Project Drawdown: COP27 must answer calls for accelerated action and climate justice

By Carissa Patrone Maikuri, Program Coordinator, Drawdown Lift, Project Drawdown | November 7, 2022

With the start of COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh this week, people from around the word anxiously await to see whether or not their calls for accelerated climate action and climate justice will be answered. There is no more time for siloed thinking—we must transform all systems (electricity, transportation, industry, buildings, finance, and food) to address multiple global crises together while centering wellbeing, planetary health, and climate-smart development. Decision-makers, policymakers, funders, and communities must step up to work together to meet the most pressing challenges of our time, which range from climate devastation and COVID-19 to conflict, food insecurity, insurmountable debt, ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss.

Recent fatal floods in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Nigeria, severe droughts in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, extreme temperatures in the Sahel, devastation from Hurricane Ian in the United States, and deadly heat waves across Europe are serving as warning signals that highlight the urgent need both for collective action and climate compensation. Enhanced commitments and finance for climate mitigation, strengthened adaptation policies, and the establishment of a new mechanism for addressing loss and damage represent some key pathways forward at the “African COP.”

In order to limit global warming to well below 2˚C in alignment with the Paris Agreement and to advance climate justice, we must prioritize the establishment of new global systems that dismantle systems of oppression, unequal power dynamics and unearned privilege, and colonial ideals that are still perpetuated today.

New models of community care can help address inequities amplified by climate change by prioritizing those who are already suffering due to the impacts of climate change. A just transition recognizes both intersectional and disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities who have contributed the least to the problem: Historically, less than 4% of global emissions have come from Africa, whereas some of the most devastating climate-induced extreme weather events are now happening on the continent.

To date, we are not on track to reach our global climate goals and we have already seen dramatic changes to our climate with a 1.1˚C global average temperature increase since preindustrial times. If all national climate commitments were fulfilled by 2030, we would still reach a 2.6˚C temperature increase by the end of this century, far exceeding the proposed limits on global temperature increase outlined in the Paris Agreement. Maintaining business as usual will exacerbate harm caused by climate change even further, leading us to a 2.8˚C temperature rise by the end of this century. In that regard, it is important to note that only 24 of 193 countries have updated their nationally determined contributions. For that reason, advanced commitments and action to accelerate climate mitigation are needed: Every fraction of a degree matters.

The demands of the most impacted—particularly African, Indigenous, youth, and women voices—must be centered throughout these next two weeks at COP27 and beyond, and actions must be put into place to strengthen locally led adaptation, fulfill promised pledges, and finance loss and damage. Indeed, from 1970 to 2019, 115 deaths and losses of $202 million have been recorded daily, and due to the systemic exclusion of vital resources, women from under-resourced communities are disproportionately impacted. Even though women face various barriers and lack representation in COP delegations, they are agents of change and key to advancing climate action and solutions.

Local actors on the front lines of climate change are best situated to identify solutions that pull “triple duty”—advancing adaptation and gender equality while reducing or sequestering emissions. Centering climate-smart development will help to mitigate future harm and have a positive impact on human health and well-being. We need to remember that our health doesn’t have to be at the mercy of fossil fuels—instead, we have the opportunity to work together to achieve societal transformation and advance all forms of knowledge to meet our shared goals.

This is our opportunity not only to radically reimagine all systems to be in solidarity with one another, but also to center community well-being and planetary health with a sense of profound urgency so that we can enact meaningful, synergistic action for decades to come to address the climate crisis.

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