Everything you need to know from week 1 of COP27 By Imogen Player

Since COP26 in Glasgow last year, we’ve seen another year of climate-related catastrophes across the world. From severe flooding in Pakistan with 33 million people impacted, to Greenland’s ice sheet melting in September faster than it’s ever done previously on record. We’ve had European wildfires, the Russia-Ukraine war and a global energy crisis. Quite the year.

As we focus in on COP27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, it provides two weeks of climate negotiations between countries on action to tackle global climate change issues. As well as formal negotiations, there’s exhibitions, workshops, performances and audiences of youth groups, business groups, academia and indigenous societies.

A key part of this year’s negotiations is on countries setting targets on how they’ll cut their emissions. COP26 was a big year for targets and pledges being set, so it’s expected that COP27 won’t see quite the same enthusiasm for target-setting as last year.

Fewer world leaders joined the World Leaders Summit this year, with no representation from India, China or Russia. Rishi Sunak made a last-minute decision to attend and Greta Thunberg didn’t join due to claims that it’s greenwashing. However, closer to home we’re still seeing engagement – we’ve seen protests throughout the UK, from Just Stop Oil’s M25 protests to more peaceful protests in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

The Headlines:

1. Global temperature is 1.15C above pre-industrial levels: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned that the 1.5C target is ‘barely within reach’ and there’s a 50/50 chance that the global temperature will hit 1.5C by 2030. Emissions have risen in 2022 because of an increase in flying after covid and the use of coal where energy from Russia has been banned.

2. Reminder of COP26 key pledges, where the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed:

    • To ‘phase down’ the use of coal – one of the most polluting fossil fuels and responsible for 40% of annual CO2
    • To stop deforestation by 2030.
    • To cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
    • To submit new ambitious climate action plans to the UN that specifically include CO2 reductions.

Countries were given until September 2022 to submit new plans, but only 22 out of 196 countries did. The UN’s latest assessment of these plans estimates that if all targets are met, global emissions will increase by 11% by 2030 compared to 2010 and lead to a warming of 2.7C by 2100. However, they need to fall by 45% by 2030 to keep global temperatures below 1.5C, therefore there’s a big disparity between what we need and what we’re actually getting.

Some of the new targets that were set include:

    • Australia legislated a new pledge to cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030.
    • India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.

3. ‘Loss and damage’ are now formally on the agenda – but it’s proving controversial: This is the principle whereby money from developed nations is given to developing nations to help them recover from the impacts of climate change that they’ve already suffered. It was controversial in Glasgow, where developed nations didn’t want to create a loss and damage finance mechanism and instead only wanted to focus on future mitigation and adaptation. Developing nations claim that developed nations are historically responsible for climate change and developed nations don’t want to agree to loss and damage as this would be accepting liability for the impacts.

4. New Adaptation Agenda launched: In partnership with the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and the Marrakech Partnership, the agenda is a comprehensive global to-do list to help improve the resiliency of more than four billion people against climate-related risks. There are 30 ‘Adaptation Outcomes’ to help protect those living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030. Actions span five ‘impact systems’ that include: food and agriculture; water and nature; coastal and oceans; human settlements; and infrastructure, and include enabling solutions for planning and finance.

5. New Forests and Climate Leaderships partnership launched: Consisting of more than 25 nations, collectively accounting for 35% of global forests, they will meet twice a year to track progress towards the Forests and Land Use declaration (launched at COP26). A new £90m funding package was also launched to support protection and conservation in the Congo Basin, a critical hotspot for global biodiversity that’s home to around 10,000 species of tropical plants.

