Day 7: Agriculture & Adaptation Day
By Imogen O’Rorke
Saturday was Adaptation and Agriculture Day at COP27 and also saw the biggest protest at the climate conference so far. A coalition of environmental groups, indigenous people, farmers and trade unionists took to the roads, walkways and pavilions around the centre to rail against the injustice of climate change that is causing the rapid loss of arable land, livelihoods and food security and driving mass migration in the world’s developing nations.
It was time for richer nations to “Pay the climate debt!” demanded the well-known Nigerian activist Nnimmo Basse. The protesters also called for “No fossil fuel colonialism”, highlighting the fact the conference had been “hijacked” by oil and gas lobbyists seeking to further exploit Africa’s resources.
Inside, the talks focused on adaptation – loss and damage being unavoidable at this point. “We are calling on world leaders from developed nations to honour their pledge to provide the $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing nations and to channel half of that to have that amount to climate adaptation,” said Dina Saleh, the regional director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Without the billion-a-year pledge (made 13 years ago at COP15 and never delivered), prospects for the host continent are grim. According to the World Bank, in 2020 around 282 million of Africa’s population were undernourished (more than one in five). A global temperature hike of 3°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030 could put 350 million Africans in danger of starvation by 2050.
The picture is equally alarming for the rest of the globe: around 2 billion hectares of agricultural land is “degraded”, say the Food and Land Use Coalition, while over 500 million farmers and fishermen are in poverty and 820 million people go hungry every day. According to the World Resources Institute, there’s a gap of 56% between the amount of food available today and what’s needed by 2050.
Unsurprisingly, food security topped the agenda on Saturday, in discussions which covered drought- and heat-resistant crops, resilience, early warning systems to limit damage from extreme weather events and ramping up intra-African trade in produce. Agricultural adaptation frameworks must include a pivot to regenerative and sustainable farming, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s spokesperson Zitouni Ould-Dada, to reduce emissions from the sector, reverse soil degradation and preserve biodiversity. Climate technology was also part of the solution including smart agricultural equipment, environmental sensors and insurance tools.
A number of fast-track initiatives were also unveiled, including COP FAST (Finance Contributions for Food Systems and Agriculture), iCAN (Climate Action and Nutrition) and CRSP (Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace) – set up in anticipation of rise in conflict and political/national instability.
Where the financing for all the above was going to come from was not evident and a 10-fold increase is needed to turn agriculture and food systems around by 2030. The same day John Kerry, US Special Envoy for Climate Action, signalled that the US was “totally supportive” of the push to address loss and damage – offering a small ray of hope – while former British PM Tony Blair warned that Rishi Sunak’s backsliding on support for overseas aid would have a “devastating impact”.
Day 8: Water & Gender Day
By Amelia Beale & Sophie Morello
The second week of COP27 started with “Water and Gender” Day, as key voices rallied together to discuss the two critical themes.
Meanwhile, even though talks were due to conclude at the weekend, many issues remain unresolved and discussions are ongoing. COP27 President Sameh Shoukry is said to have told attendees that his team will push to conclude the agreement text by Wednesday.
But there was a major announcement today from President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping from further afield. They met in Bali ahead of the G20 Summit and said they had agreed to restart climate cooperation talks as part of international climate negotiations. In addition, there have been reports that the three tropical rainforest nations — Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo — have signed a strategic alliance to coordinate their conservation efforts.
The need for productive talks was made more apparent today, with the annual climate change performance index revealing that no country is on the pathway to 1.5C. The analysis from Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and CAN International ranked Demark and Sweden top, with Australia and Canada near the bottom of the list. The UK was ranked 11th of 60 countries / regions assessed on emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy.
The discussions on “Gender Day” focused on the impact of climate change on women, the power of women-lead solutions, and the need for gender sensitive policies and access to “Gender Responsive Climate Financing”.
The dialogue in Sharm-el-Sheikh emphasised the stark reality that women — particularly those from poorer nations — continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change. With “Africa’s COP” providing a platform for the nation’s voices, the agenda highlighted that many women in the developing world work in sectors that are highly exposed to climate shocks — such as agriculture, energy, forestry, water, and health. With livelihoods at threat, climate change is threatening to exacerbate women’s time in poverty, and as a result, increasing exposure to existing vulnerabilities such as gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.
