OPINION: With the COP27 climate change summit due to start on Sunday, the enthusiasm governments showed only 12 months ago in Glasgow seems little more than a distant memory.

While COP26 may not have delivered as much as needed, there was a sense of political will to make the right choices and steer the world away from climate catastrophe.

And yet, with a few days to go before this year’s event in Egypt, you would be excused for barely remembering what fighting climate change was about.

The world has moved on, ushering in new crises that are taking up our (mostly) elected leaders’ attention span — war in Ukraine; soaring energy prices; and galloping inflation.

And with many economies heading towards recession, driving down fossil fuels and deploying capital towards net-zero all sounds so 2021.


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Newly appointed UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would not attend COP27 and instead focus on domestic matters — which is much the same as saying you don’t have time to help put out a fire in your street because you are cleaning your apartment.

After a public backlash, Sunak made an embarrassing U-turn, saying he will attend after all.

But his behaviour is symptomatic of a fundamental issue. Government leaders tend to focus on the immediate issues at hand that threaten their survival in power.

While their priorities should be aligned to society’s multi-faceted needs, too often this battle for survival becomes an end game in itself.

This trait makes them out of tune with the fundamental issues of climate change, which are hard to monetise as political credits.

Global emissions are heading for another increase in 2022, when they should be falling 8% every year to align with net-zero objectives.

As newer problems arise, governments move on. But to tackle the disastrous consequences of a warming planet, the world needs leaders. COP27 must deliver that leadership.

Governments live the moment. But with climate change, that is also our downfall.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)