In November 2022, several staff members from the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to discuss a range of key global climate issues from methane emissions reductions to adaptation to renewable energy sources. CGS contributed to COP27 through report launches, events, and high-level discussions to help boost domestic and international climate goals and emphasize our research that shows how to accomplish high-ambition outcomes.
The UNFCCC emphasized that COP27 would hold leaders accountable for the promises they made in Glasgow in 2021 and should focus on the implementation of these promises. Upon the conclusion of a two-week-long conference and accompanying negotiations, representatives from almost 200 countries reaffirmed their commitment to keeping 1.5C alive and established new funding mechanisms for helping developing and vulnerable countries. However, a key desired feature missing from the COP27 agreement was a commitment to phase down fossil fuels or new climate ambition commitments.
So what do our experts think about the conclusion of COP27? Their thoughts below.
Renewed U.S.-China collaboration
Expert: Ryna Cui, Research Director
Before COP27, there was much speculation as to whether or not the world’s two biggest emitters—the United States and China—would build upon the collaboration and discussion at COP26. Fortunately, the United States and China successfully re-engaged in repeated conversations and collaboration on climate action following several bilateral conversations and, importantly, President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping meeting at the G20 Summit in Bali—reflecting the shared understanding of why critical cooperation enhances the world’s ability to keep the global climate goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.
At CGS, we have large, active, and collaborative programs on understanding climate action in the United States and China and have been actively investigating opportunities and high-ambition emissions reduction pathways in both countries. In addition, CGS Director Nate Hultman was a member of Secretary Kerry’s team at the U.S. State Department in 2021 that helped negotiate the U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. During the COP27 negotiations, a CGS delegation was asked by Secretary Kerry and Minister Xie of China to participate in a U.S.-China Experts’ Group to provide input and support to this process, and I hope that the input we provided was valuable as the two Envoys considered opportunities for contributing to the success of COP27 and also to advance, through a collaborative process, broader understanding and shared research in 2023.
CGS has been focused on work that supports enhanced ambition, action, and implementation in both countries and around the world, and I believe that our recent analyses, collaborative research, and report launches at the COP, for example, on opportunities and challenges for methane mitigation, were timely and will be supportive of overall U.S.-China collaborative discussions.
Subnational actions for meeting U.S. and international commitments
Expert: Alicia Zhao, Research Manager
Subnational actions are critical for delivering on U.S. climate targets and signaling a commitment from the United States to keep global climate goals within reach. As the United States works with other countries around the world to increase overall climate ambition, it must also take action at all levels of government and society.
At COP27, America Is All In launched a new report, led by CGS, titled “An All-In Pathway to 2030: The Beyond 50 Scenario,” which highlights the importance of subnational actions in meeting U.S. climate goals. The report depicts how U.S. policymakers can leverage bottom-up actions across all sectors from states, cities, businesses, and more, to help the United States achieve its ambitious climate target of slashing greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Also at COP27, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of State jointly announced the Subnational Climate Action Leaders’ Exchange (SCALE) initiative to support cities, states, and regions in the development and implementation of net-zero, climate-resilient targets and roadmaps. CGS is one of the partner organizations that will deliver on its objectives.
Expert: Mengye Zhu, Postdoctoral Associate
The Global Stocktake, one of the essential components of the Paris Agreement, is a mechanism for assessing progress toward three of the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals and determining steps forward to increase climate ambition. The first global stocktake (GST) launched at COP26 and will conclude this year at COP28, making this interim period critical for amplifying and strengthening its success. Earlier this year, discussing and implementing the GST process was a key component of the Bonn Climate Conference. The conference laid the groundwork for the continuation of the GST at COP27.
The GST at COP27 shared a forward-looking vision for the completion at COP28, working to ensure its effectiveness and accuracy. CGS has been co-leading the iGST (Independent Global Stocktake) Mitigation Working Group – a consortium of researchers and advocates working together to support a robust GST for greater climate actions – with the Council for Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW). CGS has been supporting the formal GST mechanisms – specifically the Technical Dialogues – through the iGST framework. At COP27, CGS co-hosted the iGST side event on “Building an Inclusive Global Stocktake” where panelists discussed how to expand upon non-party inputs to the GST. During this event, CGS and CEEW discussed the launch of the Early Career Scholars for an Inclusive Stocktake (ECSIS) program which gathers early-career scholars from around the world with diverse disciplinary and cultural backgrounds to discuss topics of urgency and relevance to the global stocktake (GST). Facilitated by the iGST, this program will help identify critical gaps in stocktaking and come up with innovative solutions.
Adaptation and resilience
Expert: Camryn Dahl, Program Manager
Leading up to COP27, one of the central discussions, spurred by calls from less-developed countries and those already hit by the impacts of climate change, was on loss and damage. Many developing countries feel as though wealthier, more developed countries should pay for adaptation and mitigation costs, as developed countries are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Despite this, less-wealthy, developing nations are disproportionately reaping the consequences of climate change. At COP26, wealthy countries pledged to double adaptation finance; at COP27 they were expected to show how they’re going to do that, and ensure it reaches communities that need it most.
COP27 saw significant progress on adaptation and resilience, with loss and damage added as an agenda item for the first time. With loss and damage now on center stage, COP27 was shaping up to be a critical conference for addressing the already worsening global impacts of climate change. In the end, COP27 culminated in a historic agreement to establish and operationalize a loss and damage fund. This fund will assist vulnerable countries that are hit hard by climate disasters. The negotiations resulted in new funding arrangements and a committee to help start the fund this year at COP28.
CGS is looking forward to continuing its research into how the world can work together to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius and the Paris Agreement goals in sight. Loss and damage has always been a critical question, especially now as climate impacts are exacerbated around the world. However, this brings about a lot of questions surrounding how to track and account for efforts toward loss and damage. A lot of research is needed to evaluate frameworks for implementing successful policies.