Opinion: COP27’s lack of progress cannot derail UK Net Zero aims

Professor Karen Turner, Director at Centre for Energy Policy, Strathclyde University, considers the implications of COP27, in which a new loss and damage fund was established – meaning wealthy countries will compensate nations on the climate crisis frontline, but failed to confirm an international plan to keep temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. 

It is a positive and notable first step that we’ve now got loss and damage in the wording of the agreement, but questions remain around how much will be involved and who will pay for it.

Locking down how more developed and/or richer countries need to deliver against this commitment, and how and when, in the coming years will be key.

Disappointingly, the agreement lacks the action we were looking for coming out of the Glasgow Pact – where countries were to come to COP27 with strengthened commitments to reduce emissions supported by more solid action plans.

There aren’t the more ambitious emissions reductions which were required, and called for, coming out of COP26, and we are still lacking strong commitments on reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Indeed, some of the wording suggested that increased reliance on gas in fuelling ‘low-emissions energy systems’ may be in line with net zero ambitions.

As Alok Sharma noted at the close of the talks this weekend, this means that the vital plan to keep warming to 1.5 degrees remains very much ‘on life support.’ However, lack of significant progress being made on mitigating the effects of climate change should not stop our efforts in the UK to transition to net zero, for two reasons.

First, global temperatures are rising and all countries will need to act at some point, so we should move to seize competitive advantage in low carbon technologies and production, and to identify and move on affordable and efficient solutions, such as in decarbonising domestic heat.

Second, it makes economic sense on multiple fronts to stick with and prioritise action on our own net zero targets. Crucially, fossil fuels are currently not providing cheap sources of energy. As scarcity grows, and with ongoing geopolitical risks outwith our hands, there is an imperative to secure more domestic and lower cost solutions, and to accelerate activity to increase energy efficiency.

Last week, the University of Birmingham’s John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography, argued that environmental summits are doomed to fail until the majority of the planet experiences climate catastrophes first hand. 

Image: Matthew TenBruggencate


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