About Action 21
COP27 seemed low on the UK agenda this year. There was some media coverage of whether Truss or Sunak or the King would attend in Sharm el-Sheikh, and mention of the removal of Alok Sharma’s cabinet position after all his sterling work as COP President last year, but very little in the way of discussion of what if anything was achieved and where are we now on our journey to climate disaster.
Were there achievements?
In spite of all its shortcomings (boycotted by Greta Thunberg this year for being a massive act of greenwashing) COP27 made some historic achievements and as always, less visible groups are working hard in many areas.
Reparation for loss and damage
- A new fund was created for wealthy countries to make reparations to vulnerable and poor countries for damage already done by climate change.
- This is a historic achievement.
Pledges to Phase out Fossil Fuels
- 140 countries, covering 90% of global emissions now have net zero targets, compared to 130 and 70% in 2021.
- Denmark, with Costa Rica, leads an initiative called Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. These are nations that aim to stop use of oil and gas completely. Core members are Portugal, Denmark, Costa Rica, France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden, Wales and Washington State in the US. Fiji, Kenya, Chile, Tuvalu, Italy, Finland and Luxembourg are ‘friends of BOGA’.
- Tuvalu became the first country in the world to endorse a new treaty similar to that on Nuclear Weapons, aiming to stop the proliferation of fossil fuels.
- Many activists from Africa argued that renewable sources of energy were key to their future.
- John Kerry from the US led a push to tackle greenwashing, bogus net zero and deceptive offsetting of carbon targets.
- USA and China pledged to continue talks.
- Biden led a multi-nation pledge of 150 countries to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 and announced USA’s new rules on methane from oil and gas production.
- New Brazilian president Lula pledged his commitment to zero deforestation.
- Lula also created a new pact ‘The Opec of Rainforests’ with Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, covering half the world’s rainforests. The three countries should be paid to tackle deforestation and boost carbon stores.
World Bank Reform
Nobody is quite sure how this will be achieved, but there has been a call on the World Bank to put in place reforms which would provide half the funds needed to help poorer and more vulnerable countries.
What are the failures?
Essentially the failure of COP27 is set to be the same as every preceding COP: countries and organisations will not do what is necessary to avert disaster.
Not sufficient strengthening of pledges
- Actions by countries show a refusal to stop using fossil fuels, not the least UK government aiming to open up new fracking and oil fields.
- Climate activists are demonised and criminalised for disruptive action but there is very little that is done to prevent illegal and dangerous activities by large corporations.
- Countries have set targets, but none of them is sufficient to achieve the 1.5 degree target.
Resistance to Loss and Damage Payment
- Wealthy countries, especially USA, are reluctant to take responsibility for past emissions and pay reparations to poor countries.
- Some countries are defined both as wealthy and as developing, e.g. China.
- There is evidence that there is a lot of ‘cheating’ to pretend to be achieving goals.
- Delegates pointed out that many companies are using 'greenwashing' as a sales ploy, whilst continuing to be highly polluting.
- Carbon credits are traded by companies who offset carbon, e.g. by planting trees, to enable polluters to continue with business as usual.
Increased Focus on Adaptation as opposed to Mitigation
is an acceptance that we have failed to avert the crisis.
- There is now a greater focus on what countries and companies can do to protect themselves and their profits.
- There is a reduced
focus on averting worse outcomes and taking the hard decisions to stop greenhouse gas emissions.
What about the future?
Many of the organisations involved with climate action will continue to work hard to mitigate the worst effects, but without a commitment to stop using fossil fuels and to reform agriculture, we will see global temperatures continue to rise with extreme events inevitable.
What can we do?
- We cannot just stop using all fossil fuels overnight, but we have to stop making excuses and commit to phasing out as soon as possible.
- For every argument about why we must burn coal, oil, or gas, or raise vast numbers of cattle for meat, we have to push for the solutions and the alternatives.
- We can lobby our representatives through local and national organisations and through parliament.
- We must understand that every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference.