COP27 marks progress on critical issues for global climate action
Looking back on an eventful COP27, Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is pleased to note important progress on a number of our priority issues.
“Although it failed to produce an agreement on emissions reductions, some of the most important stuff at COP27 happened in discussions and debates outside the negotiating room — redefining the problem and expanding the possible solution space,” said Armond Cohen, President at CATF. “In plenary stages, at side events, and at CATF’s Zero-Carbon Future pavilion, we saw world leaders, technical experts, advocates, and policymakers land on some of the hardest climate questions at COP27 — making critical moves to reckon with the scale of the climate challenge, the inertia in the system, and the need for long-term thinking beyond a crisis mentality. We also saw small coalitions of the willing, both private and public, seed some important technology and market partnerships that won’t substitute for policy action, but can make it more likely by pushing forward technical progress.”
Below are just a few examples of progress made at COP27:
Centering the needs of the developing world
COP27 negotiators reached the first-ever agreement on loss and damage — establishing a fund to support countries harmed by climate change’s impacts. While the details of how the fund is paid for and distributed have not yet been finalized, the agreement marks an important point of progress toward acknowledging and centering the needs of the developing world in the COP process and in global efforts to address climate change.
Loss and damage, however, is not the only priority for developing nations — as CATF’s Director of Energy and Climate Innovation, Africa Lily Odarno makes clear in a recent piece for African Arguments and as she and many African leaders made clear throughout COP27. “Looking beyond loss and damage, developing nations and particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa must prioritize indigenous innovation, energy transformation and access, and economic development as a first line of defense against climate change. African leaders at COP27 made sure the world understood that any discussion of an energy transition must contend with poorer nations’ economic development priorities — and that a one-size-fits-all approach will simply not work.”
CATF’s Zero-Carbon Future pavilion hosted a wide range of discussions around these themes, including panels on modeling Africa’s energy future, African leadership in global climate action, and carbon management in the Caribbean. CATF also hosted the government of Nigeria and the United States’ Department of Energy as they launched the new Africa Center of Excellence for Carbon Management Technology and Innovation — which aims to de-risk and accelerate innovation, develop the carbon management workforce, and deploy carbon management technologies across Africa’s energy, industrial, and agricultural sectors.
World leaders turned the corner on technology optionality at COP27. Rather than limiting clean energy pathways to one or two preferred technologies — experts at every stage of the COP noted the importance of a diverse array of climate solutions — including wind and solar power, hydrogen and ammonia, nuclear energy, carbon capture, and geothermal. This need for a diverse array of solutions was particularly pronounced in conversations contending with dual priorities of emissions reductions, energy security, economic development, and region-centric, approaches to climate action. The final COP27 text also reflects the need for technology optionality, including in financing, as well as systems transformation — both are components CATF has advocated for as part of the Global Stock Take Process.
“As the world considers climate action within the context of a global polycrisis, it has become more and more clear that we must avoid pathway dependency,” said Lee Beck, Senior Director, Europe at Clean Air Task Force. “The world’s complexities were on full display at COP27 and we were pleased to see world leaders acknowledge the need to advance multiple solutions at once, de-risking energy transformation and hedging bets in an uncertain world.”
Leaders stressing the need for a diverse array of clean energy solutions ranged from U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, EU Executive Vice Chairman Frans Timmerman, Namibia’s Economic Advisor to the President James Mnyupe during a CATF-led conversation, as well as U.S. lawmakers and environmental and energy ministers in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa speaking at the Zero-Carbon Future pavilion.
Accountability and implementation
COP27 delivered multiple steel-in-the-ground announcements that turn climate ambition into climate action. Highlights include:
- The U.S., Canada, the European Commission, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom launched the Carbon Dioxide Removal Launchpad. The members commit to building at least one 1,000+ tonne CO2 per year CDR project by 2025 and collectively contributing at least $100 million by 2025 to support CDR pilot projects and demonstrations globally. Earlier this year, CATF hosted a Ministerial at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum on the same topic.
- The U.S. and Ukraine, along with a multinational consortium of partners, announced a pilot project to generate zero-carbon fuels from small modular reactors, aiming to demonstrate production of clean hydrogen and ammonia using small modular nuclear reactor and electrolysis technologies in Ukraine. This effort will support Ukraine’s energy security goals, enable decarbonization of hard-to-abate energy sectors through clean hydrogen generation, and improve long-term food security through clean ammonia-produced fertilizers.
- A new U.S.-launched initiative, Project Phoenix, will accelerate the transition in Europe of coal-fired plants to small modular nuclear reactors. Project Phoenix will provide direct U.S. support for coal-to-SMR feasibility studies and related activities in support of energy security goals for countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
- Romania announced several new initiatives focused on leveraging nuclear energy, especially small modular reactors, to lead the energy transition in the region while increasing energy security — including a new memorandum of understanding between Nuclearelecrica’s SMR project company (RoPower) and Donalam.
- The EU, the largest oil and gas importer region of the world and a projected energy importer in a decarbonized world, signed a MOU on an EU-Egypt partnership to import hydrogen from Egypt.
- Kazakhstan and the EU signed an MoU that establishes an energy partnership that includes hydrogen supply value chain development.
- Egypt signed eight framework agreements with international companies for the development of low-carbon hydrogen projects.
- A new joint work program from the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology and Energy Network (CTCN), which will investigate the decarbonization of harder-to-abate industrial sectors like steel and cement. Through the joint work program, developing countries and emerging markets will be able to request technical assistance and support for capacity building to develop critical technology projects.
Fast action to reduce methane emissions
One year after the launch of the Global Methane Pledge, world leaders reported significant progress on methane mitigation at COP27 — counting more than 150 nations signed onto the pledge with more than 95% of countries including methane mitigation in their NDCs and more than 50 countries having established or currently developing methane mitigation action plans. As CATF’s Global Director for Methane Pollution Prevention Jonathan Banks noted in a CATF-hosted COP27 ministerial meeting, “last year methane had its moment. This year, it’s all about momentum.”
During COP27, the United States, Canada, Nigeria, and Ecuador announced new methane standards to reduce emissions from their oil and gas sectors, and the Global Methane Hub announced significant new funding for projects to reduce methane emissions from the global waste sector — including funding for a new project by Clean Air Task Force to track and monitor methane emissions from the waste sector in Latin America. The EU, U.S., Canada, Japan, the UK, and Norway also announced a landmark international trade agreement to ensure methane mitigation across global supply chains.
CATF looks forward to working with global leaders to ensure accountability and continued progress on each of these fronts in the coming year — building on the progress made at COP27 and ratcheting up ambition and action in the lead-up to COP28 in Dubai, UAE.