Connor Escudero highlights the importance of COP 27 as the climate conference takes place in Egypt, suggesting how the conference can be successful.
Without any shadow of a doubt, in humanity's battle to combat climate change and the effects of global warming, urgent action is needed. This mantra will certainly be repeating in the minds of the 30,000 plus delegates descending upon the glossy Sharm El-Sheikh these coming days, as COP 27 kicks off with much hope and anticipation following the general success of the previous summit in Glasgow late last year.
With recently-appointed PM Rishi Sunak having been pressured and dragged to Egypt, it appears that our country’s leadership and direction on the pressing need to pursue climate justice is pathetically feeble, and seemingly out of touch with the general consensus of many world leaders attending. It marks a clear cut difference from Labour’s ambitions for a ‘Fairer, greener future’ announced at conference a few weeks ago, with exciting flagship policies such as doubling onshore wind, tripling solar and quadrupling offshore wind power, as well as the creation of renewable energy oriented ‘Great British Energy’. These policies show that we need a Labour government to work hand in hand with world governments, at conferences like these, if we are to pull our weight in the battle against climate change.
In order to turn the ambitions announced in Glasgow, as well as Paris, into reality, COP 27 must be a conference not only defined by aspiration and agreement, but concrete action too. If we don’t limit global heating to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, extreme weather events will become the norm. Inevitably, these weather events will carry devastating economic impacts like chronic inflation and recessions, as breaks in global supply linkages, labour force displacement and destruction of capital goods become regular consequences of flooding, hurricanes, heatwaves and droughts. Climate change disproportionately affects those in poverty, exacerbating the divide between the rich and poor in our society. The social and environmental impacts carried by a failure to meet that goal are equally as severe. Destruction of ecosystems like the Amazon and the Arctic polar ice cap are only a couple of the real and material ramifications that will signal the failure of our inaction. The wiping out of indigenous communities, a respiratory health crisis, the flooding of island nations, wildlife extinction, all of these are simply just a smattering of what could, and will happen if we don’t act now.
The two key pillars at COP 27 that will serve as the foundation for a successful summit are mitigation and adaptation. As you tune into the conference these coming few days, you will hear these words proclaimed by world leaders in their keynote speeches. But they simply should not be empty words, professed in an echo chamber without the boldness or fervour to take action.
Mitigation, avoiding and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to prevent global warming, is clearly laid out in the terms of the Paris agreement; limiting global heating to 1.5 C will substantially reduce the effects of climate change. This means that each party attending the summit must create and publish their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) which clearly express quantifiable mitigation targets and policy frameworks, usually expressed as clear numerical targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
Both in Paris, and Glasgow, the NDCs announced by member states did not put us on a path to meet that crucial 1.5 C goal. Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 relative to the 2010 level to achieve this, yet a synthesis report released last year by the UNFCCC, which takes into account all NDCs released so far, estimates that by 2030 greenhouse gas emission levels will in fact be 13.7% above their 2010 level.
It is simply not good enough. What member states must do at this conference is resubmit their NDCs, while taking into account the current energy crisis and global economic instability, to better pursue the essential aim of staying below that 1.5C benchmark. This can be achieved by doubling down on commitments to stick to this aim, helped by commitments such as abolishing fossil fuel subsidies, raising carbon taxes, as well as implementing more stringent rules on carbon markets, which currently allow for rule exploitation such as double counting. If they do, and an updated synthesis report states that effective steps and targets have been made, then we can say that the urgent action needed has been taken.
Adaptation, the second key pillar that will determine the success of this conference, refers to the series of procedures, processes and systems in place to strengthen resilience and reduce our vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Adaptation caters and adjusts to the inevitability of a warmer future climate, and seeks to promote environmental justice and sustainability by protecting against sea level rises, droughts and food shortages, while capitalising on the positive effects of climate change.
In what was an important pledge made during COP 26 last year, the Glasgow - Sharm el-Sheikh work programme seeks to actualise the goals of the global goal of adaptation (GGA) announced in Paris. The two-year programme is underway and outlines key objectives that will determine the success of global adaptation policy frameworks, particularly for vulnerable countries hit hardest by global warming. Currently, funding to support adaptation policies and systems typically only seem to occur after extreme weather events. In the long run, this tends to be very cost ineffective. What needs to happen this year in Egypt, is a commitment to a regular stream of funding towards adaptation frameworks, using the objectives outlined in the Glasgow - Sharm el-Sheikh work programme.
Mitigation and adaptation are bound to, and only possible, within a sustainable economic framework. While to many, economic responsibility and fiscal prudentialism might appear to be stubborn obstacles in the fight for climate justice, the reality is that our transition towards a green future will only be facilitated by a healthy and stable economy. This has been blurred by the fact that for the last dozen years, both in the UK and across the world, governments have left the mechanisms of our green transition to be dictated by fossil fuel energy giants and lobbyists, solely interested in short term profits, as proven by our current energy crisis.
A clear and orderly path of climate policy is vital towards a greener world. It remains imperative that countries attending COP 27 aspire to reach the 1.5 C goal as vigorously as possible, but policies and targets pledged must be reflective of the consequences of a reallocation of economic activity away from carbon intensive sectors to less carbon intensive ones. Inflationary shocks caused by supply constraints as a result of this, as well as the rise in demand for capital for green technology and the economic uncertainty attached to a net zero transition are factors that should be taken seriously, because long term price stability remains imperative to a green future.
With ambition and determination, what progressive governments around the world can do is work hand in hand with the private sector to lay out concise and innovative frameworks, through both mitigation and adaptation, to facilitate our green future. This may play out in the form of ensuring firms across the private sector publish climate-related risk assessments, or climate change strategy reporting. COP 27 should lay out and strengthen the foundations for collaboration between governments and private enterprises.
All in all, COP 27 offers the chance to be a once in a generation opportunity to transform the hopes and ideals of humanity into a tangible reality. Climate change, and tackling it head on, is at its very core a common human interest, but in order to solve it, we need bold and courageous leadership to steer the ship that is Mother Earth towards calmer waters. Given opportunities like these to work together as one interconnected global society, we can draw on the talents of the very best humankind has to offer, to aspire towards a better future for us all.
Connor is an active Young Fabian, politically driven by his working class values, and devotion for the pursuit of social justice. He works in communications in the City, you can follow him on Twitter @conesc20.