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Entrance to COP27. Credit Susannah ;

Week 1 at COP 27: details up in the air on closing the ambition and finance gap

I attended week 1 of COP27 as part of my research at King’s. I met and worked with research partners from Kenya and Nepal, and followed the negotiations on the global goal on adaptation. The week was a mixture of high political rhetoric on the one hand – with the world leaders’ summit and a fleeting appearance by President Biden – and on the other, grinding slow progress on the detail.

At the end of week 1 many essential issues remain undecided. The negotiations I was tracking on the global goal, for example, only resulted in a draft – and one that still contained many different options to choose from.

This means hard decisions will be needed in week 2. Negotiations are set to be contentious across the conference centre in Sharm el-Sheikh, from the temperature target of 1.5 degrees to financing for losses and damages from climate-related impacts.

Yawning implementation gap: is 1.5 still alive?

Going into these negotiations, there was a flurry of reports showing how far the global community is from keeping on track to meet the 1.5 degrees temperature target agreed in 2015 in the Paris Agreement, and reconfirmed in Glasgow last year.

The UNEP Emission Gap report showed that current pledges would only keep world temperatures to 2.4 degrees and these are also conditional on finance for implementation. A global average temperature rise of 2.4 degrees could lead to a massive loss of GDP across Africa.

Keeping warming to 1.5 degrees requires a reduction in global emissions of almost 50% by 2030 relative to 2010 levels. Current commitments lead to about a 10% increase in emissions by 2030.

There is a specific work programme being negotiated in Sharm el-Sheikh to try and fill this gap in ambition, but progress so far has been slow with countries disagreeing on how long the programme should run for and how it should support ambition.

Some countries have even been questioning if the 1.5 degrees target should remain a global aspiration, with China and India questioning if it is now feasible. Poorer countries and those most exposed to climate risks, such as the Maldives and the Least Developed Countries, are committed to seeing this in the final text.

The IPCC makes it very clear that keeping to 1.5 degrees is the best way to minimise the damage to people and nature over the coming decades, and every small increase has implications for how people live their lives. At 2 degrees, key staple crops will not grow in key regions around the world, and at 3 degrees, the risk of species extinction is 10 times higher than at 1.5 degrees.

Into week 2, key questions to watch include:

  • Will an aspiration for 1.5 degrees be confirmed again in Egypt?
  • Will the negotiations deliver a way to monitor and accelerate ambition to halve global emissions?
Susannah Fisher with her research partners at COP27

Dr Susannah Fisher with research partners from the African Research and Impact Network

A lack of money

Another issue hovering over the conversations this week has been money, or lack of it.

In 2009, developed countries committed to mobilising USD100 billion a year to support developing countries to reduce their emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change by 2020. This target has repeatedly been missed and led to a lack of trust between countries.

In terms of finance for adaptation, last year in Glasgow, countries committed to doubling what was available to USD40 billion a year. This was estimated to be at around USD29 billion this year. In the run up to COP27, UNEP estimated adaptation finance costs at USD340 billion a year by 2030.

Although Biden made some pledges in the hundreds of millions in his visit to Sharm el-Sheikh, the context is that of the USD11.4 billion a year the US had pledged by 2024, only USD1 billion has been approved by Congress this year.

Negotiations on supporting countries to address the losses and damages from climate change also hinge on what money might be available, with aspects being contested around how finance might flow, the role of existing initiatives and when a fund might be set up. Several developing country groups are pushing to establish a financing facility this COP, to be fully operational by 2024.

Funds available to support developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are also not sufficient to support the range of plans being developed, and major questions remain about how these can be financed.

Beyond the negotiating rooms

As well as the formal negotiating rooms and tense conversations going line by line through the text to find agreement, COP27 is also host to a bewildering array of Pavilions hosting country delegations, multilateral institutions and civil society.

There are many side events going on in parallel throughout the sessions on topics such as climate finance, gender and new technologies – with new initiatives being launched, as well as opportunities for side deals and collaborations to be agreed.

Holding onto hope

So, now back in London, I am following week 2 with a mixture of hope and dread.

The stakes are so high. We need to limit warming to 1.5 degrees – a limit we will hit in nine years unless radical progress is made. There is no time for any delay, but week 1 of COP27 has left a lot to be resolved in week 2.

It remains to be seen if the pressure and urgency can win over the challenges in global politics and the diminishing levels of trust in this global process. I can only hope they will, as we cannot afford to give up.– Dr Susannah Fisher

In this story

Susannah  Fisher

Susannah Fisher

Senior Research Fellow

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