Despite progress, COP27 is yet another failure

For the past two weeks took place in Egypt the 27th Conference of Parties, the official international negotiations on stopping climate change. It was yet another failure, with little actual progress towards bringing emissions to zero as fast as possible.

I started covering these events when I started blogging. I was young, I was naive. I actually thought these actually meant progress on the climate front. 15 years later, one could say that if success may have been achieved, it’s hard to be triumphant, given how fast our carbon emissions are still rising :

However, official pledges to slash greenhouse gases emissions are increasing, and thus, there is hope the world could collectively achieve limiting the temperature rise. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency stated on Twitter that he remains optimistic :

The United States and over 80 other countries wanted the official declaration to include the intention to phase out fossil fuels. This didn’t happen as petro-states – mainly Saudi Arabia and Russia – did their best to block meaningful achievements.

Amory Lovins from the famous Rocky Mountain Institute recently argued that the energy transition has been taking place for a while now. Seeing the two graphs below, it’s hard to argue :

According to BNEF, the overwhelming majority of added capacity in the world are now solar and wind.
According to data from the International Energy Agency, global solar additions to the grids grew by a factor ten in ten years.

We got all the inventions we need. From the humble bike to the amazing geothermal district heating and from the super efficient heat pump to the shiny solar photovoltaic panels… All we need is the political will to implement them at scale and at speed.

This might be hard given that most countries are still governed by politicians that are hell-bent on preserving the status quo. Fossil fuels subsidies doubled in 2021 and reached a global all time high when they should have been phased out already.

But there were actual good news at COP27, with genuine achievements that negotiators can be proud of :

  1. Newly reelected President Lula of Brazil has announced that his country was back on the front against climate change and deforestation. He announced his willingness to form a coalition with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to fight and stop deforestation in their countries.
  2. Indonesia – population : 275 Million – may receive $20 billion from wealthy nations to get off of coal. The dirty energy source is behind 60% of the country’s electricity consumption. This is good news as killing King Coal is one of the main ways we have to address climate change.
  3. A Loss and Damages fund was set up to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with climate disasters. While this is a notable achievement, it is yet unclear how and even if this fund will receive any money. Only time will tell.
  4. More than 150 countries agreed to slash their methane emissions 30 percent by the end of the decade. Tackling methane is increasingly seen as a quick win strategy as this very potent greenhouse gas is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years.

However, fossil fuels lobbyists were particularly numerous at this COP : they were in fact more numerous – 636 – than the representatives from countries that are the most at risk. This insanity will have to stop and these lobbyists will have to be barred from next events if we are to achieve meaningful and actual progress.

But this is unlikely to take place next year as COP28 will be taking place in Dubai. With this UNFCC Conference of Parties being yet another failure, I am increasingly convinced that progress on the climate change front is achieved locally and in a bottom up manner.

Photo credits : UNFCC on flickr.

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