosted by Climate Change Committee Chair Lord Deben alongside regular host Niki Roach.

Heather Gardner

CIWEM Policy Manager

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