Delegate encouraged by global climate efforts

Bet Schenk

Have you wondered how nations around the world are making agreements and commitments to tackle climate change? A key process takes place at the annual meeting called COP: Council of Parties, sponsored by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Nearly 200 nations and parties come together to set goals, report progress and make commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to changes already visible due to our warming planet.

The 27th meeting, COP27, took place earlier this month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. As a representative from Providence, I had the opportunity to attend in person. It was an incredible experience hearing and meeting people from all over the world who are concerned about climate change. It was fascinating to be in Sharm El Sheikh – a resort town on the Red Sea in the Sinai Peninsula.

Over 44,000 people attended, with negotiators from all nations and parties. The weather was perfect, the taxis plentiful, the ideas, hopes and facts compelling, and the people friendly and energetic. Most nations offered lectures, exhibitions and education. Companies exchanged ideas for solutions and innovative processes. The demonstrators called for faster action and more justice.

Negotiators met for days to hammer out agreements, which poses a challenge as 100 percent consensus is needed to move forward. In other words, any nation or party can object to a proposal or decision.

This year, negotiations at COP27 have been extended into the early hours of the morning due to the challenging issues at hand. Importantly, the parties have agreed to set up a “losses and damages” fund.

Many nations that are seeing the worst impacts today, particularly in the Global South, are least responsible for emitting greenhouse gases that warm and harm the planet. The agreed fund will provide the necessary resources and mechanisms for fair payment to deal with losses and damages.

While there are many details to work out, this is a big step forward towards a fairer adjustment and it has received a lot of attention over the past year as negotiators failed to raise it at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 .

After this year’s COP27, several contentious issues remain on the table. The target set in Paris to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees (C) has not been re-set, challenged or changed – leaving the temperature commitment as is.

Another very contentious issue that went unaddressed was the phasing out of fossil fuels. At COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021, the final agreement was that burning of coal would be phased out (not phased out), with no mention of other fossil fuels. Although there has been loud outcry about it since then, it was not discussed in formal negotiations at COP27 in 2022.

These two topics are expected to be major topics at COP28 in Dubai in 2023.

I returned home with a few realizations:

  • First, it was wonderful to be with such a diverse, dedicated and energetic group, all working towards a common goal – a fair, just, healthy and livable future.
  • Second, I was reassured by the process. I was prepared for a slow pace and deadlocked negotiations. But truly, I was heartened by what I saw — the sincerity of the negotiations, the courage of the witnesses who shared the realities of the damage in their homelands, and the hard-won achievement of establishing the Losses and Damages Fund. This is a very big deal. The challenge of consensus among 198 nations is astounding. And yet it works. And the results are taken seriously. Negotiators will be called to task next year to take next steps. For people working on climate issues, it can feel unstoppably slow. But given the immense complexity of this challenge and the very human processes of dialogue – of give and take and compromise – the results are a step forward.
  • Third, the vitality of the global challenges was compelling. COP27 was the first COP to be held on the African continent, where arguably some of the most severe impacts of a warming planet are taking place. It was so impressive to meet people from African countries like Nigeria, Ghana and also from other continents including Pakistan, Philippines, Micronesia and many other places that are losing homes, communities, jobs and lives today. It reaffirmed to me why we are doing this work. We work to keep ourselves safe not only here in Montana and the United States, but also to respond to a call for justice for suffering people around the world.

So what’s next? While the effects of climate change are frighteningly real and are happening now, and the challenges of addressing them are enormous; I go back to action optimistically encouraged and strengthened. As a citizen of the world, the United States and Montana, I can continue to work for a healthy, livable and just planet and future. I can act personally, professionally and in public.

I can keep an open heart and mind for all those who are suffering today and for generations to come. I am fortunate to celebrate the good work Missoula is doing in all parts of the world. And I can enjoy and be inspired by this beautiful planet Earth – our common home. Please join me in responding to our planet’s cry for help.

Beth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN is Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship for Providence and Chair of the Board of Climate Smart Missoula.

Sustainability Happenings

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Tuesday, November 29 — become circularScreening at Wilma – A free documentary screening and panel discussion from 5:30pm. Secure your place here.

Thursday, December 1st Farming in Times of Danger: A Panel Discussion, 6 p.m. in the theater of the university center (3rd floor). Hosted by Faith and Climate Action Montana. Learn from local farmers who are innovators and adaptors to our changing climate and the landscape around us. The panel includes farmers from Lifeline Produce, Oxbow Cattle Co., Dr. George Price and Garden City Harvest. Registrations are not required and all ages are welcome. The event will also be streamed live on Zoom.

Tuesday 13.12 — Missoula Public Welfare Civic Academy. 6pm – 8pm. Missoula Fairgrounds commercial building. Common good Missoula and City of Missoula and will present together what the Our missula Project means to our community and how together we can create a more diverse, inclusive and resilient engagement that will define Missoula’s future growth. Our missula is a multi-year project aimed at refreshing Missoula’s vision for future growth and modernizing and making significant changes to the zoning and development code, one of the city’s greatest tools for achieving that vision. Everyone welcome to this groundbreaking event. Climate issues should be included! Answer here. Facebook event HERE.

Saturday, 12/17 Missoula Climate Comedy Night Benefit. 7:30 a.m. show. Join Families for a Liveable Climate at ZACC with Revival Comedy and fellow comedians for a night of laughter and connection to help our organization and climate work in Montana. Buy tickets today. Funds raised will go towards sharing climate stories and conversations across Montana. $10 Cards. Entry is at 7:00 p.m. The show is suitable for people over the age of 18