3 things that need to happen during COP27, according to a leading climate scientist

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Simon Torkington, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Leading climate scientist urges shift from debate to action at COP27 summit.
  • Johan Rockström calls for trillions of dollars of funding to combat climate change.
  • Rockström says climate change can no longer be tackled incrementally.
  • Average global temperatures have been trending upwards, non-stop, for 40 years.

The COP27 summit in Egypt is taking place at the end of another year characterized by rising temperatures and extreme weather events.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Governments, scientists, business leaders and academics have been talking about avoiding the worst effects of climate change since the first COP meeting in Berlin in 1995, but nothing so far has slowed the march of climate change.

As the infographic below illustrates, trends in global surface temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather events are all moving in the wrong direction. The Global Climate Report for September 2022 from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds that Europe, Asia and North America all experienced extreme summer temperatures. And at both poles, sea ice cover was well below the 1981-2010 average.

It all amounts to an urgent call to action for delegates at COP27, says Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.


3 urgent actions for COP27

Rockström says three things need to happen at the COP27 climate talks.

Firstly, he is urging climate stakeholders to shift from promises and pledges to real-world action. “Many pledges were made in Glasgow [at COP26],” he says. “Don’t debate those pledges anymore. Deliver. Now is the time to be accountable – it’s time to report back. What are we doing? Unfortunately, we will show in Sharm El-Sheikh that we’re not making progress on those pledges. But this is the moment to set up the monitoring and accountability mechanisms for that.”

Funding climate action

Rockström’s call for action appears timely given the recent acceleration in global temperature rises.

The chart above from the NOAA reveals an unbroken cycle of warmer-than-average conditions globally that spans more than 40 years.

Breaking this cycle will require extraordinary funding, says Rockström, listing another of his three priorities for COP27.

“Number two is to put money on the table. This is the time to truly fill up the Green Climate Fund. $100 billion is much too little, we know that. We have to move into the trillions to help developing countries to accelerate the pathways towards decarbonizing their economies as well.”

Rockström’s final priority for COP27 is to establish a mechanism for regular reappraisal of the threat posed by climate change.

“Number three is to have a serious update on the risk assessment,” says Rockström. “The World Economic Forum is famous for its annual risk reporting. We need to have a much more frequent, what I would call ‘catastrophic risk-assessment analysis’ in the climate negotiations, because we’re so close to tipping points, we’re so close to unmanageable, that we are hitting the limits of adaptation.”


How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate accelerates action on climate change and environmental sustainability, food systems, the circular economy and value chains, and the future of international development.

  • Through the Global Plastic Action Partnership, the Forum is bringing together government, business and civil society to shape a more sustainable world by eradicating plastic pollution.
  • Global companies are collaborating through the Forum’s 1t.org initiative to support 1 trillion trees by 2030, with over 30 companies having already committed to conserve, restore and grow more than 3.6 billion trees in over 60 countries.
  • Through a partnership with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and over 50 global businesses, the Forum is encouraging companies to join the First Movers Coalition and invest in innovative green technologies to enable net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Forum is bringing global leaders together to reduce the environmental impact of value chains and make the $4.5 trillion circular economy opportunity a reality. The African Circular Economy Alliance is funding circular economy entrepreneurs and circular economy activities in Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, while the Circular Electronics in China project is helping companies reduce and recycle 50% of e-waste by 2025.
  • Since launching in 2020, the Forum’s open innovation platform UpLink has welcomed over 40,000 users who are working on more than 30 challenges crowdsourcing solutions to the climate crisis.
  • More than 1000 partners from the private sector, government and civil society are working together through the 2030 Water Resources Group to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The group has facilitated close to $1 billion of financing for water-related programmes.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

Beyond COP27

When COP27 concludes, Rockström wants to see a new level of momentum in efforts to fight climate change, with a new approach from governments and other stakeholders.

“We’re still allowing ourselves to believe that this can be handled incrementally, when in fact, we need to have exponential changes and take some big decisions.

“We need to recognize the need for more ‘radical politics’ or ‘radical governance’.

“We have to see that now is the time to take some big decisions to regulate ourselves away from the damaging processes we have today. It’s a bit too easy for us to talk about consumer behaviour and choices and awareness and behavioural change.

“We need some big system shifts, which requires finance, politics and governance to shift.”

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