COP27 Needs to Get the 1.5 Degrees Celsius°C Target Off Life Support

An assessment by Wolfgang Obergassel, Christof Arens, Christiane Beuermann, Carsten Elsner, Lukas Hermwille, Nico Kreibich, Juliane Schell and Max Schulze-Steinen

  • Statements 26.10.2022


The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 will take place in Sharm el-Sheik from 6 to 18 November 2022. It will take place against the backdrop of another year of catastrophic extreme weather events, such as the flooding in Pakistan, floods and storms in Southern Africa, and historic droughts in the Horn of Africa, China and Europe. The most recent assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change once again highlighted that these damages will continue to escalate the more global warming increases.

In parallel, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine led to soaring food and energy prices.
Transforming the global economy is urgently needed to effectively combat these multiple crises. Yet, the world is still far off track. According to the IPCC assessment report, global emissions need to peak before 2025 and be reduced to about 30Gt CO2-eq. by 2030 to maintain higher than 50% of limiting warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot. However, 2030 emissions implied by current policies amount to 57Gt CO2-eq. While at the end of COP26 in Glasgow last year the UK conference presidency claimed that the conference had "kept 1.5 alive", the 1.5°C objective is still on life support and urgent action is needed to move it out of the emergency room.

Strengthen Mitigation Ambition and Implementation

The "Glasgow Climate Pact" requested countries to "revisit and strengthen" their NDCs by the end of this year, but so far only 23 countries did so. In addition there is an implementation gap, in many countries current policies are not even sufficient to achieve their current, too weak, NDCs.

⇒The COP therefore needs to re-emphasise the need to close the both the ambition and the implementation gap and call on all countries to strengthen their NDCs and actual national policies as soon as possible.

To help speed up climate action, COP26 established a work programme to enhance mitigation ambition and implementation. COP27 needs to define the details.

⇒ The COP should decide that the work programme will adopt a sectoral perspective because the sectors (energy, industry, transport etc.) constitute the arenas of action that are relevant for reducing emissions. The work programme should therefore convene a series of sectoral meetings involving relevant line ministries and non-Party actors to

  • break the global target to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050 down to the sector level, that is, elaborate on timelines and roadmaps on how each sector can contribute to overall emission reductions.
  • identify barriers to action and how to overcome them sector by sector and country by country.

For example, COP26 took a major step in this direction with its call on parties to rapidly scale up the deployment of clean energy, clean power generation and energy efficiency measures and to "phase down" unabated coal power and "phase out" inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The new mitigation work programme provides a fitting framework for developing more specific timelines and policy strategies to implement these objectives, and also for developing sectoral targets and roadmaps for other sectors.

Moreover, COP26 decided that starting at COP27 each COP will feature a high-level ministerial roundtable on mitigation ambition and implementation.

⇒ The COP should decide that this annual roundtable will be used as accountability checkpoint, asking each country to demonstrate each year how they are scaling up ambition and implementation of their climate policies. The roundtable discussions should be closely linked to the mitigation work programme: once the work programme has started producing recommendations, the ministerial roundtables should feature discussions on how countries are implementing them.

Another key outcome of Glasgow was a series of frontrunner alliances e.g. to phase out coal, halt and reverse forest loss, reduce methane emissions, among others.

⇒ At COP27, these frontrunner alliances need to demonstrate whether they have actually made any progress towards their objectives and how they will ensure that the objectives will ultimately be achieved.

⇒ To maximise transparency and accountability, countries who are members of these frontrunner coalitions should include them in their NDCs so that their progress can be reviewed under the Paris Agreement's Enhanced Transparency Framework.

Global Stocktake

COP27 will continue the Global Stocktake (GST) under the Paris Agreement, a process by which the international community takes stock of the sufficiency of its efforts to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Countries are supposed to take the results of the GST into account for the development of their subsequent NDCs. The first GST is taking place from 2021 to 2023.

The first round of the Technical Dialogues for the first GST commenced at the intersessional meeting in June in Bonn. Especially the plenary sessions of the TD were still very much dominated by countries repeating previously stated positions. The co-facilitators of the TD also hosted a world cafe event that enabled more constructive dialogue among the participants.

