• David Thibodeau


Check out our podcast episode about COP27, available on all podcast platforms: Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Pocket Casts, and Radio Public.

I had the opportunity to travel to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP27 as a Canadian Youth Delegate. This year’s theme is Implementation. With a key focus on these objectives:

Mitigating - limiting global warming to 2 degrees celsius and working hard to keep the 1.5 target alive.

Adaptation - the global goal on adaptation was one of the significant outcomes of COP26, we must ensure that we take the steps needed to meet this goal.

Finance - COP27 is essential for making significant progress on the crucial issue of climate financing. Such as the delivery of $100 billion which will build more trust between developed and developing countries.

Collaboration - it is of the utmost importance to the Presidency of COP27 that this is a collaborative event. The UN negotiation process is consensus based and reaching agreement will require inclusive and active participation from all stakeholders.

What follows is a day by day reflection, and observations from COP27.

Day 1 Nov 8th

My first day at COP27 was a very eventful day. It was a very hectic day trying to figure out where everything was. It was very hard to pick what events to go to since there were so many. There were hundreds of side events and many negotiations all happening at the same time. Trying to sort through all the information available was a challenge.

I attended the Multi-Level Action Pavilion panel titled “Climate Empowerment and City Diplomacy exploring the potential of a thriving alliance.” This panel had representatives from several municipalities across France. It explored green urbanization plans of cities and citizen engagement in those plans (for example, the City of Paris is working with mobilizing students on their plans). Cities are on the front lines of climate change.

Day 2 Nov 9th

To start my second day I attended the Canadian Delegation briefing. This was a time for Canadian delegates to come together and hear how the negotiations were going from Canada’s Chief Negotiator. It was also a time where delegates were able to provide input and advice and insights on the direction of the negotiations. It was interesting to be able to sit in on these meetings and learn more about the negotiation process.

Today was also the official opening of Canada’s pavilion at COP27. This was the first pavilion that Canada has ever had at a COP. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was present and provided some comments on the need for the world to accelerate the rate of change. This is a challenge for the Canadian government since they are continuously being sued by Canadian provinces on their efforts to tackle climate change (the implementation of the Carbon Tax, and banning plastics).

I also went to a panel discussion at the European Union pavilion titled “A Nature Positive Economy for Climate and Biodiversity Benefits”. This talk focused on using nature based solutions to help adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. Nature based solutions are driven by a mission to preserve nature. There are a diversity of benefits from nature, however there is little financing available for nature based solutions. This is often because cross-benefit analysis leaves out the benefits to ecosystems. Including benefits to ecosystems in our analysis will help increase funding available for nature based solutions. How do we measure the benefits when there is little return on investments in terms of “profit”. Most of the ROI comes in offsets (such as lowering heat in cities). I really liked this one project that tries to reframe trees as infrastructure.

Day 3 Nov 10th

Today was Youth and Science Day (each day at COP had a broad topic set by the Presidency). I found myself questioning why we need a specific day to include youth voices? They should be included every day. Why are we marginalizing them to one day during two weeks?

Today I went to a few talks, one in particular that I found really interesting was at the European Investment Bank pavilion called “Green Finance for Active Mobility”. It focused on how a lot of financing goes towards ‘traditional’ forms of transport such as cars, buses, trains, but very little goes towards active transport even though it is the cheapest option for investment. You also need very little investment to create big changes in terms of active transport. Traffic and congestion are harmful to our economy (some countries estimate that they lose 2-5% of GDP to traffic). The question of jurisdiction came up during the discussion too. Is it transport? Is it infrastructure? I think this is still a big question in a lot of countries. In Canada, the Active Transport fund was launched by the Department of Infrastructure, and not by the Department of Transport. Is this because it isn’t seen as a viable form of transport? It is interesting that many people do not bat an eye at the amount that we spend on roads each year, but during a recent municipal election, a mayoral candidate promised $250 million to build active transport across the city, this was “too much”. Yet we spend way more on roads and nobody thinks about it.

I also attended an all-Canadians at COP27 meeting, this was open to all Canadians and not just those who were part of the official delegation. The question of why were representatives of the oil and gas industry part of the Canadian delegation came up. The issue of greenwashing is very present at COP27 and has turned a bit into a majorz greenwashing event rather than a real conversation on tackling climate change.

Day 4 Nov 11th

Today was my last day at COP27. Once again, several very interesting panels, one that stood out to me was the “Waste Management: A Hidden Cause of Climate Change” talk at the EU Pavilion. We all know that very little plastic is actually recycled properly. The same goes for a lot of e-waste, and all other forms of waste. How can we create the circular economy that we need? A circular economy will help the economy, currently we waste a lot of resources throwing away good materials (for example, we throw away ⅓ of all food we grow). This has huge negative impacts on our economy.

COP27 - Final Reflections

My first reflection from COP27 is that I find myself questioning the value of this early event. I think the negotiations part of it has value. But the “trade show” part of COP27, what is the value? There are so many people there that it has become the “cool” thing to do. If you aren’t at COP, then you aren’t really working on climate change. There were so many private jets that came in, is this worth the carbon emissions? Most people I saw were sitting on their phones. What is the value of this event?

My second reflection is that I still felt that sport was missing from the conversation. I was only there for four days, so obviously I missed a lot and I wasn’t able to look at every agenda and every event for every pavilion, but it seemed that sport was missing. Even at the pavilions, the only one with a section on sport was Qatar, who is currently hosting the FIFA World Cup. I wonder how many people who were at COP work in sport.

So, I will try to relate some of the topics I discussed above back to sports.

Transport - Getting around

At the municipal level, cities have a lot of policy power through zoning laws, urban planning, parks, recreation facilities, recreation programming. I think the power of the city government is really undervalued. And when we talk about the climate crisis, transportation is a really low hanging fruit for cities to tackle.

  • The City of Ottawa, 42% of emissions are from Transport (2020)

  • Road travel accounts for ¾ of transport emissions globally (this is mostly made up of passenger vehicles)

  • In the EU, 71.7% of transport emissions are road transportation - 60% of this is from cars.

Waste Management

Sport events need to reduce the waste they produce. From food waste to packaging. Sports need to address this. Sport equipment also needs to work on joining the circular economy. Some examples of how sports can reduce their waste are from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics:

  • The Olympic Torch was made from aluminum waste and the clothes for the torch bearers were made of recycled plastic bottles.

  • Metals from 79,000 phones have been used to make 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

  • Medalists stood on podiums made from recycled plastics.

  • 99% of all goods procured for the Games will be reused or recycled.

  • Athletes slept on recyclable cardboard beds.

Nature Based Solutions

Sport events can be a catalyst for nature based solutions to climate resilience and adaptation. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, used for the London 2012 Games, incorporated sustainable urban drainage systems, they designed buildings and public spaces to reduce the urban heat island effect, and there is 45 acres of habitat for biodiversity.

There are a lot of opportunities for sport to be part of the solution on climate change.