YMCA delegate: COP27 aftermath and the bigger picture

Date: 21 November 2022

By Shakil Karim, USA 

The YMCA lead delegate shares his reflections from the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), and why he is hopeful for the future.

From a plane at 30,000 feet in the air, you see the earth’s diverse geography and a minuscule colony of humans across the world. It is an incredibly small planet with one thriving ecosystem. 

How do you even begin to share the aftermath of COP27? Especially the outcomes and the reflections or understandings of such a large multifarious event? Any single narrative would only juxtapose the multiple realities of what COP presents, so I am challenged with how to organize my thoughts into a linear comprehension. 

Global unity and world decisions are not easy. There are great differences between culture, ideologies, linguistics and political structure. From this perspective, our world is too vast and diverse for me to sum everything into a dichotomy of good or bad, progressive or regressive. There are elements of both in all, and really, I can only recognise that multiple realities are taking place in a moment in time. 

COP is a venue for the world to come together and make efforts to hold each other accountable, but it is not the most important space. Sure it’s flashy, exclusive and technical, but the true venue for work comes down to each of our roles and relationships within our domestic regions. This will look and be different depending on the region, its systems, history, geography and scale of its people. 

If you ask me about what we need to do, I summarize it into 4 themes: 

  1. Strategically, we need to re-conceptualize our capital systems. Our way of systemically extracting from the earth has become a parasitic analogy that only hurts everyone. We need more spaces for innovation, specifically identifying low-extractive resources that yield the highest amount of energy with the lowest amount of risk and harm. 
  2. Practically, we need to reassess our culture. We must conserve our waste, reuse our products and invest in longer-lasting consumables, food, clothing, and infrastructure. No more cheap and fast. 
  3. Technically, this means we have to identify a phase-out of the fossil fuel plan and encourage growth in the green technology sector. But we also need greater innovation, because renewables, at the rate we have to mine and build, are a short-term solution until we have a breakthrough in the technical power of energy production.
  4. Philosophically, it’s time to unpack our global narrative. Do we share this planet with other species and humans? Do we want them in our future? Are we going to make an earth that is truly for all? If we want to share it, how can we? And what social learning do we all need to engage in to make a philosophical shift? Is that even collectively possible given our humanity’s history and ideological diversity? 

Change is hard. I am left with realising how much work we each need to do in our own communities, regions, nations and people. 

I know others are in positions where these ideas seem unlikely. I understand that some people in some places have gone through so much and that our differences are complex challenges to digest. I empathize that such horror and harm is being done and that reconciliation seems an impossible approach. At the same time, I also think we have a greater abundance of commonalities compared to our differences, and focusing on the similarities gets us closer to a real solution. 

I have a lot of hope for the world, and places like COP itself aren’t exactly where it comes from. But meeting the people at COP who are trying to do something for the one big giant thing we share – yes, that is pretty powerful. It becomes a piece of you. 

In the end, we are left with work and hope that everything we dedicate our time to now will alter the future millennia towards a just earth for everything and everyone.