Power Dynamics and Activism at COP27 

Attending COP27 was an immensely inspiring and frustrating experience. I focused heavily on climate justice during my time at the conference, and while frontline communities and environmental justice advocates made themselves heard in protests and side events, their perspectives were barely incorporated into negotiations. This was not surprising; accompanying the fervent energy towards finding climate solutions were constant reminders of the stubborn policy stagnation and fossil fuel obsession that have defined international environmental efforts for the past several decades (the OPEC Fund having a pavilion at the conference was a perfect example of this).  

(OPEC Fund for International Development Pavilion at COP27 – Photo by Jared Mandelbaum)

Climate progress, especially at the global scale, continues to be slow, because the wealthiest nations strategically decelerate negotiations. This was visible at COP27; wealthy nations suggested measured, methodical approaches to urgent issues like loss and damage, while poor nations advocated for swift, decisive action. This dynamic reflects the divergent interests of countries with different wealth levels and the resulting tensions that slow progress towards meaningful climate action. 

The lopsided power dynamics at COP27 were juxtaposed with amazing displays of activism, however, and I left the conference feeling muted hopefulness. It was inspiring to see climate justice advocates and representatives from poor nations pressure wealthy nations to commit to implementing equitable and proven climate solutions.  

I saw incremental progress in negotiations, and there seemed to be more focus on climate justice than ever before. But frankly, the enormity and severity of the climate crisis requires more than incremental progress. COP27 showed me that wealthy nations will do whatever they can to avoid their responsibilities to respond to the climate crisis. I am hopeful that they will soon change course though, as calls for their cooperation are becoming louder each year. To initiate transformative change, these countries need to provide loss and damage funding to poor nations, stop investing in and extracting fossil fuels, and partner on equal terms with developing countries to help with their mitigation and adaptation efforts. Real cooperation and leadership from wealthy nations is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and the international community continues its efforts to convince these countries to pursue legitimate climate partnerships. Calls for this at COP27 were loud and clear.  

(Panel at the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change Pavilion at COP27 – Photo by Jared Mandelbaum)

We all need these efforts to succeed to avoid a grim future filled with flooding, droughts, fires, and mass climate displacements. Wealthy countries—the United States in particular—need to act now, and citizens in these countries can help by advocating for decisive climate action from their governments. This is where I plan to focus after COP27, and I think it is a great place for us all to start. 

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