COP27 Needs to Get the 1.5 Degrees Celsius Target Off Life Support
The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 will take place in Sharm el-Sheik from 6 to 18 November 2022. At the end of COP26 in Glasgow, the UK conference presidency claimed that the conference results had managed to ‘keep 1.5 alive’. However, current and planned climate policies are still far too weak to actually achieve the target. The Wuppertal Institute has been observing the ongoing negotiations and analysing their outcomes since the start of the UN climate process. As part of the accompanying events at COP27, it will present its research and discuss specific ways to implement the Paris climate agreement.
This year’s UN climate conference takes place against a background of escalating global crises. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to soaring energy, resources and food prices. Moreover, related geopolitical tensions between important countries hinder multilateral ambitions and cooperation. 2022 was again a year of catastrophic extreme weather events, such as the flooding in Pakistan, floods and storms in Southern Africa, and historic droughts at the Horn of Africa, in China and Europe. The new assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published this year underscored once more that such impacts will further escalate with increasing global warming.
With the Paris Agreement, the international community agreed to the target of keeping the rise in the global mean temperature since the start of industrialisation well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the world is still far off track. According to the new IPCC report, global emissions need to be reduced to net zero by 2050 and already peak before 2025 and be reduced to about 30Gt CO2-eq. by 2030 to maintain higher than 50 per cent chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot. By contrast, current policies are projected to lead to global emissions of about 57Gt CO2-eq in 2030.
Need to boost ambition and implementation with a sectoral perspective
“The 1.5°C target is still on emergency life support”, Wolfgang Obergassel, Co-Head of Research Unit Global Climate Governance, explains. “The ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ requested countries to ‘revisit and strengthen’ their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by the end of this year. So far only 23 countries did so. In addition, there is an implementation gap, in many countries current policies are not even sufficient to achieve their current, too weak, NDCs. The COP therefore needs to re-emphasise the need to close both the ambition and the implementation gap and call on countries to strengthen their NDCs and actual national policies as soon as possible. Strengthening climate policy can go hand in hand with addressing the energy crisis as many climate policy measures such as scaling up energy efficiency and renewable energies will also help to improve energy security and reduce energy bills. Investing in fossil fuels to address the energy crisis would create new lock-in effects and make it even more difficult to achieve the 1.5°C limit.”
In addition to calling on countries to strengthen their NDCs, COP26 established a work programme to enhance mitigation ambition and implementation “in this critical decade”. COP27 needs to define the details. “The work programme should adopt a sectoral perspective because the sectors (energy, industry, transport etc.) constitute the arenas of action that are relevant for reducing emissions”, Lukas Hermwille, Senior Researcher in Research Unit Global Climate Governance explains. “The work programme should therefore convene a series of sectoral meetings involving relevant line ministries and non-Party actors to break the global target to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050 down to the sector level, that is, elaborate on timelines and roadmaps on how each sector can achieve decarbonization, and to identify barriers to action and how to overcome them sector by sector and country by country.”
Support for developing countries
Another key topic at the conference will be financial support for developing countries. At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, developed countries committed to mobilising 100bn USD in financial support for developing countries each year starting in 2020. However, developed countries failed to achieve this commitment, according to the OECD they mobilised only 83.3bn USD in 2020, according to other sources even less. “This failure by developed countries to live up to their commitment does not only impair the ability of developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, it also poisons the negotiating climate at the climate conference”, Obergassel points out. Another issue is that the majority of climate finance has so far gone to mitigation. At Glasgow, developed countries agreed to at least double finance for adaptation from 2019 levels by 2025, which means roughly USD 40bln. “At COP27, developed countries therefore need to demonstrate clear progress towards closing the finance gap. Moreover, they should commit to making good on any annual shortfalls by delivering at least 100bn USD on an annual average over the period 2020-2025 (i.e. 600bn USD total).”
“Furthermore, the handling of loss and damage due to climate change will be a key topic in Sharm El Sheikh. Developing countries, which are particularly affected by the negative impacts of climate change, have demanded the establishment of a dedicated financial facility”, Christiane Beuermann, Vice-Director of Division Energy, Transport and Climate Policy, explains. “Developed countries have so far been hesitant to engage on this topic, but the increasing devastation caused by climate change underscores the need to engage constructively on this issue”, Beuermann concludes.
The Wuppertal Institute provides impetus for the future with side events
The Wuppertal Institute is organising a series of side events at COP27 to present its research projects and findings and promote discussions with delegates and partners in practice. In our “official” UNFCCC side event at the “decarbonisation day” Nov. 10, we will discuss our proposal for an international steel decarbonisation club as an example for transformational climate cooperation.
Analysing the outcomes of the conference
The experts of the Wuppertal Institute have compiled a more detailed statement on their expectations for the conference. The statement elaborates on the issues discussed above in more detail and also includes further topics that are on the conference agenda, such as the Global Stocktake and voluntary cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.
Shortly after the conference closes, the Wuppertal Institute will publish an initial evaluation of the outcomes. Further information on COP27 can be found under the following links.