Meeting the target of limiting heating to 1.5C
At Cop26 in Glasgow, countries agreed to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The pledges on emissions cuts they came forward with were not enough to meet this goal, however, so they agreed to return this year with strengthened commitments. Few have done so – only 24 submitted new national plans on emissions to the UN in advance of Cop27.
Verdict: There will not be enough progress here to meet the 1.5C goal, but there is a baby step forward – the UN estimates that the improved plans that have been submitted will bring down temperatures by about 0.1C. But we are still heading for a disastrous 2.5C of heating on current policies.
Fulfilling promise of $100bn a year on climate finance
Since 2009, poor countries have been promised $100bn (£87bn) a year from 2020 to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of extreme weather. This target has not been met, and will not be met before next year.
Verdict: The rich world has caused the climate crisis, but the poor world – with tiny emissions in comparison – is bearing the brunt. The longer rich countries fail to fulfil their promises, the less trust there is in them among developed nations.
Most of the money that does go to the developed world in climate finance is destined to help middle income countries with projects to cut emissions, such as wind and solar farms. But what the poorest countries most need is help with ways to adapt to the extreme weather they are already seeing, such as regrowing forests, building flood barriers and putting in place early warning systems. Only about a fifth of climate finance is currently for adaptation, and nations promised last year to double that.
Verdict: The Egyptian Cop27 presidency launched an action plan for adaptation as a key focus of its first week, so there will be progress but the target of doubling adaptation finance will not be met yet this year.
Loss and damage
One of the biggest issues at Cop27 is loss and damage. This refers to the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis, so extreme that countries could not adapt to them. Examples include the record droughts threatening nearly 150 million people with severe hunger in Africa, and the record floods that hit Pakistan this September. Poor countries say they need funding for rescue and reconstruction when such disasters strike, but rich countries have so far been reluctant to come up with any way of funding this.
Verdict: Loss and damage is firmly on the official agenda for this conference – that was assured after a late night of negotiations at the start – but it will not be settled here. Countries have only embarked on the process of setting out what loss and damage means and how help for poor countries can be structured. While a few countries have come up with funding, discussions on how to find the hundreds of billions needed will carry on long after delegates leave Egypt.
World Bank reform
The World Bank is not on the agenda of the UN climate summit – it’s a completely separate institution to the UN. But many world leaders here have called for reform of the bank, which they said had failed to focus on the climate crisis and was not fit for the 21st century. Beleaguered World Bank president David Malpass is attending Sharm el-Sheikh, but his job will be looking a lot more shaky by the end of this fortnight.
Verdict: If the World Bank is reformed, which is looking more and more necessary and likely, the pressure brought to bear at Cop27 will be a important factor in achieving it.
Movement on African gas
Many African countries are sitting on large reserves of fossil fuels, and with soaring gas prices around the world would like to exploit those reserves. Oil and gas companies would like to invest in them too, but rich countries and climate experts warn that doing so will just add to the climate crisis that is already having disastrous impacts on the poorest on the continent. African countries scent hypocrisy, pointing out that the rich have already burned their supplies.
Verdict: There will certainly be movement on African gas at this Cop, but in which direction? Oil and gas investors are lurking in every corner of the conference centre, and they will be looking to go home with climate-busting deals.