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Three Takeaways from COP27

Emily Lombardo - Nov 28 2022
Published in: Public Policy
Topics covered at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, including greenwashing, funding, and stopping damages, may affect the global mobility industry.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, wrapped up on 18 November after 10 days of negotiations and speeches by government officials and climate activists from around the world. The conference, held this year in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, touched on many points around climate change and sustainability.

The reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement and a new focus on greenwashing will be the biggest concern of corporations and organizations within the global mobility industry as many grapple with improving their sustainability measures, editing their assignment and policy components in order to decrease emissions, and creating a “green” culture at work. Additionally, with the announcement of the creation of loss and damage funds for less developed countries affected by climate change, developed countries will spend the next year calculating financing for COP28 next year, which could have large ramifications for fossil fuel, coal, and natural gas companies in the coming years.   

Affirming the Paris Agreement

With recent natural disasters such as the catastrophic floods in Pakistan and droughts in Europe and China, front of mind for the delegation was minimizing environmental damage from climate change.

The We Mean Business Coalition published a plea on 12 November to COP27 delegates emphasizing their commitment to the objectives of the Paris Agreement, keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and halving current emission rates by 2030. The signees included over 200 major global corporations including IKEA, Dentsu, Nestle, Salesforce, Amazon, and Unilever in addition to leaders from the World Economic Forum, the European Climate Foundation, and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

The U.N. published the first draft of the COP27 climate deal on 17 November based on requests from the delegates of nearly 200 countries that attended. While much of the text will be reworked before the final version is published, the text affirmed the need for the world to follow the Paris Agreement, saying that the document “stresses the importance of exerting all efforts at all levels to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature goal.”

Funding for Underdeveloped Countries

The creation of loss and damage funds, first created by the island nation of Vanuatu at the U.N. climate negotiations in 1991, have remained at the center of talks over COP27’s two week duration.

Less developed countries, which have contributed little pollution and emissions, are facing unprecedented natural disasters that they are unable to mitigate or adapt to successfully. A loss and damage fund would grant these nations funds to protect themselves and recover from devastation. Wealthy countries, which are often the top polluters in the world, would be responsible for supplying the loss and damage funds.

Loss and damage funds made their way onto the formal agenda for the first time in history at a U.N. climate change conferences. One popular proposal suggested has been to tax the profits of fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP, a suggestion that the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres himself has encouraged. Another suggestion is to tax countries that are wide-scale emitters to pressure them to bring down emissions as part of a “climate reparations” fund proposal.

On 20 November, two days after COP27 was supposed to end, negotiations finally came to a pass. Delegates committed to creating a financial structure for the loss and damage funds by the next COP in 2023 and establish a mitigation program to help decrease emissions as fast as possible, allow direct and impactful action, and keep the Paris Agreement goals in mind.

Before the loss and damage fund was announced, a few governments had already committed funds to countries suffering from climate change-related devastation. Austria announced that it would provide €50 million over the next four years to developing countries facing unavoidable damage from climate change in addition to funds provided by the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Scotland, and Germany.

Concerns of “Greenwashing”

Greenwashing came up multiple times over the 10-day conference, with many concerned that corporations and governments will push greenwashing. “We urgently need every business, investor, city, state, and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises. We cannot afford slow movers, fake movers, or any form of greenwashing,” Guterres said in a U.N. report released during COP27 on net-zero commitments.

Similar to the term “whitewashing,” greenwashing was coined in 1986 to describe when a company, business, or organization puts in great efforts to appear more sustainable or more committed to fighting climate change as a marketing tool rather than actually decreasing its environmental impact.

According to the U.N. report released during the conference, an estimated 80% of global emissions are now covered by pledges to reach net-zero emissions. The report details recommendations on how to set, transition to, and reach net-zero emissions for state-actors and non-state-actors, including companies, investors, cities, and regions. Governments are also looking to regulate companies and hold them accountable to net-zero emissions. Both Australia and the U.K. have proposed investigations or legislation that would prevent groups from making exaggerated claims about their sustainability initiatives to potential consumers.