For this year’s UN climate summit (COP27), taking place in Egypt in November 2022, the stakes could not be higher or the need more urgent for vulnerable countries — particularly as COP26 failed to deliver sufficient results to meet their needs.
A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) is still on “life support,” leaving almost 3.6 billion people worldwide dangerously exposed and vulnerable to climate impacts — with things set to worsen. The report makes clear that these impacts will not be felt equally. Vulnerable countries, despite their limited contribution to climate change and ambitious climate commitments, are and will continue to shoulder the bulk of this burden.
These findings come amid tumultuous times — rising fuel prices, high inflation rates, the world’s slow emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing structure of international politics — which demonstrate every excuse to disrupt and delay climate action. But the IPCC carries an important message: It’s now or never to hold warming to 1.5 degrees C.
The Allied for Climate Transformation by 2025 (ACT2025) consortium has fired the starting gun ahead of the COP27 climate summit to enhance implementation of the Paris Agreement and to profile the needs of vulnerable countries. Developed by organizations from the Global South, ACT2025’s new Call for Enhanced Implementation lays out where concrete action is needed in the lead-up to and at the conference.
Here are five areas where action is needed:
1) Bridge the mitigation gap to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.
During COP26, scientists delivered a sobering assessment of countries’ 2030 emissions–reduction targets: those plans point the planet towards at least 2.5 degrees C of warming by the end of this century — a catastrophic pathway for vulnerable countries in particular. When looking at countries’ commitments to reach net-zero emissions by around mid-century, temperature rise could be kept to around 1.9 degrees C. However, some major emitters’ 2030 targets are so weak that they don’t offer credible pathways to achieve their net-zero targets, indicating a major “credibility gap.”
Recognizing the urgency of the challenge, the Glasgow Climate Pact — the formal outcome of COP26 — calls on countries to “revisit and strengthen” their commitments under the Paris Agreement (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs) by COP27, to align them with these global temperature goals.
To keep the 1.5 degrees C goal within reach, it’s necessary for all countries at COP27 to heed the science of the IPCC report and respond accordingly. All countries — especially G20 countries — that have submitted “updated” NDCs that were no more ambitious than their previous commitments, and countries that have not yet communicated new or updated NDCs at all, should update their NDCs and long-term strategies in a credible, ambitious manner. These NDCs must be in line with the Glasgow Climate Pact and the scientific evidence provided by the IPCC Working Group III report.
At the Egypt summit, under the Work Programme on Mitigation Ambition and Implementation established at COP26, developed countries must lead on climate ambition — they are the laggards in living up to their climate promises despite their overwhelming contribution to the climate crisis. They must also accelerate energy transitions, phase out fossil fuels, and undertake ambitious sectoral actions while making good on all their financial commitments.
2) Deliver high-quality and scaled-up finance flows, especially to the most vulnerable.
After COP26, it was noted “with deep regret” the failure of developed countries to meet the $100 billion goal they originally promised to achieve by 2020, feeding into the credibility gap and hamstringing the ability of developing countries to plan further climate action.
What’s now needed at COP27 are clear finance targets for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage finance and for developed countries, especially the G7 (which is to provide the bulk of this finance), to reach a total of $600 billion in climate finance from 2020-2025 — the amount of funding that would have been available in this period had developed countries met their $100 billion annual goal. This must be complemented by a delivery plan and a roadmap for increasing transparent, accessible and grant-based finance, especially for adaptation. It must also result in balanced adaptation and mitigation finance by 2025.
Finally, as countries prepare to outline a new collective finance goal to go into effect after 2025, clear finance targets should be set for mobilizing the private sector and other non-state actors, while recognizing the indispensable role of public finance from developed countries.
3) Enhance efforts to implement adaptation measures.
COP26 offered some bright spots and a foundation to build on, including progress on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), a key component of the Paris Agreement that aims to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts. The conference also established the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation to assess progress toward the adaptation goal and enable its implementation. Now, concrete progress under the Programme is needed, specifically on the scope of the goal, data and metrics, and reporting methodologies.
