COP27, the United Nations Annual Climate Change Conference, concluded its two week meeting on November 20 in Egypt. 190 of the world’s 195 countries were represented in the conference. That’s almost everybody! More than 35,000 people attended some portion of the event in the resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. Here’s what you need to know about CO27.
Impact vs. Causes
The disappointment and frustration of the event is that most countries are still too slow in their response to the climate crisis confronting the world. The well-recognized need to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is in jeopardy. CO2 emissions are the major reason the planet is warming at a dangerous level. Countries who are the major cause of the CO2 emissions are not adequately implementing earlier promises at previous conferences. The agreed upon goal provided by the Paris Climate agreements in 2015, that greenhouse gases need to be reduced by 50% by 2030, until we reach net zero emissions in 2050 is not on track.
The hopeful aspect of the conference, however, is these countries agreed to address the impact of climate change, especially in regards to poorer countries. A financial fund was established to help third world countries, whose carbon footprint is the smallest, yet carry the greatest vulnerabilities to the devastating impact of climate change.
Russia’s War on Ukraine
The conference was overwhelmingly, though not completely, united in their denunciation of Russia’s unprovoked act of brutality and terror against Ukraine. The impact of this war on the environment is almost incalculable. It has raised the price and reduced the supply of oil, for countries not prepared to use alternative energy sources. The cost of rebuilding Ukraine, as of December 2022, will likely require the release of more carbon emissions (50 million tons) than Kenya uses in two years. If there is a silver lining here, it clearly demonstrates the critical nature of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, especially when evil regimes use them as a tool of war.
Greenwashing is the infiltration of fossil fuel lobbyists into a conference calling for the end of fossil fuels. More than 630 lobbyists representing fossil fuel interests were at the conference. Some were even invited to speak about “best practices” in limiting the impact of fossil fuels in the global ecology. It would be like Vladimir Putin giving a lecture on how to kill fewer people in war. The world’s largest plastic polluter, Coca-Cola, was also a noticeable presence at the conference. Giving access to the conference to these lobbyists created a significant controversy as so many saw the fox was being let in to the hen house.
China is the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions, more than 11 million metric tons per year. This is more than the next four largest contributors combined (U.S., India, Russia Japan). Not carrying its weight as it should, China argues that it is third historically in carbon emissions behind the U.S. and Europe. Therefore, the means by which we judge polluters should not be done on annual production, but on historical production. The bottom line, however, is that carbon emissions is a global problem, not a national or political problem. It will, consequently, need a bold global response from all countries. The U.S. must lead by example, but we will need many other countries to pressure China into better behavior.
The next U.N Climate Change Conference, COP28, will be held in December 2023 in Dubai, one of the world’s largest producers of oil.