COP27 is over, but there’s no time to catch our breath

Insight / 23 Nov 2022

With COP27 having come to an end in Sharm El Sheikh, eyes now turn to COP15 in Montreal. Both are crucial steps on the path to achieving our climate goals and must inspire real action from financial institutions, companies and governments.

COP27 was labelled the implementation COP. The COP where details were hammered out so action could start in earnest. There were clear wins. The creation of a loss and damage fund is a huge step forward. There was recognition that global financial systems need to be transformed and the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is now embedded in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). And for the first time nature-based solutions, forests and agriculture were included in the final text.

But as the UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out: “our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now – and this is an issue this COP did not address. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition.” 

Will we see this giant leap in ambition at the CBD COP15 in less than two weeks? With no world leaders at the summit, and no mandate in the final COP27 text to finalise the Global Biodiversity Framework, essentially the “Paris Agreement for nature”, there is a lot of work to do.

Finance must do more

A year ago at COP26 in Glasgow, 140 world leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.  At COP27, while speaking at the first meeting of this group, the Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership (FCLP), UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “for too long the world’s forests have been undervalued and underestimated.”

But on the same day as the launch of the FCLP, a major UN report said the money committed for forests currently is nowhere near enough. Global Canopy’s Deforestation Action Tracker, which assesses the actions of financial institutions and was released the week before COP27, tells a similar story. It found that four out of five financial institutions do not even recognise deforestation as a business risk.

There was some good news. The pan-African investment company SouthBridge Group became the first African financial institution to sign the commitment to remove deforestation from their portfolios by 2025. Frannie Leautier leads the investment activities of the firm and told us it was important to show leadership because “finance is what drives exploitation of land and forest resources.”

It’s not just the finance sector that needs to step up. 12 of the world’s leading agricultural commodity traders including Bunge, Cargill, JBS, and Olam published their roadmap to 1.5 degrees. In a joint statement UK Climate Minister Graham Stuart and US Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry urged greater ambition and accelerated action. André Vasconcelos, Global Canopy’s Global engagement lead for Trase told the The Guardian “traders need to go further, faster.” 

And the need for more action from consumer nations was highlighted by Trase’s new data on the world’s biggest cocoa producer, Côte d’Ivoire, from Global Canopy and SEI’s Trase initiative. In under 20 years cocoa farming swallowed up 2.4 million hectares of forest – an area almost the size of Rwanda. Two thirds of that cocoa is exported to the UK and the EU. This is why Global Canopy and Trase are committed to pushing for effective due diligence laws to drive change.

Hope in Brazil

The results of the recent Brazilian Presidential election could signal a huge step-change for forests and nature. President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the world in Egypt that “Brazil is back” and promised to work towards zero deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. He also signed a strategic alliance with Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect the world’s tropical forests. Brazilian congresswoman, Joênia Wapichana, told our Amazon on the Verge of a New Future event that she was feeling “hopeful and optimistic” but admitted the hard work starts now. “We need to rebuild the country. Rebuild and include the social and environmental agenda and prioritise climate and Indigenous rights.”

COP27 is now over, but it would be a mistake to separate what happens in Egypt from the Convention on Biological Diversity – COP15 – in Montreal. With Global Canopy helping to curate a finance and nature space dedicated to sharing data, metrics and guidance to help the finance sector assess their impacts on nature and take action, perhaps COP15 could pick up the mantle of the “implementation COP.”

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