Posted: Thu 8th Dec 2022
Held in Egypt in November 2022, COP27 – or the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference – was hailed as "a make-or-break moment" and an opportunity to move from setting ambitious targets to implementing policy.
We've seen global leaders unite, and some progress towards action, but now it's time for them to deliver transformational change. However, even successes that seemed difficult to imagine only a few years ago still fall short of where we need to be to guarantee a temperature rise of no more than 1.5°C.
Our partners at Planet Mark have shared some key takeaways and reflections from the conference.
Loss and damage
COP27 reached a historic agreement on a fund to provide developing countries with financial assistance for losses and damage caused by the climate crisis.
Despite having the smallest carbon footprint, countries such as Pakistan, Kenya and Barbados have experienced the most extreme impacts of climate change, leaving millions of people displaced. After three decades, the issue finally made it into the COP27 agenda.
However, there's no agreement in place as to how the finance should be provided and where it should come from. Developed countries have yet to live up to their 2009 commitment to jointly mobilise $100 billion each year in climate finance.
1.5°C barely "alive"
Despite the progress on loss and damage, there has been a lack of positive movement during the summit on how to more quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to keep temperature rises "well below 2°C" above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.
Failure to keep 1.5°C "alive" would be a death sentence for many small island states and African nations. So, COP26 in Glasgow saw countries agree to return each year to "revisit and strengthen" their 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022.
But in the past year, only a small proportion have done so. The plans to reduce emissions, submitted ahead of COP27, would cut less than 1% from projected global emissions in 2030.
There was a glimpse of hope as several countries pushed for the final agreement to include a reference of the need to peak emissions in 2025 – the deadline for keeping 1.5°C alive. But this was later scrapped from the final text.
Despite more than 80 countries supporting a proposal to phase down the use of fossil fuels, once again, the finalised agreement included the same as that in Glasgow.
Fossil fuels are only mentioned once in the text – in the context of the "phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies". Given the gravity of the climate crisis, this is still very ambiguous and weak language.
Net zero carbon emissions
Net zero certainly hasn't moved forward enough at an international level at COP27, but industry continues to show leadership with the release of the ISO Net Zero Guidelines. This sets out our first end-to-end framework for what good net zero governance looks like, from targets to plans to claiming success.
Also, the Transition Plan Taskforce released the UK's net zero plan framework, against which all listed companies must now submit to the FCA by the end of 2023. That will cascade through supply chains in a really significant way.
COP26 saw the announcement of the Breakthrough Agenda – an international collaboration covering 25 new priority action areas, including plans for ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles.
Elsewhere, a new report from the United Nations emphasised the importance of rapid and large-scale action to address emissions from the most energy-intensive countries. While it's important to acknowledge these agreements, it's vital that we shift from dialogue to action.
Net zero is the goal, and the key to net zero is decarbonising not only at the company level but making sure country-level action is taken promptly. The government must prepare grid, heating and rail decarbonisation to allow businesses to reduce emissions. That's the big sticking point for the UK.
Today, only 29% of the electricity generated worldwide comes from renewables. But given electricity generation represents 23% of the world's emissions, we must move further and faster.
Under the recently launched Sharm-el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, the initiatives for energy must meet the needs of the 733 million people still living without access to electricity.
The 1.5°C target can only be achievable if the global electricity system is transformed rapidly from coal to renewable energy. And this must be achieved with India, one of the world's top emitters, announcing that coal will play an important role in its country until at least 2040.
Other notable firsts
The final agreement acknowledges the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) key finding of "tipping points". This is a warning that the consequences of human-induced climate change that lead to changes are not gradual and linear but could lead to rapidly escalating and often irreversible effects.
Also included was a reference to "the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment", highlighting the clear link between global warming and health.
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