Opinion - November 8, 2022

Will COP27 have Sharm?

- Photo by Kiara Worth

Written by Bertrand Piccard 4 min read

With every climate conference approaching, too much expectation creates frustration, but not expecting enough shows a lack of ambition. How to navigate between optimism and pessimism? 

Those who realize the seriousness of the situation will never find the final agreement binding enough. The others will always feel like they are making exaggerated sacrifices. In any case, it is too early to question the result. On the contrary, let us strive to show concrete solutions that will encourage everyone to act so that its outcome may be positive, and we will tally the numbers on the last day.

A year ago, I left COP26 in Glasgow asking the question “bad ending or new start? It deserved to be asked because, as often happens during international conferences, and perhaps even more when it comes to the climate, we were left feeling the task was not finished. The end clap was spoiled by the end slap when the symbolically strong semantics “phase out coal” were replaced at the last minute by “phase down coal”. Will COP27 be an exception to the rule, in a geopolitical context that does not necessarily work in its favor and which even pushes certain countries to resort to the semantics “return to coal”?

As with every edition of the COP, it is said that this is the last chance to preserve the future of humanity, and this is all the more true today when we read the recent Emissions Gap Report. Despite a call for the strengthening of “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs), these commitments that countries must make to reduce their emissions, the lack of progress since Glasgow is glaring and leaves us far from the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In the current state of the NDCs, we are now talking about a 66% probability of limiting the rise in temperatures to around 2.6 degrees, which is unacceptable. This will not fail to increase the feeling of eco-anxiety which particularly interests me as a psychiatrist and on which I will have the opportunity to return in an upcoming chronicle during these two weeks.

This is undoubtedly why the first objective of the Egyptian Presidency will be to scrutinize in detail these implementation plans defined in the NDCs, to question their low level of ambition and to push those countries which have not yet started this process to do so. The period of commitments and promises is well and truly over.

The ecological transition will have to be presented not only as possible, but also as attractive for all. The Egyptians have understood this well, by committing to make this conference an example of inclusion, for developing countries as well as for all the stakeholders represented, civil society, youth, the private sector. It is in this context that the Minister of the Environment asked me to prepare a selection of solutions for the poorest countries. The Solar Impulse Foundation has identified a hundred of them and selected 5 of them which will be presented in Sharm El-Sheikh.

I am delighted that, for the first time, a day is entirely dedicated to this theme of Solutions. These are so many promising signs that should show us that the situation is gradually changing and allow us to finally take a real turn towards the ecological transition.

Finance will also be one of the major topics of this COP27. As the first African country to host the COP in 6 years, Egypt will make it a point to ensure that developing countries receive the necessary funds to adapt to climate change and finance their own ecological transitions. The objective, not yet achieved, of 100 billion per year will therefore be brought back to the agenda. 

If finance is the “engine” and technologies the “vehicle” of the ecological transition, the “driver” remains the main actor of its success. This is the role that politicians must play. I had already underlined this during the last COP, but these last twelve months spent studying legislative frameworks more closely have confirmed to me that solutions alone are not enough. Mechanisms are needed to pull them to markets, with ambitious ecological norms and standards that will create a need to use them. It is here, at the legislative level, that innovation must take place to modernize laws that are too often anachronistic. The European Commission has tackled this with courage, it remains for the international community to follow suit.

From Sharm El-Sheikh, I will return daily to this section, commenting on the successes and disappointments of this COP27, which must materialize the transition from promises to action.

First published La Tribune & in the swiss newspaper Le Temps

Written by Bertrand Piccard on November 8, 2022

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