Breakthrough agenda at COP27 to accelerate decarbonisation

Anything more than yet another ambitious plan on paper?


November 12, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Breakthrough agenda at COP27 to accelerate decarbonisation

In COP27, large countries agree to accelerate decarbonisation of five major sectors of the economy, but will they implement it?

At the ongoing COP27 in Egypt, another agreement was reached when dozens of large countries agreed to accelerate decarbonization of five major sectors of the economy that account for over half the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. While agreements have signed in plenty at this COP and the previous avatars of the climate change summit, will the countries honour their commitments?

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Governments of representing over half of global GDP have reached agreement on a 12-month action plan to help make clean technologies cheaper and more accessible everywhere. They launched a package of 25 new collaborative actions to be delivered by COP28 to speed up the decarbonisation under five key breakthroughs of power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.

According to a press statement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the organiser of COP27, historic support by three COP Presidencies for COP26, COP27 and COP28 drives forward implementation from Glasgow to Sharm El Sheik and into the United Arab Emirates-hosted COP and sends a signal of intent to the private sector.

Under the agreement, UNFCCC says that countries will take actions that target sectors accounting for more than 50 pc of global greenhouse gas emissions and are also designed to reduce energy costs and enhance food security, with buildings and cement sectors to be added to the Breakthrough Agenda next year at the COP28 to be held in Dubai.

“The actions under each breakthrough will be delivered through coalitions of committed countries – from the G7, European Commission, India, Egypt, Morocco and others, supported by leading international organisations and initiatives, and spearheaded by a core group of leading governments. These efforts will be reinforced with private finance and leading industry initiatives and further countries are encouraged to join,” says UNFCCC in a press statement.

The countries say they will develop common definitions for low-emission and near-zero emission steel, hydrogen and sustainable batteries to help direct billions of dollars in investment, procurement and trade to ensure credibility and transparency. They will also ramp up the deployment of essential infrastructure projects including at least 50 large scale net-zero emission industrial plants, at least 100 hydrogen valleys and a package of major cross-border power grid infrastructure projects.

The other actions including setting a common target date to phase out polluting cars and vehicles, consistent with the Paris Agreement. Significant backing for the dates of 2040 globally and 2035 in leading markets will be announced by countries, businesses and cities on Solutions Day and to use billions of dollars of private and public procurement and infrastructure spend to stimulate global demand for green industrial goods.

The countries have also agreed to a whole host of other actions in order to reach their goal.

Against the backdrop of rising food prices, 13 countries have now endorsed the Agriculture Breakthrough led by the UK and Egypt, including recent new joiners Australia, Cambodia, Germany and Ireland, which aims to make climate-resilient, sustainable agriculture the most widely adopted option by 2030. While France and Morocco have signaled their intention to launch a new Buildings Breakthrough; Canada have signaled their intention to launch a new Cement Breakthrough in 2023 and Cambodia became the latest country to endorse the Breakthrough Agenda as a whole, bringing the total of countries endorsing the agenda to 47.

“Since we launched the Breakthrough Agenda at COP26, the world has changed and we are facing a perilous geopolitical and economic situation. That only makes international collaboration more urgent,” says Alok Sharma, COP26 President. “That’s why I am pleased that countries representing over 50 pc of global GDP have now agreed to a set of priority actions for implementation. Now, it is vital for all to deliver and demonstrate real progress as we move forward. This is integral to achieving the 2030 goal of making clean technology affordable, available and accessible to all,” Sharma added.

Initiated by the UK COP Presidency in partnership with the Race to Zero and the UN Climate Change High Level Champions, this major international government-led programme will be overseen by Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial from COP27 through to COP28.

“The Breakthrough Agenda provides a practical platform for partnerships between countries and across industries that will be essential to rapidly scale commercially viable solutions for climate progress,” said Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change for the UAE. “The UAE is keen to continue its contribution to the Breakthrough Agenda, as a pioneer in renewable energy, first-mover on hydrogen, as well as a champion of sustainable, decarbonized agriculture. Our support as founding members of AIM for Climate, the recent 100 GW Partnership to Accelerate Clean Energy (PACE) with the United States, and the 10 GW wind power agreement we signed with Egypt at COP27 are recent examples of that commitment. And as the host country of COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference, we are determined to bridge initiatives and outcomes from Glasgow and Sharm El Sheikh to the UAE,” he added.

Devil in details

On paper, the agenda is not just very ambitious, bold and forward thinking, it is also just what the world needs in order to slow down the onward march towards catastrophe that it has been accelerating towards for over two decades. Indeed, each new report by scientists on the state of the global climate emergency just goes on to highlight the urgent need for action, here and now. And hence, it should have been very encouraging to see that early on at COP27 major countries have reached such an ambitious agreement.

However, this is not the first such major agreement reached at a COP. In fact, over the decades, various COP meetings have seen major agreements, which were more than enough to not just curb global warming, but also to reverse it, just like the world has managed to do with the Ozone hole, which is now firmly on its way to be patched up again, a historic milestone in what the world can do together, if it is serious about implementing what it commits to.

Unfortunately, while the Montreal Protocol saw practically every single country seriously and faithfully implement all its commitments and promises, the numerous Climate Change agreements have been nothing but promises on paper, with the rich countries, which are responsible for an overwhelming share of carbon emissions, simply refusing to keep their word. This repeated breaking of promises is what led UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling them out and saying there was no place for liars in the climate change talks.

Nothing that has happened in the decades-long climate change negotiations has given confidence to the developing world or the civil society groups that the rich countries would this time keep their promises. All it will take is barely a year when COP28 gets underway in Dubai and the world will see whether the developed nations have really turned a new leaf. In the interim, the poor countries, innocent bystanders in the climate change tragedy, will continue to pay heavily for the excesses and blunders of others.



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