The biggest climate event of 2018 kicks off Sunday, Egypt. A raft of challenges threaten global efforts at taming rising temperatures.
This year’s gathering is set against a backdrop that includes severe weather disasters. It also comes with rising energy costs, food insecurity, and a looming crisis in debt. These factors combine to undermine resilience measures in countries most at risk.
Other complications include a sharpening of tensions among many of the world’s largest climate polluters, broken promises to lower carbon emissions and failures in delivering money to those on the frontlines of the emissions-driven disasters.
” The geopolitical environment may not be conducive for ambition,” stated Alden Meyer, senior associate at E3G. “But the world expects governments and international organizations to cooperate on three major issues: climate impacts, accelerating mitigation ambition, and delivering highly scaled up climate finance
The Egyptian hosts of the summit have prioritised action over new promises. This suggests that tangible solutions to climate impacts will be a cornerstone of the negotiations like no other. This means that we must come up with billions and trillions of dollars.
President Joe Biden will make an appearance Nov. 11, about half-way through the two-week conference, along with a pared-down U.S. delegation. The talks will be used by Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (the incoming president of Brazil), to showcase their climate credentials. China’s and Russia’s leaders, which are the world’s largest climate polluters, plan to skip the event, along with officials from many other large economies like India and Australia.
Here are a five things to watch as more than 40,000 attendees descend on the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th round of global climate talks.
Cooperation has been a vital — and often elusive — element of climate talks over the past 30 years because decisions can’t be made without consensus. These gatherings are fraught because leaders bring baggage. This year, relationships between some of the largest emitters in the world are especially fraught.
Russia has been exiled from the international stage for its brutal war against Ukraine. The climate effects are staggering. The war has caused food insecurity by preventing grain shipment, increased prices at grocery stores, and decreased fertilizer supplies. It is also increasing energy prices around the world and driving some countries to burn more fossil fuels, at most in the short-term.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the talks, but his delegation will.
Climate cooperation among the U.S.A. and China remains suspended. This raises concerns that the conference might fail to make significant progress if the two world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases are not talking to each other. John Kerry, the U.S. climate ambassador, stated last week that talks remain “in limbo .”
But these frosty relations could have fewer consequences than at previous conferences. There will be fewer bilateral negotiations between Egypt’s nations, which will put more emphasis on the speeches of world leaders at the beginning of the talks. Xi Jinping is China’s leader and is not expected to be there.
With a low representation from major economies a provisional speaker list , suggests that confrontations are less likely, according observers. Instead, tensions may be higher at a Group of 20 major economies meeting in Indonesia during the second week of the climate talks.
If leaders in Indonesia undermine climate action, it could spill into the conference in Egypt and possibly water down the outcome.
” It’s going to require collective solidarity and a promise to try to weather it together rather than having a fortress mentality,” Meyer, E3G, said.
Money, money, money
Money will always be a top priority in climate negotiations. The severity of climate-related disasters this year has put the issue in the spotlight. It’s been punctuated by the widening gap between what countries have committed to pay and what’s needed to adapt and respond to those impacts (Climatewire, Nov. 3).
Closing this financial gap is vital for countries moving away from polluting sources of energy and towards renewables. It is also necessary to assist nations in preparing for inevitable climate impacts such as rising seas or heavier rains.
Developing countries will expect rich nations to explain how they will fulfill a pledge made last summer in Glasgow, Scotland to double support for adaptation. At the same time, the private sector has underinvested in developing countries and will be under pressure to deliver (Climatewire, Nov. 2).
There has been a lot of interest in finding new ways to unlock this money. This includes reforming multilateral developmental banks. After criticisms of its slow-walking climate finance, eyes will be on the World Bank.
A plan by Barbados to transform the global financial system could gain traction (Climatewire, Sept. 29). Progress on the initiative, known as the Just Energy Transition Partnership, which was launched last year to help coal-dependent countries transition into renewables is expected.
Developed countries must demonstrate progress on past promises in order to rebuild trust for future negotiations on financing.
