Photo by Matthew TenBruggencate on Unsplash

COP27, the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, took place last month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. From November 6-18, more than 45,000 participants from nearly 200 nations gathered to share ideas and build partnerships for addressing the climate emergency. Here are four key takeaways from COP27 and some climate action lessons that might be applied in BC communities. 

Progress on mitigation has been limited 

A key aim of COP27 was to go beyond emission reductions pledges and forge a path to full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement has a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Accordingly, CO2 emissions must be cut 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels. Global emissions, however, continue to rise rather than fall 1 and the world remains on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming beyond the pre-industrial average. Discouragingly, rising fuel costs and volatility in the energy sector have prompted a regressive focus on fossil fuels, rather than rapid adoption of clean alternatives. 

Lessons for communities 

Like nation states, cities and communities should strive to align their  and accelerate their implementation efforts, while simultaneously addressing competing priorities for affordable housing, good jobs, and ensuring their communities are safe and healthy. Where possible, decision-makers should search for “multi-solving solutions” – interventions that advance multiple priorities simultaneously. When challenges inevitably emerge, there can be an impulse to “bounce backwards” and cling to old patterns and practices that are familiar despite being problematic (e.g., investing in oil and gas infrastructure to ramp up production is a bounce back reaction to global energy insecurity). By contrast, communities should endeavour to “bounce forward” when shocks and stressors arise (e.g., adopt new climate friendly technologies, energy sources, and approaches as a resiliency strategy) – despite uncertainties.  – despite uncertainties.   

Progress on adaptation more heartening 

There has been some progress in implementing adaptation actions, largely concentrated in agriculture, water, ecosystems, and cross-cutting sectors. There is also evidence that policies prioritizing disadvantaged groups, such as Indigenous peoples, are improving. Likewise, COP27 saw some steps being made in the right direction with governments making new pledges, totalling more than USD $230 million, to the Adaptation Fund. These pledges will help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions.

Lessons for communities 

Cities must proactively anticipate and prepare for unavoidable adverse climate impacts and potential opportunities. Challenges that limit cities’ abilities to grow and prosper (e.g., poverty, inequality, inadequate infrastructure, environmental degradation, single-resource economies) tend also to limit resilience to climate variability and impacts. Through this lens, reducing climate vulnerability can be seen as a means of advancing multiple community priorities at once.  

Climate action must be equitable 

One of the bright spots of COP27 was a breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries. Such countries tend to be hit hardest by climate disasters yet are the least responsible for climate change. This Climate Justice Fund was a long time in the making and a key demand of developing countries.

Lessons for communities 

It is impossible to tackle climate change without tackling social inequity, and vice-versa. That means both the benefits (e.g., improved air quality, low-cost renewable energy, and employment opportunities) and burdens (e.g. cost) of climate actions should be distributed equitably and justly. While social equity has tended to be part of the adaptation conversation, it also belongs in the conversation on mitigation – all climate actions should advance social equity.  

Collaboration is key 

“Partnership” was a prominent theme of COP27. Indeed, world leaders, businesses, organizations, academics, scientists and more gathered to discuss the world’s collective climate goals. Increasingly, it is apparent that tackling climate change requires collaboration and focused commitment to solutions. Without this, climate-related problems will be exacerbated and decrease security of water, food, and energy worldwide.

Lessons for communities 

There is a role for everyone to play. In particular, bridging the gap between national commitments and local level capacities is essential to scale up promising initiatives. As such, local government leaders must engage and partner with Indigenous, private sector, civil society organizations in the design and implementation of locally-made solutions. Meaningful engagement requires the use of diverse forms of communication, as well as arts-based and innovative approaches. Additionally, local and traditional knowledges must be respectfully acknowledged and engaged in reciprocal and non-attractive ways. 

What lays ahead… 

With influence over 50% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, municipalities have a huge role to play in addressing climate change. By adopting leading practices, municipalities can reduce or avoid GHG emissions, adapt to changing climate realities, and achieve co-benefits for residents’ health, wellbeing and livelihoods.  Some examples of leading practices include: 

Working with the private sector 
  • By creating policies that provide clear directives and time to respond to climate goals. Step programs that set voluntary standards that become mandatory over- time give industry time to adapt their business models and shift to low(er) carbon goods and services 
Partnering with civil society organizations 
  • By engaging them as respected knowledge holders and bridges to constituencies in the community  
Building resilient communities 
  • By protecting natural and community assets from the impacts of climate change 
  • By providing incentives that make climate wise choices more affordable and accessible 
  • By applying an equity lens to climate policies and programs. 

Climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity for B.C. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to advance a low carbon, resilient and prosperous future. 

Let’s talk climate action! Email kslater [at]