• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

NC experts don’t see much progress at UN climate talks

The United Nations climate summit in Egypt ended last weekend with an agreement to set up a fund for developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, mainly caused by carbon emissions in rich countries. But there has been no movement in efforts to reduce the heat-trapping pollution that is causing global warming — and North Carolina climate experts said this week there is much more work to be done.


“The effects of climate change do not stop at national or national borders. North Carolina will continue to be affected by climate change with more intense heat, severe weather, coastal erosion, etc.,” said Paul Weisenfeld of RTI International at Research Triangle Park, who traveled to Egypt as an observer. “These changes will impact the state’s economy and particularly the state’s most vulnerable populations.”

Susan Joy Hassol, an Asheville-based climate communicator, watched the proceedings from her home in disappointment. She said she expects three things from Egypt: the so-called “Loss and Damage” fund; new language on phasing out fossil fuels; and more ambitious strategies to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. There was some progress on the Loss and Claims fund, but not much on the other two, she said.

World leaders agreed in principle that some kind of fund is warranted for countries suffering the worst effects of climate change for which they are not responsible. These include Pacific islands being swallowed up by rising sea levels and Pakistan, where a third of the country was flooded this summer.


“But it (the agreement) avoided conditions such as liability and compensation. And it hasn’t specified which countries have to contribute how much or by when, nor who can receive support from it,” Hassol said.

She said the deal is another pledge, like the 2015 Paris Accord, where wealthy countries pledged to countries in the “Global South” $100 billion a year that has yet to be honored.

“Will the promise be kept? That remains to be seen,” said Hassol.

At last year’s climate summit in Scotland, delegates passed a watered-down declaration in which they agreed to “phase out” fossil fuels rather than “phase them out” as some had called for. They didn’t go any further this year and didn’t agree on steps to implement it, not even a phased withdrawal, Hassol said.

“The first step is no new exploration, no new wells, no new pipelines,” Hassol said. “I was hoping to see something along those lines and we really didn’t get anything.”

Pursue 1.5 degree target

Scientists say the planet must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change. We are currently at 1.1 degrees. Hassol said we need to “step up our ambitions” to stay within that threshold.

However, she said: “The world is on track to produce twice as much fossil fuel by 2030 as would be consistent with 1.5 degrees of warming. So that has to change. If we don’t change the path we’ve taken, then we’ll probably end up where we want to be. Sounds like an old saying, right?”

The effects of global warming include more intense storms, extreme heat, drought and wildfires. And that can lead to “climate migration,” the subject of an ongoing NPR series.

The summit, COP27, is officially known as the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Weisenfeld, executive vice president of RTI and a former official at the United States Agency for International Development, described the scene in Egypt as a huge wave of people pacing.

“It’s a huge crowd of people moving in multiple directions at the same time, multiple dialogues with civil society, the private sector, organizations working in development with governments. It’s almost like a sea of ​​people moving and having a real dialogue, highly energetic,” he says.

Helping communities, not harming them

Weisenfeld was involved in a session dealing with the unintended consequences of climate protection.

“When we take action to reduce the impact of climate change or help communities adapt, are we really taking a holistic approach? For example, do we understand the impact of justice on communities? he asked.

Ensuring our response to climate change reaches everyone is central to the discussions in Egypt and to the final agreement on a loss and damage fund, he said.

“It’s important to build structures so that countries actually have the funding and the ability to respond,” he said.

“Personally, I think it’s a great idea that the conversation about loss and damage took place. At the same time, I think it’s a little distracting because more resources are better spent on prevention and upfront adaptation,” he added.

For example, many places deal with extreme heat. “In a place like Sudan, it’s much worse. The answer is not necessarily to build more air conditioners from unsustainable energy resources. So we kind of have to innovate and think about how we’re going to solve both problems at once?” he said.

While this COP hasn’t brought any major new steps towards the 1.5 degree target, at least we meet.

“It is the only forum where there is a large, robust dialogue at a global level for everyone. And if you look at the last 10 years, we’ve made significant strides as a global community. Not enough progress but no COP, I think it’s hard to imagine how dire the situation would be.”

This story originally appeared in WFAE’s weekly climate newsletter.