This November, nations from around the world met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th gathering of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP27. The overreaching goal of the event is for world leaders to work together to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and prepare for the changes we can no longer halt. Who will pay for these needed infrastructure changes is a point of much contention which flared up at this year’s conference.
The event started with UN General Secretary, António Guterres, saying that, "Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact". Well COP finished with a stalemate pact. It failed to deliver the transformative change needed to truly grasp the severity of the climate emergency.
So, what went well, what went poorly, and what changes need to be made in the future? Here’s the good, the bad, the ugly, and the underwhelming from COP27.
FOUR PAWS’ Role at the Summit
As an organization, FOUR PAWS can be proud of its attendance at the summit. FOUR PAWS is a leader in advocating for need to address industrial animal farming in climate discussions. Topics such as how our food is produced and what we choose to eat—particularly the amount of meat and dairy in one’s diet—are all factors that impact climate change. You can read more about the impact of our food choices on the planet here.
FOUR PAWS played a substantial role in being a part of history at COP27 by hosting a historic and trailblazing first ever food systems pavilion. The Food4Climate pavilion brought food system transformation and sustainable diets to the heart of COP27, mainstreaming the conversation around the transition toward diverse and resilient food production and consumption systems.
Alongside 15 other key partners, the Pavilion focused on proven climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions, including the shift towards plant-rich diets, adopting sustainable and resilient agricultural practices, based on high animal welfare, and highlighted industrial livestock farming’s role in the climate crisis.
FOUR PAWS hosted four high-level panels over the conference period. Bringing together illustrious decisions makers, legislators, academics, and experts from across multiple sectors to discuss food system policies, agricultural methane, pandemic prevention, and sustainable livestock management systems.
The Loss and Damage Fund
Another highlight of COP27 was the Loss and Damage fund, which will provide financial assistance to the Global South which is disproportionately affected by climate disasters. By and large, wealthier nations are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions, but less wealthy nations—who generally produce much lower greenhouse gas emissions—have experienced the brunt of climate related disasters and hardships. The agreement to create a fund to pay these vulnerable nations for climate damages is an important step forward, which will allow these nations to rebuild and prepare for future disasters.
A failure to address the connection between how we farm and what we eat and the environment
The connection between unsustainable food systems -especially those over-reliant on animal source foods - and the environment is at the heart of the climate emergency. But talk of how our food is produced and what we choose to eat was barely addressed by politicians. Such an omission means we are at risk of not meeting the global climate targets such as those set out in the Paris Agreement.
Food systems make up a third of manmade greenhouse gases. Climate action cannot just be about adapting production practices; we need urgent emission reductions from the livestock sector, but world leaders failed to deliver on this fundamental issue.
Progressive states and NGOs will now have to work together to ensure this topic remains part of the next four-year work package so that food and farming policies work for people and the planet.
The United States’ Role in the Summit
Historically, the United States is responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. 1 Although China has currently overtaken the US as the world’s largest emitter, the US is still second on the list. Given our history as polluters, in addition to America’s wealth and influence around the world, one might think the US would take a leadership role at COP27. However, representatives from the US were quiet throughout much of the negotiations, and they ultimately did not support the types of measures that need to be taken to effectively tackle the climate crisis.
One possible reason for this cautious approach might have been the uncertainty of support for forward-thinking climate policies at home. The split control of the House and Senate will make it difficult to pass laws that would invest in a sustainable future, and US leaders could not make promises internationally which are currently unlikely to come to fruition in the United States.
While the pledge identifies agriculture as a part of this methane reduction plan, unfortunately, systemic agricultural transformation is not on the agenda. Rather than addressing the need to reduce the number of animals farmed in intensive agricultural systems, The United States Department of Agriculture is investing $500 million to change feeding practices of these animals. While this emphasis on new feed may help reduce some methane emissions, it is a real missed opportunity to make impactful change for our planet and address the swath of intensive, factory farming operations across the country that pollute and warm up the planet while causing mass animal suffering.
You can read more about this and other climate initiatives supported by the US in the White House’ s statement.
World Leaders did not agree to phase out fossil fuels
Global emissions levels are still growing too fast, in fact emissions are rising compared to 2020 rather than falling, and we are not on track to meet the goals agreed upon at previous summits. This means that the earth will continue to warm, sea levels will rise, and more climate related weather disasters—such as droughts, heatwaves, floods, and stronger hurricanes—are to be expected. These disasters will likely lead to food insecurity and homelessness for people all over the world.
Even with these dire predictions, leaders at COP27 did not agree to phase out fossil fuels. This decision, along with the failure to address our food systems, is difficult to defend, and it is unclear how global leaders think they can prevent the climate crisis without eventually eliminating the burning of fossil fuels and addressing the problems with our food systems.
The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres gave with a clear warning: “We’re on a highway to climate hell, with our foot still on the accelerator.” It seems that world leaders did not heed this warning.
One thing is clear, we can no longer continue to ignore the cow in the room; without changing our food systems and agreeing to phase out fossil fuels, the climate crisis cannot be stopped.
How can you help?
Did you know? Humans only represent 0.01% of all life on earth, yet our actions control the other 99.99%’s destiny. Be a part of the 0.01% that makes a difference for animals and for our planet!