Joseph Lewis & Ethny Childs
November 2022

COP27 Solutions Day: positive progress but not enough

woman standing at the end of a path admiring a view of mountains

A year ago, COP26 was supposed to be a make-or-break moment for climate action. As the Institution for Environmental Sciences published its Manifesto for Transformative Change, we said that the decisions we make “will decide the stories we tell to generations to come about the fight against climate change.” Looking back over the year that followed that statement, much less has happened than we hoped.

COP27 has not been without action, but it has not yet lived up to the hopes that the IES had for transformative action in the face of the challenge posed by climate change. Without addressing complex environmental challenges like climate change on the level of the social, economic, and natural systems involved, we cannot embed long-lasting change, and without a transformational approach, we cannot meet the scale or urgency of the challenge we face.

We have seen some progress during COP27. Click below for some of the highlights:

Has COP27 given us science-led solutions?

One of the early themed days for COP27 was on science – championing the importance of different scientific disciplines in the fight against climate change. As we round off the conference on the theme of solutions, we now need to see scientific disciplines unite and support a systems thinking approach to implementing multifunctional solutions that work for planet and people. 

The definition of a solution is “a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation”, and it should be clear that definition does not apply to many of the commitments made at COP26, COP27, and in the wider pursuit of climate action. 

The recent move away from the Race to Zero by the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero underscores a pattern of big announcements at the expense of detailed plans and science-led action. We urgently need full strategies backed by science, which amount to a transformative solution to the interlinking natural crises we are facing.

COP27 has seen progress and that cannot be understated. At the same time, it has not been enough to set us on the path to transformative change. Current limitations cannot give way to lethargy, and past failures cannot demotivate us. 

What next?

2023 cannot be another disappointing year for the fight against climate change. Taking steps in the right direction is no longer sufficient. The global community has found its feet, and it is now ‘walking the walk’, but if we are going to hold onto the possibility of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°c, now is the time to run.

While the IES continues to scrutinise the plans made by Governments to address climate change, next year it will also play a more active role in shaping how environmental science supports society to find solutions, with more about the work of the IES to shape the future of the environmental sciences to be announced alongside this year’s Burntwood Lecture.

If you want to support the work of the IES to promote science-led solutions to climate change, you can join as a Climate Affiliate, or if you’re a professional in the environmental sector working with science, consider becoming a member of the IES