The Inordinate Injustice. Can COP27 Live Up To Its Mission?

by Dr Dorel Iosif




This article appeared originally at illuminem.com

Illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.



The inordinate injustice catchphrase is the best I could coin in order to succinctly explain the persistent inequity machine that is climate change.


In its 2021 Global Carbon Project study, the UN Conference on Trade and Development showed that the 46 least developed countries – which about 1.2bn people call home – account for only 1.1% of total world CO2 emissions. In 2022, the global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel are set to rise to 37.5Gt and a further 4Gt will come from the uses of land and deforestation. To put into perspective, 14% of the world’s poorest population is increasingly affected by climate change in a manner in which they are unable to respond to or alleviate future damage.


In 2009 at the UNFCCC COP15 in Copenhagen, the wealthiest nations committed to $100bn/year until 2020 to combat climate damages in developing and poor countries. The funding would come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance, with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries.


Sadly, a broken promise that was never fulfilled.

At COP26 in Glasgow, the draft agreement called on developed as well as developing nations to “accelerate the phasing-out” of coal and “subsidies for fossil fuel”. By the time the final draft was released, the words such as “inefficient fuel subsidies” and “unabated coal” were quietly inserted to the dismay of many climate change advocates, opening the doors for creative compliance on the side of some major polluters. These skilfully planned manoeuvres are the very actions that prevent progress. They are not helpful and detract from achieving primary goals. Poor nations have now learned their lesson and are asking wealthier nations to shoulder the damage and provide “loss and damage” guarantees for harmful and irreversible effects of climate change.


At the time of this writing, the general consensus promoted by the developed nations, is that they oppose any financial mechanism tied to compensations. John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate believes that we are “genuinely … making really good progress” but when asked about the “loss and damage” mechanism, Mr Kerry said: "it's a well-known fact that the United States and many other countries will not establish some sort of legal structure that is tied to compensation or liability. That's just not happening."

It will be interesting to see if the G77 negotiating bloc, a coalition of 134 developing countries, can push the creation of a finance facility into the final communique in order to address vulnerable nations’ concerns.


So how did we all get into this mess? Should we have started this dialogue sooner?


The Kyoto protocol that operationalised the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change triggered some intense shuttle diplomacy activities on both sides of the climate issue. On the denialist side, between 1998 and 2003 ExxonMobil granted $16 million to advocacy organisations to continue to dispute the impacts of global warming. It took ExxonMobil almost 10 years [1] to cease funding to climate denier organisations. Better late than never, one could say.


The battles started in the 1990s were perhaps 100 years late, new research shows. In recent years, new modelling and scientific studies revealed that significant climate warming in palaeoclimate records show that the “time of emergence” (TOE) – the point at which a trend becomes clear within the average temperature data for a given region - commenced as early as 1830. Research from Nerlie Abram [2] from ANU, and more recently Jennifer Walker [3] of Rutgers University, places TOE sea level rises in the mid 19th century.

The industrial revolution only accelerated a process that started the century before. The CO2 levels increased from 280 ppm in its pre-industrial levels to 414 ppm today and could further increase to 560ppm by 2060 if no serious actions are taken. One of the main measures of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) that tells us the amount of warming that might occur at the time the CO2 doubles is called “transient climate response” (TCR).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report gave a likely TCR of only 1C to 2.5C. and 1.5C to 4.5C for ECS as a whole. The science is clear on the lower bound and intelligent decisions need to be taken at a global scale. At the time of this writing, the G20 group, responsible for around 75% of annual emissions, pledged on November 16th to limit global warming to 1.5C which, will most likely be welcomed at the COP27 in Egypt.


I look forward to seeing this commitment reflected in the COP27 final communique, hence sending a signal that our Earth collective fully understands one of the most pressing issues of our time and commits to leaving a better place to our children.

Footnotes

[1] "Robert Brulle: Inside the Climate Change "Countermovement"". Frontline. PBS. October 23, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
[2] Abram, N., McGregor, H., Tierney, J. et al. Early onset of industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents. Nature 536, 411–418 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19082
[3] Walker, J.S., Kopp, R.E., Little, C.M. et al. Timing of emergence of modern rates of sea-level rise by 1863. Nat Commun 13, 966 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28564-6

Illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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