Remi Letemple, Senior Research Analyst, Government Insights

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It’s either a Climate Solidarity Pact — or a Collective Suicide Pact”.

COP27, held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022, began with this sobering opening statement from UN Secretary-General António Guterres. It set the mood for the two-week conference, which fell well short of meeting its targets. According to the Economist, “There is no way Earth can now avoid a temperature rise of more than 1.5°C. There is still hope that the overshoot may not be too big, and may be only temporary, but even these consoling possibilities are becoming ever less likely.”

Governments need to keep investing to tackle climate change, but they now also need to invest to increase our collective resilience. Since COP26 in 2021, not only has the geopolitical environment changed significantly, but the increase in global temperatures, causing wildfires and flooding, has reminded us of the heavy cost of inaction.

While people expect decisive action from their governments, their leaders seem overwhelmed with different priorities and planned investments.

A Real Test of Leadership

This year, 130 developing countries succeeded in their attempt to add the notion of “loss and damages” to the official COP27 agenda. But with COP now over for another year, that looks like the only success in 2022. Even that still needs to be ironed out, however, and it should also be remembered that it only tackles the consequences and not the causes.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High Level Champion for Egypt, reminded us that global warming is not only about changing the way we produce and consume energy, but also about the way we produce food. “Transforming food systems could release back the $12 trillion the world spends on the hidden cost of food, from transportation to fertilisers,” he said. “We could also eliminate nearly all of the 8.5% of emissions that come from agriculture.”

There are many reasons why such important matters were not intensively discussed at COP27, but we believe one of them was the lack of global leadership.

If no leader stands out when there is so much to coordinate and activate, the transformation must come from cooperation and greater transparency in the promises made to lower our emissions and our dependence on fossil energies.

COP28: Climate Data for the Common Good

Next year’s COP will come at the same time as the first report since the Paris Agreement of 2015, as the final biennial reports for developed countries will be multilaterally assessed to complete the final IAR cycle during 2023–2024. It’s hard to believe that the direction set in 2015 — to limit global warming to well below 2°C and preferably to 1.5°C — will be reached by then. It’s also hard to think that we will have concrete data to rely on by then.

Some initiatives with data transparency at their core have already been implemented. We think of the Climate Data Steering Committee, the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the One Data Hub. By the time these reporting mechanisms are live, there will be more data to track and report, including the loss and damages funds agreed at COP27.

These reports include the same KPIs and data format to follow up on, however. One goal for government executives will be to agree on a data format for each component of climate change, which will need to be transparent for citizens so that they can hold their governments to account.

Philosopher Günther Anders once explained the notion of the Promethean gap, which refers to the incapacity of the human brain to perceive the danger it might encounter. At the beginning of 2022, IDC revealed that the number 2 challenge for governments when attempting to become more sustainable was the lack of IT tools to measure the impact, which was almost as challenging as the lack of funds. If we need concrete data before we take action, it’s time to understand that when it comes to “cooperate or perish” it’s not too late to make the right choice.

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