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COP27 Daily Insights - Day 3: Loss, anger and greenwash

By Andrew Adie
08 November 2022
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

By Andrew Adie

Day three at COP27 and loss and damage – and reparation – continued to be a strong theme. Yet, so too was the lack of action taken by richer nations and business in driving decarbonisation efforts. 

Tomorrow is finance day so we can expect that drive for financial support from the Global North to the Global South to continue to be a key theme as delegates look for ways to drive renewed action and progress to keep the 1.5C Paris pledge on track.

After a year of extreme weather, an energy crisis and huge geopolitical tensions, the abiding tone that has emerged so far from COP27 is anger. Directed at richer nations for their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions which have yet to go far enough and anger at the ongoing greenwashing that is used to cleanse reputations without cleaning the environment.

Today saw emotive speeches, including that of Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, who lambasted rich nations for failing to act fast enough on climate change and to provide funding for adaption and mitigation infrastructure, and projects in poorer nations. She also suggested a tax on fossil fuel companies ahead of COP28.

Shehbaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, said his country had become a victim of something which it had nothing to do with and called for funding from richer countries saying that Pakistan faced a ‘debt trap’ from the cost of adaption and the £30 billion cost of the recent devastating floods in the country that occurred ‘despite [Pakistan’s] low carbon footprint. 

For business, COP27 has, unlike COP26, so far been relatively low on positive sentiment and the opportunity for business to play a role – although we can expect that to change as the agenda moves forward to the themed days, starting with Finance Day tomorrow.

One notable development for business from today’s proceedings was the launch of the punchily titled ‘The High Level Expert Group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities’ report which set out recommendations for business in developing net zero pledges in order to avoid accusations of greenwashing. 

The report could mark a step-change in businesses being called out for greenwashing and certainly UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made his views clear.

In the report he states that “We urgently need every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net zero promises. We cannot afford slow movers, fake movers or any form of greenwashing.”

At the launch event for the report, he went further, accusing fossil fuel companies of ‘rank deception’ in making net zero pledges while at the same time expanding their operations.

Other key developments included: 

  • Norway has pledged to increase carbon tax to Euro 200 per tonne by 2030
  • President Macron of France continuing to play a high profile role at COP27, saying that the war in Ukraine would not cause France to backslide on commitments to tackle climate change
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a recorded speech in which he warned that ‘many’ do not take the climate agenda seriously and he said that there cannot be any ‘effective climate policy without peace’. Adding that five million acres of woodland in Ukraine have been destroyed by the fire and reflected on the energy crisis that has led some nations to ‘resume coal-fired power generation’

After a relatively slow start, the pace at COP27 should start to ramp up as we move into the themed days and the diplomatic guts of trying to get pledges and agreements ratified. Many world leaders have either already departed or will be departing over the next couple of days leaving their negotiating teams to do the long hours and hard graft of negotiation.

The global news agenda is also being captured by many competing stories, including the US Mid Term elections. COP27 will have to drive significant progress and work hard to gain attention as it moves into next week. The lack of activists at the conference robs it of the energy that they would provide in keeping the world’s eyes on Sharm El Sheikh.