Climate change has not been far from the media this year. With activists attacking famous pieces of art to protesters lying on motorways, this year’s COP summit was always going to be a significant one. The provisional 2022 State Of The Global Climate report, conducted by the UN World Meteorological Organisation, showed that the last 8 years have been the warmest on record, as a result of ever-rising greenhouse gases.
At the launch of a UN expert group’s report at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said: “We must have zero tolerance for net zero greenwashing.
"We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the summit. The chief of the United Nations has decried greenwashing practices of companies and other entities and urged them not to let net zero pledges become a “toxic cover-up”. “The message is clear to all those managing existing voluntary initiatives – as well as CEOs, Mayors and governors committing to net zero: Abide by this standard and update your guidelines right away – and certainly no later than COP28.” Mr Guterres urged businesses to review their promises and align them with the report’s guidance.
Delegates from around 200 countries agreed to discuss compensating poor nations for mounting damage linked to global warming as one of the first acts of the summit. This is the first time this controversial subject has been added to the agenda since climate talks began decades ago.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opened by linking the need to tackle climate change with the war in Ukraine. "Climate and energy security go hand-in-hand," he said in his first international appearance since taking office. "Putin's abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster, we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future [...] There really is room for hope," he added.
The UK continues to deliver on our key funding commitments, spending £11.6 billion on international climate finance. Recognising the existential threat climate change is already posing around the world – from catastrophic floods in Pakistan to drought in Somalia – the Government will commit to triple funding for climate adaptation as part of that budget, from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025.
The Prime Minister will also host the first event to launch the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership. The new group, initially comprising 20 countries, will meet twice yearly to track commitments on the landmark Forests and Land Use declaration at COP26, which aims to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030. To support the forest agenda, the UK is committing £90m today for conservation in the Congo Basin, a vital tropical rainforest which is home to some 10,000 species of tropical plants and several endangered species, including forest elephants, chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.
The PM will also confirm £65 million in funding for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund, which supports indigenous and local forest communities, and new financing for Treevive, which is working to conserve and restore two million hectares of tropical forest.
The Prime Minister will also announce a further £65.5 million for the Clean Energy Innovation Facility today, which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries to accelerate the development of clean technology. Since the BEIS-led fund was launched in 2019, it has supported the creation of biomass-powered refrigeration in India, prototype lithium-ion batteries in Nigeria and clean hydrogen-based fuels for steel production in Morocco, among other innovations.
President Biden echoed Rishi Sunak's comments on Monday that Russia's war in Ukraine is a reason to act faster on climate and has promised to tighten US rules on methane emissions from oil and gas companies. Methane is the most potent greenhouse gas and significantly contributes to the warming of Earth's atmosphere. "Today, thanks to the actions we have taken, I can stand here as president of the United States of America and say with confidence the US will meet our emissions targets by 2030," he said.
However, a key target to stop climate change raising global temperatures is under threat at a UN summit. Climate change talks have been trying to limit the average rise in temperatures to 1.5C. Unfortunately, as COP27 has gotten under way in Egypt, there are concerns that target will slip.
In last year's Glasgow climate pact, all countries agreed to "keep 1.5C alive" by undertaking "rapid, deep and sustained" cuts in greenhouse gases. Then at a G20 meeting in Indonesia in August, ministers were unable to agree a communique on climate change, as China and India were reported to have questioned the scientific feasibility of the 1.5C threshold. Such are the differences between countries here, there are fears that the final document being drafted by the Egyptians may dilute or exclude the 1.5C goal.
More announcements are expected to be made this week, so Carbon Brief have created an analysis of texts for COP27 which shows where negotiations are moving forward and where (in shades of red) disagreements remain.