We need a good, fair COP

4 November 2022

COP27, which opens in Egypt on Sunday, is being heralded as the make-or-break moment to shift from the pledges and promises of previous conferences to implementation.

WRAP has a delegation in Sharm El Sheikh. We will be unveiling a series of reports which highlight the scale of the missed opportunity in failing to tackle consumption emissions.

We spoke to Interim CEO Richard Swannell about WRAP’s hopes for COP27 and the message we will be pressing home during the meeting.

Q: What was your overriding impression of COP26?

A: I was hopeful. I felt progress had been made to close the gap between what countries had pledged and what is actually required to keep the planet below the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius required to reduce the risk of the impacts of climate change. Other commitments like those to reduce methane, deforestation and coal production were important signals of intent.

But clearly, those commitments now need very quickly to turn to enactment. All countries committed in Glasgow to strengthen their commitments, including bringing more ambitious national plans to the table (nationally determined contributions or NDCs). It’s disappointing that only a handful (23 out of 193 at the time of reporting) have submitted their plans to the UN on the eve of the conference.

It was also worrying to hear that UN Climate Change’s most recent analysis of those commitments led them to warn that the world is “still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world.”

COP27 will give a clear indication of the strength of commitment, sense of urgency, and the extent to which countries are going to maintain focus on the climate emergency with the other significant challenges the world is facing with a huge increases in energy costs, a food crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Q: What do we want to see at COP27?

It’s a good sign that there is a bigger focus on food system transformation and consumption at COP27. This was mentioned a lot in the fringes in Glasgow but got much less traction in the main decision-making arena as countries focused understandably on other issues like energy generation. Food, and the related issue of water quality and water scarcity, are of course very pertinent issues for the African continent.

We want to continue to build awareness and momentum around the need to change the way we produce and consume food and goods, which accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions.  There is increasing evidence that we can rapidly decarbonise the food system and it’s clear that we won’t limit climate change if we don’t radically change the way we produce, consume (and waste) the food we need as a human race.

This means governments, businesses and consumers working in harmony so we consume fewer raw materials, then re-use or recycle as much as we can, so we can meet our needs more sustainably. That means designing materials and products to stay in use for as long as possible and out of landfill, through the shift to a circular economy. For food, it means changing diets, adapting farming methods, and protecting food from farm to fork to prevent waste.

To achieve this would require:

  • All countries, particularly G7 countries, to measure and act on emissions from imported goods generated along their global supply chains (consumption-based emissions).
  • All countries to include in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) they submit to COP27 (and future COPs) actions to reduce food loss and waste, and to support businesses and individuals to change the way they produce and consume goods and services.
  • All businesses to work with suppliers and partners, such as via public/private partnerships, to set and commit to deliver greenhouse gas emissions targets in line with 1.5OC , including their scope 3 emissions.

WRAP is working with governments, businesses and citizens to become more sustainable in more than 40 countries around the world; showing that change can be delivered.

Q: Good COP/Bad COP/Fair COP predictions?

A: The world is in a state of crisis for lots of reasons, but we cannot afford to have those eclipse the need for climate action. In fact, the two are in many ways tied up together. The economic crisis makes interventions like food loss and waste reduction, for example, even more salient as it reduces costs and environmental impact. They are measures that can be taken now and have triple wins for the economy, environment, and the wellbeing of our communities.

There’s no doubt that there is a shared sense of urgency and of collective responsibility, but COP27 has to be about fulfilling promises. Our actions, or inactions, now will determine the kind of future we are handing over to the next generations. The world is watching, let’s hope that COP27 exceeds expectations.