Author: Yori Hook

Final COP27 Reflections and Personal Goals

For my final post I will give some insights into what this experience means for my understanding of climate resilience and how it has influenced how I view my role in tackling the climate crisis. There are three themes I noticed throughout COP27 that I feel are important to mention:

First, there was a strong emphasis on action at all levels of governance. Despite being an international conference, the calls to action extended all the way down to the local level. While my primary focus and interest is in federal-level policy, I found myself particularly inspired by the leaders of local communities. The mayor of Oakland, CA, Libby Schaaf, put this quite plainly when speaking on a panel on coastal resilience by saying, “we are the ones that know our communities best, we are the ones implementing these projects to tackle climate change, so why wouldn’t be involved in these conversations?” This emphasis on implementation and solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of each community really resonated with me. To me, this is a reminder that global commitments, bilateral agreements, federal policy, and state programs all need to eventually flow to the community-level to be successful. This is particularly true for climate resilience efforts.

Second, COP27 made it abundantly clear that we’re overdue for project implementation to bolster climate resilience but we’re still staring down a large funding gap. Over and over, I heard panels, side events, and discussions that lamented the lack of funding for implementation. Even with large country commitments like the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, there is still a large amount of unmet financial need as well as technical hurdles. Hurdles including the lack of technical knowledge and staff capacity to even access funding opportunities in the first place.  Ultimately, there needs to be a concerted effort to identify funding opportunities from both the private and public sector. Whether that be through additional federal grants or private bonds or insurance options, this needs to be done now if we are going to protect communities that are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change.

Finally, I think it’s important to remember that COP negotiations should be thought of as a floor not a ceiling in terms of climate action. COP is often criticized for its lack of action and lack of binding commitments. However, I don’t think we should be looking to COP negotiations to deliver dramatic, cutting-edge climate solutions. Instead, the added value lies in the ability of negotiations to yield important baselines, increase global coordination, and hash out important technical agreements. The negotiated agreements that come out of COP are equalizers. They pull country’s lagging in their climate goals up and they try to hold wealthy nations accountable for the tool of their carbon-intensive economies. That said, the value added by country, state, and local stakeholders is the continued drive for innovative change and the push for greater progress.

With these three considerations in mind, I look forward to continuing to work in the environmental policy field as I finish up my MPP and transition to my post-grad career. After this experience, I am even more committed to working to increase the scope and accessibility of federal funding opportunities that help states and localities implement projects that increase resilience to climate change. I hope to continue to devote my time and energy to ensuring financial and technical resources are flowing to the places that are at risk of losing their homes, communities, environment, and culture to both the acute and slow-onset impacts of climate change.

The Many Faces of COP27

Our time in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt has come to close and I’m admittedly still processing all that I experienced during this incredible week. In my next blog post I’ll give some insights into what this experience means for my understanding of the most pressing climate issues and how it has influenced my future career plans. In the meantime, I’ll start by providing some details and opinions about the experience itself. I’ve found it challenging to describe COP27 without breaking it into its parts. Below are what I consider the three main faces of COP27:

The Trade Show

Most of the physical space at COP was dedicated to the pavilions. These were detailed booths that represented countries, industries, and advocacy groups. These pavilions varied in size, purpose, and amenities but all were there to promote what they were doing to tackle the climate crisis. Much like a trade show, each pavilion hosted events, discussions, and panels that explored and promoted priority climate issues. For example, the U.S. Pavilion hosted an event on decarbonization progress and planning, the Climate Justice Pavilion hosted a panel on increasing access to climate science, and the Ocean Pavilion hosted a discussion on deep-sea mining. These are just three of the hundreds of events that took place during Week 2, which served to elevate the voices of advocates, government officials, industry leaders, and many others. My two main takeaways from the pavilions were as follows: 1) climate action can and must occur at every level of government from local to global; and 2) there is no shortage of solutions available, the challenge is the lack of buy-in and funding required for implementation at scale.

