Greenhouse gas emissions hang heavy over COP27 proceedings

As COP27, the UN Conference of the Parties (COP), continued into its 'Youth and Future Generations' and ‘Science’ Day, proceedings on November 10, 2022, CO2 emissions moved to the forefront of discussions. 

Key Statements & Discussions 

In a virtual address to conference attendees on November 8, 2022, the last day of the COP27 World Leaders Summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged world leaders to hold Russia accountable for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the war. The Global Carbon Project estimates the emissions from the war total nearly 100 million tons caused by gas leaks and the transportation of soldiers and refugees, for example–are roughly equal to the amount produced by Colombia or Bangladesh in a year. Zelensky’s plea gave energy to researchers calling for increased scrutiny of military emissions. 

On the topic of tracking emissions, on November 9, 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the launch of the Climate TRACE Coalition’s emissions tracker. The tool provides data on the quantity and exact location of emissions, allowing leaders to develop informed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Guterres was joined by Al Gore, who urged leaders to hold emissions producers accountable, while also using the data to inform transitions to clean energy. 

On the same day, the Climate Action Network presented a ‘Fossil Award’ to Japan as the world’s largest public investor in fossil fuel initiatives. The CSO umbrella organization also criticized Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for failing to attend the conference. 

Not only were emissions and fossil fuels present as topics of discussion, but representatives of fossil fuel interest groups attended en masse. According to analysis from Global Witness, released on November 10, 2022, the number of attendees with connections to fossil fuels groups increased from COP26 by 25%, to a total of about 600 delegates. The finding comes amid increased criticism from youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who expressed severe disappointment in the inability of policymakers to divorce themselves from fossil fuel interests. 

While the November 10, 2022, COP27 proceedings held the theme of ‘Science,’ it had an additional theme of ‘Youth and Future Generations.’ While policymakers expressed admiration for the youth activists, the feelings were not mutual. Some youth attendees had very clear agendas, urging leaders to adopt adaptation plans and support loss and damage initiatives. However, in a day with a low volume of political and financial commitments, the most accurate barometer of COP27 success might be youth attendees’ ongoing cynicism regarding world leaders’ commitment to climate goals, and anger at their perceived lack of voice in policy forums. 

Key Financial Commitments 

As COP27 continues, support for loss and damage has continued to grow: New Zealand pledged NZ$20 million (US$12 million) for loss and damage on November 9, 2022, joining a small but growing group of countries showing support for the topic. China has also expressed potential support. 

Also on November 9, 2022, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) secured US$1 billion dollars to support renewable energy and decarbonization projects in low- and middle- income countries. The main financers included Masdar, a UAE renewable energy company; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIiB); the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development; and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 

Finally, South Africa received loans from Germany and France to support its transition to clean energy. Specifically, the package comprised two loans of €300 million (US$302 million) from the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), a German promotional bank. 

Tomorrow’s Agenda 

As discussions continue to proliferate on the topic of emissions, COP27 turns to ‘Decarbonization Day’ on Friday, November 11, 2022. Sessions will cover topics including the future of oil and gas industries, revisiting the ‘Global Methane Pledge,’ and the needs of low- and middle- income countries for sustainable infrastructure development. 

News article - Bloomberg 

News article - UN News 

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News article - BBC 

Tweet - Greta Thunberg 

News article - New Zealand Herald 

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News article - Bloomberg 

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