SCIweek📰 COP27 closes with global collaboration, but rate of progress still a concern

21 November 2022 | Muriel Cozier

‘COP 27 has kept alive the goal of 1.5°C. Unfortunately however, it has not delivered on a commitment by the world’s major emitters to phase down fossil fuels, nor new commitments on climate mitigation…’

The second week of COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, saw leaders gather for the first ministerial roundtable on ‘pre-2030 ambition,’ with a collective call to increase action on climate change. The roundtable is a new annual event aimed at setting the global direction on mitigation and implementation that should be taken before 2030. Set against the backdrop of data indicating that the goals set in the Paris Agreement will not be met, Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary said: ‘The world is bending the curve of greenhouse gas emissions downward, but these efforts remain woefully insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.’

The COP27 Decarbonisation Day, one of the themed days, also heard calls for increased action, with the focus on the most carbon-intensive sectors including steel, oils and gas, fertilisers, and methane. Sessions saw the advancement of the Global Methane Pledge, originally launched during COP26.

Discussions were also used to present the ‘Sharm El-Sheikh Methane Roadmap’, said to be a comprehensive guide to help countries reduce emissions. The Roadmap has an emphasis on making quick progress through a number of avenues, including methane emission surveys, awareness campaigns and low-capital project implementation.

Among the many notable announcements from the Decarbonisation Day was the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge to expand its 2021 methane rule to include a requirement for the oil and gas sector to find and plug leaks at all the country’s 1 million well sites and reduce methane from the sector by 87% below 2005 levels.

US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M Granholm, announced that the US had joined Mission Innovation’s Net-Zero Industries Mission. The Mission has members from around the world, including China and the European Commission, and focuses on unlocking emissions reductions through demonstrations and cooperation across energy-intensive and hard-to-abate industries such as chemicals, steel and cement.

Among other developments Granholm also said that the US Department of Energy was to partner with Governments and major cement producers in joining a global public-private commitment to scale-up carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) in the cement sector. Collaborators will work together on technical, economic, and social dimensions of early cement CCUS projects to show how the field can develop rapidly, effectively and responsibly.

Granholm also announced that the US was partnering with the Government of Nigeria in its establishment of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Carbon Management Technology and Innovation. The Centre will focus on de-risking and adoption of innovation needed to meet the decarbonisation goals of Nigeria and other countries in Africa. The US Department of Energy will also work with Ghana to set up a regional hub for civil nuclear cooperation and nuclear renewable integration.

Speaking during Decarbonisation Day, COP27 President HE Sameh Shoukry said: ‘Today’s activities provide a significant opportunity to discuss critical plans and policies needed to reduce carbon footprints particularly in hard-to-abate sectors. We hope the conversations today help facilitate the much needed transition to a low-carbon economy.’

The Adaptation and Agriculture Day also looked to address pressing issues and make progress as the concern about feeding a growing population, in the presence of an increasingly volatile climate grows. Among a number of initiatives launched was the Food and Agriculture For Sustainable Transformation Initiatve (FAST). Backed by the United Nation Foods and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), FAST aims to implement concrete actions to increase access to finance at the farm and country levels to transform agrifood systems, making them more sustainable.

As the COP27 thematic days came to a close, Shoukry urged all Parties ‘to go the extra mile and take the necessary steps’ to reach much needed conclusions and agreement. Setting out a stark warning Shoukry said ‘While progress has been achieved on many issues, it is evidently clear that at this late stage of the COP27 process, there are still a number of issues, where progress remains lacking with persisting divergent views amongst Parties. While some of the discussions are constructive and positive, others do not reflect the expected recognition of the need to move collectively to address the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis. The world has become a stage for a continuously running show of human misery and pain. This needs to end now, not tomorrow.’

Shoukry’s comments on the last thematic day: Solutions Day, saw several initiatives launched including the Global Waste Initiative 50 by 2050, which sets the ambition to recycle and treat at least 50% of waste produced in Africa by 2050.

It could be argued that much was achieved, in terms of promise and pledges during COP27 as is often the case at such gatherings. However as the event drew to its close, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that ‘much more is needed for the planet’.

‘COP 27 has kept alive the goal of 1.5°C. Unfortunately however, it has not delivered on a commitment by the world’s major emitters to phase down fossil fuels, nor new commitments on climate mitigation. But the EU will stay the course[…]because it is essential to keep the ambitions of the Paris Agreement within Reach.’

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