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Climate Change

Climate meeting agenda includes accountability for emission pledges

Negotiators plan to discuss fund to cover loss and damages

by Cheryl Hogue
November 2, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 39

As greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere continue to increase, climate change negotiators from around the world are converging on Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for their annual conference. But unlike in years past, they aren’t crafting the next climate treaty or the rules to implement an existing one.

Instead, they plan to review how countries are living up to the commitments they made under the 2015 Paris agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris accord calls for countries collectively to reach peak annual emissions of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and then slash emissions to zero by 2050.

Carbon dioxide set a new record in 2021

415.7 parts per million

Global average concentration

Source: World Meteorological Organization.


Methane is trending sharply upward

1,774 parts per billion

January 2002 (global monthly mean)

1,807 parts per billion

January 2012 (global monthly mean)

1,908 parts per billion

January 2022 (global monthly mean)

Source: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Delegates attending the Nov. 6–18 meeting are also scheduled to discuss an idea that originated with small island nations that contribute little to global greenhouse gas emissions yet face substantial risks of flooding, storm damage, and even becoming uninhabitable from sea-level rise.

The idea is to establish an international fund to help developing countries that suffer loss and damage from the effects of human-caused climate change, and it has broad support among such countries. Richer countries, which have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases, would supply the money. The funds would go to poorer nations experiencing significant consequences, such as severe drought or high-intensity storms, that can’t be avoided through actions to adapt to climate change.

Environmental campaigners worry that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is pulling global attention away from climate change. “The war in Ukraine has shifted focus away from climate action, especially the way Europe and even the US have started talking much more about energy security” domestically, said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy for Climate Action Network (CAN) International, at an Oct. 31 briefing held by the group.

For example, European nations are seeking to replace the natural gas from Russia they have depended on for years. Some of those countries are looking to Africa to deliver natural gas, Lorraine Chiponda of the Don’t Gas Africa campaign said at the briefing. Boosting Africa’s natural gas exports will funnel more resources toward extraction, channeling them away from expansion of renewable energy on the continent, she said.

And in the US, the American Petroleum Institute is pressing the Biden administration to allow more oil and gas drilling on federal lands and the outer continental shelf, ease federal permit requirements for energy projects, and accelerate approval for liquefied natural gas exports.

But an increased focus on domestic energy supplies won’t mean governments are ignoring the emission targets they set under the Paris agreement, Kaveh Guilanpour, vice president for international strategies at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told reporters at a separate briefing. The European Union is working through legislation called Fit for 55 that would turn the region’s pledge to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 into a legal obligation for member countries, he pointed out. The US, meanwhile, enacted two laws this year that will lower emissions: the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act.

Dozens of world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, are expected at the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting. Their presence will help keep climate change high on the worldwide political agenda, Guilanpour said.


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