COP27 negotiations are in their final stretch, with just one day remaining. Progress has been, for many, disappointingly and frustratingly lacking. Today, the COP27 Egyptian presidency and UN Secretary-General António Guterres held a “stakeout” and called on negotiators to “stand and deliver” action and finance, rather than words. Watch the video recording.
Elsewhere around the conference grounds, the theme of the day was solutions. Woodwell science writer Sarah Ruiz made the rounds and shared highlights—and some insights into what it’s like to be at COP—on Woodwell Climate’s Twitter feed.
COP is a chaotic, diverse, maze to navigate, with light and color and the sounds of impassioned voices everywhere. Sometimes invigorating, often exhausting. A good symbol of the complex problem we are trying to solve. #ClimateCrisis #COP27 pic.twitter.com/SML77VSpTl
— Woodwell Climate Research Center (@WoodwellClimate) November 17, 2022
Ambition raised for melting ice
Today, 17 countries signed the Declaration for Ambition on Melting Ice, which affirms their commitment to keeping the goal of 1.5 degrees of warming alive in order to limit losses in the cryosphere. Led by representatives from Iceland and Chile, the declaration emphasizes the fact that melting sea ice, glaciers, and thawing permafrost are already causing devastating impacts for Arctic communities and the globe, and that ice has very little wiggle room past 1.5 degrees of warming.
As Deputy Environment Minister from the Czech Republic, Jan Dusik, said during the ceremony, “You cannot negotiate with the melting point of ice.”
Notably, this declaration expands beyond just polar ice, to encompass mountain countries with significant glaciers as well as low-lying and island countries that stand to be impacted by rising seas and the greater impacts of climate change. Representatives were present from Monaco, Samoa, Vanuatu among others.
“It was really nice to see many of the countries highlighting the fact that not only is this already really important for communities within cryosphere regions… particularly Indigenous peoples, but also this is something that is globally important with some very direct impacts for local communities worldwide as well,” said Woodwell Research Scientist Dr. Rachael Treharne.
Tropical Forests Days continue, along with key conversations
Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed a Joint Statement yesterday which launched a formal partnership to work together on conserving, sustainably managing, and restoring their tropical forests. The three nations collectively hold more than half of the world’s standing tropical forests, so increased collaboration between them has the potential to lead to significant gains in protection for these carbon sinks and critical ecosystems threatened by logging, agriculture, and mining.
The agreement also calls for the three countries to be compensated for reducing deforestation, and they will be working to negotiate a new international funding mechanism as well as seeking increased funding through existing UN programs.
Woodwell Board member and former Brazilian Minister of the Environment under Lula da Silva, Izabella Teixeira, told Reuters that “forests matter, nature matters. And I do believe that without Amazon protection, we cannot have climate security.”
Woodwell Climate science could play an important role in advancing the goals of the announced alliance. With longstanding work in both Brazil and DRC, Woodwell is working with our in-country partners to see the full value of their critically important forests recognized in policy and financial frameworks that benefit their communities.
COP27 has also provided valuable opportunities to advance our existing relationships and identify potential new partners in this endeavor. Assistant Scientist Dr. Ludmila Rattis, Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Manoela Machado, and Tropics Program Director Dr. Mike Coe met up with Teixeira for an impromptu conversation about how best to work with companies on their plans to reduce deforestation in their supply chains.
“The companies are actually open to change,” said Dr. Rattis. “We just need to lead the way.”
Woodwell CEO Dr. Max Holmes and Board member Todd Hynes were also briefly introduced to U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry who is familiar with the Center’s work.
A panel discussion event at the Brazil Climate Action Hub was well-attended. Dr. Izabela Teixeira (to speaker’s right), Woodwell board member and former Brazil Minister of Environment, participated in the event.
Tropical Forests Days
Tropical forests play a critical role in our climate system, cooling and making rain both globally and in areas immediately surrounding them. One of Woodwell Climate’s top priorities at COP27 is ensuring this is understood and valued in our policies and financial systems.
On Saturday evening, Dr. Ludmila Rattis explained the inextricable link between healthy forests and productive agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon during the final session of Global Landscapes Forum Climate 2022, a two-day conference held here in Sharm el-Sheikh in parallel with COP27.
On Monday morning, Dr. Mike Coe spoke on the opening panel of Tropical Forest Days at the Brazil Climate Action Hub—a discussion of whether the Amazon is a villain, victim, or hero in our climate story.
Woodwell’s Permafrost Pathways team co-sponsored Permafrost Day at the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative’s Cryosphere Pavilion. More than six hours of events featured a diverse array of expertise and perspectives on the local to global ramifications of permafrost thaw. In addition to presentations of the latest science on abrupt thaw, tipping points, and projected emissions, a mid-day panel of Indigenous and youth activists called for more inclusive decision-making processes and the final panel of the day—which explored the possibility of treating permafrost as its own country in emissions accounting and climate negotiations—evoked emotional responses from some attendees. The day concluded with a short documentary produced by residents of Newtok, an Alaska Native community facing relocation due to the impacts of permafrost thaw.
Recordings of the events will be available on the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative website.
Thriving Forests, Thriving Communities
Understanding and preserving the full value of tropical forests has been at the heart of Woodwell Climate’s work since our founding, and it was the focus of our activities today at COP27. The day started with a panel discussion at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s pavilion, discussing commonalities and distinctions between Amazon and Congo basin forests—and what models and insights Woodwell’s longstanding work in Brazil might contribute to efforts to develop community-based climate solutions in DRC.
Later in the day, Dr. Wayne Walker participated in a We Don’t Have Time livestream with Health in Harmony and the Rainforest Exchange. The panelists highlighted success stories in forest protection stemming from projects that put Indigenous communities in the lead and have science to back them up.
Intertwining Fates—and a #ClimateClock
Today, Woodwell Climate partnered with Global Choices’ Arctic Angels program to highlight the interconnectedness of our climate system in an official COP27 side event. The panel brought together the perspectives of leading experts on Arctic permafrost and tropical forests—Woodwell’s Dr. Sue Natali and Dr. Glenn Bush—with youth women activists Xiye Bastide (Mexico) and Sharon Gakii (Kenya), as well as Global Choices president and co-founder Sally Ranney, for a global, intergenerational, and multifaceted call to cut greenhouse gas emissions and address rapid Arctic warming.
During the event, Bastide placed a Climate Clock in front of her on the table. These clocks count down the time we have left at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions before exhausting our carbon budget to cap warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Dr. Natali pointed out that, while the current reading of 6 years 255 days is alarming, it is also an overestimate, as the reports the clock is based on don’t include permafrost thaw emissions. All of the panelists joined in calling for more communication and collaboration between scientists, activists, Indigenous knowledge holders, and decision makers in order to create urgently needed changes.
Woodwell Senior Science Policy Advisor Peter Frumhoff reacted to the first days of the conference—his seventh—and the event:
Most of the Woodwell contingent currently at COP arriving for the day. (l-r) Peter Frumhoff, Ludmila Rattis, Rachael Treharne, Joseph Zambo, Glenn Bush, Wayne Walker, Melissa Shapiro, Brendan Rogers
The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative has released the 2022 State of the Cryosphere report, highlighting growing losses in the world’s snow and ice—from Arctic sea ice, to Antarctic ice sheets, mountain glaciers, and of course, permafrost—and the need for deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic, global impacts. Woodwell’s Drs. Sue Natali, Jen Francis, Rachael Treharne, and Christina Schädel, contributed to the report as reviewers, and Dr. Brendan Rogers took part in the press conference broadcast this morning from COP27.