COP27: What’s next? Climate Now debate

In the wake of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, Climate Now debates the final declaration from the summit, asking where it failed, where it succeeded, and what needs to happen next before COP28 in 2023? 

A panel of climate and political experts will discuss the goals and outcomes of COP27, and answer your questions.

Joining the debate will be:

  • Carlo Buontempo, Director, Copernicus Climate Change Service
  • Lars Peter Riishøjgaard, Director, Earth Systems Branch, World Meteorological Organization
  • Jeremy Wilks, Science Correspondent, Euronews

It will be streamed live here on Wednesday 23 November 2022 at 11.00 am CET and you can ask your questions in this registration form: 

What’s the climate situation today?

When leaders and delegates from 190 countries sat down in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, the global picture of the climate crisis appeared to be of even greater urgency than at Glasgow’s COP26 last year.

The UN’s climate summit came in the wake of dramatic floods in Pakistan, record-setting heat waves in Europe, and natural disasters amplified by global warming in many other countries.

Global temperatures remain at a statistical high with the average surface air temperature 1.2°C above the pre-industrial average. Alarmingly, the temperature increase is as high as 3°C in the Arctic, according to Copernicus’s European State of the Climate 2021 report.

Sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets have lost mass, and sea levels are now rising at 4.5 mm per year on average.

The Paris Agreement sets a goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average. However, in 2021, the average temperature had risen by 1.2°C, and a UN study found that the risk of breaking the 1.5°C level at least once in the next five years was around 50 percent. 

As temperatures rise from continued carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere, the number of extreme weather events is projected to increase, too. 

COP26 in Glasgow was a moment of reckoning for countries. While many critics found there was little considered action implemented, there was recognition at the increasing emissions gap and the need to strengthen 2030 targets by COP27. However, despite many warm words, action on emissions reduction is slow.

The UN international treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement, requires countries to outline and communicate their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reduce carbon emissions.

When taking every country’s NDCs into account, there is still a significant gap between the planned reduction in emissions and the action required to reduce global warming to a range within 1.5 and 2°C.

When implemented, the NDC pledges from Paris Agreement countries will reduce global emissions by between five and 10 per cent by 2030. To get on track for limiting global warming to the desired level, the figure should be between 30 and 45 per cent.

Was COP27 a success?

How did countries fare during this year’s COP27? International headlines paint a picture of how the summit was seen in Europe.

  • “World still ‘on brink of climate catastrophe’ after Cop27 deal,” wrote the Guardian.
  • “Death on the Nile” was Politico’s summary.
  • “COP27, between hope and despair” was Le Monde’s take.
  • “Limiting warming to 1.5°C has become a hollow phrase after the climate summit,” wrote a Volkskrant editorial.

In Glasgow, then COP president Alok Sharma said the 1.5°C target was still in reach but “its pulse is weak”. This year’s president Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry has reiterated that the goal is within reach.

However, not everyone is convinced by the outcome of the summit. “It does not bring a high degree of confidence,” European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said of the final declaration. “It does not address the yawning gap between climate science and climate policy.”

A contentious final text

The basic contention was that policies needed to reduce the emissions gap were not agreed upon at COP27. 

A goal to have global emissions peak by 2025 was not created. The clause was expected in the final text, but was omitted due to pressure from multiple countries.

Just 29 countries submitted updated NDCs to the UN in 2022.

A visibly angry Sharma said of the summit’s conclusion: “Emissions peaking before 2025 as the science tells us is necessary? Not in this text. Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal? Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels? Not in this text.”

The final agreement text does outline some positive steps taken to tackle the developing climate crisis. Crucially, there has been a focus for the first time on wealthy countries footing the bill for damages to lower income countries likely to be hit harder by extreme weather.

Known as the Loss and Damage fund, it was agreed in order to aid with the harm being done to the world’s “most vulnerable countries”. Acceptance of the need to create such a fund was one of the key developments from the summit. Pressure from developing nations was spearheaded by Pakistan, a country reeling after exceptional floods killed over 1,700 people, left over two million people displaced and cost the country €39 billion.

The fund isn’t without controversy though, with critics questioning the definition of developing countries that was used in negotiations, as it is based on a 1992 agreement. Many countries have seen significant growth since then, and it seems to many observers to be unfair for countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia, which are major greenhouse gas emitters, to not be considered wealthy enough to contribute to this new fund to help those most impacted by climate change.

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