No sooner have we said goodbye to COP26 and all that it promised, not to mention all that it did or didn’t deliver, than we are starting the countdown towards COP27. The next event will be held in Egypt in November 2022, and once again the eyes of the world will be on the delegates and what they might be able to achieve.
Now that the dust has settled, we can say perhaps fairly that COP26 wasn’t a dismal failure or a blinding success. Somewhere between the two would be a reasonable assessment, not a proper soft-boiled egg, nor a decent hard-boiled one, just a semi-runny splodge on a piece of toast. Still perfectly edible, but not exactly edifying.
There were representatives from 197 nations in Glasgow this year, a really impressive figure considering there are only 193 member states in the United Nations. Don’t worry, though, there weren’t any unwanted gate-crashers at the event. There are more than 50 countries not recognised by the UN, including the likes of Kosovo, Taiwan, the Cook Islands and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
If there’s one glaringly obvious plus point of COP26, it’s perhaps the fact that agreements are now in place to talk more often, act more decisively and set up working frameworks for improvement. This might not sound like much, but the wheels of diplomacy often move at the same speed as a starfish in a stagnant bath. Delegates in Glasgow could perhaps excuse themselves by pointing to the lack of an existing infrastructure for genuine change; those at Sharm El-Sheikh next year might not have the same opportunity to avoid blame.
It’s progress, yes, but maybe not as we know it
Genuine progress was made at COP26, that’s a fact, but it wasn’t the type of glamourous headline-grabbing whizz-bang that many of us expected. We seem to live in an age of instant gratification these days, so anything less than a McSoundbite that captures the imagination immediately seems like something approaching an anti-climax. In another era, agreements to strengthen existing commitments to the likes of hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles and renewable energy might have been seen as big news, but the harsh reality in 2021 is that their prominence comes lower down the scale than how many tattoos Khloé Kardashian currently has.
One of the keys to what gets done at COP27 could be the agenda that’s set for the G20 meeting in October 2022. Financially, these are the world’s major players, the ones who have the ability to increase funding for the poorer nations and in the process help to redress climate equality imbalances. If they’re able to provide the help that so many nations need, the ability to carry out promises made at previous COP events can become so much more than an optimistic pipe dream.
So while our attention is understandably focused on Egypt, the G20 meeting a month earlier in Indonesia could be just as important, maybe even more so. And if they’re looking for something to be happy about, delegates at Sharm El-Sheikh might be under a great deal of pressure but at least they won’t have to bring so much luggage. Average November temperatures are around 24 degrees Celsius, compared to Glasgow’s knee-knocking seven. I wonder if it’s easier to make decisions when you’re warmer? Maybe we’ll find out next year.