From food security to climate finance: What do green groups want from COP27?
COP27 began in Egypt on Sunday (6 November) with a formal opening for world leaders in the diary for Monday (7 November). Here, we round up the last-minute calls to action from key environmental organisations.
Taking place in Sharm-El-Sheikh this November, from the 6th to the 17th, COP27 is a major event in the diary for anyone in the sustainability space.
At COP26 in Glasgow last year, nations collectively agreed to update their Paris Agreement commitments within 12 months and signed a new text, the Glasgow Climate Pact – the first from any COP to explicitly mention fossil fuels.
Much has changed since then, and a turbulent backdrop could be a reason for nations to pull together and aim for an even faster transition – or an excuse for backtracking, disagreements and weak pledges.
Here, we round up the last-minute calls to action from key environmental organisations.
In a rallying cry for the start of the conference, Namibia’s national focus point Petrus Muteyauli said: COP21 told us what to do, COP 26 told us how to do it and COP27 calls us to go to the battlefield and implement what we decided over the past 27 years.”
The UN’s recent Synthesis Report on nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement stated that the global temperature increase is on track to reach 2.5C by 2100. This is if all commitments are delivered in full – something which has never happened before. Nations were asked to update NDCs between COP26 and COP27 but the vast majority – more than 160 of the 190+ nations involved – failed to do so.
As such, the world is on track to breach both of the Paris Agreement temperature trajectory targets. Climate scientists have stated that, beyond certain points of warming, physical impacts will bring about cascading harm to nature, society and the economy. Green groups are understandably pushing for renewed ambitions and efforts to ‘keep 1.5C alive’.
“Countless countries the world over, including the UK, are failing to fulfil their promises and are off track to limit warming to 1.5°C,” said WWF’s executive director for advocacy Katie White. “Anything less than tangible action from our leaders, starting now, is a derogation of their duty and betrayal of future generations.”
“There has never been a more opportune time for a concerted global push to accelerate the net zero transition, put the world on a path to 1.5C of warming and provide developing countries with the climate finance support they need,” added Theresa May, former UK Prime Minister and current chair of the Aldersgate Group.
Major progress on loss and damage
Loss and damage – the process for compensating low-income regions and nations for physical climate-related impacts borne from emissions they did not generate – is set to be the major talking point at this year’s COP. To date, COPs have failed to realise a funding mechanism through which to allocate climate reparations. Some wealthy nations, including the US and EU, blocked progress last year.
The chair of the LDCs Group Madeleine Diouf Sarr said: “This is the year to bring the vital issue of climate loss and damage to life. Since 2013, rich countries have recognised the need for loss and damage of climate change to be addressed but have dragged their feet ever since. But the momentum is building and it’s becoming clear that no one can stand in the way of this issue being properly addressed. An African COP is the ideal place to see the creation of a loss and damage fund so that the poorest and most vulnerable people can get the help they deserve.”
“As they respond to the impacts of a climate crisis not of their making – such as extreme weather events – vulnerable low-income countries desperately need these funds to provide essential supports to protect the health and well-being of their citizens,” said the Global Climate and Health Alliance’s (GCHA) executive director Jeni Miller.
IEMA’s chief execurive Sarah Mukherjee added: “The global community must find ways to ensure countries at the frontline of climate impacts are getting the financial investments they need for adaptation and we must phase out fossil fuels. We are at a turning point where we cannot expect countries from the global South to continue to engage in the COP process when their concerns and needs remain unaddressed.”
Ending all fossil fuel subsidies, not just the ‘inefficient’ ones
“In Sharm El-Sheikh, governments must commit to a deadline for full and just fossil fuel phase-out as a public health imperative, and define how this will be delivered”, said the GCHA’s Miller. “Only a full phase-out of fossil fuels will deliver the health benefits of cleaner air and protect people from the harm to their health caused by the extraction, transport, processing and burning of oil, gas and coal.”
Last year, the final COP text became the first to explicitly mention fossil fuels. UK COP President Alok Sharma had been calling for an agreement to “phase out” coal, but this was watered down to “phasing down unabated coal” by nations including China and India. Sharma had also advocated the inclusion of an end to all fossil fuel subsidies, but, similarly, the caveat of “inefficient” subsidies was added.
