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Climate News - December 2022

Climate Corner: From the Center for Behavior and Climate

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Lessons Learned from COP27

by Emma De Roy, M.Sc.

Tis the season for holiday baking, family gatherings, and… important climate discussions. Over 35,000 participants gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for this year’s annual United Nations climate negotiations (referred to as COP27, or Conference of Parties 27). The conference is an opportunity for representatives to come together on a global stage to advance climate action. This year was framed as the Implementation COP — the conference during which the rubber would hit the proverbial road.

Behavior change plays an important part in global decarbonization efforts — over half of future emissions reductions rely on changes in behavior. As stated by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, “Today a new era begins and we begin to do things differently […] all of us have to do everything we are capable of doing.”

Here are a few takeaways from this year’s conference:

1.The time to act is now, not tomorrow.

It can be easy to think of climate action as something we will get to ‘eventually’ — the same way we put off the least-desirable chores at the bottom of our to-do list. The reality is that the cost — to our health, wallets, and livelihoods — increases the longer we delay. There is simply no time for delay. The Global Carbon Budget 2022 shows that we have just nine years left to stay under the 1.5 degree C target. A recent report indicated that ninety percent of counties throughout the United States have experienced a major climate disaster in the last 10 years.  

The more we collectively do now, the more we can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. COP27 led to several important steps forward for climate action, including: USD 230 million in climate adaptation funding; a new partnership for forest management and conservation; a new fund (known as a Loss and Damage Fund) to compensate developing countries for the cost of climate disasters; and 50 additional signatories for the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions.

Did you know? Reducing methane emissions is key for climate goals. Natural gas stoves, meat-based diets, and food waste all contribute to these emissions. You can do your part by switching from a natural gas to an induction stove, including plant-based meals in your weekly rotation, or cutting down your food waste.

2. Accountability and transparency are key.

Can we walk the talk? Many governments and businesses have committed to doing more to fight climate change. Over 80% of global emissions are now covered by net-zero pledges (i.e., pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero). That sounds great, right? Unfortunately, some commitments lack credible plans to deliver on their promises. When these claims are made without any comparable actions, they fuel cynicism on climate action and fracture public trust.

To hold businesses, financial institutions, cities, and regions accountable for net-zero pledges, the United Nations’ High‐Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non‐State Entities unveiled a guide to ensure credible and accountable commitments. This guide requires actors to set short and medium-term targets, demonstrate how those reductions will occur, and publicly report on progress. It also called for the creation of a public, open data portal to provide transparent and verifiable data to hold companies accountable for pledges.  

Did you know? You can ensure that the businesses you support align with your principles. For example, you can make your banking more sustainable.

3. Civic action is a potent driver of government action.

Several dozen governments — including the United States — proposed new and stronger climate targets in advance of COP27. As citizens, we can help to increase political will to ensure that investments in — among other things — public transit, renewables, and building retrofits rapidly materialize. Ironically, many individuals defer to government to lead the way on climate action — yet, public pressure is an important catalyst for government action. Each of us must become active participants in the conversation as opposed to passive bystanders.

How can you pitch in? What you can do is hold your leaders accountable by voting with climate in mind, calling or writing local politicians, donating to or volunteering with climate organizations, and participating in protests to advocate for the systemic shifts needed. Everyone has a part to play.

Love the outdoors? Join Protect Our Winters

Are you a fan of advocacy? Join Sierra Club or the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund

Interested in bipartisan efforts? Check out Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Keen to support conservative efforts? Take a peak at Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

4. There is no minimum age for climate action.

For the first time, children and youth had their own pavilion and youth-led Climate Forum. During discussions, a 10-year-old Ghanian climate activist gave a particularly impassioned call-to-action. Complementarily, in the lead-up to COP27, 2.7 million students and teachers across 149 countries came together for Climate Action Day, an annual online event for schools to showcase their projects and solutions for climate action. If you’re an educator, you can join in here.

These activities are a potent reminder that we are all part of the solution and we can all (no matter our age or background) make a change — you can start by simply talking about climate change. 

Did you know? As we wrote in last month’s Climate Corner, taking action is one way to mitigate climate anxiety. Check out the top-10 most impactful individual actions you can undertake.

Ultimately, there are no silver bullet solutions. COP27 is an important piece of charting the roadmap to cleaner and more resilient economies, but it is just one piece of the puzzle. Everyone — from company executives to farmers to postal workers — has a role to play in accelerating global climate action. The work that the global community does during the remaining 50 weeks of the year is arguably just as important as the commitments made by governments during the two weeks of COP.

What will your climate legacy be?

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