The Collective Impact of COP27

After a short hiatus, the Climate Innovation Chronicles are back and over the coming days, the plan is to move to a more frequent schedule of publishing, to coincide with my participation in the COP27 conference in Sharm el Sheik in Egypt.

The Conference Of Parties (COP) is an annual conference held by the UNFCCC (UN body on Climate Change), where representatives from countries gather to negotiate steps forward in tackling the climate emergency. While little progress is expected from these climate negotiations, thousands of other participants are gathering in this resort town to tackle the climate emergency in their own ways. 

Parliamentarians are gathering there to learn from each other what climate policies are working and which are not working. Activists and non-profit organizations are not only protesting the inertia of governments and the lobbying of fossil fuel companies, but also leverage this opportunity to network and gather strength through unity. Large corporations are both promoting their plans for achieving carbon neutrality and of course to lobby the policymakers and negotiators.

Most importantly, in my mind, climate innovators are gathering to present their ideas for leveraging innovative solutions to tackling the various aspects of the climate emergencies. Those innovations may focus on capturing and storing CO2, like CarbFix and RunningTide are attempting to achieve. They may also focus on new ways of achieving things such as power generation, manufacturing of things, transportation or agriculture – ways that are carbon neutral in production, such as Atmonia. Finally, they may focus on new financial models for funding the effort required to address the climate emergencies.

Having all those smart people gather in one place over the course of two weeks has a collective impact on the climate that is more impactful than the slow and ineffective policy changes that are negotiated each year at COP conferences.

The collective impact of all the activists and non-profits meeting each other, creates connections that grow into networks of activism that builds upon the strengths of each other to push the policymakers even harder and in more effective ways, by sharing with each other what works and what doesn‘t.

The collective impact of all the climate innovators meeting each other and discuss their challenges and breakthroughs, allows for out of the box thinking and discussions that often lead to massive steps forward in tackling those challenges. Meeting of minds that truly has a greater impact than the sum of those attending.

Having spent two decades in the humanitarian sector, I witness first hand the power of such collective impact in my role as the Emergency Response Director of NetHope, a consortium of 60+ of the leading non-profit organizations worldwide. Each year, NetHope organized a summit where representatives from those non-profit organizations and from the leading technology companies around the world gathered. While part of the NetHope Summit consisted of traditional keynote presentations and panel discussions, great portions of the the NetHope Summit were open slots for the participants to mingle and network. It was in those open slots that the most creative ideas were born and the work truly accelerated. Just bringing together those different people in one place, enabled them to truly think outside the box, build networks and collaborations that were much more impactful than the sum of the individual efforts of each participants. 

It is therefore important to remember that while the collective policy impact of the COP27 negotiations may only move tiny steps forward, the collective impact of the connections being made and the discussions happening is the true measure of success for COP27.