With the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh continuing its work until 18 November, Alok Sharma, formerly UK secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy and president of last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, explains what has happened to the commitments made last November.
How can we collectively build on what was achieved at the COP26 to maximise progress at COP27 while facing the current challenging circumstances?
Almost 200 countries came together last year at the COP26 to agree to the historic Glasgow Climate Pact, keeping alive the ambition of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. Yet since the COP26, the world has changed and continues to drastically change. Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has put major pressure on global energy security, and governments around the world are facing soaring inflation and cost-of-living challenges.
However, it is obvious that the fundamental issue of climate change must remain a top priority for all countries.
After the COP26, we were able to say with credibility that we kept the pulse of 1.5 alive, but this pulse will remain weak until the Glasgow Climate Pact moves from words on a page to tangible action and progress. At the COP27, we must see more tangible progress in reducing emissions. We must also support climate-vulnerable countries by making sure commitments on adaptation and loss and damage are honoured, driving real, practical action on the ground. And we must mobilise climate finance to make this possible.
What has been achieved in the Glasgow-Sharm El-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal of Adaptation at COP27 and beyond?
At the COP26, we made significant progress on adaptation and boosted efforts to deal with climate impacts. The Glasgow-Sharm El-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation was established, and the developed countries also agreed to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to the developing countries against 2019 levels by 2025.
We have worked with countries to deliver on this commitment, increasing the availability, efficiency, and accessibility of adaptation finance for climate-vulnerable countries and providing support and leadership to initiatives that are part of the UK’s presidency mandate.
Governments are starting to implement National Adaptation Plans, transitioning from planning to implementation. Since the COP26, ten new Adaptation Communications and nine new National Adaptation Plans have been published.
Over 80 endorsements have been made by governments and organisations to the Principles for Locally-led Adaptation, with climate finance donors, intermediaries, and grassroots organisations working towards putting these principles into practice.
A successful COP27 must show that the promises made as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact have been kept. We must ensure that there is a shift from planning and commitments towards implementation of action on adaptation.
What is needed to address the “loss and damage” financing gap, based on what was done at the COP26?
Loss and damage was a priority for the UK COP26 Presidency. This was a critical issue at the COP26, and we have moved into a new phase focused on action. The submission, workshop, and dialogue on the Santiago Network, a mechanism that connects the developing countries with providers of technical assistance, knowledge, and resources, at the COP26 Intersessionals were a good basis for moving forward with the practical development of the network. At the Intersessionals, the Glasgow Dialogue was launched to discuss funding arrangements for finance for loss and damage.
At the COP27, we want to deliver on COP26 commitments and further operationalise the Santiago Network and agree on how it will deliver technical assistance. We additionally want to make progress on arrangements for loss and damage aligned to the Glasgow Dialogue. Alongside this, practical action needs to be scaled up to safeguard lives and livelihoods.
How do you see Egypt’s Presidency of COP27?
We welcome Egypt’s role in the Presidency of the COP27 and look forward to its leadership in bringing countries together to deliver the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact, accelerate global climate action, and secure an impactful COP27.
I know firsthand how difficult hosting a summit like the COP is. We have worked closely with Egypt this year. We regularly held conversations at a ministerial and official level, including with Egypt’s new COP President Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri.
We also welcome Egypt’s focus on implementation, particularly as this year we have been working to ensure that countries implement the commitments they made at the COP26. As part of this, we have supported the development of Egypt’s COP27 initiatives, which focus on a range of themes, including energy, agriculture, and water.
Geopolitics have changed dramatically this year due to the war in Ukraine. What progress can the COP27 make on reducing carbon emissions?
As we enter a difficult winter with major pressures on global energy security driven by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and as governments respond to soaring inflation, rising debt, food insecurity and cost-of-living challenges, the fundamental issue of climate change must still remain a top priority for all countries.
The chronic threat of climate change is turning ever more acute, impacting every country across the world. From devastating floods in Pakistan, record heat waves in Europe, famine-inducing droughts across Africa — the list goes on of climate impacts happening today. And this is where, as these current global crises increase, not diminish, comes our determination to deliver the Glasgow Climate Pact.
That’s why it is absolutely essential that at the COP27 we see countries turn the promises they made at the COP26 into action. Every country must revisit and strengthen its climate-change targets as necessary to align with the Paris temperature goal, with net zero commitments and 2030 emissions reduction targets underpinned with clear delivery plans. As climate security has become synonymous with energy and national security, climate targets are no longer a ‘nice to have’. They are a must to protect citizens, economies, and environments.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.