【News】COP27 concludes without progress on GHG reductions

After a two-day extension, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 concluded on November 20 with a breakthrough agreement to provide loss and damage funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters. The overall decisions of the conference were summarized in the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, and the agreement reached at COP27 to establish financial support specifically for loss and damage from climate change was a major achievement. Along with the decision to establish a fund is a new “transitional committee” to work out the details.

On the other hand, it is very disappointing that no progress has been made on measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are of utmost importance in tackling climate change, and that in this regard the COP27 agreement was merely a continuation of the Glasgow Agreement reached at last year’s COP26.

Establishment of a loss and damage fund

For years, developed countries have been very concerned about the huge cost burden that would be charged by establishing a financial support mechanism dedicated to “loss and damage”, but the recent increase in the number of large-scale climate change events around the world, which have resulted in huge losses, and recognition that adaptation support is limited, have significantly increased the momentum for the establishment of this fund.

The specific institutional design, including funding and distribution methods, will be discussed with the aim of adoption at next year’s COP28 to be held in Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is expected that discussions will be held to establish an effective system and to ensure the sustainability of that system.

Exit from fossil fuels

Even with funding for loss and damage due to climate change, it is necessary to stop burning fossil fuels – the cause of climate change – as soon as possible in order to limit the losses and damages that get more substantial every year. At last year’s COP26, European countries in particular called for an immediate halt of coal-fired power plants, which emit large amounts of greenhouse gasses. However, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some countries have restarted coal-fired power plants – albeit tentatively – and emission reduction has not progressed. 

Under these circumstances, some encouraged a “phase-out of fossil fuels” in this year’s outcome, which would be a significant step forward from COP26’s agreement to “phasedown” coal-fired power generation. However, it is undeniable that some countries want to develop their economy without accelerating reductions of GHG emissions, and so it was decided that the fossil fuel portion of the COP27 cover decision will only continue the commitments in the Glasgow Climate Pact. 

The UNFCCC’s November 20 press release states that “the unprecedented global energy crisis underlines the urgency to rapidly transform energy systems to be more secure, reliable, and resilient, by accelerating clean and just transitions to renewable energy during this critical decade of action.” How we can accelerate the transition to a fair and just society based on clean renewable energy over the next decade is a crucial issue.

Japan receives another “Fossil of the Day” award

None of the parties, including Japan, agreed on a path to a fossil fuel phase-out. From Japan, Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura attended the second week of ministerial-level negotiations, but Prime Minister Kishida did not attend. 

Japan is the only country among the G7 still developing new coal-fired power plants. In addition to contributing $10.6 billion USD per year on average between 2019 and 2021 to fossil fuel projects, the Japanese government promotes co-firing of ammonia with coal domestically, which will prolong the life of coal-fired power plants, and makes huge efforts to export false solutions to other countries. 

For these reasons, Japan received another “Fossil of the Day” award. Japan is the only country that insists that co-firing or full firing of hydrogen/ammonia with coal can lead to decarbonization. Studies have pointed out that if CO2 emissions reductions stay at this rate, global warming will exceed 1.5°C by 2030. Even though the language calling for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels was not included, it is clear that immediate measures are urgently needed.

Toward a just transition

Despite the many countries moving forward in their path to decarbonization, Japan is still starting operation of new coal-fired power units, continues to heavily invest in fossil fuel projects outside of Japan, and is preparing to export ammonia co-firing technology to developing countries, which would extend the life of coal-fired power plants. 

In the COP27 cover decision, a new section “Implementation – Just Transition Pathways” was added. This section clearly states that achieving the 1.5°C target requires the participation of all stakeholders and social protection in the transition to a decarbonized society and economy. The world is concerned with not only achieving the 1.5°C target, but also the pathway to reach the goal, and so Japan must review its energy transition pathway in the context of the world’s demand for a just transition.

*COP27 and CMA4 (CMA: the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement) were held in Egypt at the same time, in the same location, and each meeting drafted outcome decisions. These documents contain essentially the same contents, but some vary depending on the treaty or agreement. The “Just Transition” plan is indicated in the CMA cover decision (as of November 29).

Related Links:

【UNFCCC】Cover Decision, Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan (Link)