The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) closed its meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt with little if any substantial progress. After missing their Friday night deadline, negotiators were able to agree on a commitment to set up a financial support structure for the most vulnerable nations by the next COP in 2023
Yet, while agreement on these issues was welcomed as a step in the right direction, there appeared to be little forward movement on other key issues, particularly on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and tightened language on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In fact, new language added at this meeting included “low emissions” energy alongside renewables as the energy sources of the future is a significant loophole. The undefined term could be used to justify new fossil fuel development against the clear guidance of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The truth is the widow for limiting global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius is closing rapidly. CO2 emissions from fuel have continued to grow year after year with the exceptions of a brief respite during the global financial crisis and the Covid-19 lockdowns. Now, CO2 emissions are expected to resume their climb. Coal plants that were scheduled to shut down have continued to operate and several recently shut down coal fired turbines have be restarted in Europe and China continues to build coal plants. Coal fired electricity generation emits about twice the CO2 as natural gas.
While a growing number of governments and non-State actors are pledging to be carbon-free, the criteria for net-zero commitments can have loopholes wide enough to “drive a diesel truck through”, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres, decried as his expert group on the matter published its first report
That report slams greenwashing – misleading the public to believe that a company or entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, and provides a roadmap to bring integrity to net-zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities and regions and to support a global, equitable transition to a sustainable future.
“Using bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end. Mr. Guterres said that net-zero pledges should be accompanied by a plan for how the transition is being made. “Management must be accountable for delivering on these pledges.
As a member of the Prince William County Sustainability Commission, I look forward to the development of and implementation of the Community Energy and Sustainability Master Plan (CESMP), which will serve as a roadmap for the county to reach its climate mitigation and resiliency goals.