As 2022 United Nations local weather change convention, often called COP27, stretched into its ultimate hours on Saturday, Nov. 19, it was unsure what sort of settlement may emerge from two weeks of intensive worldwide negotiations.
In the long run, COP27 produced combined outcomes: on the one hand, a historic settlement for rich international locations to compensate low-income international locations for “loss and damage,” however on the opposite, restricted progress on new plans for decreasing the greenhouse fuel emissions which are warming the planet.
“We have to drastically cut back emissions now — and this is a matter this COP didn’t deal with,” stated U.N. Secretary-Common António Guterres in a statement on the conclusion of COP27. “A fund for loss and injury is crucial — but it surely’s not a solution if the local weather disaster washes a small island state off the map — or turns a complete African nation to abandon.”
All through the 2 weeks of the convention, a delegation of MIT college students, college, and workers was on the Sharm El-Sheikh Worldwide Conference Heart to look at the negotiations, conduct and share analysis, take part in panel discussions, and forge new connections with researchers, policymakers, and advocates from world wide.
Loss and injury
A key subject coming in to COP27 (COP stands for “convention of the events” to the U.N. Framework Conference on Local weather Change, held for the twenty seventh time) was loss and injury: a time period utilized by the U.N. to discuss with harms attributable to local weather change — both by means of acute catastrophes like excessive climate occasions or slower-moving impacts like sea degree rise — to which communities and international locations are unable to adapt.
In the end, a deal on loss and injury proved to be COP27’s most distinguished accomplishment. Negotiators reached an eleventh-hour settlement to “set up new funding preparations for helping creating international locations which are notably susceptible to the adversarial results of local weather change.”
“Offering monetary help to creating international locations to allow them to higher reply to climate-related loss and injury shouldn’t be solely an ethical subject, but additionally a practical one,” stated Michael Mehling, deputy director of the MIT Heart for Power and Environmental Coverage Analysis, who attended COP27 and took part in facet occasions. “Future emissions progress shall be squarely centered within the creating world, and providing help by means of completely different channels is essential to constructing the belief wanted for extra strong world cooperation on mitigation.”
Youssef Shaker, a graduate pupil within the MIT Expertise and Coverage Program and a analysis assistant with the MIT Power Initiative, attended the second week of the convention, the place he adopted the negotiations over loss and injury intently.
“Whereas the creation of a fund is actually an achievement,” Shaker stated, “important questions stay to be answered, resembling the scale of the funding out there in addition to which international locations obtain entry to it.” A loss-and-damage fund that isn’t adequately funded, Shaker famous, “wouldn’t be an impactful final result.”
The settlement on loss and injury created a brand new committee, made up of 24 nation representatives, to “operationalize” the brand new funding preparations, together with figuring out funding sources. The committee is tasked with delivering a set of suggestions at COP28, which can happen subsequent 12 months in Dubai.
Advising the U.N. on web zero
Although the selections reached at COP27 didn’t embody main new commitments on decreasing emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, the transition to a clear world power system was nonetheless a key subject of dialog all through the convention.
The Council of Engineers for the Energy Transition (CEET), an impartial, worldwide physique of engineers and power methods specialists fashioned to supply recommendation to the U.N. on attaining net-zero emissions globally by 2050, convened for the primary time at COP27. Jessika Trancik, a professor within the MIT Institute for Information, Programs, and Society and a member of CEET, spoke on a U.N.-sponsored panel on options for the transition to scrub power.
Trancik famous that the power transition will look completely different in several areas of the world. “As engineers, we have to perceive these native contexts and design options round these native contexts — that’s completely important to help a fast and equitable power transition.”
On the identical time, Trancik famous that there’s now a set of “low-cost, ready-to-scale instruments” out there to each area — instruments that resulted from a globally aggressive strategy of innovation, stimulated by public insurance policies in several international locations, that dramatically drove down the prices of applied sciences like photo voltaic power and lithium-ion batteries. The important thing, Trancik stated, is for regional transition methods to “faucet into world processes of innovation.”
Reinventing local weather adaptation
Elfatih Eltahir, the H. M. King Bhumibol Professor of Hydrology and Local weather, traveled to COP27 to current plans for the Jameel Observatory Local weather Resilience Early Warning System (CREWSnet), one of many 5 initiatives selected in April 2022 as a flagship in MIT’s Local weather Grand Challenges initiative. CREWSnet focuses on local weather adaptation, the time period for adapting to local weather impacts which are unavoidable.
