Recently, this writer asked an Indian climate expert—a former India’s negotiator—whether the ‘2°C target’ or keeping the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2°C of what they were in the pre-industrialisation era (around 1850-1900), by the end of this century. Scientists say that if the planet gets hotter by not more than 1.5°C, we are safe; but even if it reaches 2°C, the world may have its nose above water. However, anything above 2°C is like being in the path of a cannon ball. 

The expert laughed. “Two degrees to gaya (two degrees is gone)”, he said. The melancholy laugh did little to mask the message that there is serious trouble ahead for mankind. 

Every year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), brings out an Emissions Gap Report (EGR), which speaks about how far behind the world is from what needs to be done. The Emissions Gap Report 2022, released last week, has a horrifying message: if the current policies continue the world is in track to warm by 2.8 degrees. Even if all the government’s fulfill their commitments, which was unlikely to start with and even more unlikely after the Ukraine war, the best the world will do is 2.4 degrees.

The distinct possibility of a war-triggered global recession is not going to help either. It is against this backdrop that the next Conference of Parties, the COP27, is going to be held, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between Nov 6 and 18. ‘Conference of Parties’ means a meeting of countries that were party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that entered into force in 1994. 

The agenda and what to expect 

Unlike some previous COPs, this time around there is no targeted negotiated outcome. The COP21, held in Paris in 2015, resulted in the famous ‘Paris Agreement’, in which countries agreed to reducing the ‘2°C target’ and made voluntary pledges called ‘nationally determined contributions’, or NDCs.

In the following years, negotiators busied themselves making rules to operationalise the Paris Agreement. This process was almost over at COP24 (Katowice, Poland, 2018), except for making rules for setting up carbon markets. Though this was supposedly completed in the Glasgow COP of last year, some confusion over one ticklish issue of how to avoid double counting, i.e., both seller and the buyer ownership of the same carbon credit, still lingers. 

So, what is to happen in Egypt? Jonathan Pershing, a US negotiator who has attended all 26 COPs says, “We’re not looking to finish a rulebook. We don’t have a new negotiation around targets. What we have instead is implementation. How do you do that? You need money. You need political agreement, and you need national action.” 

Transfer of finance from the developed world to the developing, especially for ‘adaptation’ (measures to cope with climate change effects) and ‘loss and damage’ (helping countries to get back on their feet) are surely on the discussion table. 

India and COP27 

COP27 is important to India because it happens in a year when India assumes presidency of G20, the grouping that was formed in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial meltdown. Experts expect India’s voice will therefore carry more weight. 

India will want money. For itself and the developing world. “Given how India has embarked on ambitious renewable energy targets (500 GW by 2030 from 163 GW today including large hydro), the country needs a pathway to transition to clean energy,” says Aarti Khosla, a climate expert and Director, Climate Trends, a Delhi-based climate action firm. 

In COP26, an initiative called Just Energy Transition Partnership was announced, as a pioneering mechanism which can make finance available for substituting fossil-based energy with clean energy. “India will want to see a favourable mechanism for JETPs to address the country’s transition to low carbon pathways,” says Khosla. 

That will be India’s ask, but it is unlikely that in these difficult times any meaningful financial commitment will happen. 

However, the COP meetings are worthwhile, because they are megaphone events that will spur many non-state actors, like corporations, to act.