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February 8, 2023

Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, International Programs, supported Tanya Trujillo, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP-27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022, COP-27 hosted roughly 100 heads of state and 35,000 others who participated in side events including bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

photograph of two people talking inside a room with a flag in the background
Tanya Trujillo, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, and John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, at COP-27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November 2022 (Virginia Burkett, USGS).

The U.S. delegation (from 16 federal agencies) was led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and the U.S. Department of State. Assistant Secretary Trujillo headed up the delegation from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), including Avra Morgan from the Bureau of Reclamation and Joe Younkle, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary. The DOI team had bilateral meetings with the director of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Adaptation Programme.

A major focus of COP revolves around the interests of governments and civil society in sharing knowledge, exchanging capacity, and planning response strategies together. Assistant Secretary Trujillo’s experience in water policy and the science and water management that she directs at DOI were relevant and timely. Her formal presentations focused on climate and biodiversity, the Landsat mission, and multi-level governance for climate action in the U.S. She spoke at a ministerial-level event about the new International Drought Resilience Alliance, of which the U.S. is a member. She gave remarks on behalf of the U.S. as a witness to the signing of an historic agreement between Israel and Jordan to restore the Jordan River.

Meetings with water ministers from several different countries were among the most significant in terms of requests for technical assistance from the U.S. Ministers from two countries asked for assistance in assessing and mitigating the impacts of climate change on streamflow and groundwater resources. One U.S. Tribal coalition identified a need for more streamgages in their watersheds. Landsat was recognized as the ‘gold standard’ for documenting changes in land cover and land carbon, wildfire, coastal retreat, and many other climate-related changes in natural and human systems globally. 

As disparate as interests seem around the world, COP-27 emphasized youth, water, climate finance, nature-based solutions, indigenous peoples, equity, and other priorities that are commonly discussed in the U.S. At COP-27 the world came together to discuss options and plan solutions, recognizing that the foundation for that action is trusted science for a changing world.  


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