7 exciting sustainability touch points at C0P27

Will COP27 really move the dial forward on sustainability compared to COP26? Or will it deliver more questions than answers?

There are exactly 25 days until C0P27 – the world’s foremost conference on climate change – begins and the question on everyone’s lips is what it will COPs conclusions really mean for the future sustainability landscape.

COP27 will pick up where C0P26 left off, with the Glasgow Climate Pact, signed by over 200 countries and solidifying commitments to ramping up climate finance for the poorest countries, reviewing nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – non-binding plans that set out commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions – to keep 1.5°C in sight, “phasing down” coal-fire powered generation and more.

The focus, as always, will be on translating climate talk into action, and there will likely be a few heated debates along the way and a sliding scale between optimism and pessimism.

But while we wait for the full conference programme to be released, we’ve rounded up seven key sustainability touch points at COP27 to whet your appetite ahead of November 6th.

1. Fringe benefits: the Sustainable Innovation Forum

Falling under COP27’s Climate Action Innovation Zone, the Sustainable Innovation Forum will also be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and run alongside the conference on November 9th and 10th. Featuring more than 100 speakers including heads of state, business leaders, NGOs representatives and academics and boasting a mission to move ‘from ambition to tangible action’, it will no doubt leave its mark on the climate community.

Highlights from the agenda include a panel discussion questioning When will the carbon offset market become credible and truly protect and regenerate the planet? And a look at how companies need to come together to reach Net Zero in Bold Leadership: Embracing Collaboration and Competition.

The former was recently referenced by Boston Consulting Group Managing Director & Partner Bas Sudmeijer at the Net Zero Festival 2022 – this year measured through TRACE – when he argued that “the quality of offsett is important” and this translates to a move towards “nature-based solutions” and “engineered removals” of carbon.

2. Plant-based food gets a political push: the Food4Climate Pavillion

If you’ve had a chance to look at proseed by isla – the universal framework for sustainable event delivery – you’ll see that transitioning to partial or full plant-based catering is a key recommendation under our food & water segment. So, we think it’s great news that the Food4Climate Pavillion has been officially approved by the UN – the first of its kind in COP history.

Organised by global food awareness NGO, ProVeg International, and 17 other partners from across the world, it will “engage policymakers around the world to address the challenges posed by agriculture and encourage countries to embrace the solutions” with a focus on transitioning to more plant-based food systems. All summed up succinctly by the pavilion’s tagline Diet Change, Not Climate Change.

Last year COP26 faced somewhat of a backlash for serving up a menu that had a heavy skew towards meat, dairy and fish, so the above is likely to be welcomed with open arms.

3. Sustainable cities: key to responding to the climate crisis

Major world cities often lead the way when it comes to change, and the countries they’re part of naturally follow. So, it’s interesting to see that a partnership for a sustainable cities’ initiative is set to be launched during COP27. This was agreed as one of three actions following a Sustainable Cities Initiative Workshop, held this summer in Sharm-el-Sheik and attended by UN agencies, civil society organisations, the climate champions network, think tanks and researchers, as well as city leaders and networks.

Central to the above are the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), facilitated by ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability).

Ms. Brand, ICLEI Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI Africa Secretariat, argued that “multi-level” collaboration is the only hope for responding to the climate emergency and as part of this she argued that “we need to seize urban opportunities for bold action in cities and regions”.

The initiative is set to touch on areas including energy efficiency, resilient and low-carbon buildings, waste, urban mobility, and urban water management.

4. Green Zone: event sustainability minimum criteria outlined

Alongside the blue zone the green zone – which is open to the public, rather than those registered with the UN body – is where much of the action happens at COP27. It’s great to see that COP organisers have outlined minimum criteria for exhibitors in the green zone. In addition to meeting some environmental, climate and/or sustainability criteria they need:

  •   To be reporting on your sustainability practices.
  •   To have an environment and /or climate strategy, decarbonisation KPIs or a forward plan and reporting on previous achievements in regards with those strategies and plans.
  •   To be contributing to countries’ NDCs.
  •   To have set climate targets.

The above really falls in line with what isla has been advocating for event profs and the industry since its inception.

5. COP27: numbers matter in building a sustainability picture

COP27 is expected to attract between 25,000 – 35,000 attendees, according to Egypt Today, which is a little under the attendee count for COP26, which hit the 40,000 mark. And while it’s a little hard to track down the sustainability credentials for the Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Center (SHICC) – the main conference venue – COP27’s sustainability statement does include details of sustainability initiatives both in and around the conference.

These cover participant travel (via the provision of 260 electric and natural gas buses), energy production (the construction of three solar power plants with a total capacity of 15 MW) to provide COP with a healthy supply of renewable energy as well as a reference to the 86 hotels in the area have some level of green certification.

6. Sustainable fashion gets its first footing

Fast fashion and ways to counteract it is becoming increasingly important in climate conversations. So it’s great to see that the green zone will have its own dedicated runway showcasing sustainable designs made from recycled materials. COP27 will also host a fashion panel discussion in the innovation pavillion. Examining how fashion can fight climate change through collaboration and innovation between industries it will be facilitated and moderated by fashion innovation consultant and editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com Muchaneta Kapfunde. 

7. COP President Alok Sharma puts his weight behind sustainable events

COP President Alok Sharma has been out and about building up momentum for COP27 including recently attending a pre-COP meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he again emphasised that “the Glasgow Climate Pact and Paris Agreement must be the baseline of our ambition”. Many would concur. But did you also know that as part of his work with the UNFCCC secretariat he is likely to have played a part in the development of the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge? It’ll be interesting to see if, and how, this is addressed at COP27.

Refresh your COP26 knowledge: Answering a brief for COP26, the biggest climate event ever

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