Beyond recognising the gender discrepancies of the impacts of climate change, today saw a call for the gender perspective to be fed into all climate policies and solutions. Put best by Climate Activist, Elizabeth Wathuti, “We need to put women’s needs, experiences, and their wisdom at the centre of places where policies are being made. Women are not only the victims of the climate crisis, they are also the leaders who can lead us out of this crisis”.
Whilst it is reassuring to see gender on this year’s agenda, there is a lot of progress to be made. Last week saw leaders join together for a “family photo” — a photo which acted as a clear reminder of the work that still needs to be done to reach gender equality in the climate debate.
Today was also the first ever Water Day at COP; a critical theme considering the huge impact climate change is already having on water supply, as seen with record-breaking droughts this year and major cities such as Cape Town and Cairo under water stress.
The day started with the launch of Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience Initiative (AWARe) which supports cooperation to address water as key to climate change adaptation and resilience. The initiative seeks to decrease water loss and improve water supply worldwide; propose and support implementing mutually agreed policy and methods for cooperative water-related adaptation action and its co-benefits; and promote cooperation and interlinkages between water and climate action.
Also today, the Glasgow Declaration for Fair Water Footprint called on governments in both developed and developing countries, progressive businesses, financiers and NGOs to join this leadership initiative which puts climate resilient and equitable water management at the heart of the global economy by 2030.
An African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA Fund) has also been launched by the World Resource Institute (WRI) together with public and private sector partners, development banks, impact investors, state and non-state actors. It is a new Africa-focused blended finance instrument that aims to fund and scale high-impact water resilience solutions across Africa.
Day 9: Energy and ACE & Civil Society Day
Output from COP was a little quieter today as world leaders moved attention to the G20 in Bali and officials thrash out final details behind the scenes in Sharm El Sheikh. Today’s themes were Energy and ACE & Civil Society, with Energy being the dominant issue.
By Greg Rosen
COP Energy Day has provided a salient reminder for the UK Net Zero debate of the global context for the measures needed to save our planet.
While the UK political debate has been fierce on electricity decarbonisation, with noisily vociferous political and media opposition to wind and solar farms from some quarters, progress on electricity decarbonisation has been substantial and compared to heat, transport, and other sectors it has been the most straightforward. Getting Britain off coal-fired electricity has been domestically uncontroversial. Unlike in India for example, there has not been for some decades a powerful UK domestic coal lobby.
It was not always thus. Few UK commentators now recall the great battle to secure the Clean Air Act of 1956. It came in reaction to the Great Smog of 1952. Great it was. Contemporary Government medical reports estimated that up to 4,000 people had died as a direct result of the smog and 100,000 more were made ill. More recent research suggests that total fatalities may have been much greater.
But it was not an isolated tragedy. Smogs had been regular and deaths accepted for decades. Shockingly few UK politicians pushed hard for action. And the vested interests for UK coal fought their corner. The then British Electricity Authority (the precursor of the more well-known CEGB) branded calls to clean up coal power stations “a damaging blow against the economy of electricity development in this country” and that the financial implications of doing so “are potentially more serious than those of any previous restrictions or control imposed upon the Authority’s activities”. In Parliament, action had for decades been stymied by the timidity of political leaders in the face of what one 1930s Cabinet minister called the “prejudice of the ordinary man in favour of burning coal upon the open hearth.” Instead of seeking to shape public opinion, ministers feared action would not be possible “until public opinion is further educated in the right direction”.
The world can only hope that progress is possible more quickly as the threat of climate catastrophe grows. A new IEA report captures the core of the challenge: “The world must move quickly to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal significantly in order to avoid severe impacts from climate change” it says, calling for “immediate policy action to rapidly mobilise massive financing for clean energy alternatives to coal and to ensure secure, affordable and fair transitions, especially in emerging and developing economies.”
As the Guardian newspaper pithily put it: “It was one of the most dramatic moments at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow last year when India, backed by China, made a last-minute intervention to water down the language of the final agreement, changing the commitment to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power. Coal currently accounts for 70% of electricity generation in India, while renewables count for only about 12%. It is against that background that India is launching what is said to be its biggest ever coal mine auction.
It can only be hoped that the positive announcements elsewhere can help shift the balance. And there are some.
A coalition of countries including the USA and Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the European Union, Canada, Italy, Norway, and Denmark is to mobilise $20 billion of public and private finance to help Indonesia (the world’s 5th largest greenhouse gas emitter) the close coal power plants and accelerate the sector’s peak emissions date (by seven years) to 2030. But will they be enough? Time will tell.
