COP27 – “Conference of the Parties” 27th annual gathering – just wrapped up in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt after going two days over-time, almost going off the rails only to close with an historic first agreement on “loss and damage” compensation for countries bearing and ill-equipped to manage for disproportionate negative impacts of climate change on their environments and economies. (Think recent news of devastating flooding and loss of life in Pakistan for example.)
Begun in 1992, with the signing of the original United Nations (UN) climate agreement, 194 signatory countries of the 2015 Paris Agreement now meet at yearly climate summits (COPs) for governments to agree on steps to limit global warming and report on progress, in particular on measurable impacts of each country’s climate actions toward the critical target of keeping overall global temperature rise to 1.5C.
How to take stock of the importance and results of COP27?
How to do so with a view to keeping positivity, hope and motivation for change up and anxiety at bay in face of this complex and seemingly intractable existential threat to our Earth and humanity?
After all, these international talks on climate change have been going on since 1992 – that’s a long time!
Emissions are now being measured, tracked and tackled – that’s a good thing. Not so great is the still small number of nations – 25 (including Canada) – that file regular climate action progress reports with the UN, as agreed upon. More worryingly, notwithstanding international resolve to curtail emissions, overall global emissions of greenhouse gases keep rising (!). And thus, sadly and menacingly, so do global temperatures. Is 1.5C still possible many wonder? If not, then what?
Two BBC articles help us to take stock of COP27 and to frame why it continues to be so important that world leaders and their delegations met for the 27th climate summit, what are the key take-aways, including causes for hope, and remaining areas of tension going forward.
Why is COP27 Important?
First positive outcome and no small accomplishment in our view is the meeting itself – that 194 nations – virtually all the world – continue to meet and be engaged in addressing a common (albeit largely human-made) threat to life and livelihood is important and essential to facing and solving this threat.
As the first BBC piece explains succinctly — “The world is warming because of emissions produced by humans, mostly from burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.”
“Global temperatures have risen 1.1C and are heading towards 1.5C, according to the UN’s climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
If temperatures rise 1.7 to 1.8C above 1850s levels, the IPCC estimates that half the word’s population could be exposed to life-threatening heat and humidity.”
“To prevent this, 194 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, pledging to “pursue efforts” to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.”
At the recent COP27 climate summit, three main areas of discussion were:
- Reducing emissions
- Helping countries to prepare for and deal with climate change (adaptation and mitigation)
- Securing technical support and funding for developing countries for the above.
Themed days also focused on issues such as biodiversity. (BBC: https://bbc.in/3EZVAUH)
“COP27: Climate costs deal struck but no fossil fuel progress”
The BBC headline above assesses and sums up the overall results of COP27. A major win, and a huge disappointment.
“A historic deal has been struck at the UN’s COP27 summit that will see rich nations pay poorer countries for the damage and economic losses caused by climate change.”
“It ends almost 30 years of waiting by nations facing huge climate impacts.
But developed nations left dissatisfied over progress on cutting fossil fuels.”
“…This year’s talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, came close to collapse, and overran by two days.”
“…Luke-warm applause met the historic moment the “loss and damage fund” was agreed in the early hours of Sunday, as a confusing and often chaotic 48 hours left delegates exhausted.”
“It is, though, a huge symbolic and political statement from developed nations that long resisted a fund that covers climate impacts like flooding and drought.”
“…Expectations were low at the beginning of COP27 – it was meant to be an “action” summit that implemented agreements made last year, but would not reach anything new.”
“But the loss and damage deal could be the most significant development since the Paris Agreement.”
“For almost as long as the UN has discussed climate change, developed nations worried about signing a blank cheque for climate impacts. Now they have committed to payments – though the details remain to be worked out.”
“…It tops off a conference marked with deadlock, and punctuated by dramatic moments – including Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s first appearance on the global stage since his recent election win. Speaking to rapturous crowds, he told COP27 that Brazil is back on the climate stage, promising to end deforestation and restore the Amazon.”
“It gave an injection of hope that many activists and observers of climate talks say is lacking at UN summits.”
Let’s take in and dwell for a moment on these causes for hope on the world stage, as we renew our own spirits and shore up much needed hope and resilience for the long haul at the personal level.
After 30 years of disagreement, progress is being made for the first time on establishing the historic Loss and Damage Fund. Brazil’s new leader champions ending deforestation and restoring the Amazon rainforests– acknowledged as critical ‘lungs’ and ‘carbon sinks’ of the world. Hopeful shifts.
COP27 – Sticking Points
We need and welcome hope to sustain us for the big challenges ahead. We choose to be positive-minded on climate action. This is not the same as being pollyana-ish, however.
And so, it is sobering for us to keep informed and reflect on the significant tensions still remaining. This November 20th BBC piece discusses four major sticking points among nations as: Loss and Damage; Phasing out Fossil Fuels; Keeping 1.5C Alive; and, US and China.
For us, keeping faith in keeping 1.5C Alive looms large, and spurs us forward, to keep on with Friends4Trees4Life in our efforts to invite, inspire (we hope) and support personal climate action, in whatever ways and areas each individual deems personally relevant and meaningful.
If it is important to dwell in hope for the moment – we get it. (Feel free to skip ahead now to Blue Carbon Ecosystems.)
As and if Readers are ready to temper hope with more sobering food for thought, the BBC piece on remaining COP sticking points is a short read and offers a good place to start – https://bbc.in/3GHcF6Y
No doubt there will be more to discuss on COP27 in future blogs, including more about Canada’s climate action commitments, such as today’s expected announcement on a $1 billion adaptation fund.
We end this blog post with cause for hope put forward by Canadian researchers, as reported by Global News.
Blue Carbon Ecosystems – Oceans’ role in Fighting Climate Change
A Canadian delegation of researchers attended COP27 with the goal of raising awareness about the valuable under-represented role of oceans in fighting climate change.
This Global News piece put Dalhousie researcher Anya Waite on our radar.
Read more about how the ‘deep blue carbon sink acts as a buffer and impacts climate forecasts’.
While it is common knowledge about the important role of rainforests as lungs of the world (as we have earlier celebrated about Brazil’s new stance to restore the Amazon), Waite and her team contend that the little known good news is that ‘…oceans hold more carbon than all the rainforests on Earth’ and ‘..oceans have absorbed 90 per cent of the earth’s heat emissions so far…’.
Take hope in our Canadian talent championing knowledge building for cost-effective strategies to fight climate change!
Climate change is a problem that takes huge resources to tackle, as everyone knows. Waite’s view and research is that “Canada is uniquely positioned to tap the ocean’s potential benefits..and balance its carbon output” and that “..a small investment (in ocean care) can bring enormous benefit for humankind. The problem we have is that the ocean is sort of out of sight, out of mind.”
Raising the profile on ‘blue carbon ecosystems’ seems to us to be the kind of tangible, do-able problem to solve that would move the bench posts and yield outsized dividends toward the bigger goal of driving to keep 1.5C alive to fight global warming and climate change.
We find this very promising and hopeful and a good note to end on for now.
To learn more:
Global News piece – https://bit.ly/3EYSyzP
Dalhousie News on Behind the scenes: How COP27 reached a deal that supports better monitoring of oceans to curb climate crisis – https://bit.ly/3tYN01Y
Ocean Frontier Institute