The central two weeks of November saw COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, dedicated to climate crisis issues that affect the entire world and especially Africa, where the acute and chronic impacts of this global phenomenon increase poverty, infectious diseases, forced migration and conflict.
Massimiliano Giuseppe Falcone is communication strategist at the World Bank Group, Global Engagement and Partnership, for the Connect4Climate project and a professor at IULM in Milan. Infra Journal caught up with him for a comment on the latest Conference of the Parties of the UN Climate Change Convention.
Prof. Falcone, COP 27 ended with a two-day delay to reach a resolution: what is the final outcome?
“It was a conference with too many grey areas and too many delays. It appears that the prolonged negotiations were driven by the desire to reach a solution, with the establishment of a fund for the losses and damages suffered by the countries most affected by the climate crisis, those developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change”.
Is this a real achievement? What will change for emerging and developing countries?
“Surely this is a great achievement, which will help those countries that are suffering the most from the devastating effects of the climate crisis. In the last two decades, between 2000 and 2020, climate change has caused, according to data from the IPCC -Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- more than 7,300 natural disasters, impacting more than 4 billion people. This means, unfortunately, human lives, difficult access to basic services, such as drinking water, famine, but also impossibility of education, due to the destruction of schools or reduced mobility, due to damage to infrastructure. All with economic losses of almost USD 3 trillion in already poor countries. Hence the much-praised concept of 'climate justice'. But is it true justice? I wonder. How can one speak of an achievement if one wanted to create a commission of experts whose decisions are postponed to the next COP? Basically, one has to wait another year. Furthermore, some headlines extolled the role of the European Union in the decision. This is true, but it is also true that Europe actually intervened with limits, pressing for resources to be allocated only to the most vulnerable countries, not to all developing countries, which still include economic superpowers such as China and India”.
Don't you think that countries so strong, and so impactful on climate change, should pay to compensate for the damage done so far?
“China is among the countries that are investing the most in truly sustainable production solutions and innovations for the use of renewables. Similarly, India, a country with great research capacity, is playing an increasingly active role. Already in 2009, at COP15 in Copenhagen, the world's major economies had committed to intervene with climate mitigation and adaptation programmes for developing countries, allocating USD 100 billion per year to be disbursed by 2020. This has remained on paper: no resources have been disbursed and the agreement does not even stipulate anything on how they will be disbursed. The United Nations estimates that around USD 6 trillion is needed for the most vulnerable countries to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda”.
A failure then, or is there still hope?
“There is hope precisely because there is now a strong consciousness of young people, of those future generations who are asking to sit not just as observers, but to have a role in decisions. Just think of the phenomenon of the 'Fridays for Future', the movements within the UN world, such as YOU (official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), COY (Conference of Youth), the Youth4Climate established during the pre-COP 26 in Milan, with the support of the Italian government, the World Bank Connect4Climate programme and the UNDP. Now a permanent working group to move from protests to proposals, and from proposals to action, are some of the realities that give us hope. We have a new climate education movement, Earth Day, the most international environmental association, and nearly half a billion students and teachers globally form a coalition for compulsory climate education. UNESCO is helping to make this a reality by creating a new teaching culture with its 'Transforming Education' plan. If the teaching changes, if young people demand access to information and adequate training, in order to have the tools to intervene, the culture changes, and with it our world. That is the hope, and it will be, and must be, COP 28 in Dubai that will make that hope a reality”.
What are the expectations for COP 28 in Dubai?
“Each COP closes by talking about the next one. This time I have the feeling that the next one will really be a turning point. Dubai is in itself an example of ecological and energy transition, tangible proof of how sustainability is not only possible, but also profitable for that part of the private sector, and for those governments, that place it at the basis of their strategies. That is why the UAE can and will be the place where history will be made”.