COP27 Climate Summit is an Opportunity to Promote Peace

Youth activists sit in the street as a form of strike in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike in Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF/Jannatul Mawa
  • Opinion by Stefan Lofven, Christoph Heusgen (stockholm / munich)
  • Inter Press Service

To prevent this from becoming the new normal, world leaders need to take radical, courageous action, together. The upcoming climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, COP27, is one of the places where this needs to happen.

Climate change threatens peace and security

Scratch beneath the surface of the disparate set of crises that confront us in 2022, and the links to climate change, and to climate action, are plain to see.

Europe’s continued reliance on fossil energy has complicated its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and pushed the continent into an unprecedented energy crisis, threatening to spiral into an economic recession. It has also left Europe’s political leaders struggling to mitigate the impacts on their populations.

European countries’ race to secure new sources of fossil energy poses new geopolitical risks and can lock countries into new supply contracts and commitments that will make net zero targets even harder to achieve.

Climate change and conflict are the chief reasons why global hunger is rising. This year some 345 million people today face acute food insecurity, almost three times as many as in 2019—a shocking increase exacerbated by extreme weather events, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Put simply, the state of security and the state of the environment are today intimately linked. Harm one, harm the other; heal one, heal the other.

This is a truth world leaders should take with them to the COP27 climate summit.

Keep peace and security in focus at COP27

All of the possible paths back to peace and environmental sustainability depend on cooperation. Negotiations at Sharm El-Sheikh must therefore focus on seeking common ground, removing roadblocks and enabling progress in international climate cooperation; ramping up ambition rather than watering it down.

In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, ‘We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide.’

Peace and security should be in every discussion at COP27. This should motivate faster and deeper cuts in carbon emissions. States should recognize that phasing out fossil fuels can increase both energy security and human security overall.

At the same time, they must discuss how to avoid creating new security risks in the process: how to ease the transition for developing countries highly dependent on fossil fuel revenues.

How to make sure that the surging demand for renewable energy as well as for metals and minerals needed for green technologies does not lead to new conflicts, or increase inequality and corruption.

How to manage new critical dependencies emerging around minerals that are needed for the green energy transition.

At COP27, there will also be a focus on climate change adaptation: measures taken to adjust to new climatic conditions. Well-adapted communities and economies are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

They are less likely to be destabilized by shortages, displacement and destitution. When communities are involved in adaptation planning and resource management, it can even help to resolve long-standing conflicts and increase trust in government authorities.

Boost climate finance

Climate finance—the funds richer countries provide to help vulnerable countries to respond to climate change—will also be a priority topic at COP27. This will be setting out how to ensure that rich countries’ governments deliver on their 2009 commitment of US$100 billion in climate finance per year, a goal which they should have already reached by 2020.

There will also be talks on a new climate finance target for post-2025. Seeing climate finance as an investment in peace and security should help persuade them to offer more, far beyond the original pledge, even during these hard economic times.

In particular, finance for adaptation projects needs to rise sharply. The amounts available fall far behind what the most vulnerable countries need, creating wholly avoidable risks to peace and security. But any increase should not come at the expense of mitigation or development assistance.

There is also the difficult question of loss and damage compensation—finance to help countries deal with the impacts of climate change that cannot be adapted to. States must try to resolve the strong differences that have blocked progress to date, so that funds can start flowing.

The damage countries and communities are suffering is real, and every delay increases the chance that it will erode peace, security and trust.

Finally, ways need to be found to get climate finance to countries that are fragile because of an active or recent armed conflict. These countries today receive only a fraction of what others do, even though these are precisely the countries where climate change has the greatest potential to undermine peace.

Exceed expectations

There are limits to how much of this can be achieved in Sharm El-Sheikh. States will need to carry on the work after the summit, individually and collaboratively, drawing in the private sector, civil society and communities.

Significant progress can be made at COP27, if governments show commitment. Besides the action it enables, a COP that exceeds expectations would send important signals to states, publics and markets that world leaders are serious about safeguarding the future.

Stefan Löfven was Prime Minister of Sweden from 2014 to 2019. Since June 2022 he has been Chair of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). He also co-leads the United Nations High-level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism.Ambassador Christoph Heusgen has been Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) since 2022 and was Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations between 2017 and 2021. Prior to this appointment and since 2005, Heusgen was the Foreign Policy and Security Adviser to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Footnote: The 27th Conference (COP27) of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) will take place from 6 to 18 November 2022. Heads of State, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs will meet in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the largest annual gathering on climate action.

IPS UN Bureau

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service