In November 2022, negotiators will gather in Sharm El-Sheikh to progress the state of play on the Paris Agreement – our global response to the climate crisis. In the lead up to this meeting, IChemE Fellow Mary Stewart, an observer to the processes of the UNFCCC, the global body with oversight of the Paris Agreement, outlines the main themes of the conference.
Name: Dr Mary Stewart FIChemE
Job title and organisation: CEO, Energetics
IChemE roles: Member of the Energy Community of Practice, one of the three person team who lead the creation of IChemE’s Climate Change Position Statement, member of the Governance Panel, and member of the working group tasked with implementing the commitments made in the Climate Change Position Statement.
Bio: Mary is Chief Executive Officer of climate and energy transition risk experts, Energetics, which works with ASX200 companies and all levels of Australian government.. Mary is recognised globally as an expert in decision-making for sustainable development and has assisted some of Australia’s largest energy users to develop climate and energy risk management strategies. She is an expert on life cycle assessment as it applies to resources and in the development of carbon footprints and carbon neutral positions.
Mary is the BINGO (Business and Industry NGO) observer on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Technology Executive Committee’s Implementation taskforce. She was invited to take up this position by the International Chamber of Commerce. She is the president of the Energy Efficiency Council of Australia and a fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
The Egyptian Presidency of COP27 has been clear in its guidance to the negotiators at the COP. This is about moving from the hard won ambition articulated at the Glasgow COP in 2021, to implementation. The focus of the presidency is on ensuring that national action plans – the NDCs or National Determined Contributions – are robust and rigorous and can start to deliver the mitigation, or emissions reductions, that are a global imperative if warming it to be limited to well below 2oC. The other aspect of implementation that will be in focus is ironing out the final aspects of the Paris rule book as pertains to global carbon markets – Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The presidency has also been clear that this is the African COP, and attention will be paid to the second largest continent throughout all the processes.
The three themes that will play out through the week are:
- Finance: understanding what is needed to fund the transition to net zero, and what is needed to enable countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change – the global objectives of mitigation and adaptation – will be in the spotlight. This will extend beyond finance that is required from the public sector, to include private sector sources. The Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement is a process for assessing the degree of the implementation of the Paris Agreement with the aim to assess the world’s collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and its long-term goals. While this is ongoing it has already highlighted that the finance that has been made available does not meet what was initially committed.
- Adaptation: as the impacts of climate change are increasingly being experienced across the globe, attention is finally turning to the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). NAPs are parallel to NDCs and explain how countries are building resilience to the impacts of climate change. NAPs are poorly developed and under-resourced.
- Loss and damage: this is often confused with adaptation but is decidedly separate. It is the mechanism whereby countries are compensated for losses they experience as a result of a changed natural environment, for example loss of land mass due to rising sea levels.
Given that access to face to face meetings over the last two or more years has been limited by the pandemic, the negotiators are rightly concerned that negotiations have the potential to be challenging at best, and acrimonious at worst. The current geopolitical situation will also have a role to play in the processes, not necessarily overtly, but recognising that negotiations are finalised by agreement and not by vote, disagreements from other spheres have the potential to spill over into challenges to finalising discussions. However, at the pre-COP meeting held recently in Kinshasa, negotiators worked through a lot of the formalities that have the potential to smooth progress in Egypt.
Other aspects of the negotiations to look out for are:
- The World Leaders Forum which will be held in the first two days of the COP, on 7 and 8 November. A number of presidents are expected to attend with the resulting headlines and announcements.
- The final session of the Glasgow COP was in the news because of the last minute conversation about fossil fuels and the need to “phase down” or “phase out” coal and/or gas. With the growth in momentum behind the need to act on methane emissions we may only see an increase in actions relating to methane, it is not clear whether additional pressure will be applied to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.
- Challenges to the business community attending and making inputs are increasing, with a focus on the presence of the oil and gas sector within this community. There is a tension between the independence of the private sector in the negotiations, and the role of the private sector in funding the transition. All indications are still that 50% of funds for mitigation and adaptation will need to come from the private sector. The UNFCCC is still working out how to negotiate these complexities.
Finally, this COP is going to be a process-based COP with limited ambitious announcements and a focus on finessing the Paris Agreement. There are likely to surprises as there always are, hopefully these will be on the side of ambition. If you want to follow what is happening on the ground, you might want to sign up for a podcast series hosted by the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia called G’Day Sharm El-Sheikh. You can sign up here.
To find out more about IChemE’s climate change activities, please visit www.icheme.org/COP27.