COP27 is another cop out on world leaders’ responsibility to stop crisis

The 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties (known as COP27) now being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, was expected to run through November 18 but is going into overtime, marks global-warming-drought-city-fire-1200×680 are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will continue to worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Since the first COP meeting in Berlin, Germany in 1995, annual COP conferences have brought nations together to discuss the intersection of climate science and international policymaking, such as whether and what actions may be taken to reduce human emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that are causing our world to warm at an unusually rapid rate. 

“The COP27 climate conference in Egypt may be remembered as the moment when the world gave up on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the most ambitious goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement,” said Bob Berwyn, an Austria-based reporter who has covered climate policy for more than a decade.

With 25% more fossil fuel lobbyists than last year at the international climate conference, Rachel Rose Jackson of Corporate Accountability said, “COP27 looks like a fossil fuel industry trade show.”

“All that talk has accomplished almost nothing, since we have passed up the opportunity of an adequate response to global warming and find humanity confronted with needing adaptation to a harsher world,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey environmentalist.

“COP27 does not have even a fighting chance to ensure that the multilateral process delivers on its promise because there is a 93 percent likelihood that temperatures are already going at least 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,” said McCormick, who added that IPCC has raised the alarm on the narrowing window for action numerous occasions with widening gaps on adaptation, implementation and financing of measures to stop the problem.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the landmark international climate treaty adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and supported by 198 signatories but COP27 will not be able to build on the empty promises of previous conferences.

A new proposal offered by Egypt would create a fund to help poor nations cope with rising seas, deadly heat waves and other climate impacts, known as “loss and damage” in U.N. parlance.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has tested positive for the coronavirus, derailing his intense, personal brand of handshaking diplomacy and complicating the final hours of the climate talks.

The climate change conference has been characterized by delays and shouting matches over human rights, but its haphazard approach threatens to undermine global progress on climate action at a critical time less than the fact that no clear objectives have been reached after 30 years of talking about saving the planet.

“An October report from UN Climate Change shows countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward but each country’s voluntary climate commitment efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” said McCormick.

“Current commitments will increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels while the combined climate pledges of 193 parties to the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for warming around 2.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” said McCormick.

“That will require implementing the commitments countries have already made, but those appear to be insufficient to avoid the worst impacts of climate change but there is no indication that world leaders are ready to get moving on the massive transformation that must take place throughout all sectors of society to address the climate emergency,” said McCormick.

“We already see effects scientists predicted, such as the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and more intense heat waves,” said McCormick. “Scientists also predict global temperature increases from human-made greenhouse gases will continue, causing severe weather damage to also increase and intensify. We see no efforts to address these issues on a scale that would actually solve the problem.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report indicated that CO2 emissions needed to be cut 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. The latest science from the IPCC released earlier this year uses 2019 as a baseline, indicating that GHG emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030. This is critical to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN Climate Change. “But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.”

Stephanie Hirmer, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s energy and power group, said “nothing has been implemented, and it has thus failed to achieve what it set out to do,”

“While everyone knows the 1.5-degree target is off the table, it is not openly discussed in official sessions,” Hirmer said.

Teresa Anderson, Global Lead on Climate Justice at ActionAid International, called the COP27 proposal “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“We are concerned that developing countries are being asked to choose between funding for loss and damage for a small number of countries, and funding for mitigation to stay below the 1.5°C target,” said Anderson.

McCormick questioned how the world will pay “for loss and damage” if it fails to prevent catastrophic loss and damage in the first place.

“This sounds like a promise to pay for water damage without calling a plumber to stop the leak that is causing it,” said McCormick. “It is like replacing furnishings lost in a fire without subduing the blaze. The world needs to cure the climate crisis instead of compensating its victims, because money is never going to bring people back to life and when things get worse—as the are now destined to do—nobody will be able to afford a bailout for his neighbor.”

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