6. New Net Zero ISO standard launched: It aims to set a common path for definitions along with high-level principles and guidance for actors who want to achieve climate neutrality. Available to access

The Daily Detail:

Day 1 – Monday 7th November – World Leaders Summit Day 1 out of 2

  • More than 120 world leaders joined and kicked off the two weeks with the two-day World Leaders Summit.
  • The UN said that progress on cutting emissions has been “woefully inadequate” since COP26.
  • The WMO concluded that there was the biggest annual increase in methane in 2021 since records began around 40 years ago. Scientists aren’t sure exactly what caused this jump, but it’s likely from farming, oil and gas production, or even climate change itself.
  • The UN launched a new action plan to ensure that all populations are covered by early warning systems, because many people are displaced by climate disasters and live within danger zones. It calls for governments to invest $3.1bn in the systems between 2023-2027.
  • LEAF Coalition (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance) was set up at COP26. They now have more than $1.5bn in corporate spending committed to the initiative, and will focus on ensuring that tropical forest carbon sinks are protected from deforestation while protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and members of local communities.
  • Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon rainforest and deforestation has increased by 48% compared with last year. Hopefully, the incoming President Lula will combat deforestation once he takes power in January.
  • Wildfires are an increasing issue for Europe and Australia; Russia lost 6.5 million hectares of forest to fires last year and 1.4 million hectares were lost in Europe.
  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that investing in green infrastructure is morally the right thing to do and that he is committed to the £11.6bn international climate fund that was pledged in COP26 – but it’s likely the plan will take longer than the five years originally planned. He also confirmed that the UK has joined the Global offshore Wind Alliance, formed recently to act as a catalyst for the deployment of offshore wind technologies. His speech was criticised by environmental campaign groups as lacklustre and not detailed or sincere.

Day 2 – Tuesday 8th November – World Leaders Summit Day 2 out of 2

  • The number of delegates with links to fossil fuels has risen 25% since COP26. Campaign group Global Witness found that more than 600 people are linked to fossil fuels, which is more than the combined delegations from the 10 most climate-impacted countries. In addition, BP has major investments in Mauritania and as a result, the BP chief executive Bernard Looney was registered as a poor country delegate.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to many countries imposing sanctions against Russia and have stopped purchasing its fuel. As Russia is a major fuel provider, there has been a significant shortage in energy which has seen countries move to more polluting sources of energy such as LNG and coal. Although this is a short-term measure to move away from Russian gas, the long-term energy crisis is prompting nations into renewable energy investment e.g. in May the EU proposed to increase their 2030 target for renewables from 40% to 45%. Russia’s invasion has also caused a large volume of warming gases to be released into the atmosphere – equivalent to adding nearly 16 million cars to the UK’s roads for two years. This was calculated by counting emissions from forest and agricultural fires, as well as oil burnt after attacks on storage depots. Rebuilding Ukraine will also cause significantly more emissions. However, both French President Macron and US President Biden said that the war shouldn’t change commitments on climate.

Day 3 – Wednesday 9th November – The Negotiations Begin – Finance

  • A new Energy transition Accelerator (ETA) was launched to finance the decommissioning of coal and accelerate clean energy deployment in developing countries. It’s a joint initiative between the US Government, Rockefeller Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund, which will work to invest in schemes that create carbon credits. The criticism of this is that significant detail was missing, including credit prices and whether the credits will be used to avoid the work needed on deep emissions reduction.
  • The Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) was launched jointly by the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), Sustainability Energy or All (SEforALL), the UN Economic Commission for Africa and UN Climate Change High Level Champions. The aim is to create a working carbon market for the continent to enable 300 million high-quality credits produced annually by 2030, creating $6bn in income and supporting 30 million jobs.
  • It was claimed that many banks participating in the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) are making decisions which will undermine their targets and that they need to close loopholes in target-setting. For example, many members have targets covering some high-emissions sectors but not others.
  • Bankers for Net-Zero, which convenes some of the UK’s largest banks and green economy organisations, is calling on nations to adopt a simpler carbon reporting framework for SMEs. They launched a new ‘Mobilising SMEs for Climate Action’ workstream.
  • UK Export Finance (UKEF) announced plans to offer direct lending to low-income countries and small island developing states to support with climate adaptation and resiliency plans, with banks agreeing to offer more flexibility to nations when they are hit with climate-related extreme weather events.

