‘We’re not moving fast enough’: Former Obama adviser at COP27

The COP27 climate conference represents an opportunity to move forward, but a significant escalation of efforts will be needed in the coming years, according to former special assistant to President Barack Obama.

Speaking at the CNBC Sustainable Future Forum last week, Alice Hill was asked if she was optimistic or very concerned about the pace of change.

“We are very concerned that we are not moving fast enough, and the strikes and danger [are] … ahead of our efforts,” Hill, who is now a Senior Energy Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick.

The COP27 conference, which is taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is taking place at a time of significant global turmoil. War, economic troubles and the Covid-19 pandemic cast a shadow over his work.

During her CNBC interview, Hill was told that climate change often slips out of the hierarchy compared to other global issues and events.

It was a point of view with which she seemed to agree. “Climate change has been affected by an issue that I learned about at the White House,” she said.

“When I worked at the White House, [it] it quickly became clear that the urgent prevailed over the important,” she added. “Of course, climate change is urgent now.”

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Despite this urgency, she noted that the war in Ukraine, U.S.-China tensions, and other geopolitical tensions tend to “overshadow the need to work and continue to advance progress on climate change.”

She argued that it “has really been par for the course since scientists first sounded the alarm decades ago.”

A significant amount depends on the negotiations taking place in Egypt.

On Monday, the Secretary General of the United Nations issued a stern warning, telling COP27 participants that the world is losing the fight against climate change. “We are fighting for our lives and we are losing,” António Guterres said.

At the Sustainable Futures Forum, Hill was asked about the best scenario she could realistically present at COP27.

“That we have further progress on the methane commitment,” she said, clearly referring to the commitment to reduction in methane emissions made at COP26 last year.

Her other hopes for COP27 included making “serious commitments or improved commitments” when it came to funding for the developing world; and more efficient handling of loss and damage.

Despite the above, Hill warned.

There were “many opportunities for really significant steps forward,” she said, “but I fear that this COP will not offer us the kind of transformational leap forward that this issue requires – and deserves – to keep the globe safe.”

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