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Review of COP27

Article Published At:
Green Energy Times
Date of Publication:
December 12th, 2022

Review of COP27 Alan Betts Nov 26, 2022

The COP27 meeting in Egypt continued the annual discussion of key climate change issues and whether we are on target to keep the warming of the planet below 1.5oC. Teams of people brought their enthusiasm from around the world, including many young groups to encourage decisive action to reduce climate change but their access was limited. In contrast there were 636 fossil fuel lobbyists to ensure their companies’ profits were protected.

At COP26 in Glasgow, 153 countries made net-zero commitments, many for 2050, and put forward new or updated emissions targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that would probably limit the global rise of temperature to 2oC. The global climate disasters in the past year make it obvious that we are already past critical thresholds, with 2020 the warmest year at 1oC above the 1880-1900 reference average. At COP26 nations agreed to phase out coal and fossil-fuel subsidies, and all agreed to make more ambitious emissions targets by the end of 2022.

However, since then, only 24 countries have revised and updated their emission-reduction targets. Australia is the standout where the new Labor government has pledged to cut emissions by 43% by 2030, and has laid out plans to increase investment in solar, electric vehicles and renewables to decarbonize. However Australia is also making huge profits as the number one exporter of coal, and it claims it is not responsible for those emissions! Likewise some Middle Eastern countries are developing ‘green’ economies, which frees up more oil for export.

Following COP26, the UN appointed a high level Expert Group: “Integrity Matters” on the Net-zero Commitments of Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions. The main conclusion that Secretary General António Guterres presented at COP27 is that “Greenwashing” is prevalent. Essentially climate change denial has been replaced with greenwashing, which is dishonest advertising by the fossil fuel and financial industries that pretend they are doing something to deal with climate change, when in reality this is tiny compared with their huge profits. A fine example is the Exxon-Mobil “Advancing Climate Solutions” July 2022 Progress Report. They plan a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030 by reducing the emissions from the leakage of methane and its flaring: they should have done this decades ago. They plan for net-zero emissions from its ‘operated assets’ by 2050, and they hope to develop a business strategy that is resilient to net zero emissions by 2050, whatever that means. This is the company that knew disaster lay ahead in 1978 when their own chief scientist did the global warming analysis. Yet for 45 years they have bribed politicians, funded fraudulent advertising and continued to extract and sell oil globally.

There was no consensus at COP27 on the key issue of phasing out all the fossil fuels: the fossil fuel lobbyists made sure of this. The observers who were there as citizen lobbyists were not allowed in the negotiation rooms. The global warming threshold of 1.5oC was nominally kept but it is slipping away (as may 2oC).

The second big issue at COP27 was loss and damage payments from the rich countries (responsible for most of the emissions) to the poor and middle income countries that historically emitted very little, but are suffering the current climate extremes without the resources to deal with them. An agreement to set up a ‘loss and damage’ funding facility was reached; and this was regarded as the rare victory at COP27. It is a promise to begin a process to establish a fund of voluntary contributions, but who will contribute and how it will be managed will be left to COP28. This agreement in principle was only reached because Pakistan, the Chair of the G-77 coalition of 170 developing countries (plus China), kept pushing for agreement into Sunday morning, long after the meeting’s nominal closure on Friday. The climate disaster in Pakistan this year killed 1700 people, flooded a third of the country, destroying homes and causing massive destruction of crops. Pakistan cannot afford the reconstruction. Also pushing were the Pacific island nations who sent a delegation led by Vanuatu asking for a ‘loss and damage’ climate fund. As the climate warms, Category 5 hurricanes are becoming more frequent. Damages have reached $600 million in a single year, a major fraction of the annual economy. Their reefs are dying and they are critical to their life and food supply, and rising sea level is an existential threat. They have asked for payment for these losses as their way of life is destroyed.

China does not want to contribute as it was given ‘developing country’ status in 1992 and contributed far less historically to emissions, even though now it is now a major producer as the second largest global economy.

In a just world, the fossil fuel companies would be major contributors to this climate fund as they are making trillions in profits every year, but their strategy has been to bribe politicians to ‘deny climate change’ and protect their business from any responsibility for damages. The EU would like the fossil fuel industry to contribute. The US has the largest economy and is the biggest historic contributor of emissions. However in the present 117th US Congress, 139 climate science deniers have accepted more than $61 million in lifetime direct contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries. I would assume the fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 had millions in bribes available to ensure their companies do not have to pay.

This agreement to establish loss and damage funding represents progress, but the US claims it does not include liability or compensation provisions. More generally a stable climate is incompatible with US business-as-usual capitalism, since its key objective is to maximize profits.by exploiting people and the Earth’s resources, which include the fossil fuels. The US avoids discussing these key issues in global forums, which constrains progress at these COP meetings. In a different context the Russian attack on Ukraine has impacted fuel supplies and costs in Europe as well as globally. It has indirectly nudged renewable energy development, but also the development of more natural gas transport to replace the loss of Russian supplies. However the massive secret destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines (presumably by Russia) is worrying to Norway and the UK, as they have networks of natural gas pipelines under the North Sea. Since NATO support is preventing Russia from capturing Ukraine, Putin may resort to the semi-clandestine destruction of critical underwater NATO facilities.

As always COP27 deferred many critical issues to the future, so watch for follow-up! Mounting challenges make agreement very difficult, but climate catastrophes will nudge us.

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