How can governments turn COP27 climate change ambition into action?

By on 07/11/2022 | Updated on 07/11/2022
Pollution rising into the sky from factories surrounded by green crop fields.
Photo by Johannes Plenio via Pexels

To date, 139 countries have made net zero commitments and many agreed at COP26 in Glasgow last year to develop strengthened pledges. To fulfil these promises, governments need to put in place plans to decarbonise large swathes of their economy and begin building the capacity to make it happen. However, the details of exactly how this will be achieved are in most cases yet to be confirmed.

In a webinar held last month ahead of COP27, Global Government Forum brought together public and private sector experts from the UK, the US, and Panama to discuss what governments can do to tackle climate change both domestically and internationally through public policy and through strategic collaboration and cooperation.

The session looked at how governments have developed net zero plans; how they are monitoring those plans and the milestones ahead; the importance of climate diplomacy; clean tech; and how relatively small changes can lead to big, positive outcomes.

Here, we set out the key points discussed during the webinar, with clips for each section.

Maria DiGiulian, senior advisor and director, International Science and Technology Collaboration, at the US Department of Energy gave an overview of what the US government is doing to help countries around the world to accelerate the implementation of their climate goals. This involves two main programmes: Net Zero World, through which the US works with countries to co-create tailored technical and investment plans in a bid to help them decarbonise; and Mission Innovation, a global initiative that aims to make clean energy more affordable, attractive and accessible.  

Click on the video below to see this clip:

Panama is one of three carbon negative countries, meaning that it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it produces, and is also one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Abdiel Douglas, a climate change analyst at Panamá’s Ministry of Environment, talked the audience through a framework and tools developed to ensure climate change adaptation and mitigation criteria are met in all public investment projects in the country.

Gareth Hughes, chairman and CEO of Advanced Bacterial Sciences – tackling the issue of climate change from a bottom-up approach – explained how ABS is using bacteria in nature to solve waste treatment problems. He gave urinal blockages as an example of a relatively small problem that can, if solved efficiently, lead to “very significant” sustainability benefits.  

On the issue of governments making climate pledges and either not sufficiently detailing how they would fulfil those pledges or rowing back on them entirely, Jim Watson, director of the University College London (UCL) Institute of Sustainable Resources, said that public pressure – which is growing – would likely have more of an impact in terms of holding governments to account than more formal internal mechanisms.

Linked to that, Watson said that governments need to be creative in finding ways to involve the public in climate-related policy design so that they are more engaged in solving the problem and less likely to feel that decisions – especially those that have a cost implication – are being imposed on them. He explained how citizens’ group the UK Climate Assembly had been successful in doing this.

DiGiulian added that addressing climate change is a US$23 trillion opportunity for businesses, and that we should be working as quickly as possible to realise the green energy transition whilst ensuring that it is managed in an effective way.

In response to a question from the audience, Hughes explained how ABS technologies are being used to mitigate the impact of climate change in agriculture.

Another question put to the panellists asked what kinds of climate change policies and programmes could be adopted by countries irrespective of their financial resources. All panellists agreed that low cost technologies were key, and DiGiulian explained what the US energy department is doing to drive down the cost of technologies related to wind and solar, for example. However, Watson offered a caveat – that the countries that have poor resources also tend to have undeveloped finance, governance and policy systems, meaning that even low-cost technologies can be very expensive to roll out. Douglas also raised the point that when it comes to adoption, many citizens would not be able to afford to switch to clean technologies and would need government support to do so.

Talk turned to how governments could work to attract private sector investment in climate projects and how to decarbonise hard-to-abate industries, with all four panellists offering their viewpoints.

Watson explained that he felt the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine “should have been a reason to double down on climate change” action – moving away from fossil fuels to reduce emissions but also to improve energy security and reduce household bills – but that in his view, the UK government response has been “ambiguous”.

Douglas said that he hoped COP27 in Egypt would result in help to access financial resources for countries where such resources are lacking.

To end the webinar, each panellist added to this by explaining what they hoped to see come out of COP27. Answers included the desire to see women, indigenous communities and young people – those most affected by climate change – be given a seat at the table; commitments to help vulnerable countries adapt, improve resilience and address loss and damage; the creation of more finance packages such as that promised to South Africa at COP26; and crucially, to see “ambition turned into action”.

To learn all this and more, you can watch the 75-minute webinar via our dedicated event page. The webinar – hosted by Global Government Forum with the support of knowledge partner ABS – was held on 11 October 2022.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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