COP27 is fighting symptoms rather than tackling root causes

COP27: fighting symptoms vs tackling root causes

The 27th United Nations climate conference (COP27) came to a close Sunday morning. Newspaper headlines and the world’s governments generally agree in saying that the result was historical. As active players in the sustainability space, we couldn’t hold back our thoughts on the summit.

Loss and damage fund: a good step towards climate justice

Let’s start with the good news: the world’s nations finally agreed to set up a loss and damage funding for vulnerable countries stricken by climate disasters. Developing countries have been calling for this kind of fund for decades—and rightfully so. This year alone, floods in Pakistan have affected over 30 million people. In Nigeria, more than 2.5 million people—60% of which are children—are currently at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition due to the worst flooding in the last decade

The extent to which these types of countries are impacted by the result is not related to the extent to which they contributed to the problem. It is only fair that the countries and corporations most responsible for the climate crisis make the largest contribution to compensate for the impact. While we agree that this arrangement is a breakthrough in the right direction, here are some considerations:

It’s historical, but also long overdue. 

1. The details of who has to pay X amount and who is entitled to receive X amount have yet to be decided. We can expect this to be a long and arduous process, and can only hope it doesn’t fall through. During COP15 in 2009, developed countries had already committed to mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020. That promise has been broken. In fact, negotiators have not even fully agreed on how to measure each country’s pledge. Despite not even getting close to the $100 billion, some charities (e.g. Oxfam) and analysts claim the OECD numbers used to measure the wealthy nations’ contributions are highly inflated.

2. We believe that this fund—especially when combined with an unwillingness to act on other fronts—builds on the idea, deeply rooted in Western politics, that money can solve everything. However, the death of millions of people or the loss of unique ecosystems and species cannot be paid for with money. 

3. A loss and damage fund is a critical response to very pressing symptoms such as the climate disasters mentioned above. However, it cannot distract us from tackling the root causes of the problem.


This brings us to the less positive news. We all know we need to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This was agreed upon at COP26 in Glasgow, where they also agreed to strengthen their commitments every year since the current commitments weren’t strong enough to reach the 1.5C target.

That definitely didn’t happen at COP27. Instead, some countries tried to renegotiate the 1.5C goal and the resolution to cause emissions to peak by 2025 was deleted.

Some countries, like India, wanted to include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels, but in the end they didn’t succeed. With 636 oil and gas industry representatives among the summit participants—25% more than in 2021—this shouldn’t be a surprise. The final negotiations also include a provision to boost ‘low-emissions energy’. That might mean wind and solar energy, but it could also mean boosting gas, a polluting fossil fuel.

Fighting symptoms versus tackling the root causes

With the loss and damage fund and the lack of commitments to step away from fossil fuels, we cannot help but feel that the world governments have chosen to fight the symptoms rather than tackle the root causes of the climate crisis.

Ultimately, it’s not about a 1.5C target, it’s about our—and our planet’s—survival. It’s about respecting and protecting human rights worldwide. There is still no sense of urgency whatsoever behind these decisions. The current narrative, at least in western nations, when it comes to the climate crisis is to often mention children and grandchildren to instill this sense of existential dread when thinking about the future. However, millions of children are already dying and suffering from the effects of climate change as we speak.

While setting up a loss and damage fund is definitely a historical breakthrough, it won’t save any of the millions of lives currently at stake. We need bolder, long-term policies and a bigger sense of urgency for that.

We couldn’t have said it better than Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia: 

When your bathtub is overflowing you turn off the taps, you don’t wait a while and then go out and buy a bigger mop!”

We acknowledge that the piece can come off as quite cynical, but don’t get us wrong: the world leaders’ inaction only motivates us further. At Quest Impact Design Studio, our mission is to make a truly meaningful impact for people, our community and most importantly, our planet. No BS. No greenwashing, only positive impact. Explore our commitments, our impact ecosystem and our work for radical positive change.

Want to drive positive change with us? 

At Quest Impact Design Studio, we work toward building a more sustainable future for the planet and people by helping sustainably-minded companies scale and accelerate their impact-driven solutions.

Other Blog Posts

Understanding Double Materiality and Complying with CSRd

Sustainability Consulting Meets Creative Design Agency

back to: Blog