There’s just over a week to go until the beginning of the year’s big international climate conference, the COP27, at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt on 6 November. While it’s important to approach a summit as important as this with as much optimism as possible, the success of COP27 is, at this point, more of a distant hope.
Due to a variety of factors—Russia’s war in Ukraine, Europe’s energy crisis, the political circus in the UK and high inflation and food insecurity everywhere—there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of political anticipation for the COP this year. And yet, it is vital that certain key breakthroughs are made in climate negotiations this year.
Because, as the UN has pointed out yet again, this is the time for urgency, not complacency. As the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recent Emissions Gap Report points out, far from limiting global heating to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (the safe threshold of warming), the world is currently on track to heat up by 2.8 degrees Celsius by then.
This would be catastrophic, and national commitments to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy—especially by the world’s richest countries—is falling woefully short. There are two aspects to this: a long term and a short term emissions reductions target. After assessing the climate pledges of the 166 nations that have submitted emissions reducing NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution), the UN had this to report. It states that right now there is a 66% long term chance of limiting warming to 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2100. Which is clearly not enough.
The scarier analysis is for the short term, that is, 2030. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have to fall by 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels), for the world to have any chance of preventing climate breakdown. The UN has found that current climate pledges will see GHG emissions actually rise by 10.6% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. This is frankly alarming news.
It also goes to show that countries are just not taking the prospect of a climate catastrophe seriously. And this, despite the global suffering that we can already see occurring every year. At the very moment that the world needs to shift to renewable energy on a war footing, countries are becoming increasingly myopic in their priorities.
The global energy crisis should be a clear indication that depending on fossil fuels is not just a climate hazard but also a moral one. By continuing to rely on oil, natural gas and coal, we are granting undue influence to regimes that control these resources; regimes that have every reason to block climate action. As the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook Report 2022 shows, it is fossil fuels that are contributing to rising inflation and food insecurity globally.
The IEA report also states that further investment in renewable energy is the only way to soften the blow of the crisis. A higher share of renewable energy will lead to lower energy prices, the IEA finds. It also states that clean energy investments have to rise from the current $1.3trillion to $4trillion by 2030, if the world is to meet the goal of net zero GHG emissions by 2050. The roadmap is clear, but will countries act on it in COP27?