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Will COP27 be successful?

COP 27, the largest annual gathering on climate action is underway at the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh where Heads of State, ministers, and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives, and CEOs come together.

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP27 – builds on the outcomes of COP26 to take action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency seeking to keep the promises of the Paris Agreement alive by helping nations reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, provide financing to developing countries to mitigate climate change and strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts. However, the prospects of sticking to the 1.5C limit above pre-industrial levels that scientists tell us are necessary to have receded to a “narrow window”.

If you have been following the COP, two things you will be hearing about are ‘loss and damage’ and ‘Climate Finance. Climate Finance is the money needed by developing countries to adapt to the crisis and bring down emissions. Loss and Damage compensate people who are suffering the most due to climate change.

Loss and Damage: Across the globe, we are all not only facing irreversible impacts and loss and damage arising from extreme weather events like wildfires and droughts but also slow onset events like sea level rises, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification. These losses and damages should not only be just adapted but mitigated as well. The focus should be more on mitigation. The less we mitigate the more we have to adapt. COP27 continued to keep alive the areas that the Paris Agreement identified to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage which includes

  • Early warning systems

  • Emergency Preparedness

  • Slow-onset events

  • Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage

  • Comprehensive risk assessment and management; risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling, and other insurance solutions

  • Non-economic losses; and

  • The resilience of communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems.

Climate Finance: Developing countries suffer loss and damage even though they are low emitters. To combat it, developing countries are in need of climate finance– the movement of capital from rich countries that are responsible for climate change to developing economies even though they are polluting more as they develop. Many Asian countries use coal as a single fuel source. Fossil fuel transition is very difficult. The hope is climate finance will address mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. The expectation is to increase the $100 million funding from 2015. In a report jointly commissioned by the UK, host of last year’s Cop26 summit, and the Egyptian hosts of Cop27, published on Tuesday, the climate economist Lord Stern calculated that about $2tn a year would be needed by 2030 for the entire developing world, except China.

Where should that money go?

All climate adaptations are done locally as local governments have mandates to adapt so they can deal with climate change. David Jackson from the UN Capital fund says that adaptation finance should be local finance for the places and countries that need it but distributed at the local level. Local institutions that do water management, improve agricultural methods, who are actively fighting forest fires and flooding need that money to combat global warming and the resulting climate migration.

In the past, we saw climate denial but now we see that fade away but Green Washing is on the rise. What is greenwashing? Greenwashing is when a company outrageously claims to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but facts would reveal that they are actually not making an effort to incorporate sustainability. As a result, consumers do not believe in the companies’ green practices.

The latest science tells us that near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems but cannot eliminate them all. Despite the urgency, data science has had little impact on furthering our understanding of our planet in spite of the abundance of climate data which is a stark contrast from other fields where big data has been a great success story.

António Guterres speaking at the launch of a new independent inventory of greenhouse gas emissions created by the Climate TRACE Coalition and spearheaded by former US Vice-President Al Gore explained that the data released by the initiative shows that because methane leaks, flaring, and other activities associated with oil and gas production are underreported, emissions are many times higher than previously thought.

The tool combines satellite data and artificial intelligence to show the facility-level emissions of over 70,000 sites around the world, including companies in China, the US, and India. This will allow leaders to know the location and scope of emissions being released. Mr. Gore said that the greenhouse gas pollution accumulated in our atmosphere traps as much extra heat as 600,000 atomic bombs exploding every day and is currently costing the global economy two and a half trillion dollars annually.

President Joe Biden announced a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to toughen its U.S. methane emissions reduction rule—part of a larger global plan to address the greenhouse gas. “We’re investing more than $20 billion in domestic methane mitigation to do things like cap orphan wells leaking methane, improving industrial equipment in the oil and gas sectors to reduce emissions,” he said. EPA says if the strengthened proposal is finalized, it would cut methane emissions in the U.S. by 87% below 2005 levels.

While COP is still underway at the time of writing this article, talks will continue on resolving the rules around how markets for carbon offsets should operate, their transparency, and the integrity of such schemes without resulting in land grabs displacing local and indigenous people from their homes and livelihoods.

Defining what a carbon “removal activity” entails will be key to this, Jonathan Crook of Carbon Market Watch said. “[Countries] must agree on a correct definition, meaning that the activity must remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and store them for at least two to three centuries.” This should not include the use of carbon capture and storage from power plants or factories operating via fossil fuels.

Nature-based solutions will need to be focused such as protecting and replanting forests. How you may ask? Planting trees is one of the most effective ways to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. As trees grow, they remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis working as a carbon sink. Forest soils can also sequester vast reservoirs of carbon. Jennifer Morris, CEO of the Nature Conservancy, welcomed some countries’ commitments to align 30 percent of their climate finance with nature-linked projects but also warned that “we need to revamp the way the bilateral and multilateral development banks work and do a much better job of leveraging.

With the focus back on climate finance and loss and damage, will COP 27 be successful or is it just another COP? Time will tell but do we have enough time?

Watch my segment with Good Morning America on COP26

Watch my interview with ABC News

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