ACE & Civil Society
By Sophie Morello
Today, the agenda also focused on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) and Civil Society. ACE is a term adopted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to denote work under Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement i.e. climate change education, training, public awareness, participation and access to information. The theme features on the COP agenda as Civil Society is recognised as an indispensable partner in the global effort to combat climate change.
Today included sessions on the role of civil society in shaping the global climate agenda and implementation of commitments and pledges, and civil society’s role in holding developed countries accountable for their climate finance obligations.
Civil society organisations called on governments to remove the threat that ISDS (investor state dispute settlement) poses to efforts to protect the environment and decarbonise. Investor-state dispute settlement is included in many trade and investment agreements and gives business the opportunity to sue governments over climate policy changes that could affect profits. The cases are brought to secretive tribunals that sit outside of the national legal system and without action against them, mean that any country can be sued for trying to protect the climate.
Day 10: Biodiversity Day
By Tim Le Couilliard
Today marked Biodiversity Day at COP27 – a topic so important that next month there is a whole COP dedicated to the subject (COP15). Several key announcements have been made in Sharm El-Sheikh, but the world will no doubt be hoping that greater progress and commitments are made in Montreal, where COP15 is being held. Integral to achieving the promise of the Paris Agreement made in 2015, taking urgent action to halt and reverse the loss of nature this decade is essential.
Since COP26, when several agreements on nature restoration and conservation were reached, c.$11 billion has been committed to nature. The message from delegates and campaigners attending COP27 is that its “trillions not millions” that are needed to finance nature-positive investments in the developing world.
Today, the COP27 Presidency launched the Enhancing Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for Climate Transformation (ENACT). To date, the fledgling NbS sector has not been governed by an international policy framework and therefore ENACT will serve as a hub to foster collaboration between public and private investors and make nature-based solutions more appealing to would-be investors.
The UK Government used today to announce £30m of seed funding to the newly launched Big Nature Impact Fund. The public-private fund will seek to unlock “significant” private investment into nature projects in the UK, such as new tree planting or restoring peatlands. From 16th November, the fund, managed by Federated Hermes and Finance Earth, will start to engage with private investors to help fund green projects around the country.
Other announcements today included:
- The launch of the High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance on how to create high-quality blue carbon projects and credits.
- The Launch of Beat the Heat: Nature for Cool Cities Challenge where cities in developing countries pledge to increase Nature-based Solutions in their urban areas by 2030.
- Nine countries, including the UK and the US, joined the Global Offshore Wind Alliance (GOWA), an organisation dedicated to increasing the uptake of offshore wind.
Discussions at COP27 have begun to move onto carbon removal. Much of the discussion has underscored that carbon removal is now essential, required in large volumes, and needed quicker than previously thought. One of the biggest ongoing contentious issues is who pays for the loss and damage funding, particularly for countries that cannot avoid or adapt to the climate crisis. There have been increasing calls over the past few years for climate reparations to be integrated into the solution in the climate emergency fight.
Lula, the President-Elect of Brazil, addressed today’s summit to underline his contrasting approach to his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro to nature preservation and biodiversity. His visit is a bid to restore Brazil’s climate credibility, and COP27 is his first international occasion since being elected on 31st October. Speaking to cheering crowds Lula’s simple message was that “Brazil is back on the world’s stage”.
Lula made sweeping promises to ramp up environmental law enforcement and create green jobs which do not come at the expense of the destruction of the rainforest. Already at this COP, the Brazil delegation has formed a jungle conservation alliance between Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the three largest rainforest nations.
With just weeks before the COP15 summit begins, the draft of a hoped-for biodiversity deal (dubbed “the Paris Agreement for Nature”) has yet to be finalised.
Campaigners and delegates had hoped that there would be a strong statement on biodiversity at COP27 before they head to the Montreal conference next month. Although that hasn’t happened, there have been encouraging signs of progress on nature and biodiversity issues at Biodiversity Day COP27.
Day 11: Solutions Day
By Andrew Adie
COP27 is the Implementation COP, and also Africa’s COP.
The themes running through it of securing a just transition, loss and damage, and channelling climate finance from the Global North to the Global South have dominated.
The cynic might argue that COP27 so far has been heavy with angst and rancour and somewhat lower on new ways to implement the road to net zero.
