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COP summits: ”A slowly forward-grinding wheel”


Right now, the UN climate change conference COP27 is taking place in Egypt. Environmental economist Åsa Löfgren was one of the participants at last year’s summit in Glasgow.

Åsa Löfgren
Åsa Löfgren
Photo: Jonas Tobin

What has happened since then?
”After COP26 it was clear that the climate ambitions in countries’ national plans, the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions, were far from enough to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. So, countries were urged to revise their plans by the end of 2022. But ahead of COP27, it’s clear that the global commitments are still far from sufficient. So when it comes to the need for the large emission reductions that are actually required and which is really the only thing that matters, unfortunately not much has happened.

Which are the important issues this year?
”Various kinds of funding. The 2009 pledge of $100 billion a year from 2020 which was promised by rich countries in aid to developing countries for climate action still hasn’t been fulfilled. In addition, the discussion on ’loss and damages’ will be important—that is, the financing of damage that is already occurring due to climate change. At the last minute, it was added to the agenda for the first time ever, even though richer countries do not want the discussions to be about compensation and responsibility.”

What do you hope from this year’s summit?
”For the financing issue to move forward and that details will be made clear on what should apply to trade in emission reductions, both bilaterally between countries and between other actors such as companies. There are many pitfalls here, including a significant risk of double reporting of emission reductions. It will be critical that emission reductions actually mean reduced emissions to the atmosphere.

What else are you hoping for?
”I also hope for informal discussions linked to trade issues that can lead to increased climate ambitions through so-called ’climate clubs’. Even though climate change is a ’collective dilemma’, it’s unlikely that all countries will want to contribute to reduced emissions. But the more that do contribute, the greater the chance of keeping the temperature increases down, even if we don’t reach the 1.5 degree target. Here, policy innovations can play a major role in, for example, managing competitive effects between regions with different climate ambitions.”

These summits are held each year, how important are they?
”They are important. The process is often frustratingly slow, but it is an important platform for discussion and exchange of knowledge between countries, and the process is also important for other actors, such as companies, NGOs and activists, many of whom are active at the COP summit. In addition, the summits contribute to a common narrative and a slowly forward-grinding wheel that countries and other actors can refer to in their own strategies, plans and activities. That should not be underestimated.”

Finally, what do you think will be discussed at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates next year?
”I think the global financing issue, both for climate action and ’loss and damages’, will continue to be high on the agenda.”

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By: Thomas Melin