Is COP27 the end of hopes for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius?

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt—The COP27 climate conference in Egypt will be remembered as the moment the world backed down from limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious target set by the Accord of Paris in 2015.

Late Friday, the scheduled final day of the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, heads of national delegations were still meeting to discuss whether the final documents should include a reference to this temperature target, which scientists call a limit which, if exceeded, would push some Earth systems beyond dangerous and irreversible tipping points.

This year’s annual meeting has been billed as the ‘implementation COP’, but so far ‘nothing has been implemented, and so it has failed to achieve what it s ‘was fixed,’ said Stephanie Hermer, senior researcher in the energy and electricity group at the University of Oxford. “Although everyone knows that the 1.5 degree target is not on the table, it is not openly discussed in official sessions,” she said.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme, the only way to stay below this limit would be for industrialized countries to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions – roughly halving them over the past eight next few years and to zero by 2050 – but nothing that happened at this year’s two-week conference increased the likelihood of that happening.

At present, according to a UN report published just before COP27, pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on a heat trajectory between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees, which which would lead to catastrophic climate impacts, including even more deadly heat waves, worsening droughts. and water shortages, crop failures, and ecosystem degradation that could wipe out some species of mammals, insects, birds, and plants.

For two weeks, “rich countries have been stonewalling, delaying and distracting…trying to kick the box with more requests for assessments, reports and dialogues,” he said. Therese Andersonthe global leader in climate justice for Action Aid Internationalan NGO focused on women’s rights, poverty and climate equity.

The United Nations Environment Program Emissions Variance Report which was published ahead of the climate conference concluded that there was “no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place” and that “only urgent system-wide transformation can avert climate catastrophe.” “.

There were no signs of this kind of change at COP27, said Astrid Martins Kabengele, representing the Democratic Republic of Congo at the talks as rapporteur on economic and social issues.

“It’s an economic COP. It’s nothing more,” she said. “This is the fourth COP I have attended and it is the same at the end, with developed countries hosting this COP to earn their own money. They don’t offer a solution. They ask us not to use our oil, not to use our gas. So what do they give us,” she said.

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that it is still theoretically possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but most pathways to this goal rely on the direct elimination of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, an option that may never be economically viable on the scale required.

Still, it’s important that the goal of stopping warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius remains on the table, as removing it “opens the door for delegates here and governments to try to pull more towards the language of the Accord.” of Paris of the 2C, which will be catastrophic”, declared Alexis McGivernresearcher at the University of Oxford working on net zero standards for non-state entities.

“After a choppy few days where we saw the language on 2C go from ‘catastrophic’ to ‘increasingly severe climate impacts’, it’s good to see 1.5 reiterated in the current version of the cover text,” said she declared. “The emissions gap report released before COP27 clearly indicates that there is still a path to 1.5, but the door is closing. We need to focus on building that path rather than dwelling on whether or not 1.5 is a realistic goal.

Growing inequality hinders progress

Civil society observers at COP27 have expressed concern about a growing power imbalance between developed and developing countries that threatens to shatter consensus on global climate policy and further slow progress.

Instead of making progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit warming, some new agreements on the use of fossil fuels discussed at the conference will likely prevent the world from undertaking these efforts, said Sebastian DuyckSenior Counsel at the Center for International Environmental Law.

Rather than focusing on climate change as a human rights issue, “this COP has been marred by promoting false solutions,” he said. One of the draft documents circulating on what was supposed to be the final day of the conference even removed language that recognizes basic human rights, such as the right to a healthy environment. “That is, of course, the end result of a COP with a wild power imbalance,” he said.

Frustrations over the COP27 negotiations spilled over to the highest level, with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressing concern about so-called net zero targets that rely on carbon trading and offsets to achieve climate goals. Under such programs, countries and companies can continue to emit greenhouse gases by buying credits, planting trees, or preserving patches of forest that theoretically absorb those emissions.

Prior to the conference, Guterres said that “the criteria and benchmarks for these net zero commitments have varying levels of rigor and gaps wide enough to pass a diesel truck”.

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This shows that the fossil fuel industry continues to lead the climate train, said Brian O’Callaghan, Principal Investigator of the University of Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project. He said there have been some successes at the climate talks over the decades, but mostly it has been “27 years of filibuster, delay and greenwashing. If the COP was a football rivalry, it would be among the most lopsided; fossil fuels Interests: 27, humanity: 0.”

He said that in some respects the process has backed off. In 1992, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted, rich countries agreed to pay for all forms of mitigation and adaptation.

“Today, developed countries are doing everything they can to avoid this promise,” he said. “The multilateral system is built on trust and every year developed countries erode that trust.”

And even as developing countries are eager to decarbonize, they are crippled by a lack of money.

“Unfortunately, we have seen little change here in Sharm el-Sheikh,” O’Callaghan said.

Current plans to decarbonize global economies by 2050 rely heavily on carbon offsets and trading programs, but Guterres said there must be “zero tolerance for net zero greenwashing.” Pledges must be aligned with science-based scenarios for limiting warming and they must cover all types of greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

“Let’s just say it like it is,” he said. “It is reprehensible to use false promises of net zero to cover up the massive expansion of fossil fuels. It is a deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The fraud must stop.

Teresa H. Sadler