” Although there are many headwinds, there is still much that can be done. Many channels are still open to dialogue here,” stated Joe Thwaites, a Climate Finance Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
‘Loss or damage ‘
Payments for irreparable damages and losses are at the top of climate finance concerns. This money, sometimes referred to as climate reparations is used to address the damage caused by emissions from rich nations to poor countries.
A heat wave in Pakistan followed by drought and historical flooding is an example of how those losses look and the immense amount of funding required to recover.
” In parts of the country where the water is not receding the relief needs will continue long,” Farah Naureen (country director for Mercy Corps Pakistan) said. “But there is not enough money to provide for all the people and move towards early recovery, rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods. “
U.N. Secretary-General Antnio Guterres has called efforts to address loss and damage the “litmus test” for COP 27.
Countries are close to agreeing to a discussion about ways to finance payments to climate harms. However, the U.S. and Europe will not be supporting a dedicated fund to compensate for climate damage at these talks.
Agreement to talk could be the basis for determining how much money will flow in the future for loss and damage. The shape of these talks will be crucial to unlocking progress across the whole package of negotiations.
” There’s a high chance that something good will happen,” stated Ani Dasgupta of the World Resources Institute. “We also feel that if it doesn’t happen, there’s a high risk of vulnerable countries walking away from this .”
Dash for gas
The energy crisis resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine has prompted intense debate about the future of natural gas. Europe’s efforts have led to new plans to build ports and facilities to import liquefied natural gases from the U.S. and other countries. Leaders have also been seen going on the hunt for gas in some parts of Africa.
African nations with oil and gas resources say they want to use this energy to develop their economies and provide funding, especially in the absence of any other funding. Senegal is leading the charge for investment in gas production.
But, there are divisions within African countries themselves, as most don’t have a lot of fossil fuel resources and suffer from the climate effects their use causes. Kenya’s new president, William Ruto, has pledged that the country will get all of its energy from renewables by 2030, and he urged other countries in Africa to follow.
“At the moment, the discussion in Africa is about how to present a common Africa position, especially around the energy transition, and around some flexibility in the use natural gas, to achieve goals around electrification,” Zainab Uman, director of Africa program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said during a briefing.
Around 600 million people in Africa lack access to electricity or clean cooking, making energy and sustainable development deeply intertwined.
It is urgent to address climate change, stated Usman. “But in getting to the future that we all want, whether it’s net zero by 2050, or whatever objective that we have set, we have to be very clear-eyed about what is feasible — what is feasible politically, what is feasible socially.”
Only 24 of 193 countries — and almost none of the world’s major emitters — have updated their national targets to tackle climate change, despite an agreement at last year’s climate summit to do so. The world has not made any progress in limiting global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists warn that climate impacts will be more severe than ever.
There has been some progress in the United States since last year’s passage of major climate legislation. The European Union will end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035 and has laid out a plan to move faster toward renewable energy. The recent election in Brazil of Luiz Incio Lula Da Silva is seen as a significant boost for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest.
But ambition has been thwarted by economic turmoil.
Biden pushed for more oil production in order to lower gasoline prices. The amount of coal used abroad has increased rather than fallen. And Western leaders have retreated from a pledge to end gas investments (Climatewire, June 29).
The U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday could see Republicans win control of either one or both chambers of Congress. This would make it difficult for the U.S. climate finance pledges to be fulfilled, which are dependent on congressional approval.
“COP27 creates a unique opportunity for the world to come together, mend multilateralism, rebuild trust and unite at the highest political levels to address climate change,” Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs and incoming head of the climate summit, wrote in a letter to delegates. He noted that achieving this outcome will require “solidarity, action, and not empty rhetoric.”
The challenge for Egypt is to package the results in a way that sends out a signal for progress even if there’s no big announcement, said Kaveh Gulanpour, vice president for international strategy at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
” The whole system has been built around a kind of adversarial type of zero-sum dynamic negotiation with a lot of drama around the final plenary. And I fear that this dynamic is still present. He said that the system must move beyond that reality. It’s about political will to implement Paris’ demands. It’s about implementing the promises. It’s not about negotiation .”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. C