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Dialogue can shift the dial on climate action

James Corré explains why climate diplomacy is vital.

With the UN Secretary-General calling for humanity to ‘co-operate or perish’, this year’s COP27 negotiations are more urgent than ever. James Corré, Wilton Park Programme Director for climate, energy and the environment, reflects on expectations of the event, Wilton Park’s work in this field and why dialogue remains crucial to driving action on the climate crisis.

The world has experienced yet another uptick in extreme weather events this year, with the Pakistan floods alone affecting upwards of 30 million people. But even among the most optimistic negotiators, asking what’s at stake at this year’s UN climate talks is something of a moot point: expectations are universally low.

Technical negotiations on the mechanics of the Paris Agreement are now largely concluded, and with a dearth of political will to ramp up ambition on emissions reductions for the time being, attention is focusing on the increasingly polarised debate around ‘loss and damage’.

Many climate-vulnerable countries are calling for a new UN-administered compensation facility to be funded by the major historic emitters of greenhouse gases, but there is little prospect of this happening soon as most wealthy countries remain strongly resistant to such a solution. Nevertheless, historical responsibility and attribution of climate-related disasters will dominate the agenda more than ever before.

Meanwhile, analyses published to coincide with COP27, such as last week’s UN synthesis report, show more starkly than ever that even if every COP26 pledge is delivered in full, the world will overshoot the all-important 1.5°C threshold by 1°C at the very least.

Despite this, a great deal of painstaking diplomatic and technical work has been done since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, on building an apparatus to hold governments and business to account on climate pledges. This work has not gone to waste.

Wilton Park continues to support the development of that technical infrastructure and to host crucial, discreet diplomacy – both political and financial – working towards the level of global ambition that must be hoisted onto the frame of the Paris Agreement.

The range of partners and participants who have supported and attended our climate events in the year of the UK’s COP presidency, since COP26 in November 2021, demonstrate the multi-faceted approach required to have any chance of addressing the climate crisis.

We began the year with an extended period of advocacy around the outcomes of our groundbreaking COP Catalyst initiative, which called for a step-change in the way that historic emitters support countries in the global South to be able to fully participate in the Paris Agreement. Wilton Park convened dozens of partner countries and organisations to produce a high-level Call to Action, alongside more detailed thematic publications.

An event on education and climate change resulted in a new FCDO policy position paper, while the final event in our series on the transformational change needed for a sustainable future produced five key calls to action. A roundtable for the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) was designed to improve co-ordination on early action financing for potential disaster and give key actors clear routes to follow.

This autumn, as COP27 came into view, we hosted three dialogues aimed at building trust between historic emitters and emerging economies as part of a just transition in the energy sector – one that supports countries with fast-growing energy needs to renounce fossil gas and coal and raise sufficient capital for clean, climate-compatible growth, while protecting human rights for workers and communities.

Now more than ever, we need to support dialogue between key actors to drive change. As the world experiences ever more serious climate impacts, Wilton Park is committed to its vital work in this field, providing a space where differences and conflicting agendas can be resolved. Whatever happens at COP27 these conversations must continue, harnessing broad and deep engagement to stimulate progress and mitigate the threats posed by the climate crisis.

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