Cambridge delegates report ‘small gains’ at COP27 with 1.5° target ‘on life support’
Cambridge delegates attending the COP27 climate change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, reported low-key progress as post-conference negotiations begin on the historic ‘loss and damage’ support for vulnerable nations.
The conference ran from November 6-18, with eight delegates from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and three from the Centre for Climate Repair at the University of Cambridge attending.
The breakthrough which saw the establishment of the historic ‘loss and damage’ framework means that developing countries, particularly in the global South, will receive compensation for the impact of climate change on their countries. Who receives the aid, and how much, is now the focus of global South delegates.
The CISL team at the annual convention included Nina Seega, research director, sustainable finance, Eliot Whittington, policy director, and Beverley Cornaby, programme director.
Dr Seega said: “COP27 has reiterated yet again that global leaders know what needs to be done to reduce emissions and secure the right trajectory on climate mitigation, but we are still not doing it.
“While there are mitigation options across all sectors with the potential to at least halve global greenhouse gas emissions relative to the 2019 level by 2030, the actual impact of current NDCs (nationally determined contributions) is estimated to be 0.3 per cent below 2019 levels – rather than the 43 per cent below 2019 levels that’s needed.
“Billed as an implementation COP, COP27 has succeeded in putting early warning systems, technology transfer, capacity building and just transition on the agenda with the hope of achieving decoupling of GDP and emissions in developing economies. We cannot solve the climate crisis without nature and, while we have seen some progress made here, the absence of reference to COP15 [Paris] is a major disappointment.”
She added: “The breakthrough on loss and damage, however, is absolutely key to building resilience to a quickly-warming world.”
Eliot Whittington, policy director, CISL, added: “The small gains made to address climate change in Sharm El-Sheikh are inadequate in the face of a growing climate threat that is likely to worsen the multiple crises facing the world.
“Governments, businesses, investors and civil society now need to reflect on how we can urgently raise ambition and accelerate action further because every time we fall short, we open the door to increased unnecessary economic costs, human suffering and environmental destruction.”
Meanwhile, Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, the director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, was at the convention with deputy director Prof Hugh Hunt, and Dr Antoinette Nestor, who is engagement manager for both Cambridge Zero and the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge.
After her return to Cambridge, Dr Nestor said: “What I will remember from it is not the chaos of trying to find the location of the pavilions or the lack of a stable internet connection but the text messages arriving constantly after midnight indicating that a loss and damage fund had been agreed at the last minute.
“I will also keep in my memories the conversations I had with the locals working in the resorts – where most of those taking part in COP27 were staying – and their lack of knowledge as to what all this ‘COP27 business’ was all about. Many have heard of climate change, but many had not either.
“To me, COP27 highlighted the disconnection between what we ought to be doing and how we should be integrating the community at the local level, and the realities of a system that operates at the international level. If not even the local population understands what all the fuss is about, then should we really be hopeful that we can reach net zero in the foreseeable future? I believe much more education and understanding is needed if we are to accomplish this.
“Protests were allowed but under certain terms. ‘This is what democracy looks like’ was the chant I heard over and over when looking at the protest inside the COP27 compound.
“This year was the first year there was also a children and youth pavilion, which filled the pavilion with excitement. The green zone also displayed very imaginative displays about the work Egyptian universities were doing in relation to net zero. There was a sense of cohesion and optimism from their part, and the need to establish further links with others.”
Alok Sharma, the UK government representative at the conference and the outgoing COP26 president, said in the closing session: “Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak.
“Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”