COP27 – Why Moving too Slow on Climate Change is not an option

Above: a woman protesting for action against climate change

In 2015, the world came together in Paris, France at the 21st Annual Conference of Parties (COP21) to implement the Paris Agreement. This legally binding international treaty on climate change committed 196 countries to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. It was expected that every COP after the COP21 would build on this impressive achievement.

Despite the ambitious start, there have been great setbacks. This year at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, countries failed to agree to phase out all fossil fuels. British politician Alok Sharma, who presided over COP26, was clear about this failure at COP27: “Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary? Not in this text. Clear follow-through on the phase-down of coal? Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels? Not in this text.” Instead, there was a loophole created in the final CoP27 text that omitted any reference to phasing out fossil fuels. As a result, it was argued that oil and gas executives, greenwashing corporations, and large emitting countries ended up winning at this year’s COP.

We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator

– Antonio Guterres

At the opening of COP27, Secretary-General António Guterres summed up the progress of climate action: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” Guterres is not being sensationalistic. According to Climate Action Tracker, there is a 95% probability that the world will not meet the agreed goal of containing global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In fact, the world is on a trajectory of +2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The key takeaway from COP27 is that we are not ready to seriously reduce our emissions, and more specifically, phase out fossil fuels. Fortunately, we are ready to address the impacts of our climate inaction with compensation.

Above: A visual representation of climate warming projections (Photo credit: Climate Action Tracker)

What was achieved at COP27

The most significant achievement that emerged from COP27 was to provide “Loss and damage” funding for countries most impacted by climate disasters. This Loss and damage funding will play an important role at alleviating the environmental harm that countries in the Global North have made on the planet, at the expense of countries in the Global South who have contributed the fewest emissions yet are paying the highest price for climate change.

“‘Loss and damage’ is a term used by the United Nations to describe the harms inflicted by climate change that go beyond what people can adapt to. It can include lives lost; monetary costs from the destruction of infrastructure, buildings, crops and other property; and the loss of entire places or ways of life.”

MIT Climate Portal

Another positive outcome of COP27 was the recommendations from the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities (HLEG). Set up by the UN Secretary General Guterres and chaired by former Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna, the group proposed ten standards and criteria that organizations needed to meet to achieve net zero emissions. An important purpose of the group is to ensure that corporate net-zero pledges are met and to combat “greenwashing” or misrepresenting one’s company or organization’s environmental efforts. The group will further ensure businesses cannot pick and choose what they want to measure and as a result, claim to be net zero while expanding fossil fuel or deforestation activities.

Above: Members of the the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments
of Non-State Entities (HLEG) and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres.
(Photo credit: United Nations Climate Action)

The impact of climate change around the world

The global mean temperature in 2022 is estimated to be about 1.15°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average, making it the 6th hottest year on record. This year, while not the hottest on record, provided the Global North with a glimpse of what a warmer world will look like. The U.S., Canada, and Europe experienced historic floods, heat waves, extreme weather events, and drought. This summer, major rivers in China, the US, and Europe dried up.

The extreme impacts of climate change are being felt most severely in the Global South, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Here, countries are the most vulnerable and have the fewest resources to adapt. Large floods impacted countries in South Asia this year, with Pakistan suffering unprecedented floods. One-third of the country was underwater during the historic floods that affected the country since the monsoon season began in mid-June. Floods have affected approximately 33 million people and killed at least 1,718 as of Oct. 14th. Soon after the floods subsided, the country was hit with a withering drought that wiped out its remaining crops. Despite being responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is among the countries worst affected by extreme weather events due to climate change.

Above: Data provided by the United Nations Satellite Centre which shows large areas of Pakistan
impacted by floods. (Photo credit: ABC News Graphic: Jarrod Fankhauser).

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents in the world to climate change. In 2022, the continent has experienced countless extreme weather and disasters, including devastating droughts and floods that have affected millions and killed thousands.Media has consistently covered the multi-year drought affecting the Western U.S. while far less media coverage has been given to the multi-year drought affecting the East and Horn of Africa.

Above: The surviving solar array at Mamboleo farms, a Tanzanian company supported through the SSBVC project.
A devastating flood in 2021 knocked out the newly installed solar pumps and most of the farm equipment.

What does this mean for MEDA?

Climate change greatly impacts our work. MEDA’s projects are on the front line in the fight against climate change as it strives to create decent work within agri-food market systems. Climate change worsens vulnerabilities and reduces the resiliency of our clients, particularly women, youth, and other marginalized groups.

Yet, despite the challenges, MEDA is committed to fight climate change and ensure that its clients around the world can adapt. In Part Two, we will look at where and how MEDA can create positive impacts for our planet and our clients in the Global South.

Stay connected with us to read our second installment that will be released soon. If you’re interested in reading more, look no further. Check out MEDA’s Storehouse for more great content about how entrepreneurs and farmers are using their skills and talents to build prosperous businesses and livelihoods.

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  • Dennis Tessier

    Dennis Tessier is the Technical Director, Environment and Climate Change (ECC) at MEDA. In this role Dennis has organization-wide responsibility to build capacity, develop strategic approaches, document best practices, mentor staff and oversee the provision of technical support to all of MEDA’s programming to ensure ECC is championed broadly.

  • Mujtaba Ali

    Senior Technical Specialist, Environment and Climate Change (ECC) at MEDA. Mujtaba contributes his expertise to program design, annual work plans, annual budgets, and other critical project documents. He also ensures that specific technical components for projects are implemented in his projects' countries, including Ukraine, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

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