Rebecca Lamas, a researcher and sustainability expert of the STG Climate team, is a member of the EUI delegation attending the summit, which takes place from 6 to 18 November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. In this interview she helps to make sense of the intricacies of the international climate change negotiations.
The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) takes the baton from COP26, which took place in November 2021 in Scotland. The Glasgow summit resulted in a series of decisions and resolutions building on the 2015 Paris agreement, setting out what needs to be done to tackle climate change. However, the Glasgow Climate Pact does not stipulate what each country must do and is not legally binding.
Rebecca, where did the international climate negotiations leave off after COP26?
“Nearly 200 countries agreed at last year's COP26 summit to upgrade their emissions-cutting pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions, in time for COP27. Only two dozen countries have so far done so, including countries like Indonesia, South Korea and Australia. The EU plans to upgrade its target in 2023. In the meantime, the world remains on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming beyond the pre-industrial average.”
What about progress on tackling deforestation?
“In Glasgow, more than 100 countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030. Supporters included Brazil, Indonesia and Congo, which together contain more than 80% of the world's remaining tropical forests. To reach this goal, deforested areas should shrink by 10% each year from 2020. Instead, deforestation fell by just 6.3% last year, according to the Forest Declaration Platform which tracks progress on the goal.”
What else stood out in Glasgow?
“Methane was also a protagonist at COP26. To date, 119 countries and blocs including the US and the EU have joined the COP26 pledge to slash methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. But only 15 of them have come up with concrete plans to do so, according to a report this month by the World Resources Institute. Several countries are expected to provide methane strategies in time for COP27.”
COP27 takes place as the world is watching Ukraine. One of the side effects of the Russian invasion is an energy crisis. How will this impact negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh?
“There surely will be a stronger emphasis on quitting fossil fuels due to the war in Ukraine. This provides an opportunity to realise earlier commitments. Around 20 countries including Germany, the US, Canada and the UK pledged last November to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022, except in "limited" circumstances that comply with climate goals.
COP27 is expected to see more countries make the pledge. Endorsers are also under pressure to convert the non-binding commitment into policy, which some including France have done.”
What country should we look out for at COP27?
“All eyes are on Brazil after the recent elections as it is a pivotal country in the deforestation debate. Last year, Amazon deforestation hit its highest level since 2006, and preliminary government data suggests it rose a further 23% in the first nine months of 2022.”
Climate finance is a crucial agenda issue, in particular as the UNFCCC negotiations return to the African continent. What can we expect here?
In 2009, developed countries pledged to transfer $100 billion per year by 2020 to vulnerable states. This amount has become symbolic, even though it falls far short of the actual sums needed for poor nations to cope with severe climate impacts.
Rich countries fell $16.7 billion short of the target in 2020 and have indicated that it won't be met until 2023. We can expect this subject to be raised forcefully during COP27.