As world leaders converge in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the annual UN climate summit, researchers, advocates and the United Nations itself warn that the world is still a long way from its climate change goal. to stop global warming and prevent the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
Over the next two weeks, negotiators from nearly 200 countries will push each other at COP27 to raise their clean energy ambitions, as the average global temperature has already climbed 1.2 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution. .
They will haggle to end the use of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, which has seen a resurgence in some countries amid the war in Ukraine, and try to find a system to channel money to help countries the world’s poorest to recover from a devastating climate. disasters.
But a flood of recent reports have made clear that leaders are running out of time to implement the sweeping energy overhaul needed to keep the temperature from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold scientists have warned the planet must stay below. .
Reports from the United Nations and the World Meteorological Association show that carbon and methane emissions hit record highs in 2021, and the plans countries have submitted to reduce those emissions fall short. Given current country pledges, the Earth’s temperature will climb between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100.
Ultimately, the world must nearly halve its fossil fuel emissions by 2030 to avoid 1.5 degrees, a daunting prospect for economies still heavily reliant on oil, natural gas and coal.
“No country has the right to be delinquent,” US climate envoy John Kerry told reporters in October. “Scientists tell us what is happening now – the increase in extreme heat, the extreme weather, the fires, the floods, the warming ocean, the melting ice, the extraordinary way life is badly affected by the climate crisis – will get worse unless we address this crisis in a unified and forward-looking way.
Here are the top issues to watch at COP27 in Egypt.
Developing and developed countries have been arguing for years over the concept of a “loss and damage” fund; the idea that suggests that the countries causing the most damage with their outrageous global warming emissions should pay the poorest countries, which have suffered from the resulting climate disasters.
This has been a thorny issue because the wealthiest countries, including the United States, do not want to appear guilty or legally responsible to other nations. Kerry, for example, tiptoed around the issue, saying the United States supported formal talks, but he gave no indication of what solution the country would support.
Meanwhile, small island nations and other countries in the global South are feeling the impact of the climate crisis, as devastating floods, intensifying storms and record-breaking heat waves take their toll.
The deadly floods in Pakistan this summer, which killed more than 1,500 people, will surely be an example for the countries’ negotiators to point to. And since September, more than two million people in Nigeria have been affected by the worst flooding in a decade. Right now, Nigerians are drinking, cooking and bathing in filthy flood water amid serious concerns over waterborne diseases.
It is likely that loss and damage will have a place on the official agenda of COP27 this year. But beyond countries pledging to meet and discuss what a potential fund for loss and damage would look like, or if there should even be one, it’s unclear what action will come out of the summit. This year.
“Do we expect to have a fund by the end of the two weeks? I hope, I’d love to – but we’ll see how the parties get there,” Egypt’s chief climate negotiator, Ambassador Mohamed Nasr, told reporters recently.
Former White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told CNN she thinks loss and damage will be the main issue at the UN climate summit this year, and said that countries, including the United States, would face tough questions about their plans to help already hard-hit developing nations. by climatic disasters.
“He keeps getting kicked out,” McCarthy said. “There needs to be real accountability and specific short-term commitments.”
People will be watching to see if the United States and China can mend a broken relationship at the summit, a year after the two countries surprised the world by announcing they would work together on climate change.
The new cooperation fell apart this summer when China announced it was suspending climate talks with the United States as part of a broader retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Kerry recently said the climate talks between the two countries are still on hold and will likely remain so until Chinese President Xi Jinping gives the go-ahead. Kerry and others are watching to see if China keeps the promise it made last year to submit a plan to reduce its methane emissions or updates its emissions pledge.
The United States and China are the two largest emitters in the world and their cooperation is important, not least because it can inspire other countries to act as well.
Apart from a potential fund for loss and damage, there is the overarching issue of so-called global climate finance; a fund into which rich countries have pledged to inject money to help the developing world switch to clean energy rather than developing their economies on fossil fuels.
The promise made in 2009 was $100 billion a year, but the world has yet to deliver. Some of the wealthiest countries, including the US, UK, Canada and others, have consistently fallen short of their allocation.
President Joe Biden has promised the United States will contribute $11 billion by 2024 to the effort. But Biden’s request ultimately comes down to Congress to approve, and will likely go nowhere if Republicans take control of Congress in the midterm elections.
The United States is working on separate agreements with countries like Vietnam, South Africa and Indonesia to get them to move away from coal and towards renewable energy. And U.S. officials often stress that they also want to unlock private investment to help countries transition to renewable energy and deal with climate impacts.
COP27 is meant to keep countries on fire from fossil fuel emissions and spark new ambitions in the face of the climate crisis. Yet reports show that we are still far from keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A UN report that looked at countries’ latest pledges found the planet would warm between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius. The average global temperature has already increased by about 1.2 degrees since the industrial revolution.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, records were set last year for the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles is increasing and helping to offset the increase in fossil fuel emissions.
But the overall picture of the reports shows that there is a need for much more clean, rapidly deployed energy. Every fraction of a degree of global temperature rise will have dramatic consequences, said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
“The energy transition is totally doable, but we’re not on that path, and we’ve been dithering and wasting time,” Andersen told CNN. “Every number will count. Let’s not say ‘we missed 1.5 so let’s just do 2.’ No. We need to understand that every number that goes up will make our lives and those of our children and grandchildren much more impacted.
The clock is ticking another way: next year’s COP28 in Dubai will be the year nations must take official stocktaking to determine whether the world is on track to meet the goals set out in the Accord. history of Paris.