At COP27, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, made headlines on the opening day when he stated that “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”. Some commentators saw this as exaggerated rhetoric to capture the headlines. Yet even the sober judgements of scientific reports suggest that this is an accurate description of where we stand.
Just before COP27, the UN Environmental Programme published an annual ‘emissions gap’ report titled ‘The Closing Window: Climate crisis calls for rapid transformation of societies’. It demonstrates that only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster. The report shows that we are far from the Paris Summit Goal of keeping well within 2°C of global warming and preferably 1.5°C degrees. Current government policies suggest a catastrophic 2.8°C of warming. To get on track for 1.5°C we must achieve a 45% cut in global emissions by 2030. The report says that the share of electricity generation from unabated natural gas must to fall to 17% by 2030 and be phased out by 2040–2050. The current upward trend in use of gas will need to be reversed in favour of renewables. A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow shaft of light remains.
It is bizarre therefore that Egypt, while holding the Presidency of COP27, also hosted the 24th Ministerial Meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Cairo just one week before the start of COP summit. The meeting discussed the long-term strategy for gas production and argued for policies to ensure an expansion of gas production in the world energy mix from 23% today to 26% in 2050. They lobby for unhindered gas markets in order to ensure security of demand long into the future. The delegates in Cairo did not have so far to travel to join the 636 registered fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. Across the globe, scientists, young people, faith groups and development agencies insist on system change to avert climate disaster. But too many governments remain in the thrall of the economically powerful and vested interests of the past.
With this in mind, what can we expect from COP27 when it concludes this Friday? I will highlight three areas that are worthy of note at this stage.
We cannot expect to see a lot of new carbon reduction pledges this year. Many pledges were updated last year and, although they must be continually updated to get us on track, this COP is more focused on implementation of pledges and on finance. We will keep a close eye on the relationship between the United States and China following President Xi and Biden’s meeting at the G20 this week. These two major players must be able to co-operate at COP27 if we are to sustain progress.
Secondly, on international climate finance, developed nations must achieve the pledge made in 2009 to make available $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation. After 13 years this pledge still falls woefully short. The unfulfilled pledge contributes powerfully to an unhelpful dynamic between developed and developing nations in the halls of COP summit meetings. Developing nations argue, quite reasonably, that in order to transform their energy systems and physical infrastructure to create green economies they need financial support. Although it is a tall order it would be encouraging to see pledges at COP27 achieve or at least approach the promised $100 billion.
Finally, we want to see implementation of a Loss and Damage Fund. This year, in Pakistan, the highest amount of rain recorded in 60 years flooded an area larger than that of the UK. It killed nearly 1,500 people and affected 33 million, causing damage estimated at $40 billion. The country will now have to rely on billions of dollars in loans to repair the damage. As a matter of justice, our churches have been arguing for a Loss and Damage facility funded by taxes on fossil fuel companies and other forms of innovative financing. In 2019, Loss and Damage was removed the draft COP agenda: in 2022 it rose to the top, and was also prominent in the media on the opening day.
In a short space of time we have transformed awareness around Loss and Damage. Might this give us hope for vital transformational change in other areas?
Our churches will respond to the outcome on the final day of COP27 this Friday and JPIT will provide further comment next week.
Want to hear more from friends who are at the COP?
Former Climate Justice For All campaigner Jessica Bwali is representing Tearfund at COP – click here to watch her update video.
Our friends at the United Methodist Church are hosting a zoom briefing on Thursday 17th November about their experiences at COP27. Click here to see the details.
 Egypt has the Presidency of COP27. The international summit meets from 2 Nov to 18 Nov 2022 at Sharm el-Sheikh and has been attended by the leaders of almost 200 nations.
 Quote of António Guterres comment on ‘The Closing Window’
 Receipts into the fund were at $83 billion in 2020. The UK has pledged £11.6 over five years. To provide some perspective this is roughly the same amount as the UK will spend on nuclear weapons in the same period.