Reflections on COP27

Reflections on COP27

COP27 - the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference - took place from November 6 to November 18, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. As SubjectToClimate’s Director of Climate Science, I attended the conference to represent StC and the importance of climate change education in the scheme of solutions to climate change. 

Over 35,000 delegates from about 200 countries participated in COP27, representing a diverse group of peoples including world leaders, negotiators, young people, activists, scientists, artists, business gurus, people living with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. This diverse participation was remarkable, and I was thrilled by the many events that were hosted to:

  • Inspire the world to scale solutions proposed by climate justice advocates
  • Advance innovation and smart technologies
  • Incorporate the arts into climate change solutions
  • Engage in climate storytelling
  • Enhance climate education and engagement
  • Grow climate finance and funding mechanisms
  • Move green growth policies forward
  • Devise adaptation strategies.

Climate Justice

The subjects of the conference were wide ranging, and each participant had specific interests and high expectations for their proposals to be adopted. I found that conference attendees exhibited intense emotional reactions when this did or did not happen. One of the most discussed issues was climate justice, which came to a head when the international climate summit wrapped on November 18, as delegates, activists and developing economies were still demanding a payout to developing countries to cover irreversible losses and damages occurring as a result of climate change. According to UNICEF, an estimated 761,000 children were internally displaced by extreme weather events linked to climate change in the Caribbean between 2014-2018, and urgent change is needed to reverse this trend and pave the way for sustainable development. 

Activists, particularly women and girls, argued throughout the conference that it would be unjust for wealthy countries, fossil fuel companies and other big polluters who have caused climate change to escalate to pass on the costs of doing so to poorer countries. A special plenary was eventually devoted on November 20, 2022, and a fund was established to assist poor countries with the losses and damages brought on by climate change. Side events also discussed the importance of local governments in addressing the climate crisis and funding solutions, for example by partnering with local nonprofits to implement climate adaptation projects or provide performance-based climate resiliency grants. Youth voices were also central to COP27, as children are amongst the most vulnerable groups in our society, and not enough is being done to protect our children from the effects of climate change.   

Climate Change Education

Climate change education was also central to many discussions at COP27. One specific initiative centered on implementing climate literacy requirements in schools to address the climate education gap and strengthen climate action, particularly in developing countries. I shared ways in which StC could partner with the Global Partnership for Education, the Earth Day organization, and other climate change education organizations to accelerate climate change education in vulnerable and marginalized communities. The discussion led to an action plan to create a coalition of climate change education organizations and advocate for climate change education to be mainstream in government policies and a central part of COP28’s agenda.

"I come away from COP27 feeling energized and accomplished, as the energy around climate change education is palpable on the global stage." - Archibong Akpan, Director of Climate Science at SubjectToClimate

The Foundation for Environmental Education organized a session arguing that the universalization of quality climate change education is a key component of the UN’s sustainable development goal 4.7 (“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”). Aaron Benavot, professor of global education policy at the University of Albany and SUNY, made a strong case for UNESCO to integrate climate education not only in schools, but also incorporate it into informal educational settings such as museums and parks. 

Moran Sol from Project Drawdown highlighted the work of the ministry of Israel. Last July, Israel’s ministry became the first to implement climate change education training to 100 educators. 64 educators passed the training and became qualified to teach interdisciplinary climate change education. Our work at StC mirrors that of Israel, as StC is working on scaling interdisciplinary climate education in the U.S. and launching a professional learning hub to help equip educators to integrate climate change education and lessons into their K-12 curricula. 

As a climate scientist, my responsibility is to ensure that accurate climate data are available at local, national, regional and global levels, to better inform policy and decision making. I also have a specific interest in scaling climate education. Thus, COP27 was both personally fulfilling and professionally valuable, as I was able to network with over 35 organizations and 67 delegates with an interest in accelerating climate education. Within the conference dates, this group familiarized and formed a coalition tasked with making climate change education a key point in COP28’s agenda. 

Final Thoughts

I come away from COP27 feeling energized and accomplished, as the energy around climate change education is palpable on the global stage. Coordinated action such as that which occurs at worldwide conferences like COP27 will greatly help us scale climate change education, and StC looks forward to continuing its work on this initiative and supporting educators as climate change education becomes more widespread.

About the Author

Archibong Akpan is a Climate Scientist, IPCC Expert Reviewer, Data Analyst and Environmentalist. A Climate Reality Leader trained by Al Gore, in 2014 in South Africa. He was one of the Expert reviewers of AR4 and a contributor to the Second Order Draft in Working Group 2 of IPCC’s AR6 reports (2018-2020).

About the Author

Julia Turner is currently a professional ballet dancer with the Grand Rapids Ballet, located in Grand Rapids, MI. She has danced professionally since 2014, during which time she completed her Bachelor's Degree at Harvard Extension School, graduating in November 2021 with a field of study in Economics and a minor in English. During her undergraduate career, Julia completed various research projects under the direction of James Carras, a Harvard Kennedy School adjunct professor and affordable housing consultant. Her research examined the affordable housing crisis, including devising ways to increase its supply (with a particular focus on financing mechanisms) and to better help individuals currently experiencing homelessness.