The Networking

It’s no surprise that COP27 is a prime location for meeting, conversing, and networking. After all, COP brings together thousands of like-minded climate leaders from across the world, most of whom are invested in finding collaborative solutions to address climate change. It is, however, hard to stress the sheer amount of networking that occurs during these two weeks. These conversations happen in every corner of COP. In line for coffee, washing your hands in the bathroom, in the airport, on the bus, at the breakfast buffet of your hotel… quite literally everywhere. At the end of the week my voice was ragged, and my purse was stuffed full of business cards. However, it was undeniably energizing and humanizing to see so many of our global climate leaders in the same place and willing to engage with young climate policy practitioners like myself.

The Negotiations

The primary purpose of COP is to facilitate international negotiations on key issues like carbon markets and loss and damages. Although these negotiations sometimes get lost in the excitement of the side events and pavilions, these negotiations are truly the main event, and we were fortunate to witness how these negotiations can yield measurable results. The most high-profile action item of this year’s negotiations was the establishment of the loss and damages fund, where many of the world’s wealthiest countries will provide funding to help developing nations, who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, pay for damages caused by acute and slow-onset climate impacts like floods and sea-level rise. The establishment of this fund is significant for three reasons: 1) the fund provides direct financial support under UN mechanisms; 2) the fund further acknowledges the disproportionate climate burden placed on developing countries with small carbon footprints; and 3) the fund starts to shift the conversation from planning to implementation. While this fund is just a fraction of what’s required to address the impacts of climate change, it is critical start that signals to the global community that the climate crisis is an issue that requires timely financial and technical support driven by high-emitting, wealthy nations.

Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (Emphasis on Abroad)

Week 2 of Duke University’s COP27 “delegation” has officially arrived!

Much of my recent work has stemmed from programs and policies related to President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” Since my background is in U.S. domestic climate policy with a focus on climate resilience, much of my time has been spent focusing on what the climate crisis looks like at “home”. For me, this looks like the devastation in Florida after Hurricane Ian, summer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, and deadly wildfires that threaten my hometown in California.

For better or for worse, it did not take much time or effort to elevate this understanding to the climate crisis “abroad”. After all, natural hazards don’t end at the U.S. border. This year we’ve seen natural hazards across the globe at an unprecedented rate and scale. This includes but is not limited to, flooding in Pakistan, wildfires in Spain, and long-term drought in Kenya and Somalia. That’s the blessing and the curse of working closely with resilience and natural hazards. We feel the impacts of climate change much more acutely than we can empathize with causes of climate change like carbon emissions.

I’ve also found that options to address domestic climate resilience issues have also been somewhat easy to conceptualize. Throughout my work and research, I am constantly asking the same three questions: 1) How do we increase funding opportunities for climate resilience? 2) how will funding be delivered/what are barriers to funding delivery? and 3) how do we measure impact once programs are implemented? Finding options and exploring ideas that answer these questions is typically a good place to start.

The area that I’ve found more difficult to grapple with is how do we address resilience issues at a global scale and how do we do so while considering historic emissions and inequitable climate burden? Given that COP27 has been dubbed the “implementation” COP, these themes will be likely be front and center. Already we’ve seen conversations focused on finance options for loss and damages, best practices for resilience project implementation, and the important of adopting metrics that can be used to evaluate projects in multiple countries. This is the focus area that I’m most excited to explore this week and I look forward to seeing how the global community comes together to push for funding opportunities for climate resilience projects that truly serve to increase long-term resilience for the community most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Throughout the week I will continue to ask myself how I can take these same questions I use for U.S. federal policy analysis and apply them to the world of global climate negotiations. I hope that listening in on negotiations, exploring side events, and engaging with my client will provide a stronger understanding. Ultimately, this week will be a valuable opportunity to breakdown what “the climate crisis abroad” looks like across the broad range of COP participants and listen to how participants are hoping to address these issues.

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