COP27 climate change summit: Progress since COP26 shows world cannot simply rely on governments' 'goodwill' to honour pledges – Carly Munnelly

World leaders made many commitments at COP26 last year, when the world’s most significant annual conference on climate change came to Glasgow. Now they are meeting again at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh and one of the most prominent items on the agenda will be assessing the progress made on those pledges.

Here is a look at some of the biggest commitments made at COP26 and progress we know about so far.

One of the most significant was to accelerate efforts to ‘phase down’ the use of coal and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

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Although the number of new coal plants proposed has decreased this year compared to last, surging energy prices due to Covid and the war on Ukraine has caused coal to become more economically attractive. Coal consumption is expected to increase by 0.7 per cent between 2021 and 2022, with the biggest increases in India and the European Union (increasing by nine and ten per cent respectively in the first half of 2022). Furthermore, state subsidies are expected to continue to rise as governments subsidise consumer bills to combat rising energy prices.

Nations also committed to return in 2022 with new, more ambitious targets to curb emissions in updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs). However, only 24 countries have submitted new or updated NDCs. Based on an updated analysis of all these plans, we are in a better place than we were last year (expecting 10.6 per cent increase in emissions between 2010-2030 compared to 13.7 per cent estimated last year).

However, these plans remain woefully insufficient and, even if the promised action is delivered, we would still be on track for about 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

A third COP26 commitment was to create the ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ on how to help poor countries cope with the financial effects of global warming. This was an extremely disappointing outcome for the many countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis who had advocated for the need for a separate ‘loss and damage’ mechanism with consistent dedicated funding. Formal talks have progressed throughout the year through the Glasgow Dialogue, but no significant action has been taken.

However, outside of the formal COP26 commitments Nicola Sturgeon pledged £2 million to address loss and damage, the first such commitment by a wealthy country which put Scotland at the forefront of climate justice advocacy. And, speaking in Egypt at COP27, she announced a further £5m funding from Scotland and urged other countries to follow suit. At least part of the original funding has since been channelled through the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, which has begun using the money to provide grants for their partners delivering loss and damage projects, primarily around climate-forced migration.

The COP27 climate summit should make countries accountable for the promises they make (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)The COP27 climate summit should make countries accountable for the promises they make (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
The COP27 climate summit should make countries accountable for the promises they make (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Overall, the world is in a slightly better place to reach our climate targets since COP26, but progress remains slow and fragmented, and our global ambition remains insufficient. The overarching issue with the commitments made last year is that they were not accompanied by global accountability mechanisms – instead their implementation relies on goodwill.

Detailed implementation plans with enforceable accountability will be critical to determining the success of COP27.

Carly Munnelly is senior development financing adviser at Save the Children

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