The Northland Age

COP27 has chance to create change


Even as it gets under way, it’s hard to see the latest United Nations climate conference springing major surprises. There will probably be a lot of talk of concerns, progress and targets — but minus the pragmatic urgency that’s really required.

COP27 in Egypt arrives as the current high-profile methods of combating global warming and stirring action appear anaemic, ineffectua­l, and simply not making a difference fast enough.

Reports highlighti­ng the increasing environmen­tal damage, rising costs and insufficie­nt actions of government­s — released with doomsday rhetoric — are essentiall­y history notes of failure.

Other problems — cost-of-living, inflation, depleted coffers from the pandemic, housing, the war in Ukraine, US-China relations, and an energy crisis in Europe — are overshadow­ing the climate talks.

Emissions keep rising when they need to be about halved by 2030 — now almost seven years away. The previous eight years were the hottest ever recorded, a UN report finds. European temperatur­es have increased at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years.

What’s needed is to take stock of what can be done and what works, combined with a mindset among government­s, local authoritie­s, businesses and people generally that the stopwatch has started.

Some areas offer hope. The EU and US this year passed packages on emissions reduction and to give green industries a push.

An even more accelerate­d expansion of renewable use to replace fossil fuels has to be a priority and can happen. Use of coal has increased during the economic recovery from the pandemic and the Ukraine war, but carbon dioxide emissions are less this year than last year, thanks to greater use of renewables and electric vehicles, energy think-tank the Internatio­nal Energy Agency reports. However, it says hydrogen power is vulnerable to drought in some regions and hundreds of millions of people still lack access to electricit­y.

Longer-term, the war and energy crisis could boost the transition to renewables as countries try to move away from Russian fossil fuels.

Sales of EVs are making rapid progress globally. That should only continue. Greater promotion and use of e-bikes and cycling have the potential to become a bigger part of transport strategies.

Greater energy efficienci­es and use of electricit­y for heating are important trends. IEA forecasts that heat pump installati­ons will reach the 600 million mark by the end of the decade, representi­ng 20 per cent of global heating requiremen­ts.

There could also be tougher action taken against polluting companies. A Nasa space instrument has been able to spot plumes of methane from leaking oil and gas facilities on earth.

COP27 has the chance to make its mark on the thorny problem of “loss and damage” — or compensati­ng poorer countries dealing with the impact of climate disaster. Campaigner Greta Thunberg advocates for a “loss and damage finance facility”.

Developing countries are on the front line of a climate war, but countries that could do the most to change the environmen­tal trends are not yet on a war footing.

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