This year, the effects of the climate crisis have become even harder to deny – from flooding in Bangladesh and Pakistan to soaring temperatures in the UK – it’s clear that there is a lot on the line as we prepare for another crucial climate conference.
From November 6 to 18, Egypt will host COP27. The mood is gloomy ahead of the talks, with the UN Environment Program describing progress since COP26 last year as “woefully inadequate.” Meanwhile, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) warned that current national pledges to reduce emissions are far from sufficient to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Despite the growing skepticism about the UNFCCC process, there are some rays of hope.
Africa is being represented
COP27 is being held in Egypt, marking the first time the conference has been hosted outside of Europe since 2016.
The fact that this “African COP” is taking place on a continent that plays a minor role in the global crisis but will bear the brunt of its consequences is symbolic.
Despite Egypt’s poor human rights record, campaigners hope that the venue will provide a platform for voices from across Africa and other parts of the global south to share their priorities, such as access to renewable energy, adaptation finance, and compensation for loss and damage caused by global warming.
Loss and damage are on the agenda
For over three decades, island nations and other vulnerable countries have requested assistance in dealing with the inevitable and unavoidable effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions. The countries with the greatest historical contributions have resisted.
However, this year, loss and damage will be officially negotiated. Denmark pledged $13.3 million for loss and damage in September, following Scotland and the Belgian region of Wallonia.
It’s a pittance compared to the $500 billion a group of vulnerable countries estimates they’ve lost and damaged over the past two decades, but it does pressure other wealthy nations to follow suit.
Brazil’s new president promises “zero Amazon deforestation”
Brazil’s presidential election last Sunday was won by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who committed to “zero Amazon deforestation” in his victory speech. Even though COP27 is before his inauguration, he has promised to send representatives.
Though Lula da Silva’s previous record as president was mixed, one thing is certain: deforestation rates fell remarkably under his watch. His predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, on the other hand, weakened environmental protections and Indigenous land rights.
Climate scientists lauded the election as a victory not just for Brazil, “but for humanity and life itself”.
We could be at an energy turning point
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a global energy crisis. The International Energy Agency (IEA) calls this a “historic turning point” toward a cleaner, cheaper, and safer energy system.
Due to massive renewable energy and electric vehicle growth, the most recently published World Energy Outlook found that global fossil fuel combustion carbon dioxide emissions rose by just under one percent this year. In 2021, after the pandemic, the increase was much larger.
According to Fatih Birol, executive director of IEA, solar and wind are replacing much of the gas withheld by Russia, “with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary.”
The IEA predicted gas use would rise until 2050 last year. For the first time, it says global fossil fuel use could peak over the next decade thanks to stronger global emissions policies.
Fossil fuel company profits are under scrutiny
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, oil companies have seen much higher profits this year. However, many governments are trying to recover funds due to the cost of living crises.
UK companies paid a 25 percent energy profits levy which was introduced in May. Meanwhile, the EU agreed on emergency measures to charge energy firms for surplus revenues from rising electricity costs. President Joe Biden has suggested a windfall tax on energy companies for using record profits to buy back stock or pay dividends.
Of course, there’s quite a lot of resistance from energy companies, but there are some who are showing compliance. For instance, Shell’s outgoing CEO Ben Van Beurden has said it’s “only sensible” for governments to cash in on energy profits, calling it a “right” and “moral” way “to help the most vulnerable in society”.
Australia joined the COP26 methane pledge
Methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, were unexpectedly addressed at COP26 last year.
Many countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. Australia, the 11th-largest methane emitter, joined 112 nations in signing it.
A general election earlier this year ushered in a new administration for Australia. Anthony Albanese won with a climate-focused campaign, an improvement from the previous prime minister Scott Morrison, who had doubts about the seriousness of the climate crisis.