This year COP27 is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will focus on four core topics: mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. In this article, we will give a brief overview of what mitigation is and its significance at COP27.
What is mitigation?
Global average temperatures and the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are directly related. To stop climate change, we need to decrease emissions released into the atmosphere and reduce the concentration of CO2 by creating and preserving carbon sinks. In the context of climate action, mitigation describes all efforts to reduce emissions and enhance sinks.
Maintaining the 1.5 °C target
The COP27 vision builds on the achievements of previous conferences in securing the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and adapting to the negative impacts of climate change through the implementation of the provisions of the Paris Agreement. However, the world is not on track to meet the 1.5 °C goal. Collectively, the world’s nations have made progress to aim for 2 °C, but science shows that much more must be done to keep 1.5 °C within reach. We need to reduce emissions by 50% over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century if we want to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C.
Climate targets are far from sufficient
Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidance that global warming must be limited to well below 2 °C, COP27 will continue to work towards the 1.5 °C target.
Since the latest IPCC report has highlighted that rapid and far-reaching efforts are required to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, a Global Stocktake (GST) will be discussed at COP27. This will assess how current mitigation efforts will be assessed against the goals of the Paris Agreement.
All countries must present their targets and fulfill their pledges to the Paris Agreement to further the implementation towards the 1.5 °C goal. Especially those nations continuing to produce high levels of emissions will need to step up with raised ambitions in Sharm El Sheikh.
Nationally Determined Contributions and a Global Stocktake at COP27
One of the main topics at COP27 will be scaling up mitigation. While immediate actions and targets are essential, parties will need to maintain a focus on the mid-and long-term targets for their next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), set ambitious 2030 targets, and develop and deepen their long-term decarbonisation plans.
At COP26 in Glasgow, an emission gap between the goals of the Paris Agreement and NDCs with a 2030-time frame was noted. The sixth IPCC report confirmed the seriousness of this gap in 2022. It is estimated that global CO2 emissions consistent with 1.5 °C of warming with limited or no overshoot would need to fall by 50% by 2030. COP27 will need to suggest a solution to this shortfall, as well as respond to the call for revised NDCs to close the gap.
Additionally, a work program was established in Glasgow to rapidly scale up ambition and mitigation up to 2030. Subsidiary bodies were asked to submit a decision on the work program until COP27. The work program is intended to complement the global stocktake. Furthermore, by the end of 2022, all parties are required to revise their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and strengthen their 2030 targets. Parties were also asked to submit or update their long-term development strategies for low greenhouse gas emissions.
Designing the work program and its objectives and outcomes will be a fundamental part of COP27: the scopes it will address, the inputs it will rely on, the working modalities and its institutional arrangements. All parties need to agree on how to deliver and track progress toward the pledges made. Future opportunities to submit more ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets need to be created, including in the round of NDCs submitted by 2025, following the GST.
At COP27 all parties need to reflect on the progress toward the first GST submissions and turn toward concrete outcomes. The challenge will be to specify meaningful discussion areas that complement the GST and can then feed into the annual ministerial round tables on pre-2030 ambition. Therefore, the GST process must fully accomplish the outputs of the sixth IPCC report and be structured with broad, transparent, and meaningful participation of all stakeholders.
Scaling up mitigation at COP26
Already, COP26 put a spotlight on mitigation, with the IPCC report clearly stating:
“Deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gases must be undertaken in the decades ahead, otherwise global warming will not stay below the 1.5 °C or 2 °C limits.”
A comparison modelling of five emission scenarios showed that the proportion of CO2 emissions that can be taken up by land and oceans decreases with higher CO2 emissions. Another important finding was that keeping the temperature limit established by the Paris Agreement will require not only net zero CO2 emissions, but also a substantial reduction in CH4, N2O, and other GHG emissions.
Thus, COP26 expressed “alarm and utmost concern” at the already observed global warming of 1.1 °C and strengthened the framework for mitigation in the Glasgow Climate Pact by:
- retaining the 1.5 °C temperature limit
- stating a concrete figure for a reduction of CO2 emissions (-45 % by 2030 compared to 2010 levels)
- highlighting the importance of action before 2030
- addressing the importance of reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050
- emphasising the need for deep reductions in GHG emissions other than CO2, specifically calling attention to CH4 emissions
- explicitly addressing the continued use of coal and fossil fuels by stating the need for phasing down unabated coal power generation and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies
COP27 is an opportunity to shape the future of climate action
Based on this foundation, COP27 is an opportunity to draw on the relevant findings of the latest IPCC Report, including those related to nature-based solutions, biodiversity, climate-resilient development, transformative adaptation, reducing poverty, equity, water and food security, and the SDGs. From there, the parties can begin to shape the development of relevant deliverables and the path for future climate action to be taken.