Reflections on COP27

SNV's key takeaways following the recent COP27 conference in Egypt

COP27 sign

SNV joined the debate at the recent COP27 conference in Egypt, where we championed the acceleration of climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people – disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.

We were focused on putting food firmly on the COP agenda, ensuring the vital role of water is at the heart of climate action and emphasising the importance of access to sustainable energy sources.

Our team met with numerous partners and stakeholders during the event, co-hosted the event’s first-ever Food Systems Pavilion, we were a core partner in the Water Pavilion and led an official UNFCCC side event on the topic of local climate adaptation.

As we reflect on the event and the decisions made, André de Jager, Managing Director at SNV, shares some of the team’s key takeaways.

Commitment and passion undermined by lack of political will

It was re-energising and inspiring to see and hear the genuine commitment and passion of delegates at COP27 for climate action. There is a lot of goodwill and agreement on many topics related to energy, water, and food systems.

The progress on loss and damage at COP27 is good news and an essential part of climate justice, and it is heartening that the EU is taking the lead to break the deadlock.

Yet, with so many broken promises on climate finance, we can’t take this at face value. The lack of political will to avert the climate crisis is disappointing. It is so much in our interests to act, and we should redouble our efforts, working together to show what is possible.

In each of our sectors of interest, it’s clear that there is still more to be done.

1. Putting food ‘on the table’ is not enough

The climate community acknowledges food systems as central to climate action. At least three pavilions focused on food at COP27, showcasing various approaches and perspectives to address the climate crisis through food systems. While food was indeed put on the table, it was not at the heart of COP. Our approach to looking at food systems holistically was unfortunately not reflected in the final decision.

But progress was still made. We drove deeper awareness of food systems and climate crisis linkages, triggering important conversations during the final discussions and increasing engagement and collaboration among a multitude of food systems actors.

2. We need a more responsible approach to water

Many of the effects of climate change manifest themselves through the water cycle. Better water governance and management are essential for adaptation and to prevent loss and damage. With our partners at the Water and Climate Pavilion, we emphasised the need for a holistic perspective of water in adaptation, highlighting the urgency for institutional strength-building and accountability in water governance; internationally, nationally, and sub-nationally.

We are pleased that water is now part of the final declaration of the COP, emphasising the need to integrate water into adaptation efforts and to protect and restore water systems and water-related ecosystems. These cannot be done without understanding the different water-related needs and interests and responding to these through the lens of equity and sustainability.

3. Sustainable access to energy is critical to the climate crisis

There was not enough discussion on increasing sustainable energy access – even though energy access and climate change are intrinsically connected. Lack of access is a global crisis: 2.6 billion people still lack access to clean cooking, and 750 million still live without electricity. Discussions centred around the energy supply versus what is required to activate and sustain demand.

Alongside this, better integration of sustainable energy and agri-food systems is required to demonstrate that decentralised models can support the delivery of food security and food system resilience more equitably and sustainably. That integration will require a more systematic approach and engagement of partners who can plug into the ‘ecosystem’,  to meet the requirements of localised, context-driven solutions.

Long-term partnerships will be key to our success

COP27 also clearly highlighted the need to develop contextualised adaptation plans and secure large-scale impact-driven finance for climate action. We must move from short-term projects to long-term programmes focusing on systems transformation to deliver more significant impacts. We used the COP27 platform to stress the importance of partnership in climate action and deepening collaborations beyond the ‘usual suspects’.

At SNV, we want to see a world where across every society, all people live with dignity and have equitable opportunities to thrive sustainably – and we are firm believers that we will only see success if we work in collaboration and partnership.

A final and crucial takeaway from the event was that we must fully engage youth, women, local communities, and businesses' voices in all our climate action conversations. If we are to build a better world together, we must catalyse partnerships that transform the agri-food, energy, and water systems, which enable sustainable and more equitable lives for all.

Let’s not wait for COP28 to act; we must build on this momentum and start to implement change today.