Day 4 – Thursday 10th November – Science; Youth and Future Generations

  • The UN-backed Race to Resilience initiative launched a new initiative: the Insurance Adaptation Acceleration Campaign. Through partnerships, its ambition is to mobilise 3,000 insurance companies (equivalent to 50% of the market) in one year, so that they’re better able to cover assets that will face physical climate risks.
  • A Global Youth Statement was shared, contributed to by young people from 149 nations out of the participating 193. The resounding call was for delegations at COP27 to demonstrate tangible progress in delivering on the pledges and promises made.
  • Despite there being a designated youth day, Sophia Kianni, advisor to the head of the United Nations at COP27 felt that youth is still underrepresented at COPs and that the voices of current and future generations are still being ‘lied to’ by world leaders.

Day 5 – Friday 11th November – Decarbonisation

  • Biden claimed that the US is a global leader on climate after it recently passed new climate laws, along with more pledges for money for developing nations suffering from climate disasters. However, critics noted that this is still far off what should be pledged and previous promises haven’t yet been fulfilled, especially around climate funding for poor countries.
  • The High Level Expert group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities published a new set of recommendations on setting short, mid and long-term commitments. They include prioritising deep emissions reductions, in line with science, over offsetting and ensuring that any offsets which are used are robust.
  • The UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce published its first proposals for guidelines on what corporate net-zero transition plans should include in order for them to be classed as ‘gold standard’. Large firms in high-emissions sectors in the UK will be mandated to produce such plans in the coming months and some have already produced them voluntarily.
  • The Breakthrough Agenda was launched at COP26 with the aim to lower cleantech prices. The initiative now covers more than half of global annual emissions and GDP. It sets out 25 new priority action areas for the next year, including clarifying plans for ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, the increased use of hydrogen and net-zero industrial plants and clusters.
  • Sri Lanka set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. They committed to increase their renewable energy generation from 35% to 70%, with pledges for transport, forestry, eco-tourism and water all introduced. Their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have been submitted to the UNFCCC.
  • Climate TRACE is the world’s most detailed global inventory of GHG emissions and reported that emissions from the oil and gas sector have been significantly underestimated and may actually be up to three times higher. This is likely down to poor tracking of methane emissions resulting from leaks and flaring. It includes data for more than 72,000 sources of GHG emissions in high-emission sectors, notably oil and gas fields, fossil fuel power plants, road networks and facilities in heavy industrial sectors such as steel, cement and aluminium.

Day 6 – Saturday 12th November – Adaptation and Agriculture

  • This was the first agriculture-themed day at a COP, which disappointed many climate groups who state that food systems are at present a key driver of nature loss and contributor to emissions. However, they noted that this could be changed so that instead food systems act as solutions to climate change – especially important when considering how we meet our global climate goals whilst feeding a growing population that just hit the milestone of 8 billion people.
  • Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) is a new initiative that was launched and aims to increase climate finance flows to farmers and join up knowledge sharing and policy-making efforts for sustainable food systems. Nations are encouraged to sign up, of which the UK and others have agreed they will join.
  • The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate had its funding commitment doubled from $4bn to $8bn. It’s investing to scale innovative technologies and processes from now to 2025.
  • The US and Egypt confirmed a plan to contribute more than $150m into adaptation and resiliency projects across Africa, with major nations collectively agreeing to more than $8bn in funding for sustainable agricultural practices across the continent.
  • Finally, the We Mean Business Coalition issued a declaration on behalf of hundreds of businesses, stating that 1.5C is a ‘limit, not a target’ and that enough hasn’t been done since COP26.

To conclude:

There doesn’t seem to be as much momentum this year so far as there was at COP26. Whilst that’s likely partly because COP26 was a year on the five-year cycle that countries submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), it’s also being seen more widely in a lack of leaders being present, a lack of protests on site due to Egypt’s stricter protest rules, claims that greenwashing persists and a lack of detail, action or tangible evidence against targets.

The 17th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place in Bali week commencing 15th November. It seems like that meeting may have a significant impact on COP27, especially because US President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet face-to-face. As the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, they are critical to global climate talks, however, talks between them have paused because of ongoing tensions over Taiwan.

COP27 week 2 negotiations are now underway, focusing on: water, gender, energy, biodiversity and solutions.

Missed out on key details from the 2nd week of COP27 as well? Explore our week 1 catch up here!

For more information

Imogen Player
Senior Consultant
[email protected]

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