So today, Solutions Day, is a key moment to reflect on what can be done. As we reach the end of the COP27 Conference (officially scheduled for tomorrow) the diplomatic efforts to agree new binding agreements and text that keep the world on track for 1.5C are intensifying.
At the same point last year, at COP26 in Glasgow, the world’s media was focused like a laser on the climate conference and the positive energy that had been building around ‘the business COP’. The controversy that surrounded the final negotiations and the watering down of the text around the commitment to ‘phase down [not out] coal’ grabbed attention but didn’t change the fact that coal had explicitly (for the first time) been called out. It also didn’t detract from the many other achievements (GFANZ $130 trillion in funding, the Global Methane Pledge, progress on protecting nature and using nature based solutions).
This year at the same point at COP27, the world’s attention is focused on geopolitical challenges, the war in Ukraine and the G20 meeting in Bali. You could be forgiven for thinking that COP27 had already concluded, it’s certainly dropped down the pecking order of the news pages.
Yet there is progress being made in the background and around the conference.
The G20 Summit has taken some of the spotlight away from COP27 but the final communique has reiterated commitments to delivering the Paris goals and keeping ‘1.5C alive’.
The text agreed from the Leaders states that they ‘reiterate our commitment to achieve global net zero greenhouse gas emissions by or around mid-Century’.
Equally, the keynote speech yesterday from Brazil’s president-elect ‘Lula’, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, gained a warm welcome, particularly his pledge that ‘Brazil is back’.
This includes promises to introduce new laws to protect the Amazonian rainforest but also demands that developing nations must get the financial support promised by the global North to deal with the impact of climate change.
The other notable development from today was contained in Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement. Among the fiscal changes aimed at tackling the energy and cost of living crisis and ‘balancing the books’ in the UK, was a pledge that the government remains fully committed to the Glasgow climate pact agreed at COP26 – including a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030.
These pledges alone are not enough to keep ‘1.5 alive’ but they are mood music that suggests that the world’s leaders (and diplomats) remain focused on keeping the Paris Agreement on track. Doing that will need new pledges and binding agreements from COP27. The coming 24 hours will tell us more about what these will look like.
COP27 Round Up – what next?
By Andrew Adie
After two weeks of intense negotiation in Sharm El Sheikh, COP27 closed its doors last week. The verdict has been somewhat mixed as to what COP27 achieved and it was certainly low on significant advances on the road to net zero and limiting global warming to around 1.5C.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commented that: “Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now and this is an issue this COP did not address.”
However, in the current geopolitical environment achieving global agreement on reducing emissions and phasing out fossil fuels was always a bold ask. COP27 did however make progress on loss and damage and the establishment of a global fund that will provide loss and damage funding for vulnerable countries that are impacted by climate disasters.
This matters because it addresses a key bone of contention between the Global North and Global South (i.e. the richer nations that have been responsible for around 80% of the carbon emission in the atmosphere and the developing nations that are most impacted by the effects of climate change). By securing this agreement it could in theory pave the way for breakthrough agreements on carbon reduction at future COPs, notably at COP28 in the UAE in November 2023.
Also notable was the landmark meeting at the fringes of COP27 between the US and China at which U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to ‘resume climate co-operation’. That again could pave the way for wider scale breakthroughs in the future.
Other notable developments was the role of President Macron of France who had an a ‘good’ COP, pushing his credentials as a power player and backing loss and damage action, including the plan pushed by the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, to establish a climate mitigation fund. This would provide low-interest, long term loans to climate adaption and grants for loss and damage in part funded by a levy on fossil fuel producers.
President Joe Biden was also present and visible at COP27, despite US mid-term elections and the G20 meeting in Bali which started halfway through COP27.
Rishi Sunak also reversed his earlier decision not to attend COP27 and the UK Government pledged, during the Autumn Statement to honour the climate reduction pledges made at COP26 including delivering a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Optimistically, while COP27 may not have delivered significant progress on carbon reduction, it did erode barriers to agreement that have dogged COP negotiations for years, and in doing so it may make breakthrough agreements more possible in the future.
Against a backdrop of a global energy crisis, deep geopolitical tension and the War in Ukraine that is some progress, even if not enough to get us back on track to meet Paris goals of a 1.5C limit on global warming.
It increases the pressure for real progress at COP28 but may also provide room for compromise when we need it most.
This Thursday at 12.30pm the SEC Newgate COP27 team will discuss their views on the Conference and what it means next for the planet, politics and business.