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Impressions from COP27

Lab Lead Paul Chatterton was at COP27 and shares his thoughts...


I want to share my reflections on the 27th Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

What an honour to be there! 35,000 people, so many events, all the nations of the planet. There is such an energy from so many diverse peoples dedicated to saving the planet.

I feel a major leap since Glasgow – more money; a sense that business and finance is now engaged; governments are moving towards mandatory climate reporting; the buzzwords are now “biodiversity”, “regeneration” and “landscapes”; and there’s a proliferation of networks, funds and campaigns to implement the commitments. It’s inspiring!

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But that’s in the side events. The negotiations have produced little except the agreement for a “loss and damage” fund. No phase out of oil and gas. And no resolution on the carbon market where there remains confusion over definition and standards and debates over integrity and greenwashing. There’s a lot still to be done.

A major achievement is the acknowledgement that climate and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin. And two more crises - water and food - must now be added to this coin. To use a term coined at a recent conference in Scandinavia, this is the time of the“polycrisis”. And this polycrisis demands polysolutions - solutions that are large and integrated; solutions that are attuned to community needs and to floating the smallest boats first.

Despite the buzz, it feels like we’re still a long way from the tipping point that bends the curve - particularly for nature. Action remains almost exclusively at project level and not at the scale at which nature operates - which is landscapes, corridors, rivers, ecosystems. Efforts continue to be small, sector by sector, uncoordinated and sometimes competitive. We can’t afford this any more.

We have to break this cycle that has us competing with ourselves and nature. The Polysolutions have to become our obsession. And landscapes are undoubtedly one of the most significant. 

Landscapes give us a way to integrate our responses, to connect them with nature, to take common action and to layer the benefits. I come out of the conference with that conviction clearer than ever. And I’m pleased that the Landscape Finance Lab has committed itself to this scale from its start six years ago.

The good news is that there is no need to change what we do. It’s about changing how we think. Let’s keep doing the projects but think about them in the context of the landscape in which they sit. Let’s look at how we can solve the core problems in a landscape together with incremental small changes to our day to day business. Let’s look at how we can generate synergies across projects and sectors to grow value for us all in the landscape.This is the virtue of landscape thinking

The contradictions found in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh are a microcosm and a metaphor for the challenges we face. Spectacular Red Sea waters and globally significant coral reefs sitting uncomfortably alongside overdevelopment and unsustainable tourism (the irony of COP27 is that it has exacerbated this). Yet without the delicate beauty, colour, richness and diversity of the reefs, tourists wouldn’t flock here. We can’t have both: exploitation of nature and unending growth don’t add up. We have to resolve this schizophrenia and make entire economies regenerative if we’re to bend the curve. Landscape approaches can help return us to sanity.