More Ambitious Climate Plans Needed Ahead of COP27

UN Climate Change News, 26 January 2022 – In an address to open Project Syndicate’s “Generation Green” event today, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia outlined urgent next steps that the international community needs to take to keep the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees within reach, and build momentum ahead of the next UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Egypt in November.

The UN Climate Chief urged governments to take immediate action by submitting more ambitious national climate action plans, known as NDCs, and Long-Term Strategies, as agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last year.

“The science is clear: we must see more climate action this decade if we’re to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and, ultimately, the 1.5-degree goal,” Ms. Espinosa said.

The remarks of Ms. Espinosa come one day ahead of the Ministerial meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, a group of countries responsible for around 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The call of the UN’s climate chief comes against a background of dire warnings from the scientific community, and accelerating climate change impacts. Several Latin American countries have experienced unprecedented heat this month, and Australia recorded its warmest day ever last week at an alarming 50-degrees Celsius.

With “climate change outpacing multilateralism,’ Ms. Espinosa stressed the need for the multilateral process to accelerate, calling on G20 nations, to “lead by example.”

Last year’s NDC Synthesis Reports prepared by UN Climate Change showed that countries are far away from the level of ambition needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. In response, a decision was taken at COP26 requiring all countries to come up with stronger plans on an annual basis, starting this year.

Ms. Espinosa highlighted the areas requiring specific progress in the lead up to COP27, including emission reductions, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and climate finance, with a focus on finance for adaptation. At COP26, governments agreed on the need to provide more support to developing countries and called for adaptation finance to be doubled.

Notwithstanding the onus on governments and the private sector to take urgent and immediate action, Ms. Espinosa stated that youth, observers and civil society have a central role to play on the road to and during COP27.

To keep the 1.5 goal alive, “everyone, across all walks of life, needs to understand the causes and impacts of climate change, and be educated and empowered to contribute to the solutions.”

She highlighted the importance of “generation green,” to keep the pressure on governments to make more and more ambitious commitments – and subsequently hold them to those commitments – and urged private industry to “reach for the highest possible climate action, not the lowest-hanging fruit.”

See full statement below:

It’s a pleasure to speak with you in these early days of 2022: a year in which we build on the momentum coming off COP26 and continue to encourage nations, business and civil society to boost climate action.

I recognize that not everyone was happy with what we achieved in Glasgow. I was also not completely satisfied. This however is the reality of diplomacy and multilateralism.

But let us focus on what we did achieve, where we stand after COP26 and examine the road ahead to COP27.

In Glasgow, nearly 200 nations came together and provided clarity on the work we need to undertake to reach the 1.5-degree goal under the Paris Agreement.

For the first time ever, coal was mentioned in the final text.

We saw progress with respect to mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Outside of the formal process China and the United States agreed to work together in areas of common interest.

We saw Parties finalize guidelines for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. This is a significant accomplishment, allowing Parties to scale up their cooperation, mobilize additional finance and private sector engagement and ensure that the rules are the same for everyone.

We also saw completion, after several COPs, of the enhanced transparency framework. This deserves more attention than it has received because it reinforces trust, which is at the heart of the Paris Agreement and our multilateral process.

By agreeing to the tables, outlines and other formats for the various reports and data they must submit under the Paris Agreement, Parties can move forward knowing the rules for reporting are the same for all. They also agreed to provide capacity-building support to facilitate this work. While this support will apply to all nations, it will certainly be of great benefit to developing nations.

Parties also decided on the rules to implement carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

In the area of Loss and Damage, they agreed to the establishment of the Glasgow Dialogue that will ensure further work in the next years.

Despite COP26 accomplishments however, the undeniable truth is that we are still far off the trajectory of stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5-degrees.

It’s why COP26 was not the end of anything. It was an important step forward, but our work and the work of Parties continues towards COP27.

There are several areas of focus and many requiring immediate attention.

First, we need more ambitious NDCs and Long-Term Strategies. We simply do not have enough – and not enough ambition – at the current time. The NDC Synthesis Reports from last year confirmed this.

That’s why nations, following a resolution at COP26, are now asked to come up with stronger plans on an annual basis. No country is exempt. The pressure is on and civil society has made it clear: they want results.

The global south particularly wants to see the global north live up to its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

It’s crucial G20 nations lead by example as they represent 80 per cent of the world’s emissions.

They must focus on immediate action. The science is clear: we must see more climate action this decade if we’re to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and, ultimately, the 1.5-degree goal.

I’m often asked how optimistic I am that Parties will follow up on their commitments. I am always optimistic – I would not be in this position if I wasn’t. I am absolutely convinced the multilateral process is the only way forward. But currently, climate change is outpacing multilateralism. A cursory glance at almost any metric makes this very clear.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that globally 2020 was tied with the previous warmest year of 2016.

It was Europe’s hottest year on record, almost half a degree warmer than 2019, which was the previous record. Last week Australia recorded its warmest day ever at 50-degrees Celsius.

I could spend the next 24 hours reading statistics and numbers that prove the direness of our situation. This year we will receive even more important data that will build on this, including the next crucial IPCC report. Anyone who expects the news to be anything but dire has not been paying attention.

Certainly, we have reasons to be optimistic. We have a global plan in the Paris Agreement, and thanks to COP26 we are now at the implementation stage of that agreement. But if the Paris Agreement is going to ultimately succeed, and nations are to ultimately limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, and multilateralism is to ultimately prevail as the method to achieve it, then Parties have got to act in 2022.

Just because it’s uncomfortable to keep delivering this message does not make it any less necessary. Optimism is only possible when it is backed by action.

On the road to COP27, we specifically need to see progress in the areas of mitigation, adaptation and finance.

With respect to finance and adaptation, at COP26 all Parties agreed that much more support needs to be provided to developing countries.

We welcomed the call by Parties to at least double finance for adaptation, but actual needs are still very much beyond what is currently available. Parties must continue to focus on this issue as we look ahead to COP27.

As for those big financial announcements we heard at COP26? They were encouraging, but we look forward to both firm plans and the fine print on the road to COP27. We must see these plans as soon as possible and certainly in the coming months.

Those are but a few of the many issues we continue to work on with the UK Presidency and the incoming Egyptian Presidency as well.

We also look forward to your ongoing input and solutions as well, particularly from youth. As I made very clear in Glasgow, youth, observers and civil society as a whole must play a more central role on the road to and at COP27.

I was encouraged that at COP26, Parties adopted the 10-year Glasgow work program to strengthen the implementation of Action for Climate Empowerment, known as ACE.

ACE has six elements: climate education and public awareness, training, public access to information, public participation, and international cooperation.

This is a key development because if we’re to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach, everyone, across all walks of life, needs to understand the causes and impacts of climate change, and be educated and empowered to contribute to the solutions. ACE supports that work.

It specifically recognizes the critical role of youth, as well as their right to engage in decisions and action on climate change.

As we look ahead to COP27, we must all work together to keep the pressure on governments to keep making more and more ambitious commitments.

And once those commitments are made, holding them to those commitments. The same goes for private industry. We must urge them to reach for the highest possible climate action, not the lowest-hanging fruit.

In short, we need Generation Green. I recognize and respect your efforts to this point and I’m confident that with your input we can make not only this year a success, but COP27 and beyond.

I look forward to the results of your discussions and I look forward to meeting as many of you in person as possible – and as soon as possible.

Thank you.

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