As world leaders converge on Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the annual UN climate summit, researchers, advocates and the United Nations itself are warning that the world is still far off target 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 risen 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 Ukraine war, and try to find a system to channel money to help the world’s poorest nations to recover from devastating weather. disasters
But a flurry of recent reports have made it clear that leaders are running out of time to implement the major energy overhaul needed to prevent temperatures from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold scientists have warned the planet could face must be maintained.
Reports from the United Nations and the World Meteorological Association show that carbon and methane emissions reached record levels in 2021, and the plans that countries have put forward to reduce these emissions are more than enough. Given current pledges by countries, the Earth’s temperature will rise between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100.
Ultimately, the world must cut its fossil fuel emissions by nearly half by 2030 to avoid 1.5 degrees, a daunting prospect for economies still heavily indebted to oil, natural gas and coal
“No country has the right to be a criminal,” US climate envoy John Kerry told reporters in October. “Scientists tell us that what is happening now: the increase in extreme heat, extreme weather, fires, floods, ocean warming, ice melting, the extraordinary way that climate seriously affects life. crisis – it will get worse if we don’t address this crisis in a unified and forward-looking way.”
These are the main topics to follow at COP27 in Egypt.
Developing and developed countries have fought for years over the concept of a “loss and damage” fund; the idea that suggests that the countries that cause the most damage with their outrageous global warming emissions should pay the poorest countries, which have suffered the resulting climate disasters.
It has been a thorny issue because wealthier countries, including the US, do not want to appear guilty or legally liable to other nations for damages. Kerry, for example, has tiptoed on the issue, saying the US supports formal talks, but has given no indication of what solution the country would sign up to.
Meanwhile, small island nations and others in the Global South are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis as devastating floods, intensifying storms and record heat waves wreak havoc.
The deadly floods in Pakistan this summer, which killed more than 1,500 people, will surely be an example that the countries’ negotiators point to. And since September, more than two million people in Nigeria have been affected by the worst floods in a decade. At this very moment, Nigerians are drinking, cooking and bathing in dirty flood water amid serious concerns about water-borne diseases.
Loss and damage is likely to feature on the official agenda for this year’s COP27. But beyond countries pledging to meet and talk about what a potential loss and damage fund would look like, or even if it should even exist, it’s unclear what action will come out of this year’s summit .
“Do we hope that we will have a fund at the end of two weeks? I hope, I would love to, but we will see how the parties do,” Egypt’s chief negotiator, Ambassador Mohamed Nasr, told reporters recently.
Former White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told CNN she believes loss and damage will be the top issue at this year’s UN climate summit, saying nations, including the United States, will face tough questions about their plans to help developing nations that are already being hit hard. for climate disasters.
“He keeps getting kicked out,” McCarthy said. “There is a need for real accountability and some specific short-term commitments.”
People will be watching to see if the US and China can mend a fractured relationship at the summit, a year after the two countries stunned the world by announcing they would work together on climate change.
The new cooperation collapsed this summer when China announced it was suspending climate talks with the US as part of a broader retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Kerry recently said climate talks between the two countries are still on hold and will likely continue until Chinese President Xi Jinping gives the green light. Kerry and others are watching to see if China follows through on a promise it made last year to come up with a plan to reduce its methane emissions or update its emissions pledge.
The United States and China are the two largest emitters in the world, and their cooperation is important, especially since it can also spur other countries to act.
Apart from a potential loss and damage fund, there is the general problem of so-called global climate finance; a fund that rich countries pledged to put money into to help the developing world transition to clean energy instead of growing their economies on fossil fuels.
The promise made in 2009 was $100 billion per year, but the world has yet to live up to the promise. Some of the richest countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and others, have consistently fallen short of their allocation.
President Joe Biden pledged that the US would contribute $11 billion by 2024 to the effort. But Biden’s request ultimately depends on Congress to approve it, and it likely won’t go anywhere if Republicans gain control of Congress in the midterm elections.
The United States is working on separate deals with countries like Vietnam, South Africa and Indonesia to get them off coal and onto renewables. And US officials often stress that they also want to unlock private investment to help countries transition to renewables and deal with climate impacts.
COP27 aims to hold countries to the fire on fossil fuel emissions and generate new ambition on the climate crisis. However, reports show that we are still off track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A UN report that surveyed the latest pledges by countries found that the planet will warm between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius. The global average temperature has already risen by around 1.2 degrees since the industrial revolution.
Records were set last year for the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
There is encouraging news: The adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles is increasing and helping to offset rising fossil fuel emissions, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency.
But the overall picture of the reports shows that there is a need for much cleaner energy, deployed quickly. Every fraction of a degree increase in global temperature will have serious 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 procrastinated and wasted our time,” Andersen told CNN. “Every digit will be important. Let’s not say ‘we missed 1.5 so let’s settle for 2’. No. We need to understand that every digit that goes up will make our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren much more impacted”.
The clock is ticking the other way: Next year’s COP28 in Dubai will be the year nations will have to take official stock to determine whether the world is on track to meet the goals set out in the Agreement on Paris