As we approached the 2022 Christmas season, I was impelled to return to a subject I’ve addressed before. It is of vital importance, not only to our core business audience, but to people throughout the world.
The year’s widespread media reports of unseasonal typhoons, over-the-top monsoonal deluges and melting icecaps make it clear: climate change is not merely upon us, but is racing away and on the verge of being unstoppable.
It was gratifying to see the wide news coverage devoted to this year’s recently concluded COP27 conference. The figure 27 simply means it is the 27th annual international conference on climate change, this year hosted by Egypt.
The recent intergovernmental report on Climate Change suggests that Earth’s climate temperature will exceed the crucial rise of 1.5 degrees centigrade in coming decades, unless there are immediate and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to act will have a crippling effect on all countries, not just the low-lying islands or developing countries that are currently beset.
Some encouraging signs
On one level, it was encouraging that COP27 focused attention on concerns over whether or not we can control the seemingly inexorable rise of climate change. And readers of the proceedings of COP27 may have taken some heart from the fact that protests by the most affected and vulnerable poor countries about the lack of progress at least pushed out the conference’s closing by an extra day.
Developed countries have long resisted calls from the more obviously threatened low-lying countries in particular to have direct talks on financing their loss and damage from climate change. Our Pacific neighbour Tuvalu has already announced plans to effectively maintain its future existence as an online-only entity.
So it was indeed a major breakthrough that these concerns finally made it onto the final communiqué. But following the hosannas that the needs of the poor countries were finally being taken seriously, it still remained unclear exactly how and when the practicalities of financing their needs would be achieved. These details will be addressed in future COP conferences.
Still, the conference outcomes were seen as major public recognition of the dangers the world faces. But it turned out that COP27’s organisers already had a ‘final’ communiqué ready to release. And in a surprise to the endangered low-lying countries, the final statement contained hitherto largely unseen language referring to the inclusion of ‘low-emissions’ energy, alongside renewables, as energy sources of the future.
As EY put it in a commentary: “Many believe [inclusion of] this undefined term to be a significant loophole, as it could be used to justify new fossil fuel development.”
Perhaps the simplest, and saddest reason for the slow progress, was evidenced by the fact that there were in fact more oil and gas lobbyists at COP27 than delegates, according to widespread media coverage. According to one report, there were 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered, which was higher than the 503 at the previous COP26. And they outnumbered the delegation of any single country. Many observers believe inclusion of the “low-emissions” term was a significant loophole that could be used to justify new fossil fuel development.
One would have to be naïve to not understand the COP27 implementation plan that was finally revealed reflected the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists. Yes, progress was made and crucial attention was focused on the core issues. But there remains a very long way to go if we are to address the climate change problems that are facing Earth.
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