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Not in this Text; disappointment at Cop 27

image credit: Cop 27 image and my text
Paul Hobcraft's picture
Innovation & Energy Knowledge Provider, Agility Innovation

I work as a transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, within IIoT, and the energy system as my points of focus. I relate content to context to give greater knowledge and build the...

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  • Nov 28, 2022

The UK’s lead climate negotiator, the minister Alok Sharma, delivered a very telling speech at Cop27 revealing what some countries had tried to push through to an agreement.

Sharma was the president of the Glasgow Cop in 2021, and he was clearly frustrated with the events of the last two weeks in Egypt. and especially the final text outcome adopted at the Cop 27 meeting.

I personally was disappointed by the Cop26 held in Glasgow and chaired by Alok Sharma and the stunning last-minute intervention by India (along with China) where the phasing out changed to phasing down of coal.

Twelve months on and we seem to be making extremely slow or no progress on fossil fuels.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s Cop26 president, was visibly angry at the close of the CoP27 conference in Egypt. “Those of us who came to Egypt to keep 1.5C alive, and to respect what every single one of us agreed to in Glasgow, have had to fight relentlessly to hold the line. We have had to battle to build on one of the key achievements of Glasgow, the call on parties to revisit and strengthen their [national plans on emissions].”

He punctuated his speech with his hand thudding into his speech notes.

He opened by stating “We joined with many parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to [raising ambition].

Then he pointed out:

Peaking of greenhouse gas emission in 2025 “Not in this text.”

Emissions peaking before 2025, as science tells us, are necessary. Not in this text.

Clear follow-through on the phase-down of coal. Not in this text.

Clear commitments to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text.

And the energy text weakened in the final minutes to endorse “low-emissions energy”, which can be interpreted as a reference to gas or even oil with carbon capture.”

Sharma said in Glasgow “that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”

Sharma said he would not be in the UK’s chair position at next year’s Cop meeting but added:

“I promise you if we do not step up soon and rise above the minute-to-midnight battles to hold the line we will all be found wanting. Each of us will have to explain that to our citizens, to the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities, and ultimately to the children and grandchildren to whom many of us now go home.”

At Cop 27 a proposal from India to stipulate the phasing down of all fossil fuels was also mauled by oil-producing countries at the talks and watered down to a phasing down of coal, which reflected precisely the commitment made in Glasgow. So no progress on phasing out of fossil fuel was made or even adding text to phase down gas and oil alongside coal.

The spectre of Gas rules at present; securing winter supplies and energy security as reality kicks in.

The final text of Cop27 contained a provision to boost “low-emissions energy”. That could mean many things, from wind and solar farms to nuclear reactors and coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. It could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal but is still a major fossil fuel. Many countries at Cop27, particularly those from Africa with large reserves to exploit, came to Sharm el-Sheikh hoping to strike lucrative gas deals.

Loss and damage

At the recent Cop 27 the one bright spot was a shift in the highly contentious and long-running battles on “Loss and Damage” and the need to reimburse countries suffering most from climate change.

Global warming has been caused by industrial nations and they should therefore reimburse countries who are suffering most from climate change.

Although this was recognized the total funding required for adaptation is at least $2.5 trillion by 2030, and solutions and compensation are still orders of magnitude out.

Developing countries celebrated this Cop 27 outcome as crucial climate talks ended with a “historic” deal on their most cherished climate goal: a global fund for “loss and damage”, providing financial assistance to poor nations stricken by climate disaster.

Looking towards Cop 28 in November 2023

That fight is likely to get harder as COP28 heads to the United Arab Emirates, an oil and gas giant. Holding any line on phasing out fossil fuel will be exceptionally hard to achieve at this meeting.

Where does that leave the world?

Somehow at Cop 28 what we needed is an agreement to a rapid, equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels.”

My optimism is not high COP28 really does need a major advance against climate change; we have lost precious time in Cop 26 & 27. The clear imprint of fossil fuel influence needs counterbalancing or the momentum for clean energy renewables reduces. We burst through the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold of scientifically recommended safety.

In the end, the responsibility will lie with everyone, as Meena Raman of Third World Network, an adviser to developing countries, points out. “Since the EU and Alok Sharma are disappointed that fossil fuel phase-out is not in the text, we would like them to take leadership and revise their NDCs [nationally determined contributions] and put into plans their fossil fuel phase-out urgently and stop the expansion of fossil fuels including oil and gas. [It’s] not enough to play to the gallery but act if they want to save the planet and not hide behind 2050 net zero targets, which will bust the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C.”

The climate fight is entering a critical point. What gives, yields or collapses?

We seem to have lost 1.5C as achievable. Reality is indicating we have blown this. The world looks towards Net Zero but those fighting for keeping fossil fuels included are seeking the miracle solution that would allow fossil fuels to exist in a net zero world.

Too little, too late; we are in real danger, as one commentator remarked, “our foot is still on the fossil fuel accelerator”.

Our world is in a climate mess.

Will the message given by the UN secretary-general to more than 110 world leaders at the Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt be listened to change course now, or face “collective suicide”.

Let’s see what the next twelve months deliver that might change the present positions and we, as humans living on this one planet, achieve a path that does get the World back on track for recovering its equilibrium, fit for us to still live or are we going to shift into limiting the mitigation where we can, in a rear guard action as we lost our opportunity in this decade of disagreements and man-made crisis?


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