Beyond strengthening the final texts, nations like the UK are facing calls to reconsider joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. Alliance members set a formal end date for new oil and gas licensing plans and set out measures to wind down existing capacity over time. The initiative was launched last November, spearheaded by Denmark and Costa Rica.
Meeting climate finance targets and allocating more to adaptation
Back in 2009, wealthy nations made a collective pledge to funnel $100bn of climate finance to developing nations annually. The amount has not been delivered in any given year in full to date. The peak was $83bn in 2020 and the full amount is not likely to be met in 2021 or 2022.
All manner of climate organisations, including those mentioned in this article, are explicitly calling for this target to finally be met. Some are also calling for additional payments to make up for past shortfall.
There are also calls for a greater share of the funding to go to climate adaptation, as emissions mitigation currently takes the lion’s share of the funding. The UN has stated that adaptation funding to the Global South, annually, needs to be five to 10 times higher than it has been. The GCHA wants half of all international climate finance to go to adaptation and for definitions of adaptation to include making health systems more resilient.
Additionally, this year, nations will begin negotiating on post-2025 climate finance goals as part of the formal process.
Acknowledging and addressing climate’s impact on human health
The University of Exeter’s co-director for the Land, Environment, Economics & Policy Institute Prof Ian Bateman said: “If we cared nothing for nature’s beauty, were unmoved by the ongoing extinction of wild animals, and were untroubled by the impact of environmental disasters upon the poorest and most vulnerable in the world – if in fact we only cared for ourselves and our economic wellbeing – we would still want to avert climate change. Its impact on our economy and our welfare is growing at a speed that is already outpacing our ability to react and the costs of inaction are spiralling.”
The recent Lancet climate ‘countdown’ report on the links between climate and human health was a harrowing read. It documents an uptick in cases of – and deaths from – conditions such as heatstroke within the past two decades. It warns of increased risk of disease transmission, hunger and other public health issues in the decades to come.
The GCHA is calling for nations to include health metrics in negotiations, agreeing on measures to track Paris Agreement progress in the form of climate impacts on human health.
Focus on food systems
Food systems have been a focus point for many in sustainability this year, with Russia’s war in Ukraine disrupting international flows of sunflower oil, grains and fertiliser as well as fossil fuels. India’s wheat export ban, implemented after unseasonably early and intense heatwaves, as well as droughts in large parts of the world, have compounded concerns around food security.
Ethiopia’s minister for planning and development, Dr Nemera Gebeyehu Mamo, offered a chilling comment ahead of the Summit: “Drought is pushing people to the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa. The untold suffering that climate change is causing is all around us. Delegates at COP27 will be sharing the very ground with those suffering from terrible hunger and drought. It is vital that developed countries finally hold to their promise to deliver the agreed climate finance that can pay for adaptation, a loss and damage fund and accelerate decarbonisation. That is the key that will unlock climate action and allow those on the front lines of the climate crisis some hope.”
WWF’s White said: “Only by tackling the climate crisis, restoring nature and transforming the way we produce food from farm to fork will we deliver long term prosperity and ensure energy and food security… The UK must lead from the front and take further urgent action on reducing emissions, building resilient food systems and protecting nature.”
Leadership from the UK
The Aldersgate Group agrees with WWF that, as outgoing COP president and as the first major economy to have legislated for net-zero, the UK has a “pivotal” role to play this year. The business organisation wants to see concrete progress on some of the initiatives spearheaded by the UK last year, such as the ‘breakthrough agenda’ on affordable cleantech. It also wants to see strong leadership from the UK Government, with new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now bound for Egypt after initially declining his COP27 invitation.
Ikea UK and Ireland’s chief sustainability officer and country retail manager Peter Jekelby said that the UK Government will need to “re-commit to its ambitious climate agenda after a summer of uncertainty, and provide clear and consistent policies that incentivise businesses like ours to invest and innovate”.
What are your hopes for, and expectations from, COP27? Let us know in the comments.