Since 1994, the UN climate summit, called the Conference of the Parties (COP) is held every year for governments to agree on steps to limit global temperature rises. On 6th November, the 27th meeting (COP27) took place in Sharm el-Sheikh and will run until 18th November.
The UN Secretary warned that the world is leading on a highway to climate hell. However, for activists, it is a mixed message to blame growing greenhouse gas emissions for rising global temperatures and to have Coca-Cola sponsor the summit.
“The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing.” – UN Secretary, General António Guterres
The countries had a bitter-sweet compromise at COP26 in Glasgow— agreeing to very ambitious climate pledges:
Phase down the use of coal
Last year, the president of COP26, Alok Sharma, pledged all countries to accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of coal power. A vague promise was made but one year on, Europe is temporarily returning to coal to survive the energy crisis while China and India are still building new coal power plants.
Figure 1 shows the EU countries’ fossil fuel phase-out targets for 2030, compared to the values in 2021. Most of the countries have accelerated their ambition with Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria aiming for 100% clean power by 2030.
In 2021, the EU generated 15% and 18% of its electricity from coal and gas, respectively. This year, the energy crisis has provoked Europe to accelerate the transition to clean energy. However, until we reach the point where renewable energy is enough, Europe will seek coal. In addition, huge falls in hydro and temporarily reduced nuclear generation, primarily at French plants for which renewable energies are not enough to fill that gap, will lead to the use of coal.
However, ambitious national plans are being announced— in April, Germany’s incoming government proposed an ambitious renewables package that targets 80% renewables by 2030 and near 100% by 2035. Other EU countries have joined this summer with their national plans to reach 63% of renewables share by 2030, which is almost 10% up from previous commitments.
Outside the EU, the UK hit 2.8% energy demand from coal, and in Canada, it was 4% coal and 41% gas in 2021. Both countries are committed to a clean power sector by 2035. China leads the world in solar and wind energy, although the country is still building new coal power plants. This summer, the country exported $4 billion a month of solar panels alone — placing the country on the clean transition list.
The US generated 22% and 38% of its electricity from coal and gas, respectively. President Biden is confident that the Inflation Reduction Act will make the country carbon-free by 2035. Australia’s new government is pressing to transit its energy mix from 71% fossil fuels in 2021 to 82% clean by 2030.
As a pact of Just Energy Transition Partnerships, announced at COP26, an initial financial plan is now agreed upon, which will be crucial initial steps toward the transitions and international collaboration.
Stop deforestation by 2030
Deforestation is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions. At COP26, 145 countries pledged to end deforestation by the end of 2030. Although it slowed in 2021, experts believe it is not enough to meet the commitment. To reach the target of zero deforestation by 2030, we have to cut down by 10% a year, which means the current trajectory is not sufficient.
Brazil, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Paraguay took the top four spots with the largest deforestation in 2021. Brazil especially became noticeable as the deforestation of the Amazon forest has risen under president Jair Bolsonaro.
Indonesia has sincerely cut down deforestation in the last five years. Deforestation in Malaysia, Ivory Coast, and Ghana fell by 25%, 47%, and 13%, respectively in 2021, while other countries in Latin America, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala also reported cuts in deforestation.
Cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030
Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and is a much more powerful greenhouse gas during its short lifespan.
At COP26, many countries agreed to reduce methane emissions from human activities, including agriculture, the energy sector, and other sources by 30% by 2030.
Not much action has taken place in this section as out of the five largest methane emitters— China, Russia, the US, Iran, and India – only the US is in the agreement.
Phase out inefficient oil and gas subsidies
This could be more challenging for the countries. The effect of the energy crisis has made many countries turn back to coal and auction off new licenses for oil and gas drilling. The imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) have soared across the continent, despite the significant rise in CO2 that entails.
Mckinsey published an article recently saying that approximately $9.2 trillion will be needed every year over the next 30 years for the transition to a net-zero economy. We saw, at COP26, how difficult it is for the countries to immediately replace the current inefficient operations. It takes time and money, which most countries find hard to prioritize.
What is loss and damage?
In 2009, developed nations agreed to fund $100 billion (£88 billion) a year to developing nations to fight climate change by 2020. In 2021, the nations mobilized $85.5 billion, and this year, the value is expected to reach $94.5 billion, which is still below the target. The funding will be split into three areas:
Mitigation: Many countries are still dependent on coal power stations. The money will support building clean energy infrastructure and moving away from fossil fuels and other polluting activities.
Adaptation: The money will help nations prepare for the worst effects of climate change, such as stronger floods, wildfires, etc.
Loss and damage: This is more about politics than money. Developing countries feel developed countries are historically responsible for climate change and want compensation to recover from the impacts. For developed countries, giving compensation means admitting liability for disasters.
Although the leaders are saying the $100 billion target will be met in 2023, some are still skeptical. Only this year, the world has seen the Russian invasion of Ukraine, followed by inflation and a global energy crisis. For many, climate promises could be and have been out of the priority list.
Leaders agree that the world should not sacrifice its climate commitments because of Russia’s war in Ukraine. That still needs to be seen in action. We can be sure that Russia’s invasion has pushed countries towards energy independence, which means many will seek renewable choices. How much climate compromise we have to do to reach that stage is another question. For this, COP27 should play an important role in building guidance and helping countries prepare to deal with climate change, and laying out their ambition for what to achieve through 2030.
The COP27 started this week on 6th November
196 countries met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to discuss the climate change
During COP26 in Glasgow, countries promised to phase-down coal, stop deforestation and cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030