The urgency for enhanced adaptation action is underscored by the IPCC Working Group II report, mentioned previously, which finds that every tenth of a degree of additional warming will escalate threats to people, species and ecosystems. Yet many communities still lack the resources required to manage today’s climate change impacts, let alone worse impacts in the future.
To advance national action and provide a clearer estimate for adaptation finance needs, countries must also prepare their National Adaptation Plans and Adaptation Communications, two tools set up under the auspices of the Paris Agreement. And developed countries need to provide grant-based funding to finance adaptation plans, especially through the Adaptation Fund and other entities of the Financial Mechanism established under the UNFCCC. While the promise made at COP26 in Glasgow to double adaptation financing is a great start, it is still a far cry from the amount actually needed by vulnerable countries.
4) Secure finance for loss and damage.
Momentum for confronting the issue of loss and damage finally gained steam leading up to and during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. However, despite an urgent plea from climate-vulnerable countries, the proposal for a new loss and damage financing facility was rejected by developed nations. Instead, at COP26, countries established the Glasgow Dialogue to discuss possible arrangements for loss and damage funding, with the first discussion to be held in June 2022.
The IPCC report laid bare that even the most effective adaptation measures cannot prevent all losses and damages, which are a present-day reality for vulnerable people in certain regions. It will be critical that the Glasgow Dialogue process makes demonstrable progress and leads to tangible results based on the needs of vulnerable countries, rather than becoming a talk shop. At COP27, countries will have another chance to finally establish a mechanism to address this critical need and ensure a process to secure adequate, accessible, additional and fit-for-purpose financing — at the latest by COP28 in 2023. This cannot be delayed.
Countries also made progress at COP26 on the operationalization and funding of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD), which aims to provide developing countries with technical assistance on how to address loss and damage in a robust and effective manner. Sufficient financing for the SNLD is crucial to ensure technical support for developing countries and to create a new method in encouraging technical assistance that is country-owned and emphasizes local expertise.
At COP27, nations will need to agree on arrangements to finally and officially launch the SNLD. Additionally, if substantive, productive conversations on loss and damage are to continue in earnest, loss and damage must be established as a permanent agenda item at each of the yearly UN climate conferences.
5) Implement the Paris Rulebook to hold countries and non-state actors accountable.
Implementing the Paris Rulebook, the rules underpinning the Paris Agreement, is crucial to ensure transparency and accountability for action. Without implementation, accountability cannot be achieved and climate promises — especially those from developed countries — will remain unfulfilled. As COP27’s vital role is to serve as a forcing point to drive implementation, advancing processes such as the Global Stocktake, a formal process to drive ambition by assessing countries’ collective progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals, will be key.
The first Global Stocktake process must be done in a way that is inclusive, raises awareness, ensures the meaningful participation of Global South organizations, and paves the way for a comprehensive outcome that promotes increased NDC ambition and is centered around equity. Additionally, the UN Secretary General should hold countries and non-state actors accountable to develop a robust accountability system for commitments made outside of the UNFCCC process.
COP27: A Time for Climate Action
Vulnerable countries across the world cannot be made to wait for multi-year dialogues when the needs are so imminent and urgent. COP27 needs to ensure that no one is left behind.
Shortly after COP27, we will be more than a quarter of the way through the decisive decade — what will the world have to show for it? Now is the time for solidarity and ambitious, real, on-the-ground action and support that will deliver justice for vulnerable countries and communities. While realizing countries’ differentiated responsibilities and capacities, the world needs to be all in, all together on climate.
ACT2025 will further elaborate these five key elements of a COP27 enhanced implementation package in the coming months for consideration by governments and stakeholders. Some key moments leading up to COP will be the UN climate negotiations in June in Bonn, Germany, the UN General Assembly in September, and the meetings of the G7 and G20 in June and October respectively.