COP leadership is failing to deliver climate action


The current COP and Presidency leadership process cannot deliver climate action at the speed required, leading experts claim.

With an agreement on loss and damage, COP27 marked the end of negotiations on all essential components of the global climate agreement. It is now time to shift gear. The current process cannot deliver climate action at the speed required to avoid the worse impacts of global warming and create a more equal, cleaner world for all.

“Without rapid and radical transformation, the COP process will fail to deliver a safe climate landing for humanity,” said Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of The Club of Rome. “As Mr Guterres has said, we are on a highway to climate hell, we need to choose now to take our foot off the accelerator and start implementing an emergency plan underpinned by effective future COP’s that enables us to emerge from the planetary emergency before us.”  

A group of experts, scientists and policy leaders — including Laurence Tubiana, former Climate Change Ambassador for France and CEO of the European Climate Foundation, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland & UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, and Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations — have signed a letter calling on the Secretary General of the UN António Guterres and Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Simon Stiell to reform the COP process to ensure it can deliver results.

The signatories suggest a series of reforms, which they believe would allow the UNFCCC to help achieve the core objective of the COP gatherings, namely to avoid dangerous climate change by delivering the Paris Agreement. Any change needs to be implemented through constructive dialogue with the UN system and the COP Presidency.

COP needs to be able to act in, and respond to, our current emergency situation and to respect the goal of Paris of 1.5. The focus now needs to be on delivery and action, sharing best practice, holding countries to account, and financing the transition.

COP should be based on science and all delegations should be regularly updated about new developments. Science shows urgent phasing out fossil fuels is vital to achieving climate targets in addition to the protection of nature and must be at the heart of discussions under the aegis of the COP.

Instead of one huge annual COP, the letter calls for smaller, more frequent meetings to keep up momentum, focus on targeted deliverables and ensure governments are not the only voices heard during official discussions.

The current structure with different zones separated from the negotiations should be abandoned and the COP meeting repurposed to be reporting, accounting and working sessions. Non-state actor solutions and ideas need to be brought into the COP negotiations and not be siloed in sideline events, including indigenous peoples voices and young change actors.

Multilateral banks and financial institutions should have a central role in working sessions to ensure pledges become tangible, deliverable workplans.

All decisions and discussions should account for regional differences to ensure a just global transition. The COP process can set an example for transformational leadership by supporting localised transition pathways, knowledge exchange and technology co-development and international collaboration based on equity and empowerment.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland & UN special envoy on climate change reiterates the deep disappointment expressed by signatories that COP27 Parties could not even reach consensus on phasing out fossil fuels, saying “This consensus will never be reached if fossil energy interests are prioritised over the Paris Agreement goals.”

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