At COP27, the TD will be complemented by a creative space and further build on the use of more interactive and direct communication formats. It will be interesting to see whether these can enable delegates to break the mold and start a genuine dialogue focussing on solutions.

⇒ The GST can only succeed if it manages to come up with concrete recommendations and benchmarks, ideally along sectoral lines. Merely stating the obvious – that collective action is falling far short of what is necessary – would thwart any chances to use the GST to facilitate ambition and implementation at the national level.

Article 6

At Glasgow, Parties adopted a comprehensive set of rules for voluntary cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. With the Article 6 rulebook agreed and other topics such as adaptation and loss and damage being on top of the agenda in Sharm-el-Sheik, it is unlikely that market-based cooperation will receive the same level of attention that it did at COP26.
However, some technical and also a few political issues are still outstanding and will be discussed at Sharm-el-Sheik. These include:

  • Details on the Art. 6 infrastructure, including registries for ITMO transactions and national arrangements for countries that want to participate in Art. 6;
  • Detailed guidance on how to apply Corresponding Adjustments, in particular for countries that have adopted single-year targets and which can in principle use 'averaging', an approach that has raised environmental integrity concerns
  • The catalogue of activities that can be eligible for Art. 6 - should p.ex. projects that 'avoid emissions' be allowed, a term that has not yet been defined under the UNFCCC;
  • Operationalising the share of proceeds for adaptation and ‘overall mitigation of global emissions;'
  • Operationalising the transition of activities from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism to Article 6 and the use of CERs towards achieving NDCs; simplified rules for least developed countries and small island developing states.

⇒ When dealing with these and other issues, the CMA will have to agree on rules that allow for the fast operationalization of Article 6 without sacrificing the integrity of the instrument. Striking such a balance will be of utmost importance, for instance when deciding whether the Article 6 infrastructure can build on existing elements developed outside of the Paris Agreement or whether a dedicated structure is needed. In doing so, negotiators should take into account that Parties' readiness for making use of voluntary cooperation varies significantly and that rules allow for a wide participation. Ensuring environmental integrity and allowing Article 6 to contribute to ambition raising while providing sustainable development benefits should be guiding principles during this process.


At the Copenhagen conference in 2009, developed countries committed to mobilize 100bn USD in financial support for developing countries each year starting in 2020. Developed countries failed to achieve this commitment, according to the OECD they mobilized only 83.3bn USD in 2020, according to other sources even less. This failure by developed countries to live up to their commitment does not only impair the ability of developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, it also poisons the negotiating climate at the climate conference.

Ahead of COP26, developed countries developed a Climate Finance Delivery Plan which expressed confidence that the 100bn target would be achieved by 2023. Furthermore, the parties will discuss a new climate finance goal beyond the 100bn target by 2025
Another discussion will be around the aspect of how to align overall finance flows with low GHG emissions. There is also the idea that developing countries have a carbon credit through the long-time provision of a carbon-intensive mode of living in the Global North. This credit should then be transferred into debt relief and financial support for developing countries in order to increase the fiscal space.

⇒ At COP27, developed countries need to demonstrate clear progress towards closing the finance gap. Moreover, they should commit to making good on any annual shortfalls by delivering at least 100bn USD on an annual average over the period 2020-2025 (i.e. 600bn USD total).

In addition to the question of overall climate finance, there is also the question of the respective weight of mitigation and adaptation. At Copenhagen and subsequently, developed countries pledged a "balanced" allocation of financial resources.  So far, however, the majority of climate finance went to mitigation. At Glasgow, developed countries agreed to at least double finance for adaptation from 2019 levels by 2025, which means roughly USD 40bln.

⇒ At COP27, developed countries should specify how they will reach this goal and also how they will ensure that this finance reaches those who need it most.

Loss and Damage

Furthermore, the handling of loss and damage due to climate change will be a key topic in Sharm El-Sheikh. Developing countries, which are particularly affected by the negative impacts of climate change, have demanded the establishment of a dedicated financial facility. Funding arrangement for loss and damage is so far not on the agenda, but the G-77 and China have requested it to be added. Failure to agree would burden the conference from the start. Developed countries have so far been hesitant to engage on this topic, but the increasing devastation caused by climate change underscores the need to engage constructively on this issue.

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