Now that some time has passed since my experience at COP27, it has given me the opportunity to fully (or at least somewhat) process everything. It has been especially interesting to read all the news stories surrounding this COP and get to talk to my classmates who went in Week 2 about their experience. Because many of the big announcements and the final texts are approved and released during week 2, I did not get to experience that in person, but was definitely following closely through the news and my classmates. I really enjoyed getting to have different perspectives, both literally living the negotiations and events, and also reading about them in a more objective way.
Something that struck me when reading the news and talking to people who didn’t attend COP, however, was how much criticism was surrounding the event. Because climate change is a such a contentious and urgent matter that concerns the global community, there are a lot of strong opinions surrounding events like the COP. I did hear and read a lot of criticism regarding the carbon footprint of the event itself, and the fact that Coca Cola was the official sponsor; in that sense, the event was being accused of greenwashing. Along those lines, some people questioned the presence of big (and therefore emitting) companies in the side event, stating they should not be invited because they are simply pushing their agenda. On the other hand, there was a lot of commentary regarding the negotiations and progress made towards mitigation, adaptation, and loss & damage, with the obvious win being the new Loss and Damage Fund. Being so immersed in the experience, I tended to focus on the positive and be overwhelmed by all the flurry of action I saw around me; it made me feel part of a global community of people, organizations and governments really trying to make a difference. Coming back to these more “objective” news and conversations made me question my perspective to some degree and made me reconsider whether I had fallen into the “greenwashing” as well. I am still unsure about what to make of this, but I do consider it is important to bring as many actors as possible to the table and develop solutions together. I am an advocate for involving the private sector, exactly because they are big polluters and we should be bringing their perspectives and needs into consideration when designing a green transition, otherwise it will fail. On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed in most side events I attended because there wasn’t as much depth as I was expecting – I found they often talked about how important taking action was but did not propose anything tangible and rather presented how their company or government was “concerned” and “committed to the cause”.
Looking back at the whole experience, I am shocked by how much was accomplished considering the magnitude of the issue and the logistical challenges of bringing everyone together to agree on international treaties. While it is still not enough to completely tackle the mitigation, adaptation, and loss & damage issues of climate change, I still think it is remarkable we are moving forward as a global community. And while it was not a “dramatic” COP with many important announcements and eye-catching conflicts in negotiations, I realized that was actually a good thing; this meant countries are working on operationalizing the agreements and, while that can be very detail-heavy and slow, it is extremely important to actually get to the implementation stage and take action. Overall, I am extremely grateful to have been able to have that experience and not only attend insightful events, but also meet incredibly interesting people and feel motivated to continue doing climate work.