The intention of CREWSnet, Eltahir instructed the viewers throughout a panel dialogue, is “nothing wanting reinventing the method of local weather change adaptation,” in order that it’s proactive relatively than reactive; community-led; data-driven and evidence-based; and in order that it integrates completely different local weather dangers, from warmth waves to sea degree rise, relatively than treating them individually.
“Nonetheless, it’s simple to speak about these modifications,” stated Eltahir. “The actual problem, which we are actually simply launching and interesting in, is to exhibit that on the bottom.” Eltahir stated that early demonstrations will occur in a few key areas, together with southwest Bangladesh, the place a number of local weather dangers — rising sea ranges, rising soil salinity, and intensifying warmth waves and cyclones — are combining to threaten the realm’s agricultural manufacturing.
Constructing on COP26
Some members of MIT’s delegation attended COP27 to advance efforts that had been formally introduced ultimately 12 months’s U.N. local weather convention, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.
At an official U.N. facet occasion co-organized by MIT on Nov. 11, Greg Sixt, the director of the Food and Climate Systems Transformation (FACT) Alliance led by the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Meals Programs Lab, offered an replace on the alliance’s work since its launch at COP26.
Meals methods are a significant supply of greenhouse fuel emissions — and are more and more susceptible to local weather impacts. The FACT Alliance works to higher join researchers to farmers, meals companies, policymakers, and different meals methods stakeholders to make meals methods (which embody meals manufacturing, consumption, and waste) extra sustainable and resilient.
Sixt instructed the viewers that the FACT Alliance now counts over 20 analysis and stakeholder establishments world wide amongst its members, but additionally collaborates with different establishments in an “open community mannequin” to advance work in key areas — resembling a new research project exploring how local weather situations might have an effect on world meals provide chains.
Marcela Angel, analysis program director for the Environmental Options Initiative (ESI), helped convene a gathering at COP27 of the Afro-InterAmerican Forum on Climate Change, which additionally launched at COP26. The discussion board works with Afro-descendant leaders throughout the Americas to handle important environmental points, together with local weather dangers and biodiversity loss.
On the occasion — convened with the Colombian authorities and the nonprofit Conservation Worldwide — ESI introduced collectively leaders from six international locations within the Americas and offered current work that estimates that there are over 178 million people who determine as Afro-descendant residing within the Americas, in lands of world environmental significance.
“There’s a important overlap between biodiversity scorching spots, protected areas, and areas of excessive Afro-descendant presence,” stated Angel. “However the position and local weather contributions of those communities is understudied, and infrequently made invisible.”
Limiting methane emissions
Methane is a short-lived however potent greenhouse fuel: When launched into the ambiance, it instantly traps about 120 occasions extra warmth than carbon dioxide does. Greater than 150 international locations have now signed the Global Methane Pledge, launched at COP26, which goals to cut back methane emissions by not less than 30 % by 2030 in comparison with 2020 ranges.
Sergey Paltsev, the deputy director of the Joint Program on the Science and Coverage of World Change and a senior analysis scientist on the MIT Power Initiative, gave the keynote deal with at a Nov. 17 occasion on methane, the place he famous the significance of methane reductions from the oil and fuel sector to assembly the 2030 objective.
“The oil and fuel sector is the place methane emissions reductions might be achieved the quickest,” stated Paltsev. “We additionally have to make use of an built-in strategy to handle methane emissions in all sectors and all areas of the world as a result of methane emissions reductions present a near-term pathway to avoiding harmful tipping factors within the world local weather system.”
“Maintain combating relentlessly”
Arina Khotimsky, a senior majoring in supplies science and engineering and a co-president of the MIT Power and Local weather Membership, attended the primary week of COP27. She mirrored on the expertise in a social media publish after returning residence.
“COP will all the time have its haters. Is there greenwashing? In fact! Is everybody who ought to have a say on this course of within the room? Not even shut,” wrote Khotimsky. “So what does it take for COP to matter? It takes everybody who attended to not solely put ‘local weather’ on front-page information for 2 weeks, however to return residence and maintain combating relentlessly towards local weather change. I do know that I’ll.”